NRC study finds little risk to nuclear spent fuel pools from earthquakes

first_imgby Andrew Stein June 25, 2013 vtdigger.org Critics of nuclear energy and the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant have repeatedly voiced concern that mounting levels of radioactive material in the plant’s spent fuel pool pose a threat to public safety. But a study released this week by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) finds that the likelihood of a spent fuel pool leak from a severe earthquake is slim to none.The NRC began studying the safety of on-site spent fuel pools in the U.S. after a March 2011 earthquake damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. Although the spent fuel pools remained intact at the Japanese plant, the NRC analyzed whether a speedy transition of spent fuel from water pools to dry cask storage would significantly reduce public safety risks, as critics have argued.The commission’s findings?‘The Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation’s regulatory analysis for this study indicates that expediting movement of spent fuel from the pool does not provide a substantial safety enhancement for the reference plant,’the report says. ‘The NRC continues to believe, based on this study and previous studies, that spent fuel pools protect public health and safety.’For its study, the NRC used a hypothetical model of an earthquake roughly seven times the strength that a spent fuel pool at a Mark 1 reactor is designed for. Fukushima, Vermont Yankee and roughly two dozen other nuclear plants across the U.S. are home to General Electric Mark 1 reactors. The study found that the probability of a severe earthquake breaching a spent fuel pool is about once in 10 million years.‘It’s difficult to draw a direct comparison between Fukushima and what we looked at in the study,’NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said. ‘The earthquake in the study does conceivably cause greater ground motion than what was seen at Fukushima.’Spent fuel pools are lined with stainless steel and surrounded by reinforced concrete. Roughly every 18 months spent fuel is removed from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant and placed under more than 20 feet of water in the spent fuel pool. After roughly five years, the fuel is cooled to the point where it can be placed in dry casks for long-term storage.The study analyzed a spent fuel pool that was close to capacity and one that was less full.‘Our detailed analysis showed that even a very strong earthquake has a low probability of damaging the pool studied to the point of losing water,’Brian Sheron, director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research, said in a public statement. ‘The draft study also shows that even if this particular pool was damaged, the fuel could be kept safely cool in all but a few exceptional circumstances. We’ll use the final study to inform further analysis of U.S. spent fuel pools.’To read the draft report and make comments, click here. As of Tuesday morning, the comment period had not yet opened. Burnell expects the 30-day comment window to open later this week or next.Comments can also be submitted via mail, using the docket identification number NRC-2013-0136. Comments should be sent to:Cindy BladeyChief, Rules, Announcements, and Directives Branch (RADB)Office of Administration, Mail Stop: TWB-05-B01MU.S. Nuclear Regulatory CommissionWashington, DC 20555last_img read more

Efficiency Improvements Pay Off for Maersk Line

first_img[mappress]maerskline, April 16, 2014 Maersk Line has published its Sustainability Progress Update for 2013, showing a 3.8 million tonnes CO2 reduction in a year where the business grew 4.1%.“2013 was a good year for Maersk Line – financially as well as in terms of our sustainability performance” says Søren Skou, CEO of Maersk Line. “Our fuel efficiency improvements helped cut CO2 as well as air pollutants like SOx and NOx. So even while our business grew, we were able to reduce our environmental impact in absolute terms.”In 2013, Maersk Line took delivery of the first four of 20 Triple-E vessels. These vessels will set a new standard for energy efficiency. However, the main driver for the strong CO2 performance was the major overhaul of Maersk Line’s network.One of the challenges outlined in the Sustainability Progress Update is the tightening regulation of sulphur emissions (SOx) that will require ships sailing in so-called Emission Control Areas to switch to cleaner and thus more expensive fuels from January 2015.“Air emissions are a serious issue in shipping and we support the upcoming regulation. We are, however, concerned about the level of enforcement in Europe. The new regulation will be costly and without proper enforcement, some might be tempted to cut corners. This will erode the environmental improvements and create a commercial disadvantage for those that follow the rules” says Jacob Sterling, Head of Sustainability in Maersk Line.In 2013, customer demand for information on Maersk Line’s sustainability performance really took off.“Large customers representing 19 % of our business have requested tailored sustainability information as part of their business relationship with us” says Jacob Sterling. “These customers have typically made promises to their stakeholders on sustainability. We are proud to move their goods with a lower environmental impact year by year, thereby helping them deliver on their sustainability promises.”In total, Maersk Line’s customers saved 2.6 million tonnes of CO2 in 2013 by shipping their goods with Maersk Line compared to an industry-average competitor.last_img read more