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OPINION

 

So . . .  What Do We Do Now?

Charles W. Pennington, MS, MBA

Jeffry A. Siegel, PhD

Bill Sacks, PhD, MD

October 2014

An opinion of what really needs correcting in our industry, and a recommendation on getting "radioactively" involved in that correction today for a better tomorrow!

 

Overview

 

As members and supporters of  the U.S. nuclear industry, we have experienced a rough and rather traumatic time over the last 6 years, or so. But during the last few months, many of us may have begun to feel that things could be turning our way just a bit. We see that small modular reactors (SMRs) appear to be here to stay and that their licensing is now firmly planned (while also realizing that the first SMR is still at least a decade away). We see that a few large reactors of conventional design have made progress in licensing and even construction (while recalling that several times that number have been cancelled over the last 6 years). We also note that the Waste Confidence political and regulatory brouhaha seems to have been timely addressed and, perhaps, resolved, at least until the next political onslaught to stop nuclear energy. (Reid between the lines here, if you would, please.) But we also recall that some of the regulatory analyses produced to support the NRC's assertion of waste confidence showed that a number of  people could die as fictitious latent cancer fatalities (LCF) due to exposure to ionizing radiation (IR) within a 10 mile radius of a reactor that experiences a spent fuel storage pool fire. These regulatory analyses using highly conservative safety codes included several typical assumptions that are beyond credibility. 

 

So it still appears that all is not quite right in our industry, and the problem seems to be, at least to some of us, that our industry continues unaggressive action, doing too little about the issue that really controls the present and future (as it has controlled the past) of the safest and most ecologically friendly technology for generating central station electricity: nuclear energy. And that issue, my friends, is public fear – fear of nuclear energy technology, because the more basic fear of uncontrollable releases of threatening exposures to cancer-causing IR is associated, almost uniquely in the public's eye, with nuclear energy.  The history of nuclear power, nuclear energy, and our own industry, from the earliest years, demonstrates the growth of this public fear, fed by the cooperation of bad science, anti-nuclear politics and commercial interests, and the media. Some of this history, with key references, was summarized at the Packaging and Transportation of Radioactive Materials (PATRAM) Symposium in August 2013 in San Francisco (Ref 1). Despite an enviable safety record and no demonstrated LCF impact on the public from nuclear energy, even after an accident, our industry has not been able to overcome a deluge of public fear-mongering.

 

As an industry, we have nothing to fear . . . (well, you know the rest), but the fear we must fear is that of the public. However, we should also be at least concerned that this fear situation is not static.  It is most dynamic, and in a fashion that is not helpful to our cause. There are many "researchers" that are now publishing extensively on an assortment of new IR fear topics.  It is stunning to see some new "research" actually being peer-reviewed and published using data that are highly questionable in their content or in the assumptions used to mine the data, and then fitting these data to models that already assume a linearity of fit (because the Linear No-Threshold hypothesis {LNTH} is already accepted science, right?). The only best-fit of sometimes questionable data is said to be the best linear fit, two errors in one piece of research.

  

How the LNTH Is Being Used Against Our Industry

 

There are many examples of current efforts to demonize IR in peer-reviewed journals and many conclusions or recommendations of these articles find their way to the public, the major media outlets being such effective agents to stoke the fear-furnace within an already fearful public.  For instance, Ref. 2 reports on how CT scans in children may be leading to childhood leukemia and brain tumors. And Ref. 3 purports to show that even exposure of children to natural background radiation can cause leukemia. Both of these studies have produced scientifically invalid results, but have been reported in the media as causes for public concern, and these are not isolated cases by any means. The media are not capable of discerning the truth in such studies, but they certainly know what sells. Such publicized studies survive most scrutiny because they use the LNTH to prove the scary points they make [the LNTH states that a) the relationship of LCFs to dose is linear down to 0, and b) any collective dose to a population produces the same number of LCFs no matter how the dose is distributed]. What happens is people read so much about IR becoming a villain and causing cancer, whether the IR exposure results from good or ill intent, that their fear of IR increases.

 

Here's a very simple example of how the LNTH can be further used to advance a silly idea that common behavior can cause massive global cancer mortality, and how our industry is treated so differently from non-nuclear industries that produce large public IR exposures annually.  

 

We know that the foods we eat contain small amounts of radioactivity, such as 40K in bananas (the well-known banana equivalent dose {BED} effect). Likewise, we know that if you sleep with a partner, spend time physically close to your family and friends, or just mingle in crowds, you will be exposed to radiation from the 40K contained within these other persons. The IR dose to a person from exposure to 40K due to an average personal proximity of 10 cm for 8 hr./day from others throughout his/her lifetime is 2.3 mSv (see Note).

 

This dose is on the order of one additional year of exposure to an average background radiation level in the U.S., a level which has been "proven" to represent a significant cancer risk (see Ref. 3). Given that the entire world’s population of approximately 7 billion is potentially subjected to this additional radiation dose, the number of LNTH-derived worldwide cancer deaths is horrifying. According to the widely promoted ICRP LNTH-derived fatal cancer risk estimate of 0.0115% for this 2.3 mSv exposure, over 800,000 LCFs are expected. If the LNTH is viewed as accepted science, this result should bring about a recommendation to control personal proximity exposure, never sleep with anyone, and perish the thought of getting any closer than 10 cm, even for short periods of time.

 

But it is worse than that. We have not accounted for additional "deadly" sources of exposure that, per the LNTH, could kill many more of us and, therefore, need to be controlled or eliminated.  We know, for example, that there are many non-nuclear industries in the U.S. that deliver annual average collective doses to the public greater than anything that can result from nuclear energy in the U.S.(and some of these industries generate such doses from technologically enhanced, natural sources). These industries involve such activities as airline travel, consuming potable water, living near or working on farms, living or working in buildings constructed of  natural materials, working with natural construction materials, producing tobacco products, smoking, and providing medical imaging procedures.  None of these industries are regulated with respect to their peak or average doses to the served public, yet their actual annual doses far exceed any possible dose from the nuclear fuel cycle.  Just a select few of these non-nuclear industries deliver more than a billion person-mSv to the U.S. public annually, with a pronounced lognormal distribution that causes millions of Americans to be exposed to IR doses exceeding the worst (first) year of doses from Chernobyl (Ref. 4). Aren't there ethics issues here? If the LNTH is true (or at least appropriate) for nuclear energy, should we not apply the LNTH to these other industries, as well, to reduce  all these additional LCFs from IR exposures in order to be internally consistent with our professional ALARA lifestyle?  And who reports all these LCFs to the public or advocates against such LCFs with all the non-nuclear industries in the U.S. that expose the public to IR? Do we not consider as part of our commitment to nuclear energy that ALARA must be maintained, that low doses of IR have no redeeming qualities? Should we really be allowed to vacation at high altitudes, fly whenever we want, eat/drink whatever we want, have close personal contact, and have medical imaging even when it is needed? Do we accept that nuclear energy IR exposures should be regulated so stringently and be postulated as the greatest threat to the public from IR while all these other (and far greater) exposures get a pass?  

 

Indeed, does not the LNTH fully answer the vexing question posed by Sir Laurence Olivier as Dr. Szell in the movie Marathon Man:

 

 

If we believe in the LNTH and ALARA, and why wouldn’t we after decades of regulatory inculcation, the answer of course is a resounding "no" regarding IR. Or (and this is really the correct answer, based on the evidence that the LNTH is false and that there are threshold doses below which there is no discernable harm) shouldn't nuclear energy be treated more like all non-nuclear industries and activities? None of these industries produce any harm from IR that has been demonstrated with unambiguous scientific research, and they have been examined closely for many years. Such questions and issues must arise from the rigorous application of the LNTH to nuclear energy but not to other industries and activities that are much larger sources of public IR exposure. Sources of the same type and energy of IR exposure, whether from nuclear or non-nuclear industries, are indistinguishable by our bodies. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, "radiation is radiation is radiation," confirming the law of identity; natural and man-made radiations are the same thing, once the photons or particles are on the wing.

 

To conclude this section, an important observation over several decades is that many, if not most, of us in the nuclear industry do not understand the LNTH and have no concrete idea of the abuse it produces through forcing the conclusion of deleterious outcomes in situations using nuclear technology where no harm can occur. We have learned over the last 15 years or so that the LNTH has no true scientific basis, that it is often excused as assuring conservatism (which has been demonstrated to be false, as seen in the forced relocation-associated deaths in Fukushima and the widespread public fear causing many people to be at a much greater health risk by refusing to undergo needed radiological imaging examinations), and that the bases for adopting the LNTH in the 1940s – 1950s have been found to be flawed and are more likely to have revolved around political issues (Ref. 5 and Ref. 6). In short, there was no credible scientific evidence to support the LNTH then and there is still none up to the present day.  But many in the nuclear industry do not know this and still think that the LNTH application in all of our regulations and in our safety analyses just makes us conservative.

 

So with this observation, though couched within the previous sarcastic example as it is, what should we in the nuclear industry be doing that is different from what we are doing today?

 

What Should We Do Now?

 

As a first step, all of us in the nuclear industry very much need to become far more expert in matters involving sources and effects of IR. We need to learn how a departure from the LNTH can have very positive impacts on the public's understanding of IR and its perception of our industry. There is much evidence demonstrating the flaws, politics, and bad science that led to establishing the LNTH as accepted science, and there is a large body of scientific evidence that shows no discernible cancer threat below a threshold dose and hormetic effects at low doses of IR (on the order of 100-200 mSv, depending on the type of radiation, dose rate, and dosing intervals). The current state of knowledge on the LNTH can be assessed by reading recent peer-reviewed publications on the subject. In viagra usage website, for instance, the vast majority of recent publications have questioned the validity of the LNTH, giving many reasons, and showing evidence for the opposite of the LNTH, i.e., the IR hormesis model, according to which small amounts of radiation can boost the defenses in our body, including the immune system, reducing cancers and other diseases. The scientists who advocate the LNTH routinely avoid discussing any of the ideas expressed in such articles, and have not refuted the arguments presented. However, the ICRP's Task Group 84 is beginning to raise questions that challenge the foundations of the LNTH (Ref. 7).

 

Fortunately, there are a great many colleagues associated with the medical field who are involved with studies related to IR source characterization, IR transport, external and internal IR dosimetry, radiobiological effects (both harmful and beneficial), dose-response modeling, IR risk and benefit assessment, nuclear medicine, diagnostic radiology, and radiation oncology, and these colleagues are on the leading edge of the efforts to replace the LNTH with rational science. We also have colleagues within the ANS who are working diligently to have the LNTH reviewed in far more scientific detail by the NAS, without the pressure of political and anti-nuclear fear mongering acting as a suppressant.  For more detail on this ANS effort, see www.tedrockwellmemorial.org/. 

At the general level of industry  members and supporters, it behooves us as part of an industry that can advance such a safe and ecologically sound energy source to learn more of what others know and to explore the science that they have worked so hard to advance over many years. One organization that promotes efforts of people in the nuclear industry working with medical and other IR experts is called Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information (SARI). The SARI website (http://radiationeffects.org) is highly recommended as an excellent place to begin a learning or a relearning experience related to IR and the LNTH. The authors of this article are members of SARI.

 

Additionally, the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences is beginning its efforts to scope the next Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) report—the BEIR VIII report—on health risks from exposure to low levels of IR. While such a new BEIR report is not yet funded, industry members and supporters should be following this closely and participating actively whenever we might be called upon.

 

In conclusion, then, this cartoon poses a good question for all of us to consider regarding the LNTH:

 

 

The opinion of the authors here is that the nuclear industry and the people that make it run must actively take a role in saying that the LNTH is not acceptable because it is a flawed, maladaptive defense against a nonexistent threat and without foundation in science, rather than continuing to smile agreeably while saying "yes" to this hypothesis and going along to get along.  One of the great Mahatma Gandhi’s quotes seems most appropriate here and reflects what the industry  should be doing now: "A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble."

 

Note

 

Assumptions: Personal proximity exposures occur at an average distance of 10 cm from at least one other person for 8 hours a day, every day of life; the average lifespan is 75 years; the content of 40K in the average individual is approximately 5 kBq; the exposure rate constant for 40K is 0.779 R cm2/mCi h. Calculation: Dose (mSv) = (0.779 R cm2/mCi h * 10 mSv/R * 5 kBq * μCi/37 kBq * mCi/1000 μCi *

8 h/d * 365 d/y * 75 y)/100 cm2  = 2.3 mSv

 

References

 

  1. C. W. Pennington:  'Advancing US public acceptance of spent fuel storage and transport: proposed  outreach services for ionising radiation education support', Packaging, Transport, Storage & Security of Radioactive Material, 2013, 24/3, 95 – 107
  2. M.S. Pearce, et al.: 'Radiation exposure from CT scans in childhood and subsequent risk of leukaemia and brain tumours: a retrospective cohort study,' Lancet, 2012, 380(9840), 499-505. 
  3. G. M. Kendall, et al., 'A record-based case-control study of natural background radiation and the incidence of childhood leukaemia and other cancers in Great Britain during 1980–2006', Leukemia, 2013, 27(1), 3–9.
  4. C. W. Pennington, 'Nuclear Energy Safety: Comparative Assessments of Radiological Impacts on the Public from the Commercial Nuclear Fuel Cycle in the U.S.', in: Acosta MJ (ed.) Advances in Energy Research. Volume 5, pp. 1-54; ISBN 978-1-61761-897-0. Nova Science Publishers, Inc.: Hauppauge, NY.
  5. E. J. Calabrese, 'The road to linearity: why linearity at low doses became the basis for carcinogen risk assessment', Arch Toxicol, 2009, 83: 203–22
  6. E. J. Calabrese, 'How the US National Academy of Sciences misled the world community on cancer risk assessment: new findings challenge historical foundations of the linear dose response', Arch Toxicol, 2013, 87(12), 2063-81.
  7. A. J. González, et al., 'Radiological protection issues arising during and after the Fukushima nuclear reactor accident', J. Radiol. Prot. 33 (2013) 497–571.

Authors

Jeffry A. Siegel is president and CEO of Nuclear Physics Enterprises, an international radiological physics consulting firm specializing in quantitative radiological/nuclear medicine imaging, internal and external dosimetry, clinical trial design, translational research, radionuclide therapy patient release, and relevant FDA and NRC/Agreement State regulations. He has Masters degrees in Chemistry and Physics and a PhD in medical physics. He has held both academic and hospital appointments and over the past 18 years has been involved in pre- and post-FDA approval of the radionuclide therapy agents Bexxar, Zevalin and Xofigo. Dr. Siegel holds 5 patents and has authored more than 330 publications.

Bill Sacks is a former professor of physics turned radiologist.  After teaching college physics for a dozen years, and after his medical training, he subsequently engaged in almost two decades of clinical radiology.  He interrupted this career to spend a number of years as a medical officer in the FDA’s medical device approval section, specializing in the evaluation of radiological and other diagnostic devices.  In more recent times, and for a number of years, he has made a special study of nuclear energy and radiobiology, particularly focusing on the biological effects of low-dose ionizing radiation.  He has taught a number of classes and given a number of talks on these topics over the last few years, as well as contributing to a number of essays and short articles, for the lay public.  He is now retired and spends full time on this research, writing, and volunteer teaching.

Charles W. Pennington is a Senior Fellow at the Nuclear Infrastructure Council (NIC) and a private nuclear industry consultant, with academic degrees in mathematics, nuclear engineering, and business administration. He has served the nuclear industry for 47 years, and over the last 3 decades has held senior management/corporate officer positions in spent fuel storage and transport businesses. He has been in leadership roles in the development, licensing, deployment and operation of more than a dozen spent fuel storage/transport technologies, many hundreds of which are now in operation at numerous global reactor sites.  He holds 5 patents in nuclear technology and has authored a number of papers and publications involving nuclear technology and comparisons of IR exposure among nuclear and non-nuclear industries.

Llewellyn King: When Ralph Nader Was the Consumer’s Hero

Llewellyn King

Ralph Nader is to blame. It's that simple. I'm not talking about the election of 2000, where his candidacy was enough to hand the presidency to George W. Bush and all that has followed. I’m talking about when Nader went AWOL as the nation’s consumer conscience.

In the space of a week, three U.S. flights have been diverted because of passenger disturbances over reclining seats. Would this have happened if Nader of old were on the case?

In the mid-1960s and early 1970s, Nader was the nation’s bulwark against corporate excess. He may have gotten it wrong — as many have claimed — about the safety of the Corvair, the rear-engine compact car, manufactured by the Chevrolet division of General Motors, that was to have rivaled the Volkswagen Beetle. No matter. Nader’s 1965 book, “Unsafe at Any Speed,” launched him as the consumer's knight in shining armor.

For nearly a decade, we felt that Nader was on our side and those big, faceless monsters like insurance companies, banks, airlines, consumer credit outfits and appliance manufacturers could be brought to heal by invoking the one name that would strike fear, trembling and rectitude into the hearts of the titans of corporate America: Nader.

It was a halcyon time for those who wanted, like actor Peter Finch in the 1976 film “Network,” to shout, and be heard, “I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!”

Nader was a figure of mythical omnipotence. You didn’t have to take your troubles with a faulty car or broken contract to Nader, you simply had to threaten; the words “cc Ralph Nader” at the bottom of a letter were enough. Corporations quaked, the earth moved, and restitution was forthcoming.

We delighted in learning little details about Nader the aesthete, who lived in one room somewhere in Washington, had no creature comforts, partners, or trappings, but always wore a suit. People happily believed he slept in it, ready to rush to court to slay a dragon of corporate excess.

Journalists loved Nader. We learned that he kept a secret office in the venerable National Press Building in Washington and would sneak up to the National Press Club on the 13th floor to peruse the press releases, which were then displayed near the elevators. One presumed he was looking for evidence of consumer abuse in false corporate claims.

The Vietnam War was raging, and the nation was divided on every issue except the wonder of the man who was called “consumer advocate.” The nation had never had one before and we loved it.

Oh, yes, love is not too strong a word. We went to bed at night knowing that if the mattress wasn't what had been promised by the Divine Mattress Company, Nader would fix it.

Jimmy Carter promised that when he was elected president, he would have a direct telephone line to St. Nader. That was the zenith of Nader’s consumer advocacy power.

But Nader and his acolytes, known as Nader’s Raiders, had already begun to pursue broader political aims and to embrace the extreme reaches of the environmental movement. Nader, our beloved consumer advocate, saintly and virtuous, was becoming a partisan — a partisan of the left.

It was an extreme blow for those who had followed along behind Nader’s standard because we believed he was the unsullied, virtuous supporter of the individual against the institution. The voice that could be heard when, as often, politics had failed.

Over the years, I had battles with Nader. We argued most especially over nuclear power and a raft of related energy issues. I and the late physicist Ralph Lapp, together with the great mathematician Hans Bethe, put together a group of 24 Nobel laureates to support nuclear. Nader assembled 36 Nobel laureates against, and won the argument on numbers. He has always been a tough customer.

Poor Ralph. He had it all – and so did we — when he fought for the common man against the common enemy: those who stole our money or shortchanged us.

Deep in my heart, I think he is to blame for high bank fees, payday loans, tiny aircraft seats, high Amtrak fares, and the fact that corporations won’t speak to us – they have machines do that. Ralph, it could have been so different if you had just stayed at your post.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. His e-mail is lking@kingpublishing.com.

Edward Davis, USNIC: In the Matter of Waste Confidence, We so Deem

By Edward M. Davis

In the last somnolent dog days of August, the members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) gathered themselves for a final vote on a regulatory policy issue that will no doubt have far reaching implications for the future of the U.S. nuclear industry and the continued use and future development of nuclear energy in the U.S.

In a session that took only thirteen minutes in which reportedly the chairman had to cut short her summer vacation and which was necessitated by the imminent departure from the agency of another commissioner, NRC approved a final rule on the aptly named “Continued Storage of Spent Fuel Rule” as a replacement for the decades old predecessor rule known as the “Waste Confidence Decision (WCD)”.

The genesis of the NRC WCD dates back to the late 1970s when NRC’s continued licensing of nuclear plants without a demonstrated final solution to the disposal of spent fuel was challenged in the courts. In response to significant court decisions at that time, the NRC devised the WCD which incorporated several important findings including a finding that permanent geologic disposal was technically feasible and that spent fuel could be safely stored at reactor sites or away from reactor sites in the meantime. The WCD also incorporated a predictive finding of a timeframe of the availability of repository. Over the course of several decades, the NRC has periodically reaffirmed the critical findings of the WCD but also at the same time extended the predictive timeframe in which the repository would become available.  In its final WCD update, the NRC eliminated the incorporation of the predictive timeframe altogether and asserted simply that a geologic repository would become available when necessary.  This 2010 revision of the WCD is what prompted another round of litigation over the contentious issue of spent fuel storage and its timely disposal.

This week’s action by the Commission and the adoption of a newly formulated rule is responsive to a 2012 U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the New York vs NRC in which the Petitioners alleged, among other arguments, that the NRC did not properly evaluate the environmental effects of continued storage at reactors beyond their operating licensed lifetimes in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Court vacated the Commission’s Waste Confidence Decision and associated storage rule on NEPA grounds and ordered the Commission to conduct a fully complaint evaluation of the environmental impacts of continued storage of spent fuel, including the case of indefinite storage of spent fuel  because of the Federal Government’s failure to construct a geologic repository for disposal.

The Court’s decision and remand is only one of several cases in which the Court has strongly expressed its continued and increasing frustration with the Federal Government failure’s to effectively implement a national nuclear waste management program under duly enacted laws requiring the Federal Government to provide for a permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.  An earlier decision by another D.C. Circuit panel found that the NRC had violated the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) by prematurely terminating its regulatory review of the Department of Energy’s Yucca Mountain license application and ordered the agency back to work on the application using existing congressional-approved carryover funding. And in a more recent case, another three-judge panel of the same Court ordered the Department of Energy to suspend the collection of NWPA required fee payments unless and until the DOE resumes implementation of the NWPA or Congress passes an alternative nuclear waste program. 

So mindful of this growing impatience, the NRC dutifully conducted a comprehensive evaluation over the past two years, and developed a generic environmental impact statement that analyzes the environmental impacts of continued storage of spent fuel at reactor sites beyond their licensed operational lifetimes, resulting from the continued lack of availability of a geologic repository for permanent disposal.

The NRC’s GEIS evaluates effects of continued storage over three timeframes, a short-term where the fuel is stored at reactor sites for 60 years beyond the operating licensed lifetime, a second long-term timeframe in which spent fuel is required to be stored for an additional 100-year period and then finally a third timeframe in which spent fuel is stored indefinitely.

In all three cases, the NRC found that the environmental impacts of continued storage of spent fuel at reactor sites were “small” and with no significant impacts, even for the case where the spent fuel was stored indefinitely because of unavailability of a repository. In no small measure, the result, especially for the case of indefinite storage, was driven by the NRC’s staff assumption in all three cases that there would continue to be institutional controls throughout each timeframe, i.e., regulatory oversight and monitoring, ensuring therefore that there would be no adverse effects to the environment.

As structured, the approved rule now allows the Commission to move forward and resume final agency licensing decisions which have been held in abeyance for over two years while the NRC staff developed the GEIS and associated rule. When the rule goes into effect 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register, the GEIS is incorporated by reference in individual licensing proceedings and therefore any related challenges regarding the long-term effects of continued at-reactor storage cannot be raised because they have been “deemed” to have been addressed and found to have no significant consequences.

The importance of the assumption of continued indefinite institutional controls to the outcome of NRC’s analyses of no significant impact cannot be overstated. In fact, Chairman Macfarlane’s partial dissenting comments highlights its importance and touched off a sotto voce debate within the industry and elsewhere. Chairman Macfarlane referred to  “the elephant in the room” was the concern that by adopting the rule and GEIS, essentially affirming conclusion of  no significant environmental impacts of indefinite at-reactor storage, that NRC might be inadvertently tipping the balance and creating the enabling regulatory conditions under which a repository might never come to pass. Macfarlane continued her partial dissenting comments by suggesting that she would have preferred that the GEIS have included additional scenarios of indefinite storage without institutional controls.

But, the NRC staff in the GEIS had already acknowledged that without institutional controls, the case where spent fuel is stored indefinitely could have severe consequences similar to what the DOE had determined in its Yucca Mountain Project EIS in the “No Action” Alternative found in Appendix K.

As discussed in the GEIS, NEPA does not require agencies to consider “worst case” scenarios and the NRC staff made a persuasive case that that the most reasonably likely assumption is that indefinite storage would be accompanied concurrently with continued institutional controls, thereby ensuring no significant effects to the environment.  

Over the past 50 years, the nuclear industry, under the oversight of NRC and its predecessor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, has amply demonstrated its capacity to safely manage and store spent fuel. Moreover, the nuclear industry should not be penalized or held hostage to the vagaries of the Federal Government’s “off-again, on-again” approach to the implementation of the NWPA and the pursuit of the establishment of a geologic repository. Nor should application of nuclear technology be further restrained due to the dysfunction of the Federal Government efforts. Nuclear energy is too important to the nation, because it provides 20 percent of the nation’s electricity and over 65 percent of our clean, carbon free electricity while providing 24×7 around-the-clock reliable electricity to the national grid.

The Waste Confidence Decision, now the Continued Storage Rule, was always an act of “regulatory deeming” or the proverbial leap of regulatory faith dressed up exquisitely in regulatory parlance.  Now it will be up to the Courts to uphold the NRC’s action and, if not, the matter will have to be addressed by Congress.

On one final note, Chairman Macfarlane is absolutely right to note that “deep geologic disposal is necessary” and “… that the only suitable end point for high-level nuclear waste is permanent isolation in a deep geologic repository.” 

This is an immutable fact and the enduring reality since real “waste confidence” can only be derived from the successful demonstration and implementation of a national nuclear waste management program culminating in the startup and operation of a geologic repository.

###

The writer is a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council (www.usnic.org) and the former President of the American Nuclear Energy Council.  His views represent a consensus of the Council but do not necessarily represent the views of individual members. 

 

 

 

Edward Davis, Senior NIC Fellow: EPA’s Proposed Clean Power Plan Needs to Strengthen The Role of Nuclear Energy Emission Free Generation

By Edward M. Davis

Senior Fellow

U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council

Last week, EPA held public meetings around the country on its recently proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) that seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil plants by 30 percent by 2030 relative to 2005 levels. While the EPA proposed Clean Power Plan recognizes nuclear energy’s potential contribution in providing zero-emission generation, the EPA Clean Power Plan does not do enough to incorporate a strong role for nuclear energy in achieving future CO2 emission reductions. 

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan sets individual state specific emission reduction rate targets that states must meet beginning in 2020 based a formulaic approach known as “Best System of Emission Reduction” that incorporates four building blocks. These building blocks include: 1.) Improving coal plant heat rates; 2.) Switching generation from coal plants to more efficient natural gas plants; 3.) Increasing generation from zero emission sources, such as renewables as well as a limited amount of nuclear generation; and 4.) Increasing energy efficiency measures.

The EPA Clean Power Plan Building Block #3 includes a provision for what EPA calls nuclear plant capacity “at-risk” which is defined as 6 percent of installed nuclear capacity as of 2012, or approximately 5,800 MWe. EPA states that this “at-risk” capacity represents the amount of installed nuclear capacity that may be prematurely shutdown based on EIA projections that is over and above the recently announced and planned nuclear plant shutdowns. By adding this element into the EPA BSER, EPA has established a modest incentive for states to take measures to retain installed and operating nuclear capacity, since if a state were to allow some portion of its “at-risk” nuclear capacity to be shut down during the compliance period, the state would be obliged under the EPA BSER to undertake compensating measures to achieve the EPA state specified risk reduction rate goal.  In addition, EPA also included in the BSER Building Block #3, new nuclear capacity presently under construction at Vogtle 3&4, at 2,204 MWe in Georgia, Summer 2&3, at 2,204 MWe in South Carolina and Watts Bar 2, at 1,180 MWe in Tennessee. 

Under the EPA Build Block #3, nuclear energy contributes about 90 million MWh, and this emission free generation contribution remains fixed throughout the compliance period unlike the contributions from renewables and energy efficiency will increase every year throughout the compliance period. Overall, by 2030, renewables are credited with 525 million MWh of zero carbon generation and energy efficiency about 425 million MWh equivalent carbon free generation, as based on EPA’s Technical Support Goal Computation Document.   Along with the nuclear energy contribution, these zero carbon sources taken together provide over 1 billion MWh, however, nuclear energy contribution amounts to no more than 8.6 percent.

Rather than an “All of the Above” energy strategy, the EPA Clean Power Plan would anoint some clear winners. Under the approach as proposed, natural gas would become the backbone of the Clean Power Plan contributing by EPA’s own estimates an overall BSER CO2 emission reduction of 31 % — by far the largest of the four building blocks.  A recent preliminary assessment of the EPA proposed plan by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) reported up to a 40 percent potential increase in the consumption of natural gas would occur during the compliance period under the EPA proposed rule than what otherwise would have been the case. 

Such a large increase and reliance on any one source of fuel raises questions about grid reliability as a recently released study by IHS Energy, titled “The Value of US Power Supply Diversity”.  This study which examined a reduced diversity case scenario where natural gas contributed up to 61.7% of the generation mix found that such a lack of diversity in the electric generation mix could increase wholesale power prices by about 75% and retail power prices by about 25%.

Moreover, the EPA’s proposal for reliance on renewables and energy efficiency functionally operates as a de facto national renewable and energy efficiency portfolio standard, albeit with a small carve-out for “at-risk” nuclear generation capacity.

Fortunately, under the EPA Clean Power Plan, states must submit a state implementation plan that specifies the policies, programs and actions that the state is committed to undertake during the compliance period in order for the state to achieve the EPA state-specific emission reduction rate by 2030.

Unlike the detailed and specific EPA BSER Building Block formula, EPA does not provide an exact formula that each state will be required to use when demonstrating that the state has met its required emission reduction rate goal. Further, EPA identifies numerous options that states may take advantage of in order to achieve its emission reduction rate goal. 

As part of these recognized options, EPA identifies the continued operation of