Entries in Nuclear Plant (3)


Anti-Nuke Nun, Protesters Enter Tennessee Complex

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(OAK RIDGE, Tenn.) -- Two men and an 82-year-old nun who allegedly broke into the U.S. government's only storage facility for weapons-grade enriched uranium in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Saturday and splashed it with human blood are awaiting a preliminary hearing on trespassing charges today in federal court.

The peace activists, Sister Megan Rice, 82, of Nevada; Michael Walli, 63, of Washington, D.C.; and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, of Duluth, Minn., were arrested after allegedly breaking into the Y-12 national security complex at 4:30 a.m. Saturday, according to Y-12 spokesman Steven Wyatt.

The protesters, who are members of the "Transform Now Plowshares" movement, allegedly cut through four fences to gain access to the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, which holds enriched uranium. According to Wyatt, they spray-painted the building and splashed human blood on it, Wyatt said. They also left banners and read from the Bible.

No nuclear materials were ever at risk during the break-in, Wyatt said.

The use of blood was meant to "[remind] us of the horrific spilling of blood by nuclear weapons," Plowshares said in statement released via its website Monday.

"We come to the Y-12 facility because our very humanity rejects the designs of nuclearism, empire and war," the statement said. "Our faith in love and nonviolence encourages us to believe that our activity here is necessary; that we come to invite transformation, undo the past and present work of Y-12; disarm and end any further efforts to increase the Y-12 capacity for an economy and social structure based upon war-making and empire-building."

Before being taken to the Blount County jail, where they're currently being held, Walli, Rice and Boertje-Obed gave bread to the Y-12 security officers.

The three were arraigned on federal trespassing charges in district federal court in Knoxville Monday. If convicted, the activists could face up to $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

Following the break-in, B&W, the management and operating contractor for Y-12, ordered a temporary security stand-down, which is expected to end next week. All nuclear operations will stop during the stand-down and security personnel will undergo training and refresher instruction.

"We've just got to do this to make sure we get the answers we need to address what happened and move forward," Wyatt told ABC News.

The Department of Energy Inspector General is investigating how the trio broke in. "There's never been anything quite like this before," Wyatt said.

The targeted facility was built in 2010, Wyatt said. It is longer than a football field and was built with security in mind. Additionally, Y-12 employs more than 500 security officers.

Walli was one of ten activists who were convicted last year of trespassing after they intentionally crossed a blue line separating state and federal property at the Y-12 complex in 2010, Knoxville ABC affiliate WATE reported.

"When we spoke with them from jail on Saturday, they were, I have described it as elated, because they did what they wanted to do, they came back," Ellen Barfield, a friend of the activists, told WATE.

"The number of previous acts by some of them throughout the country at different federal facilities, the transient nature of their movement through the country, the nature of the facility here that was breached," Bill Killian, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, told WATE.

video platform video management video solutions video player

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


San Onofre Nuclear Plant Closed After Radiation Leak

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- A small quantity of radioactive gas leaked inside one of the buildings at San Onofre nuclear power plant north of San Diego, according to a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The spokesman said the radiation levels were “barely measurable,” but concern was high enough to shut the plant down.

Officials say the radiation leak likely occurred in the steam generator tubes of San Onofre’s reactor #3. The steam system, which is supposed to be shielded from exposure to radiation, was replaced in December 2010.

San Onofre is one of dozens of U.S. reactors facing new scrutiny after Japan’s nuclear crisis. It is located right on the coast, and in the heart of America’s earthquake country.

It also is right next door to Camp Pendleton, the Navy’s West Coast hub, where 70,000 sailors, marines and their families would be in immediate danger if there’s ever a meltdown.

ABC News visited San Onofre the day the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan melted down. At the time, plant officials were eager to reassure the public that the same thing could not happen on the California coast.

“This plant is safe,” California Edison’s Chief Nuclear Officer Pete Dietrich told ABC News.

After Japan, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission updated its seismic model and in a report issued Tuesday found that 96 reactors in the central and southern U.S. may be at a higher risk for quakes than previously thought.

The report included parts of the country that are not traditionally seen as geologically active, places like Chattanooga, Tenn., Savannah, Ga., Jackson, Miss., Manchester, N.H., and Houston, Texas.

Major metropolitan areas are uncomfortably close to major nuclear plants, with as many as 120 million Americans living within 50 miles of a nuclear reactor, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Indian Point, outside of New York City, has 20 million people living within a 50-mile radius. And Dresden is just 50 miles from the heavily-populated suburbs of Chicago.

Nuclear regulators plan to give plant operators four years to re-evaluate seismic risks, but some of the plants may be too expensive to make earthquake safe.

However, in the case of San Onofre, it’s unlikely the leak had anything to do with seismic safety and was probably just faulty equipment.  Officials have been taking extra care to reassure the public that there’s no danger, since after Japan, the idea of radiation leaking from a nuclear plant tends to set people on edge.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Regulators Call for Further Investigation at Earthquake-Affected Plant in Virginia

Scott Olson/Getty Images(LOUISA, Va.) -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sending more inspectors to a Virginia nuclear power plant to further review what damage that last week's earthquake may have caused.

The NRC is sending the inspectors to the North Anna station near Louisa, Va., about 40 miles northwest from plant operator Dominion's Richmond headquarters. The plant is less than six miles from the Aug. 23 earthquake's epicenter in Mineral, Va.

The NRC stressed that the expanded investigation does not necessarily mean the plant is any less safe, but they have formed an Augmented Inspection Team to conduct the investigation.

According to the NRC, an AIT is formed by the NRC "to review more significant events or issues at NRC-licensed facilities." This is an additional investigation after the NRC initially sent a seismic expert and another structural expert, according to an NRC statement released Monday, to "assist the agency's resident inspectors on site."

The agency reported that "no significant damage to safety systems has been identified," but the plant's operator, Dominion Power, has reported to the NRC that "initial reviews determined the plant may have exceeded the ground motion for which it was designed."

The plant's two units were automatically shut down after the station lost offsite power following the earthquake and emergency diesel generators were used to cool the reactors until offsite power was brought back. In the release, the NRC said the investigation will "determine the precise level of shaking that was experienced at key locations within the North Anna facility."

The NRC requires that the plant not restart "until it can demonstrate that no functional damage occurred to those features needed for continued safe operation."

Members of the surrounding communities should not worry and the plant remains in "cold shutdown," Roger Hannah, senior public affairs officer at the NRC, told ABC News.

Hannah said that Dominion and NRC workers checked the safety of the plant "immediately after the earthquake" doing "a very careful walk down" where they found "no indication that any of the safety systems were damaged." A "walk down" is what members of the industry call the initial inspections.

Hannah added that the NRC will be doing further analyses to see if the plant can withstand a larger quake than the range it now can currently withstand.

Jim Norvelle, a spokesman for Dominion Power, explained that the range is roughly between a 5.9 to a 6.2 on the Richter scale, but they actually measure earthquake damage via ground force acceleration, which measures the intensity of an earthquake at a specific geological location and measures east, west, north, sound and vertical, while a Richter scale measures the magnitude of an earthquake at the epicenter.

Norvelle told ABC News that the part of the nuclear plant that is built on rock is designed to withstand 0.12 g, or about 5.9 on the Richter scale, and the portion of the station built on soil can withstand 0.18 g, or about 6.2 on the Richter scale. Norvelle added that there is always a "safety margin" in play that goes above those numbers.

Norvelle agreed with the NRC that there has been "no significant damage" from the earthquake, including to any of the station's "pumps, valves, pipes, support structure, or safety equipment."

"What we have found is some thermal insulation shook off pipes. Some equipment on the electric transformers needed to be replaces. We have seen cracking in a wall of a commercial grade building, an office building adjacent to the power station," Norvelle explained. The office building is not built to the same standards as the nuclear plant.

Norvelle said Dominion is "fully cooperating" with the NRC and the NRC's team will be onsite for one week and then will return for a second week, after which a public exit meeting will be held to tell the community about what they found in their investigation. Norvelle said members of the community are welcome to come with questions and concerns.

Dominion told ABC News they will thoroughly evaluate the results of the investigation before reopening the plant.

"We all want to demonstrate to the NRC this power station is safe to operate and we have to do that before we think about restarting the units," Norvelle said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio