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Sun Feb 24, 2013, 03:35 PM

How the NRC Brass Refuses to Recognize Costly Lessons of Fukushima - truthout

This is a well written, succinct synopsis of the ongoing effort to ensure the safety of the US nuclear fleet.

How the NRC Brass Refuses to Recognize Costly Lessons of Fukushima
Sunday, 24 February 2013 12:11
By Gar Smith, Truthout | News Analysis

Sections:

Overview

NRC: "It Can't Happen Here"

Japan's New Safeguards

Lessons Learned?

A Thirty-Year Delay

The Industry Pushes Back

Nuclear Watchdogs Challenge NRC to Act


http://truth-out.org/news/item/14759-how-the-nrc-brass-refuses-to-recognize-costly-lessons-of-fukushima

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Arrow 27 replies Author Time Post
Reply How the NRC Brass Refuses to Recognize Costly Lessons of Fukushima - truthout (Original post)
kristopher Feb 2013 OP
patrice Feb 2013 #1
PamW Feb 2013 #2
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #3
PamW Feb 2013 #4
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #5
PamW Feb 2013 #6
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #7
PamW Feb 2013 #8
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #9
PamW Feb 2013 #10
Warren Stupidity Feb 2013 #11
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #14
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #16
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #17
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #18
oldhippie Feb 2013 #19
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #21
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #20
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #22
oldhippie Feb 2013 #23
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #24
oldhippie Feb 2013 #25
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #26
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #27
Throckmorton Feb 2013 #12
PamW Feb 2013 #13
Throckmorton Feb 2013 #15

Response to kristopher (Original post)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 03:42 PM

1. I hope people are preparing to attend regional DOE public meetings. STORAGE & the pressure to

de-regulate "low" level waste is not going away.

Walmart could probably improve sales if they started carrying consumer style pocket geiger counters, for use when considering the purchase of anything that is metal.

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Response to kristopher (Original post)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 06:47 PM

2. Lessons already Learned.

The USA already learned the lessons of Fukushima, and we didn't need to have an accident to do it; just a little forethought.

Lesson 1: Don't build a nuclear power plant at sea-level in a tsunami-prone area.
The USA knows that already. For example, Diablo Canyon in California is built on an 85 foot bluff overlooking the Pacific. That bluff is over twice as high as the tsunami wave that flooded Fukushima. The Fukushima wave wouldn't have touched Diablo Canyon. San Onofre is at sea-level, but the fault system there won't make big tsunamis. California has side-slipping lateral faults, whereas Japan has vertical thrust faults.

Lesson 2: Don't build the diesel generator fuel tank above ground.
The Fukushima diesel generator fuel tank was above ground at dockside, for ease of refueling. In the USA, the NRC requires that the diesel generator fuel tanks be buried like at your local gas station.

Lesson 3: Don't put the backup diesel generator and switchgear in an unsealed basement. In the USA, the NRC requires that diesel generators be in watertight vaults if they are in danger of ground flooding, or be up high in the reactor building. When I was a graduate student at MIT, we toured Boston Edison's Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant, which is a GE BWR with Mark I containment like Fukushima. While following our guide on one of the upper stories of the reactor building we came across the two big diesel engines. After looking over the engines, we rode a nearby elevator about 2 stories up, and we were at the top of the reactor building. So I can say from personal experience, that the Pilgrim diesels aren't anywhere they can get flooded out.

Lesson 4: Have offsite backup diesels ready to fly in and drill on the process.
The NRC requires reactor operators to have more backup diesel generators offsite and ready to fly in, in case of emergency. The operations personnel are required to drill on this. They are required to actually fly in the offsite diesel and hook it up to the plant. TEPCO attempted to fly in diesel generators; but when the generators got there, the connectors on the generators were incompatible with the connectors on the plant. If TEPCO had drilled, they would have found out first time that their backup offsite diesel generators didn't have the correct connectors.

Lesson 5: Japanese BWR Mark I containment buildings didn't have hardened vents to prevent build-up of hydrogen. One of the problems the NRC identified with the Mark I containment back in the '70s was that they didn't have adequate venting to prevent hydrogen gas build-up. The NRC mandated that all Mark I containment buildings must have a "hardened" vent.

The list goes on and on and on. But you get the idea. The NRC and US designers already thought about and solved the problems that the Japanese operators and regulators skipped over. Fukushima was the result.

The US nuclear power industry and regulators really have nothing to learn from the Fukushima accident; they knew it all, already.

PamW

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Response to PamW (Reply #2)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 07:24 PM

3. They knew it all?

 

They knew Fukushima was gonna blow up and they never said anything? I never once heard the NRC warning about the imminent danger of Fukushima. Not once.

So... they sat there, knowing it all, and then once it happened have been covering up. You do realize you just incriminated all those people who knew it all and let it happen.

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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #3)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 08:15 PM

4. You do what you can...

RobertEarl,

A little personal story. In Novermber of 1978, some fellow graduate students at MIT and I went to Washington, DC to the winter meeting of the "American Nuclear Society". The American Nuclear Society is the professional society for all the scientists in the nuclear field.

The ANS holds both an annual meeting in various cities, and a winter meeting that is hosted by either Washington, DC or San Francisco; on alternate years.

The meeting was held at one of the larger hotels in Washington. In the evening, various companies involved in the nuclear field host "hospitality suites" in some of the larger suites of the hotel. They invite conference participants to come in, have a drink, or a hot-fudge sundae, or whatever they were offering. The idea is to get people in to talk with their people. They may find someone they'd like to hire or work with, or sponsor some research. They might meet a promising graduate student that might make a valuable employee. Science is said to be a "body contact sport".

I visited the General Electric suite and talked with a GE engineer. I asked him what he was doing. He told me that GE was the reactor vendor for a nuclear power plant in Japan, being built for TEPCO, and he was GE's advisor to TEPCO. I was looking forward to the start of my own career, and I asked this engineer what the toughest part of his job was. He responded, "Getting the client to listen to me and follow my advice". He then told me how TEPCO was planning on building the fuel tank for the backup diesel generator at the new plant above ground. The NRC requires that all the fuel tanks for backup diesel generators at nuclear plants in the USA have to be buried like those at your local gas station. GE agrees with the NRC on that. This engineer explained that the new plant was in a seismically active region, and that a tsunami was a possibility. A tsunami could wipe away the above ground tank and leave the plant without a backup power supply to run the coolant pumps.

I said that his advice sounded reasonable; and asked why TEPCO wouldn't listen and follow his advice.

His response was, "Because it would probably mean burying the tanks for the other 5 reactors at the site".

It turns out the Japanese plant in question was Fukushima Diachi Unit 6. Unit 6 is the only true "GE" plant. The other 5 had reactors vended by Toshiba or Hitachi that licensed the GE design. However, on Unit 6, GE was the reactor vendor. However, that doesn't mean GE builds the plant. They just provide the reactor and the design. It is up to a general contractor to actually build the plant.

In the USA, our reactor vendors are companies like Westinghouse, GE, Combustion Engineering, and Babcock & Wilcox. They make the reactor. The rest of the plant is built by companies like Bechtel, Brown and Root, Stone & Webster....

So I knew that TEPCO was taking a chance with the placement of their fuel tanks. GE knew that too, and advised against an above ground siting. TEPCO wanted above ground, and the Japanese regulators were OK with that.

What are we supposed to do? It's THEIR country, and THEIR laws.

California and Vermont are pretty progressive states; whereas Texas is conservative. What is someone from California or Vermont supposed to do if they don't like the laws in Texas. Texas is governed by Texans; it's their State and they can run it the way they want to.

All we can do is tell the Japanese Government and the reactor owner, TEPCO that what they were doing was dumb. The reactor vendor for Unit 6, GE; which designed the reactors for Units 1-5 also, made clear to TEPCO and the Japanese regulators that what they were doing was dumb. They chose to ignore the company that designed their reactors. If they won't listen to GE, they certainly won't listen to me. So what am I, or anyone else suppose to do?

I don't know where you were listening, but the NRC also let the Japanese authorities know that Fukushima was sub-standard. The NRC also told the Soviet Union that Chernobyl was a bad design. I remember the program PBS's NOVA did on Chernobyl. It featured Nobel Prize-winning physicist Hans Bethe. I remember Hans Bethe telling the audience that US scientists told the Russians that their RBMK, i.e Chernobyl design was bad and unsafe. I remember Hans Bethe saying, " 'Oh no', said the Russians, 'Our reactors are safe' ". There's not much you can do when your advice is being ignored, and you have no direct power.

We didn't "let it happen". We had no power to stop it.

PamW

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Response to PamW (Reply #4)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 08:49 PM

5. I've heard that before

 

Kids working at a burger joint said pretty much the same thing.

"I just work here, man"

See, this is what Einstein was talking about. That using the same mode of thinking, man can not handle the responsibility harnessing nuclear power requires.

You have been in this business, cooking up nuclear hamburgers all these years, and knew the eventuality.

You tell us that the Fukushima radiation is "trivial", that scientists in Lithuania don't know what they are doing when they claim they found plutonium from Fukushima in Lithuania, and now "you" knew Fukushima was gonna happen all along. And then you say heck, after all, we couldn't do anything about it. Rah, rah, rah! Go nukes! More nukes! Anti nukes are crazy!

Thank gawd people like you don't have any power... oh wait, you do. Uh oh.

Pam writes:
"We didn't "let it happen". We had no power to stop it."
And you call anti-nukes the crazy ones?!?!?!?
Thanks a lot. Way to go, Pam. I hope you are proud of yourself.

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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #5)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 09:12 PM

6. What were we supposed to do?

RobertEarl,

This is another problem with the anti-nukes; they are all so damn self-righteous.

Suppose your neighbor likes to mountain climb for sport. Mountain climbing is risky. Your neighbor is an adult, and wants to go mountain climbing. You think it's a bad idea. What are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to restrain your neighbor from engaging in a sport that he willing understands and accepts the risks.

You advise your neighbor that mountain climbing is risky; and you let your adult neighbor make up his own mind. You treat your neighbor as an adult; and not a child that you have to make decisions for.

How about if your neighbor's sport was general aviation. Flying planes is safer than mountain climbing; but it's not as safe as commercial aviation. Are you going to prevent your neighbor from flying?

I showed you that the radiation in Lithuania was TRIVIAL. Mother Nature gives you more.

You misunderstand the Lithuania plutonium story. Yes - they found plutonium in Lithuania; but they never traced it back to Fukushima. Please tell us how they knew the plutonium they found in Lithuania was from Fukushima and not from US / Soviet bomb test? Did they do DNA testing on the Plutonium? How did they know where it came from. Show us whether you understand what you read.

We didn't "know" that Fukushima was going to happen. We knew that the Japanese were taking a risk. For that risk to turn into the accident, you also need the tsunami and nobody "knew" that was coming. We just knew that they were not as prepared as we would have liked; but they were doing that on their own choice.

Yes - the anti-nukes are crazy. They are so damn self-righteous that they "think" everyone should do as they say.

Again, that's one of the nice things about the USA. Californians and Vermonters can be progressive, and Texans can be conservative. If you say that Texans should have to obey what Californians and Vermonters want; then what if the tables are turned and Californians and Vermonters are forced to do what Texans want them to do.

Can't you see that the best thing about our system is that we treat people as adults. People get to make their own decisions and they have to live with the consequences. The same thing goes for States. Finally, the same thing goes for countries.

The Japanese are the ones that have to live with the consequences. Yes - we have scientific instruments that are so EXTREMELY sensitive that we can pick up small amounts of radioactivity. We know that the radiation levels due to Fukushima are TRIVIAL in other countries, especially those half-way around the world. So the Japanese didn't hurt anyone else; only themselves.

The Japanese have to live with the consequences of Fukushima. However, those consequences are relatively mild. Industrial accidents and airline crashes are worse in terms of mortality to humans.

Again from Dr. John Boice of the Health Physics Society; in his sworn testimony to Congress:

http://www.hps.org/documents/John_Boice_Testimony_13_May_2011.pdf

Dr. Boice testifies:

The health consequences for Japanese workers and public appear to be minor

The health consequences for United States citizens are negligible to nonexistent

PamW

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Response to PamW (Reply #6)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 09:29 PM

7. We are self-righteous?

 

You call us crazy because we have been saying all along that the nukes were going to blow and yall just went Nah, nah, nah, and then you call us self-righteous? After you proved us right?

I have yet to see one iota of empathy, or self-criticism from nukers.

I am an anti-nuker and you calling me the crazy one.....?

The people who brought us nukes will be dead when our children will be dealing with the waste a 100 years from now. Basically a criminal act they have perpetrated on future generations, and you sit there and call us the crazy ones for bringing it to the world's attention?

Pam, within a few minutes, I want you to venture over to Meta, because I am calling you out there, for calling us crazy. See you there?

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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #7)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 09:53 PM

8. I don't do "META"

RobertEarl,

Forget it - I don't do META.

The anti-nukes are self-righteous. They think they are the only ones that are right, when they don't understand even 1% of the technology. They believe everyone else, especially those that understand the technology, are required to conform to their ill-conceived, ill-consider notions. That's crazy.

Nuclear waste is a solved problem and doesn't have to last for a long time.

Again, I have to refer you to the interview with nuclear physicist Dr. Charles Till, Associate Director of Argonne National Lab and his interview with PBS Frontline. Evidently you didn't understand it the first time I referred to it:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reaction/interviews/till.html

Q: And you repeat the process.

A:Eventually, what happens is that you wind up with only fission products, that the waste is only fission products that have, most have lives of hours, days, months, some a few tens of years. There are a few very long-lived ones that are not very radioactive.

The USA wouldn't have a problem to hand down to future generations, except for the fact, that the anti-nukes created the problem by getting Congress to outlaw the solution in 1978.

PamW

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Response to PamW (Reply #8)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 09:57 PM

9. Well, you're there

 

Your days of calling me and others who oppose nukes - Crazy, are done with. I hope.

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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #9)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 10:18 PM

10. You've called me worse!!

RobertEarl,

Lots of people say others are "crazy".

You've called me worse. You say that I'm culpable for the accident at Fukushima because I knew of a fault in the plant. The Japanese owners were advised and knew of the fault. Their regulators were advised and knew of the fault. They accepted it. It was dumb to do so; but that's their choice.

Now you want to say that I'm at fault because I didn't do WHAT??

I didn't start a sit-in at the Japanese embassy? What was I supposed to do to absolve myself of the responsibility you want to place on me?

It's crazy to think I was culpable; unless you can tell me something specific I did in a sin of omission.

PamW

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Response to PamW (Reply #6)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 11:21 PM

11. You are seriously comparing an individual decision to mountain climb to Fukushima?

 

And then you have the unmitigated gall to call anti nuke opinions crazy?

Classy.

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Response to Warren Stupidity (Reply #11)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 12:02 PM

14. He's making a general point about autonomy and sovereignty.

 

And the point is that we have little recourse when it comes to forcing sovereign entities to follow our wishes. The principle is the same whether they are mountain climbers, people who wish to stay in their homes during a natural disaster, companies that want to produce jobs at the expense of the environment, or countries that want to do stupid things like site the diesel tanks for backup power systems in harm's way. Our ability to intervene is limited in each case by legal notions of sovereignty.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #14)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 02:25 PM

16. Yeah

 

But then are we not telling Iran they can not have nukes? What about the IAEA? Just a paper tiger? The fact of the matter is that every nuke plant is a world problem. Fukushima has dumped on us. So yeah, we had a right to tell Japan not to make their Fukushima a world problem. The utter denial of responsibility shown by Pam W, an avowed representative of the industry, is incriminating evidence of the mindset that is eating the earth.

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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #16)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 03:12 PM

17. We have every right to tell them.

 

They have every right not to listen. It's the way sovereignty works. In the face of sovereign rights, the IAEA (and every other international institution without its own army) is a paper tiger.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #17)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 03:29 PM

18. You are against active environmentalism?

 

With the attitude you expressed here, you are telling people that they have no right to their privacy from Fukushima radiation, because, well... it is like saying we have no right to tell coal companies they need to clean up their act. Or oil companies should not be polluting.

There are universal laws that should be followed or there is just anarchy.

There is responsibility that comes with exercising nuke power. Or there is what we have: A Fukushima radiation cloud spreading around the world.

I am saying that the nuke industry has shown why Einstein was so worried about nukes. The industry takes no responsibility except for cashing their checks. "Fukushima? Yeah, we knew, but it would have cost money to keep it from happening."

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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #18)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 03:46 PM

19. RobertEarl, I must say that .....

 

... I hadn't really paid too much attention to your posts in the past. I have to say though, after listening to you for the last two days, I think you are really out there. I am sure you believe in what you are doing, but your choices of words in your arguments, like "mega-corps" and "right to their privacy from Fukushima radiation" and of people being "oppressed" by radiation from a plant half a world away, make you come across as a paranoid, unbalanced person.

And phrases like "There are universal laws that should be followed or there is just anarchy." sounds pretty peachy, but is not based in reality. There are no "univeral laws that should be followed", as many will disagree as to what those laws would be.

So, in the spirit of "active environmentalism", when are you going to attack some nuc plant with a pick-axe? We need to make sure we have press coverage.

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Response to oldhippie (Reply #19)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 05:41 PM

21. Thanks for your support, hippie

 

It is folks like you that inspire folks like me to take on the monumental tasks of fighting against the entrenched big money, mass polluters who don't give a damn if thousands of people are forced from their homes or made sick. NOT.

I know that I am doing good when people like you attack.

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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #18)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 04:12 PM

20. The world faces this problem with every trans-national environmental issue.

 

Should "we" be able to force "them" to stop burning fossil fuels (as they should...)? What if "they" told "us" to do the same thing? Should we listen? Should we obey? Who died and made them king of the world? Who died and made us king of the world?

We may not like the freedom that sovereignty gives people to make stupid decisions, but that's reality in a world of nation-states.

Having laws you can't enforce brings the law into disrepute.

Getting mad at reality doesn't change it, it just makes us mad.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #20)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 05:53 PM

22. So, just lay down and let the run over me?

 

No.

You are one of them there "in-tell-lectuals" ain'tchya?

And here you are telling me that in reality, i should, to be happy, just accept the pollution?

I have a problem with that, ya know? Just can't wrap my head around taking it, and not standing up for what's right, and for the voiceless. Guess I just ain't intellectual enough?

Did we just sit back and take it when Germany bombed Pearl Harbor?

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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #22)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 06:47 PM

23. I'd say you should do what you feel you should ......

 

... to feel true to yourself. But be prepared to receive criticism from folks who think you are wrong. You won't/can't understand why folks feel that way. You'll suspect they are shills for the industry, stupid, ignorant and wrong-headed thinkers. They'll think the same about you.

You don't have guns, do you?

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Response to oldhippie (Reply #23)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 07:01 PM

24. Thanks

 

Your post is rather odd. You sitting there telling me how I should feel. And what I may think about this that or the other.

Tell you what I am... an environmentalist. Our lives have been made richer by environmentalists. And they all heard the same preaching you are now delivering. And they ignored it as it was all just minor pollution. Instead they tackled the big issues and the big players, leaving the minor ankle-biters their own puny little pleasures.

Are ya having fun?

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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #24)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 07:11 PM

25. Yes, I am

 

And I am an environmentalist also. In fact, my City Manager and City Council recently appointed and confirmed me as the city rep to the regional environmental partnership committee. I'm promoting single stream recycling, sustainable building, rain water collection, renewable energy for a local micro grid, and nuclear energy. How about that!

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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #22)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 07:35 PM

26. Where on earth did I imply that?

 

Nope, I just said they were completely within their legal rights to ignore the sound advice that PamW talked about. You can do whatever you want to about that situation. That's your right. Hell, I'd even support you breaking the law and going all Derrick Jensen on their ass.

Just don't let the emotions, the rage and outrage, blind you to reason. If that happens you'll have to leave the thinking to intellectuals who know how to do it - and we know how that turns out, right?

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #26)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 07:49 PM

27. What? This on DU? This is nothing

 

Just having some fun with the nukers. Plus, some here may gain an idea of just what kinds of crap the nukers will throw at you. That's all.

In RL, i have busted all the balls of the bad guys i can endure. I leave it up to the young to carry on. It is their world now. I would just warn them to be careful of who they rub elbows with. Some of your friends are not what they appear to be.

As for the nukes.... yes, they are a reality. And given nuke's position are in-conquerable. The best we can do is head them off at the pass, as it were, and make them stop lying. And make them feel shamed if they can't find a way to clean up their life destroying mess. But not until they own up to their reality will anything ever change. And, yeah, stop them from building any more, at least in the US.

Otherwise, I am with you. Just trying to enjoy life, here in Camp Llatikcuf.

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Response to PamW (Reply #2)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 11:42 PM

12. In the USA, the NRC requires that the diesel generator fuel tanks be buried

Really?

Millstone Stations diesel tanks are where exactly?

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Response to Throckmorton (Reply #12)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 11:09 AM

13. Depends on which tanks you are talking about

Throckmorton writes
Millstone Stations diesel tanks are where exactly?

The primary diesel fuel tanks at Millstone are inside the same buildings that house the diesel generators. Therefore, the tanks are protected. There are two tanks and each tank holds 13,500 gallons of diesel fuel. Those are the "Class I" tanks at Millstone.

Millstone has additional tank that holds 25,000 gallons of fuel that is outside and above ground( T-148 ). The outside tank is used to stage fuel delivery to the Class I tanks. The diesel fuel delivery truck refills the 25,000 gallon outside / above ground tank; and then pumps are used to top off the Class I tanks that are located in the building (Tanks T-48A and T-48B).

These are probably the ones that you are referring to. The inside tanks meet the statutory requirements for meeting the emergency fuel needs of the backup diesel generator sets.

The operator can also have fuel in tanks that is "above and beyond the call of duty". Since this is extra fuel above what the operator is required to have; the rules for the extra fuel tanks are less stringent than the primary fuel tanks.

Hope that answers your question.

PamW

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Response to PamW (Reply #13)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 01:39 PM

15. The buried ones, you know, that are an NRC requirement

Just like at my gas station.

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