Howard Shaffer

In Fukushima, the tsunami was a much larger catastrophe than the nuclear plants it destroyed

The Fukushima Daiichi Plants 1–4 accident 10 years ago was a catastrophe inside a far larger catastrophe created by a huge tsunami that engulfed a large region of the eastern coast of Japan.

More than 20,000 people were killed by the flood, none by the radiation and radioactivity from the core meltdowns of reactors 1–3. The core of reactor 4 was totally out and in the fuel pool during a routine maintenance operation there.

Those reactor plants are the same design as Vermont Yankee's was, but that is irrelevant. The whole plant layout for units 1–4 - built on the lowest elevation on the site - was locally customized, putting the electrical distribution in the basement. Reactors 5 and 6 on the site were built later, higher up, with a different electrical arrangement. The basements of units 1-4 were flooded, causing a loss of all electrical power, leading to the meltdowns. Units 5 and 6 were not disabled by the tsunami, and their emergency diesel worked.

The Units 1–3 containments held for more than a day, allowing an evacuation per plan, which all nuclear plants have.

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Nuclear-safety concerns in letter were addressed decades ago

Safety of the public, environment, and workers was formally addressed in 1928, at the First International Conference on Radiation Safety. Research on the health and environmental effects of radiation has been continuous since then. The use of this powerful natural force has expanded into many areas of life: communications,

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Radiation level acceptable and conservative

As a retired nuclear engineer, I can attest that 15 millirem (mr) is both an acceptable and conservative radiation level to prescribe for a greenfield project. Under NorthStar's proposed 15 mr level, a farmer can safely live at the decommissioned site, raise livestock, and eat the crops grown there.

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Being able to move a meter needle does not equal dangerous

The headline is right, the letter is wrong. If the Vermont Yankee buildings were there for a fossil-fuel plant, demolishing them would require industrial safety measures, which would be overseen by demolition experts, not the plant operational staff. It will be that way for the nuclear plant, too. As shown by NorthStar, large-building and industrial-facility removal has evolved as a speciality, with the special hazards of each type of plant - chemical, petroleum, radioactive, etc. - planned for. The radioactive...

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Why was rubblization even included in 2013 settlement agreement?

Robert Oeser clearly wants to make a mountain out of the rubble, regarding his opposition to NorthStar's proposed rubblization at the Vermont Yankee site. But Mr. Oeser fails to recognize that rubblization is a common procedure, developed for recycling concrete highways in place and used in nuclear decommissioning. The small pieces of broken concrete are used instead of trucked-in stone as a roadbed for new pavement. In nuclear plant demolition, instead of hauled-in fill, the rubble is used to fill...

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Entergy put money into the trust

Entergy was required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to contribute to the Decommissioning Trust Fund in 2009 or so, due to the market value falling below the required amount. Shipping the basement water off site is a waste of money. With the political will, it could be safely put in the river.

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What do they want from decommissioning?

What is it that the states and localities want? Decommissioning is an engineering and construction process. Doing this work in a radioactive environment requires qualified health physics staff? Will the states and localities provide that? Or is it their old game of “We decide, you pay?” Or do they want daily or hourly reports on progress and radiation surveys and exposure? Will someone please tell me?

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The science behind shrinking the EPZ

My colleague Richard January wrote about the safety of Vermont Yankee's used fuel, saying it is safe in the fuel pool. He is right. Here's why. In operation a reactor gets 93 percent of its heat from atom splitting and 7 percent from the decay of the radioactive atom splitting pieces (fission products or other atoms). When the atom splitting stops (reactor shutdown), that heat stops immediately. The heat from the fission products continues. The fission products are radioactive, which...

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