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New report from Princeton shows failure of Nuclear Regulatory Commission to accurately assess risk

Source:  Public Watchdogs

May 27. 2017 (San Diego) - A new study, which uses an advanced weather modeling program called HYSPLIT, developed by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows that a radiation plume from a spent fuel disaster would affect as many as 18.1 million people who could be harmed and displaced by a nuclear disaster involving spent nuclear fuel. According to the article the NRC uses an inferior predictive model called MACCS2 that fails to  accurately account for changing wind and weather patterns. 

The highly respected magazine Science, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is reporting the new research from scientists at Princeton. The study suggests that regulators have grossly underestimated the risk  of a spent nuclear fuel disaster at power plants such as the failed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).

Radiation (death) estimates off by 300%

According to the Princeton researchers, the effects of a spent nuclear fuel disaster are three times greater than what has been previously estimated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The new model, which accounts for weather and wind conditions on the East Coast, shows that as many as 18 million people may be required to evacuate or take shelter from the deadly radiation plumes that would travel hundreds of miles.

The NRC's postulated evacuation and plume radius is limited to 50 miles from SONGS.

In January of 2018, Southern California Edison will bury 3.6 million pounds of spent nuclear fuel 108 feet from the beach at San Onofre State Beach Park. The radioactive fuel is deadly for at least 250,000 years, but will be stored in containers that are only guaranteed to last 10 to 25 years (see factory warranty).

The new study, which focuses on the Peach Bottom nuclear station in Pennsylvania, shows alarming radiation fallout patterns for the deadly element Cesium 137 requiring the evacuation of Washington DC, New York City, or the entire State of Maine depending on wind and weather conditions.

Disaster would "dwarf" Fukushima

The article strongly suggests that the NRC has underestimated fallout and evacuation risks at facilities storing large amounts of spent nuclear fuel. According to the report, a "spent fuel fire on U.S. soil could dwarf Fukushima." 

Perhaps nowhere is the risk of a fire greater than at the failed SONGS nuclear reactor in Southern California. According to research by Public Watchdogs, the spent fuel from the three failed reactors at SONGS makes it the largest "privately owned nuclear waste dump in the USA."

Study echoes last week's findings by Public Watchdogs

On May 16, 2017, the San Diego-based consumer advocacy group Public Watchdogs published a report on the NRC's failure to regulate Southern California Edison, the owner of the massive nuclear fuel dump at San Onofre State Beach Park. The 450-page report, Radiological Regulatory Failure points out serious shortcomings in the NRC's regulation of radiation safety at San Onofre.

Current emergency plans for San Onofre were changed to accommodate emergency exemptions granted to Southern California Edison by the NRC.

FEMA will not respond

As a result of those exemptions, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was directed by the NRC to no longer be responsive in the event of a radiation release from the buried waste at San Onofre.

In addition, Edison is no longer required to plan for a terrorist attack or evacuation at the San Onofre nuclear waste dump.

San Onofre disaster: forty times worse than Chernobyl

While the Science article focuses on the risks of a fire in a spent fuel pool, California nuclear physicist Paul Frey has determined that a disaster at San Onofre's proposed Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (i.e. "Nuclear Waste Dump") would be 40-times worse than Chernobyl, and could contaminate much of the West Coast and the Southwestern United States.

Frey bases his analysis on the weather patterns of fallout from Chernobyl, transposed to Southern California's unique geography and weather patterns.   Mr. Frey's analysis can be seen in Exhibit 23 

of the full report Radiological Regulatory Failure.

There is no Risk Assessment for failure at San Onofre

Neither Edison, nor the  NRC have conducted a formal risk assessment of  the storage plans  for nuclear waste at the failed SONGS nuclear facility.

"The risk was never subjected to an independent professional risk assessment" says Nina Babiarz, a Public Watchdogs Board Member.

"It was granted emergency exemptions as part of the decommissioning of the plant, and those  exemptions are dangerous and irresponsible.  The new study from Princeton warrants a reassessment off the NRC's safety decisions," says Babiarz.

Geologist predicts 100% chance of nuclear incident

According to Public Watchdogs geologist, Robert Pope, a nuclear incident at San Onofre is unavoidable due to the flimsy construction of the canisters that will hold the nuclear waste, and the unique geology of Southern California. The public may view this report as Exhibit 21 from Radiological Regulatory Failure.

This study shows why independent nuclear experts must be called in to evaluate the decision-making process at the NRC. Our regulators have failed us, and the consequences are deadly."  says Charles Langley, executive director of Public Watchdogs.  


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