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February 1, 2012 

NRC Releases Draft Report on Simulated Accident at Surry Plant in Virginia and Peach Bottom Plant in Pennsylvania

Statement by Edwin Lyman, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON (February 1, 2012) — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today released a draft report that analyzes the potential consequences of a serious accident at the Surry nuclear plant in Virginia and the Peach Bottom nuclear plant in Pennsylvania. The report was written by researchers with the agency’s State-of-the-Art Reactor Consequence Analyses (SOARCA) study, which began in 2007. The agency plans public meetings later this month in both states.

Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program, obtained an October 2010 draft copy of the SOARCA report last summer through a Freedom of Information Act request and posted an article on its contents on UCS’s All Things Nuclear blog. That draft document evaluated the consequences of an earthquake-induced loss of on-site and back-up power at Peach Bottom, located 65 miles west of Philadelphia and 45 miles down the Susquehanna River from Three Mile Island. That is very similar to what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan last March, and the General Electric reactor designs at Peach Bottom and Fukushima are similar.

Below is a statement by Edwin Lyman.

“The draft SOARCA study has largely confirmed the health impacts of prior studies such as the one conducted by Sandia National Laboratories in 1982, known as the CRAC2 study, even though it did not analyze an accident sequence as severe as the worst-case one in CRAC2. In fact, the results for the number of latent cancer fatalities for some of the SOARCA sequences are essentially the same as the CRAC2 results, given all the uncertainties. The SOARCA draft predicts as many as 1,000 cancer deaths, given average weather conditions, within 50 miles of the Peach Bottom plant if a Fukushima-type accident occurred there. 

“The draft study also confirms an obvious fact: Fatalities from acute radiation exposure will be small if effective evacuation of close-in areas occurs before large radiological releases occur. It says nothing about the potential for acute fatalities if releases occurred before residents living near the facility were evacuated.

“Finally, the report’s comparison of station blackout sequences at Peach Bottom with similar initiating events at Fukushima reveal important differences with the NRC’s computer analyses of such events. For example, SOARCA significantly under-predicted the magnitude of potential hydrogen explosions compared with what actually happened at Fukushima. This indicates serious problems with the NRC analyses that the agency must resolve before they can be used to reliably model severe accidents.”


The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

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