Rockland County Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell attended a briefing held by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on May 16th in Tarrytown concerning its report to government leaders on last year’s performance of the Entergy Indian Point Nuclear Energy Plant. The meeting included actions to be taken following tragic lessons learned from Fukushima, Japan.
The NRC’s annual assessment stated that the plant is operated within the bounds set by regulations, although it noted over two dozen issues that were described as low risk and needing attention by the operator but not significant enough to require additional oversight by the NRC. Currently, the NRC maintains four full-time resident inspectors at Indian Point and utilizes NRC specialists to conduct additional inspections. Entergy has applied to the NRC to extend its operating license for 20 more years.
After hearing from Rob Taylor, NRC Project Director of the Commission on Lessons Learned from Fukishima, regarding priority recommendations for nuclear power plants throughout the United States, Chairwoman Cornell said, “I am pleased that the NRC has set an aggressive schedule to start implementing these Tier I recommendations which include needed improvements for seismic and flooding protection, containment venting, spent fuel pool cooling and procedures for emergency preparedness and severe accidents. By going to Japan immediately, the NRC Commission gained first-hand knowledge about how the Japanese engineers misunderstood what was happening in the spent fuel pool. This became a major distraction which affected their ongoing responses. The NRC will be requiring licensees to enhance spent fuel pool instrumentation as well as reassessing emergency communications equipment to assure its availability during a prolonged SBO (station blackout).”
Chairwoman Cornell questioned Paul Giardina, Chief of the Radiation and Indoor Air Branch, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2, about proposed revisions for Environmental Radiation Protection standards which are 35 years old, are based on dosage, do not explicitly address storage of spent nuclear fuel and do not include groundwater protection provisions. “Given scientific advances over these many years and the fact that the EPA uses “risk” to determine acceptable levels of public protection, can “risk” be used in place of dosage as the radiation protection standard?”, Cornell asked. Giardina explained the two schools of thought and urged her and those present to offer public comment when the EPA issues its advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) which is under development in order to reflect current science.