Updates: news releases and updates

AP1000 nuclear reactor design in grave danger

Posted May. 20, 2011 / Posted by: Nick Berning

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Nick Berning, 703-587-4454, nberning@foe.org; Kelly Trout, 202-222-0722, ktrout@foe.org

AP1000 Reactor Design in Grave Danger After NRC Chair’s Statement and Delay in Licensing Process

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Prospects for new nuclear reactor construction in the U.S. suffered a major setback this afternoon as the chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a statement voicing serious concerns about a nuclear reactor design proposed for what would be the first new reactors in the United States in decades.

The proposed design, which the NRC is considering licensing, has potentially serious flaws that must be addressed, NRC chair Greg Jaczko’s statement said, signaling that licensing of the design has at a minimum been delayed. This news is likely to further sour investors’ appetite for risky reactor construction projects.

“This unsafe reactor design had been the cornerstone of efforts to build new nuclear reactors in the United States,” said Tom Clements, a nuclear campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “The fact that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which often operates as an industry lap dog, is voicing concerns is a sign of just how serious these design flaws are.”

The Jaczko statement expressed concerns about the AP1000’s vented “shield building,” which sits over the reactor vessel, and the pressure inside the containment. (The containment relies on an inadequate 1.75-inch steel shell.) Such deficiencies could result in a serious nuclear accident and radiation release if these reactors are constructed and became operational, according to technical comments Friends of the Earth submitted to the NRC on May 10.

Friends of the Earth has long held concerns about the AP1000 design and joined with other groups on April 6 in a call for the licensing review to be halted and the public comment period on the design to be extended. More than 13,500 public comments—an NRC record—were submitted about the reactor design but the NRC has thus far refused to extend the comment period.

“This affirms the criticisms that Friends of the Earth and other independent analysts have been making for months,” Clements said. “The AP1000 has significant and unacceptable design problems. These reactors are nuclear accidents waiting to happen. Fukushima has shown us that we can not afford to take safety for granted. Instead of fast-tracking its review, the NRC should reject this reactor design.”

The AP1000 design is now in revision 18, with earlier designs also having been inadequate for licensing. It remains unclear if the design can withstand earthquakes, tornadoes and airplane crashes.

Friends of the Earth today called on the NRC to:

  • fully disclose its analysis of the AP1000 design’s weaknesses and the responses that it receives from Westinghouse;
  • reopen the public comment period on the reactor design;
  • formally announce suspension of the license review process by the NRC staff for the Westinghouse AP1000.

Notes:

See the joint news release of April 6 calling for the license review to be halted and he comment period to be left open indefinitely: New Reactor Model Faces Legal Challenge - http://www.foe.org/new-reactor-model-faces-legal-challenge

Friends of the Earth news release of May 10, the day the NRC's comment period ended:
Friends of the Earth Challenges New AP1000 Reactor Design as Comment Period Ends
http://www.foe.org/friends-earth-challenges-new-ap1000-reactor-design-comment-period-ends


Link to Fairewinds Associates comments prepared for Friends of the Earth and submitted to NRC on May 10, 2011:
http://www.foe.org/sites/default/files/Gundersen_FOE_Report_5-10-2011.pdf

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