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coached the utiexpert study fe that an accideconceivable
Stress the uniqueness of Seabrook's containment, the NRC staff coached the utility. Lo and behold, the utility presents the NRC staff with an expert study proposing to demonstrate that Seabrook's containment is so safe that an accident with off-site consequences greater than two miles is virtually inconceivable.
Something is very wrong here. The NRC staff has allowed itself to be co-opted by Public Service of New Hampshire. Rather than providing technical comment, it has crossed the line to advocacy of the utility's objective. Rather than regulating, the NRC staff has connived with the utility to circumvent the NRC's own regulations.
It is as though a taxpayer who wanted to fudge on his taxes went to the IRS staff and worked out with them exactly how to do it just short of committing tax fraud, and then went ahead and filed his return.
Of course, it would be worse if when the taxpayer first approached the IRS to enlist their participation, the IRS staff had put his request on an expedited review schedule to accommodate him, assigned staff to the job, and hired consultants for almost a quarter of a million dollars to help them. Startlingly, that is just what the NRC staff has done for Public Service of New Hampshire.
If the utility's calculations, 10 miles minus Massachusetts equals 2 miles, which also equals a full-power operating license, are correct, then the utility has gotten the NRC staff to help punch the buttons on its calculators.
People whose very lives and homes may be endangered have a right to trust that the Government agencies that are supposed to protect their interest and their health are rendering impartial judgments arrived at through a process that is open and fair and objective. That is the only way that the public's faith in the credibility of the regulatory process can be maintained.
If the people perceive that the regulatory process has become a sham, or that some party is trying to circumvent the rules by a technical sleight of hand, or that federal regulators have failed to keep an appropriate distance between themselves and those who they are supposed to regulate, then the integrity of the system itself is called into question. And that injures all of us, because when people lose faith in the process by which they are governed at any level, it begins to erode the very foundation upon which our system of Government is based.
[Testimony resumes on p. 74.]
NINETY WINTH CONGRESO
PHONE (207) 226-2424
EDWARD J. MARKEY, MASSACHUSETTS, CHAIRMAN AL SWFT, WASHINGTON
CARLOS J. MOORHEAD, CAUFORNIA JOHN BRYANT, TEXAS
MICHAEL D. OXLEY, OHIO MCKEY LELANO. TEXAS
MOWARD C. NIELSON, UTAN NICHARD C. SMELDY, ALABAMA MICHAEL DIUMAKIS, FLORIDA NON WYOEN, OREGON
FRED J. ECKERT, NEW YORK MUN M. MALL, TEXAS
NORMAN F. LENT, NEW YORK
LAWRENCE R SIDMAN
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WASHINGTON, DC 20616
November 14, 1986
SUBJECT: Emergency Planning and NRC Licensing Issues
at the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant
This memorandum responds to your request for a summary of the Subcommittee's investigation of emergency planning issues related to the Seabrook nuclear power plant. We stress that both the chronology of events and full explication of them should be regarded as incomplete, since the Subcommittee has not received all materials requested and still is continuing its investigation,
As you know, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has granted a fuel-load license to Public Service of New Hampshire foi the Seabrook plant. The licensing board currently is considering the question of issuance of a low-power operating license for the facility. Decisions regarding a full-power license will not be made for some time, however, they are complicated by the fact that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and thirteen local communities have refused to participate in the emergency planning process in light of their conviction that no practicable emergency planning is possible which could adequately protect the health and safety of their citizens. Under the NRC'S regulations, certain findings regarding the adequacy of emergency planning must be made before a full-power operating license can be issued (see below).
The utility, in close cooperation with the NRC staff, has been conducting technical studies with the objective of demonstrating that the Seabrook containment is so unusually strong that a reduction in the size of the "emergency planning zone" (EPZ) around the plant is warranted.
It has become apparent from public and internal agency documents as well as from comments offered by the utility and NRC staff that:
O a key objective of Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) technical studies is to reduce the size of the emergency planning zone for Seabrook from 10 miles to 2 miles, thereby excluding the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from emergency planning decisions required for a full-power operating license;
o technical work undertaken to rationalize this decision was initiated specifically to circumvent the possibility that Massachusetts might refuse to participate in emergency planning on the grounds that it was impracticable for the Seabrook site,
O NRC staff appears to have become an adjunct to PSNH efforts and is providing valuable technical assistance to assist the company in seeking its objective.
Investigation by Subcommittee Staff suggests that this effort to reduce the size of the emergency planning zone is questionable for the following reasons.
(1) The NRC staff has held a long series of meetings with the utility and its consultants, most of them private or without meaningful public notice, that have served to guide the applicant in its attempt to bolster its technical arguments important for seeking an exemption from the emergency planning regulations in order to to reduce the size of the EPZ. It appears that the NRC staff may have crossed the line from technical comment to advocacy in assisting this applicant in moving toward its objective.
(2) On January, 1986 NRC Staff rejected a request from Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. for an exemption from the regulations to reduce the size of the EPZ at the Calvert cliffs plant, specifically favoring a generic rulemaking over a "piecemeal, site-specific approach." NRC has provided no evidence to justify why that same policy is not being followed ten months later for Seabrook.
(3) Recent NRC statements about unresolved safety issues and containment analysis techniques, some in response to inquiries by this Subcommittee, contradict the utility's claims that the Seabrook containment is 80 strong that it is virtually impossible that a severe accident with significant off-site consequences more than 2 miles from the plant could occur. A close reading of NRC documents suggests that the uncertainties surrounding containment failure estimates, accident phenomena and sequences, and souro terms are so great that any efforts to use such claims to support a reduction in the EPZ appear to strain credulity.
(4) A cursory review of the technical issues suggests that the applicant's technical arguments represent only one subset of numerous possible scenarios. Many technical uncertainties suggest that other, equally tenable assumptions are equally reasonable.
In summary, this effort to reduce the size of the emergency planning zone appears to be a bold attempt by the utility to circumvent the Commission's emergency planning regulations by creating the subterfuge of a purported invincible technological barrier to disaster, thereby justifying an exemption from emergency planning regulations. The objective appears to be to attempt to expedite the securing of a full-power license for the facility, at the expense of the citizens of Massachusetts and their rightful participation in the licensing process. To proceed in this fashion would ignore existing emergency planning regulations which are not being met, and would cast aside the belief by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and thirteen local communities that no conceivable emergency planning could adequately protect the health and safety of their citizens. The NRC staff appears to have had few misgivings about whether or not their participation in these discussions dignify this effort, and
eem immune to considerations of whether their efforts are defensible in light of the serious public and legal controversies surrounding the emergency planning issues in particular and the licensing of the plant generally.
We provide below:
o a brief history of the development and application of existing emergency planning regulations as they pertain to the reactor licensing process;
O a history of PSNH's and the NRC staff's efforts to create a technical rationalization for reducing the size of the EPZ;
o NRC staff's comments rejecting an earlier application to reduce the size of the EPZ at the Calvert cliffs nuclear plant;
O a brief enumeration of the substantial technical uncertainties, many admitted by the NRC, that plague the issues of severe accident analysis, containment performance, and related matters, and several illustrative comments regarding the need to plan for severe accidents; and
O a summary of technical issues that PSNH and the NRC staff may have ignored in their analysis of the updated Seabrook probabilistic risk assessment.
REGULATORY HISTORY OF EMERGENCY PLANNING REQUIREMENTS
Prior to the accident at Three Mile Island (TMI), the NRC required limited emergency planning in what was then known as the "low population zone" -- an area immediately surrounding reactor sites that extended only a few miles. The TMI accident, during which NRC commissioners had discussed the possibility of evacuating around the stricken TMI reactor out to a distance of 20 miles, forced a reexamination of emergency planning requirements.
In direct response to TMI, the Congress passed legislation (P.L. 96-295) that required specific findings on the adequacy of State, local, and utility emergency planning before the NRC could issue an operating license for a nuclear power plant. These requirements and others were added to the NRC regulations as Appendix E to Part 50 of the Commission's regulations.
The new NRC regulations were augmented with a new set of companion regulations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA's responsibilities were stipulated in 1983 in 44 CFR 350. In addition, Memoranda of Understanding between FEMA and NRC clarified the roles of each agency in the process, and in 1980 the two agencies issued joint criteria for emergency planning (NUREG-0654). The latter document was based on an earlier joint NRC/EPA document, NUREG-0396, which provided a rationale for the size of the area in which emergency planning should occur and the response times considered adequate. It is NUREG-0396 that set the rough guidelines of 10 miles as the appropriate size for the plume emergency planning zone and 50 miles for the ingestion pathway. These guidelines were based on a combination of considerations, including estimates of accident probabilities and severities, off-site consequences, and public concern. They drew heavily on the Reactor Safety Study (WASH-1400) and EPA estimates of the hazards of given radiation do ses.
Under the new arrangements, PEMA was granted the lead responsibility for assessing the adequacy of State and local emergency plans and the general level of off-site emergency preparedness. NRC retained its lead role in reviewing on-site emergency planning, and was charged with reviewing FEMA's findings on off-site planning in making its determinations regarding whether or not the requirements for issuance of an operating license have been fulfilled.
However, neither the NRC nor PEMA can compel a State or local government to participate in emergency planning if that government declines to participate. FEMA's regulations under 44 CFR 350 specify that before FEMA can approve a State plan, the State and