Groups Urge Feds to Suspend Nuclear Licensing

Groups Urge Feds to Suspend Nuclear Licensing; Westinghouse Reactor Defect Was Missed By Regulators

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 – 20:35 FromPress Release HuntingtonNews.Net
(C) NIRS

(C) NIRS
At least twelve national and regional environmental organizations called upon U.S. nuclear regulators to launch an investigation into newly identified flaws in Westinghouse’s new reactor design.

The coalition asked three federal agencies to suspend the AP1000 reactor from licensing and taxpayer loan consideration.The newly discovered design flaw is tied to documentation of dozens of corrosion holes being found in existing U.S. reactor containments, which recently has raised concern at the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS), an independent arm of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Containment buildings are vital barriers against radiation releases during nuclear accidents.

“The proposed AP1000 containment design is inherently less safe than current reactors,” said Arnold Gundersen, former senior vice-president at Nuclear Energy Services PCC. Westinghouse did not analyze the scenario for failure containment warned of by Gundersen. He continued, “Westinghouse has ignored the long history of previous containment failures that indicate there is a high likelihood that the AP1000 containment might be in a failed condition [one or more undetected holes] before an accident begins. The containment leakage problem is exacerbated because the AP1000 is specifically intended to function as a chimney — to pull air up and release it through the top of the building.” Gundersen, a 38-year engineering veteran of the nuclear power industry, produced a 32-page technical report* detailing a history of holes and cracks found at operating nuclear plants. Such corrosion problems, if coupled with the experimental “passive” emergency cooling feature in the AP1000, could accelerate and greatly increase the early release of radiation during an accident. Gundersen’s report is backed by engineer and corrosion specialist Rudolf Hauser.

Based on the report, the coalition today urged NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko** to suspend license reviews of 14 proposed AP1000 reactors pending the ACRS investigation. They also urged Secretary of Energy Chu and the White House Office of Management and Budget to drop plans for taxpayer funding for the reactor due to increasing risks of projects failing in midstream. In February, the Obama Administration awarded $8.33 billion in controversial taxpayer-financed loans (with a public guarantee to cover default) to an AP1000 project at Southern Company’s Vogtle plant in Waynesboro, Georgia.

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