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UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS UPDATE ON JAPAN'S NUCLEAR POWER CRISIS TELEPRESS CONFERENCE
MARCH 14, 2011, 11:00 A.M., P R O C E E D I N G S

OPERATOR: Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Japan Nuclear Reactor Update. At this time, all participants will be in a listen-only mode, but later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session, which instructions will be given at that time. If anyone should require audio assistance, you can press star, then zero, and an audio operator will assist you. And as a reminder, today's conference is being recorded. Now, I would like to introduce your host for today, Elliott Negin, Media Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Sir, please go ahead.

MR. NEGIN: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us on this call. This is going to be the first of a number of calls we'll be doing all during the week. Starting tomorrow, we will be -- we will send you an announcement, but we likely will be doing these at 11:00 a.m. every day for the next few days, and we're not sure how long we're going to be doing this, but we have no idea how long this crisis is going to continue. In any case, I have three guests here today on the phone. We are, as you know, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and we've been a nuclear industry watchdog on security and safety issues for 40 years. I just want to note that we are not for or against nuclear power, but we have grave concerns about the industry, both here and abroad. In any case, the three folks that we have on the call today will be speaking about what we know as of now with the events on the ground. We do not know -- we do not have -- we are not privy to any up-to-the-minute reports out of Japan, any more than you are. We are dealing with what we know, because we don't have anyone on the ground down there. And we will be talking about what we know as of now about what is going on with the reactors that are in trouble in Japan; we'll be talking about the threat that they pose to the public health and the environment; and we'll also talk a little bit about the potential ramifications of this crisis on the nuclear industry in the United States. Our first speaker is David Lochbaum, who is a nuclear engineer. Dave is the director of our Nuclear Safety Program. He spent 17 years working for the nuclear industry and has worked on nuclear power plants similar to the ones that are having these problems in Japan, he has also worked for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Dave will be followed by Dr. Edwin Lyman, who is a physicist here at our Global Security Program. He's an expert in nuclear plant design and will speak somewhat about the environmental health effects of radiation. And he will be followed by Ellen Vancko who is UCS's Nuclear Energy and Climate Change Project Manager. Ellen was in the -- sorry, was in the utility industry for 25 years and has deep knowledge about nuclear economics and the future and will be talking about the potential impact on nuclear power in the United States. I turn you over to Dave Lochbaum, our first speaker.

MR. LOCHBAUM: Thank you, Elliott, and good afternoon, everybody. The three reactors at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant are in this situation largely because of -- the primary problem that they faced was a loss of power. The earthquake knocked out their normal supply of power for safety equipment, and then, within an hour, the tsunami knocked out the backup array of power, which was emergency diesel generators, which left all three units dealing with safety equipment power simply from batteries. When the batteries were depleted, their ability -- their amount of options for core cooling dissipated -- pretty much they were left with no options. That started all three reactors pretty much down the same pathway, where because of inadequate cooling, the reactor core was eventually uncovered, it looks like for all three units. As a result of that, there's very clear signs that hydrogen gas was generated on Units 1 and 3. That hydrogen gas later ignited and did considerable damage to the reactor buildings that are used to enclose -- the reactor containment buildings. Right now, the focus of efforts and the prime concern seems to be with the Unit 2 reactor. That reactor also has a problem with core cooling. All three reactors were dealing with the inadequate cooling situation by pumping in seawater to fill up the reactor vessel initially and then to try to fill up the containment to provide a large body of water to absorb the heat being emitted by the reactor cores. On Units 1 and 3, those efforts were ultimately successful, and those reactors seem to be trending towards a more stable condition and increasing margin -- safety margins -- with time. On Unit 2, the injection of seawater reportedly ran into problems. It seems like the problem that they faced was the pressure inside the reactor vessel was -- rose to the point where the pumps were unable to overcome that pressure and get the water to where it needed to go. On all three reactors, there's -- there have been reports of reactor -- the core being uncovered and certain levels of reactor damage. It's very difficult to determine -- for the company to determine the levels of core damage that may have occurred, for no other reason than the initial loss of power took away a lot of the instrumentation that's used to monitor conditions within the reactor containment and the reactor core. And so with the instrumentation they have left, it's difficult to get a clear picture of what's going on, and it's equally difficult for the government and the company to report exactly on what's going on in there. For example, in this country, after the Three Mile Island accident in March of 1979, it really wasn't until 1983 when we -- the officials dropped a camera into the reactor -- or lowered a camera into the reactor vessel that it was confirmed that there had been a partial core meltdown. There's not annunciators, not an alarm window or a computer printout that tells you I've experienced core meltdown. So, it's something that you kind of figure out after the fact, and they're not there yet. The unit -- all three reactors, they're attempting to bring the reactors to what is called a cold shutdown condition. That's a situation where the reactor core is shut down, the nuclear chain reaction has been interrupted, and the water -- the temperature of the water circulating through the core has been lowered to less than boiling point, or 212 degrees. All three reactors have a ways to go to achieve that. That is not an inherently safe condition, but it's a stable condition, and it gives them as much margin as possible should further equipment failures be encountered or should damage result from subsequent aftershocks. Unit 2 is the one that, as I indicated earlier, is the reactor that's most -- furthest away from that condition. That's the one that's got the -- that's the -- in the most dire situation right now, and -- but beyond that, it's difficult to project what will happen or what won't happen. But we'll try to keep monitoring and update anything we know tomorrow. Thanks, Elliott.

MR. NEGIN: Thank you, Dave. Our next speaker is Dr. Edwin Lyman.

DR. LYMAN: Thank you, Elliott. I'd just like to discuss in a general way the consequences of events or the sequence of events should core cooling not be restored to Unit 2 or should Units 1 and 3 experience interruptions that once again uncover the core. The core uncovery, if there is no attempt to mitigate it, will lead to overheating and core melt within a matter of hours. Now, the nuclear fuel is uranium pellets that are stacked and then contained in zirconium metal rods. When core damage occurred at Units 1 and 3, the first indication was the reaction of zirconium -- hot zirconium with coolant, which generated hydrogen, which then was one possible source of the hydrogen that led to the explosions. Also, the presence of the fission products iodine-131 and cesium-137 could have been indicators that the fuel rods or some fuel rods had ruptured, and that's not an indication that the fuel pellets themselves had begun melting yet, because in normal operation, there is some accumulation of fission product gases between the pellets and the cladding, which is called the gap fraction, and there may have been indication that the gap fractions had been released. That would be on the order of 5 percent of the total inventory of those isotopes in the fuel. If the core melts completely, it loses its shape and collapses and would fall to the bottom of the reactor vessel, which is steel. Now, modeling shows and tests that have been done at Sandia National Laboratories have confirmed that that is a condition that could lead to vessel melt-through, where the molten core will actually corrode through the steel liner and -- through the steel vessel and then drop to the concrete floor of the containment building. Once that happens, the ability to contain the accident is greatly reduced, because the core is liquified, and it then flows out -- it spreads across the floor. In the Mark I containment, there is a known vulnerability to containment failure known as a liner melt-through, that if that melt spreads to the corners, then it may be able to melt through the steel shell of the containment as it ate through the reactor vessel. And in that case, because the -- especially since the secondary containment, the reactor buildings had been severely damaged, that would essentially mean large radiological release to the environment. At that point, the magnitude of the release would depend upon a number of factors. It's very hard to predict, but it could potentially be large scale and on the order of what we saw at Chernobyl.

MR. NEGIN: Okay. Thank you, Ed. Our next speaker is Ellen Vancko.

MS. VANCKO: Many people are asking whether the events in Japan will affect the nuclear renaissance in the United States. While it's premature to start making such predictions, it would be naive to think that this event will have no impact on the nuclear industry in this country. The first impact will likely be seen at existing reactors. A thorough assessment is needed to ensure that these reactors are being operated as safely and securely as possible, that existing NRC regulations and NRC reliability standards in effect today governing plant and -- safe plant operations and safety are fully enforced. We also need to ensure that any improvements to those regulations and standards are identified and implemented. The nuclear industry was in trouble in the United States long before last week's earthquake and tsunami. Spiraling construction cost estimates, declining energy demands, low natural gas costs, and the failure to take -- put a price on carbon already spelled trouble for this industry. Just last week, John Rowe, chairman and CEO of the largest nuclear company in this country, told the American Enterprise Institute that he would not invest in new reactors, because they're uneconomic compared to other low-carbon alternatives, like energy efficiency, natural gas, and power upgrades at existing reactors. One lesson we can draw from the unfolding disaster in Japan is that no matter how technologically advanced we are as a society -- and Japan certainly is -- it is impossible to fully plan for every curve ball Mother Nature can throw at us or to prevent catastrophic damage from affecting critical infrastructure, including roads, bridges, power plants, and telecommunications systems. While it's critical to address those problems, our concerns and sympathy rest with the people of Japan, both those who have been affected by multiple disasters, as well as those who might be in the coming days and months. This doesn't mean, however, that we should not put in place all practical mechanisms to protect our citizens and environment from known hazards that could occur if nuclear reactors are not planned and operated in a safe and secure manner. Utilities, police, and fire departments, and other first-responders, must be fully prepared to address not only a nuclear accident, but a combination of disruptive events, natural or otherwise, that could precipitate a nuclear accident. I'll be happy to answer any questions you have.

MR. NEGIN: Thank you, Ellen. John, will you please explain to the listeners how they can get into the queue to ask a question?

OPERATOR: Yes. Sure thing. Ladies and gentlemen, at this time, if you have a question or comment, press the star, then 1 key on your telephone to queue up for a question. Again, if you have a question or comment, press the star then 1 key on your telephone to queue up for a question. I do show numerous questions coming in.

QUESTION: Hi. I was just on another briefing call where there was quite a bit of concern expressed about the -- not just the reactor vessel, but the adjacent pools which contain the spent fuel. I want to get your assessment of that situation, whether you think that's a great risk as well.

DR. LYMAN: This is Ed Lyman. I can start, and Dave should cut in if he wants to add something. In these reactors, the spent fuel pools are actually on the upper level of the building, and in the case of Number 1 and Number 3, where the roofs were blown off, they may have suffered some structural integrity damage. The good news, if there is any, is that from the numbers I've seen, the inventory of spent fuel in these pools was relatively small. They were well below capacity. That could limit the potential impact if there were a loss of coolant to the pools, but TEPCO has made statements, at least with regard to one, that they were concerned about the ability to provide long-term coolant to the pool and should that be interrupted, there is a possibility of fuel damage in the pool that could lead to additional fission product release. But from the numbers I've seen, the inventories are comparable to or smaller than the -- what's in the reactor core. So, maybe Dave would like to add something.

MR. LOCHBAUM: I think the only thing I could add to that, Ed, is that if there is a release of radioactivity from a spent fuel pool, particularly on Units 1 and 3, where the explosion earlier, a few days ago, knocked out the walls and the roof of the building, if there's any radiation released, it's got to get to the environment, whereas if there's radioactivity released from the fuel that's in the reactor cores, at least there's a containment building that would reduce the amount of radioactivity that reaches the public. MR. NEGIN: Next question, please. QUESTION: Thank you for doing this. In terms of the cores -- the uncovering of the core, the exposure of the fuel rods, some of the scientists I've talked to outside the environmental community are saying that things with time, because of the decay and the heat -- change in heat, things get better, that if you can get through the first several hours, things are -- you're in better shape. Do you still -- do you agree with that? That's more, I guess, for David or Edwin. And the other part is, can you go through with us some of the estimates you would have for the temperatures we're seeing now in 1 and 3 where, you know, as you say, they may be more stable, and in 2, where we're not certain and what temperatures we're talking about would be where you worry about more of a complete meltdown. Thank you.

MR. NEGIN: Ed, do you want to start?

DR. LYMAN: Actually, I --

MR. NEGIN: Dave, do you want to answer this question?

MR. LOCHBAUM: Sure. As far as the first part of that question, it is true that the more time lapses since the reactors shut down, the lower the heat loads are in the fuel that's in the reactor cores, which makes -- translates into greater success that workers will be able to match the amount of cooling water flow that's needed for that condition. However, it takes quite a while. It's more than just a couple hours before you get into -- out of the danger zone. The heat that's being generated today, a few days after the shutdown, is still enough to cause a lot of problems if the cooling water flow is not enough. As far as the temperatures, I have not seen any numbers that suggest that; however, you can infer from the fact -- the data we did see that the Units 1 and 3 reactor cores were refilled with seawater, that the temperature must be -- not must be, but it's very likely less than 500 degrees and decreasing. By comparison, when the plant's up and running at 100 percent power, the temperature of the water is around the ballpark of 530 to 540 degrees. So, it's heading down from what -- from that level, and as you indicated with the question, the more time passes and more the water absorbs the heat, that temperature will continue to drop.

QUESTION: Hi. I'm wondering if you could just go through how many levels of containment there are between, you know, the core and the outside world and what we know, I suppose, about each one at this point.

DR. LYMAN: This is Ed Lyman. I can start. The -- I know it's confusing, but for this type of reactor, the -- the fuel is in uranium pellets that are in zirconium rods, and that fuel -- that core is then contained in a steel vessel. The vessel and other piping and equipment is then contained in what's called the primary containment, which is a thin steel shell, surrounded by a concrete shield wall. The -- then, the entire -- that entire region is surrounded by another building, which is referred to as the secondary containment, which is about a -- typically a foot and a half of concrete, reinforced concrete, thick. And so the levels of containment that have to be breached would first be the fission products would have to escape from the cladding and also from the fuel pellets. Until the fuel pellets actually begin to heat up significantly they will still contain a good deal of fission products they contain, but once they heat up, those fission products can be released and then -- into the reactor vessel. If the reactor vessel is breached by the melting of the core, then the other -- the remaining barrier is the steel containment shell, and this is really the last line of defense against the large radiological release in this case. And as I discussed, for the Mark I containment, there are known vulnerabilities, especially to this type of accident, which is a core melt and a station blackout that could lead to breach of that containment. The secondary containment, the reactor building, suffered severe damage, and so is not -- I don't think it would be considered to provide much barrier, even if it were intact, but now that it's been compromised, I don't think we can assume any real delay from fission product release should it be -- should it go through the primary containment.

MR. NEGIN: Dave, anything to add?

MR. LOCHBAUM: Just one small thing to add to that is one of the key functions of the secondary containment is to allow its ventilation system to actually maintain the secondary containment volume at a lower pressure than the atmospheric pressure outside. By doing that, the clean air from the outside leaks into the building rather than radioactive -- potentially radioactive air leaking out of secondary containment into the environment. The ventilation system routes that air that draws from the secondary containment through a series of filters that are designed to reduce the radioactivity levels by a factor of 100 before releasing them to the environment. As Ed pointed out, on Units 1 and 3, the destruction of the reactor buildings basically rendered that function -- it's totally disabled. It doesn't do that. On Unit 2, assuming the ventilation system is still working and under power, you have that attenuation of any radioactivity that escapes from the primary containment.

OPERATOR: Okay, thank you, and we'll take our next question

QUESTION: I just want to ask very quickly, the -- the decision by the U.S. military to move away warships that were 100 miles offshore and into -- and the fact that some of these -- some key crew on board U.S. helicopters were exposed to some low level -- very low level, but to some low-level contamination. What does that say to you about the contamination in general of populations that aren't 60 miles or 100 miles away? Thank you.

DR. LYMAN: This is Ed Lyman. I think these are indications that there is cause for concern. There are multiple vents -- venting of radioactive gas from, I think, six reactors, both at the Number 1 and Number 2 plants, and I think that's the largest contributor to the -- to the current radiation exposure outside. I think it's not a surprise that there would be a propagation of some fission products as far as 100 miles. What is surprising, though, is the extent of the dose rate that I had heard was attributed to the airmen, which would seem to be a little bit higher than I would have expected at this point. Dose rates at the site boundary, the last I heard, have been increasing and are now about 10,000 times background. So, I would say that there are certainly probably regions or hot spots that the public really should avoid at this point.

MR. NEGIN: Dave, anything you want to add?

MR. LOCHBAUM: No, thanks. I appreciate it.

OPERATOR: Okay, thank you. We will take our next question.

QUESTION: Yeah. I apologize if this came up during the weekend, but could you explain the differences and similarities or what should be made of the fact that there's 23 U.S. reactors with a Mark I design? I mean, what, as a layman -- this was a perfect storm of events that happened, an earthquake followed by a tsunami, but yet, you know, an earthquake in the Midwest, for example, isn't totally -- totally unheard of, and instead of a tsunami, perhaps we could have a tornado coming at the same time. What general statements can -- should -- or should be made out of -- you know, to put this into perspective of, you know, the 23 U.S. BWRs with a Mark I design?

MR. LOCHBAUM: Well, I'll take a shot at that and Ed can supplement it. I think it's a little bit early to tell what went wrong and why. There's still -- you know, they're still dealing with the issue, and there will be a time for the post-event inquiry into what caused it and why. But I think some of the early signs of potential vulnerabilities that may need to be addressed, the primary problem that this plant faced was the loss of power and the loss of backup power. The situation that that plant faced was having batteries that lasted eight hours and then having the clock run out and taking away their safety things. In this country, most of our reactors are only designed with battery capacity for four hours. So, we're more vulnerable to a situation where we lose primary power and the backup. While many of our plants may not be vulnerable to the one-two punch of earthquake and then tsunami, many of our reactors are in situations where earthquakes or hurricanes in the Gulf or ice storms in the Northeast or a tree in Cleveland can cause an extensive blackout that puts us in a very similar situation. So, I think battery capacity and our -- and what we do when the batteries go dim may be an area that we need to shore up, so that our plants aren't as vulnerable as Japan was.

REPORTER: Okay. And another question I'm curious about -- well, first of all, as a follow-up to that, is it just simply a matter of getting more batteries on site of these 23 reactors, or is there more to it than that?

MR. LOCHBAUM: Well, one of the things we learned from the 9/11 tragedy was to be better prepared for accidents that aren't forecast, that we aren't ready for. So, all the plant owners, as a re -- you know, the government, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, required plant owners to stage some more equipment at their sites in case the errant airliner showed up and caused damage. So, there are more temporary generators, backup generators, and fire-fighting capabilities than we had prior to 9/11. Those may be sufficient to deal with what happened in Japan if we supplement the battery capacity. That's a question that remains to be answered.

REPORTER: Okay. And then one other quick thing, just a clarification. Ed had said that the -- there was more -- if I understood it right, more spent fuel or more fuel appeared to be in the reactor than in the spent fuel pool for -- I think it was Number 1 and Number 3. I'm just curious how -- how that is the case. Do they reprocess there in Japan or why would they have actually have less in storage than what they have in the reactor?

DR. LYMAN: This is Ed Lyman. In Japan, they have a large reprocessing plant called Rokkasho. The plant is not yet operating, even though they've spent over $30 billion building it. It's having its own safety problems, but it does have a spent fuel pool that's very large, I think, over 3,000 tons or 3,000-ton capacity. And Japanese reactors have been shipping spent fuel inventories to that pool. In addition, for many years, Japan shipped spent fuel overseas to France and the United Kingdom for reprocessing, and so that alleviated the storage burden but created a different burden, which was a stockpile of plutonium that Japan now owns and doesn't know what to do with, as well as an inventory of high-level radioactive waste, which they don't have a long-term storage plan for. So, the pools in some cases are not as full, but they have other waste problems to deal with elsewhere.

MR. HENRY: Okay. So, in other words, they don't have the backlog or the buildup that is on-site like we do at the 104 nuclear plants here?

MR. LOCHBAUM: That's right, except that they did stop shipping spent fuel a number of years ago to focus on a domestic program, and so those will start increasing again. MR. NEGIN: Next questioner, please.

QUESTION: Oh, hi. Thanks. Sorry. I missed a little bit, so forgive me if this was already asked, but David, could you tell me, it mentioned in the notes that you worked on three plants that were similar to the GE plants in Japan. I'm just wondering if there's any significance for us in looking at those particular designs in our own country going forward, and if you could just elaborate anything at all about -- you know, I know it's early, but any potential setbacks for future nuclear construction. Thanks.

MR. LOCHBAUM: Well, I appreciate the question. There has been a lot of discussion about the GE boiling water reactor Mark I containment, but to be fair to GE and Japan, for that matter, the -- any reactor design currently operating today that had been faced with a earthquake followed by a tsunami that took out primary power and backup power would likely be in a very similar situation to what we have. The exact path they took to get to the point of disaster might have been a little bit different, but the reactors are basically designed to withstand an earthquake. They're also designed to withstand tsunamis, but they're not really designed to handle both occurring on the same day. So, I think that's a -- that's a challenge that we just didn't contemplate when the reactors were designed and built, and I think that's one of the lessons learned. We will have to go back and revisit that and see if we can do better.

MS. VANCKO: And this is Ellen Vancko. To add to what Dave said, not only were the plants possibly not designed to handle a one-two punch of a -- an earthquake and a reactor, but neither were the first-responders, who in some areas of Japan were probably seriously impacted by the infrastructure and don't have the capability to respond. So, they might have been prepared for an earthquake, they might have been prepared for a tsunami, they might have been prepared for a nuclear emergency, but it was unlikely that they were prepared for all three.

QUESTION: Hey, thanks for doing this. So, I was wondering if you guys could talk a little bit about in the U.S., whether -- sort of if you could talk a little bit about the regulatory state of play right now. I know there have been changes in recent years to try to streamline the process, and particularly, if there have been battles with the industry over some of the things that you guys feel would help prevent situations like this. You mentioned backup power, the -- you know, dry storage for spent fuel. Any -- and if you guys can talk about, you know, just sort of what have been the regulatory battles and who's been winning.

MR. NEGIN: Ed's going to start and then the other -- Ellen and Dave can jump in.

DR. LYMAN: Yeah. I'd like to give one concrete example to show some of the frustration that I've had in trying to raise these issues. There's a different class of reactors called -- well, there are pressurized water reactors with something called an ice condenser containment, and there are also a different generation of boiling water reactors that are called Mark IIIs. Both of these reactors were shown to have a significant vulnerability to hydrogen explosions in a station blackout; in other words, in the same condition that we saw in Japan. In fact, over ten years ago, Sandia National Lab studies showed that if a station blackout occurred at an ice condenser or a GE Mark III, that there was a very high chance of containment failure and core damage at the same time. Now, that would seem that -- and the reason for that is loss of backup power that was needed to power equipment that was supposed to burn off hydrogen and prevent hydrogen explosions. I raised the issue that I thought they needed an auxiliary backup power system for the hydrogen igniters, and the NRC actually --

REPORTER: I'm sorry. Could you repeat that? Auxiliary backup power for what?

DR. LYMAN: For the hydrogen igniter systems so that they could prevent a hydrogen explosion in the event of a core melt. Otherwise, there's a very high probability of a containment failure. The NRC went through the regulatory process, decided that the risk was significant enough that they needed to introduce new regulations to force those licensees to introduce this additional backup power, and what happened was the industry went back to them, said this is too expensive, it's too complicated, it's not just as simple as going to Wal-Mart and buying a portable generator. We're going to need to have it qualified, and, you know, they tied everything up in knots until what happened was the NRC let their decision slide to actually turn that into a requirement. And today, there is still no requirement that the utilities actually have that backup, and that's the kind of frustration I've encountered in trying to address some of these vulnerabilities.

MR. NEGIN: Dave, do you want to jump in?

MR. LOCHBAUM: Yeah, I'm not trying to compete with Ed's frustration, but I have shown similar frustrations. I guess the one that comes to my mind is UCS, long before I joined the organization, petitioned the NRC to do -- provide better design features to protect against fires. In many plants in the United States, fire is the dominant risk of core damage, because a fire can wipe out a primary system and its backup. So, in 1980, the NRC passed regulations that required plant owners to upgrade their fire protection systems. Today, 30-some years later, 40 reactors -- the NRC is aware of 40 reactors that don't meet the old regulations. So, in 2005, they passed new regulations. So, now the plant owners get the choice of either not meeting the old regulations or not meeting the new regulations. That's really not good public policy for the NRC to treat public safety with such a cavalier manner.

MR. NEGIN: Thank you, Dave. Next question.

QUESTION: Yeah. I have a few questions. Our nuclear reporter is on vacation, so I'm filling in for him. We have four reactors in our coverage area, and --

MR. NEGIN: Where are you?

REPORTER: It's in South Jersey, out of Atlantic City. We have Salem, Hope Creek -- Salem has two, Hope Creek, and then Oyster Creek. One thing I was wondering is Japan is evacuating to a distance of 12 miles. I'm wondering what the U.S. standard is, if there is a potential core meltdown. How wide is our radius? DR. LYMAN: Yes. The emergency planning zone for U.S. reactors is ten miles for what's known as -- for evacuation or other population protection measures. There is also a 50-mile zone which is designed for measures such as agricultural interdiction. But the public within only ten miles is required to engage in emergency planning and preparedness. Potassium iodide stockpiling, which is an essential component of protection against a large-scale release of radiation, is only provided for people within ten miles if the state requests it. And we've long been concerned that those zones are not appropriate to protect all the people who may be at risk from a severe accident, like Chernobyl or like what we hope we won't see in Fukushima, because calculations and studies indicate that there could be significant risk for hundreds of miles downwind, and the risk is especially acute for children being exposed to radioactive iodine, their sensitivity to -- and vulnerability to thyroid cancer is enhanced. This is why we've seen the thousands of childhood cancer cases coming out of the Chernobyl accident. So, we don't think that a ten-mile zone is appropriate and hope that it will be revisited in view of the outcome of this crisis.

REPORTER: What do you think would be appropriate? I've seen radius maps that go out 50 miles, but that could be agricultural.

MR. LOCHBAUM: Well, you know, it probably is the technology to be able to design evacuation zones based on what's known about the meteorological patterns that would -- you know, if the licensees were actually to take this type of event seriously, they could probably come up with more scientifically defensible zones that wouldn't necessarily be circles, because that's not the way the winds blow. Congressman Markey in Massachusetts introduced a -- actually, introduced a bill that was passed in 2002 that would have extended the zone for potassium iodide distribution to 20 miles. That's, you know, not perfect, but it's certainly better than what we have now. And that provision, which passed into law, was never brought into force, because the White House and the Bush Administration exercised a waiver that essentially allowed -- that nullified that, and this is a good example of, again, not taking the threat seriously enough, in my opinion.

REPORTER: I don't want to hog anything, but I did want to ask one other question, if that's all right.

MR. NEGIN: Go ahead.

REPORTER: If you did have a meltdown at one or more of these reactors, I haven't seen anybody equate it to what that would -- would it be, like, the A-bomb at Hiroshima or what would it be similar to if one of them completely melted down and released all that radiation?

DR. LYMAN: It wouldn't be similar to an atomic bomb explosion, because the physics of that type of event is much different. The -- most of the damage from a nuclear bomb is due to initial blast effects and radiation from the initial fission, neutron radiation. The fallout -- although it could be extensive from atomic bombs -- is actually smaller than the potential release from a nuclear reactor accident, because the amount of uranium that fissions in a nuclear reactor is considerably greater than the amount that fissions in an atomic bomb. So, actually, the quantity of fission products could be significantly greater, but it would not be as dramatic. You would not have the explosion or blast effects, but the long-term carcinogenic potential of the fallout could be greater.

REPORTER: Okay. All right, thank you.

OPERATOR: Okay, thank you. And we'll take our next question.

QUESTION: Thanks for holding the call. It sounds like you guys are bringing up a lot of issues that are potential areas of concern for U.S. policy and managing our nuclear industry. Is there any way to identify maybe, like, the top two or three things that either U.S. lawmakers or regulators could put into effect to make sure that we could withstand a similar situation that happened in Japan, and I guess we're identifying that as the loss of power, basically, that leaves us without a cooling system.

MR. NEGIN: Dave, would you like to address that?

MR. LOCHBAUM: I'll take a shot at it. I think the first thing would be the capacity of the batteries, which is the backup if you lose both the normal source of power and the emergency diesel generators. I'd look at the battery capacity. We're light compared to what Japan had, and Japan came up short. So, that would suggest that we're even more vulnerable than they are. I think the second area that's not exactly related to the question, but if I was king for the day or maybe for the week, the first thing I'd change would be our spent fuel pools in the reactors like the one in Japan are almost filled to the brim, and the risk from the spent fuel pools, either from an accident or from an act of malice, are about as high as you could possibly make them. We have been advocating for years, even before 9/11, that plant owners should be made to transfer that fuel from the spent fuel pools into dry casks that are stored on site. The risk reduction you get at the site is just so great that there's really no excuse for not doing it. If something were to happen at one of our plants and the spent fuel pool released radioactive contents into the atmosphere, a lot of people are in harm's way, and it's shame on us for allowing that to happen.

REPORTER: If I could follow up on the battery question, I think you said that our batteries have a capacity for four hours. Is that in all of the, you know, 100-plus nuclear facilities in the U.S. or a specific design or a specific model?

MR. LOCHBAUM: They're not reactor design-specific. The owner basically got -- it's really a function of things like how likely is your electric grid to go down if you're in severe wind out in the Midwest, where tornados can disrupt electric transmission. How likely you are to repair a diesel generator or restore a connection to the electrical grid. Most of our plants are in the four-hour category, have four-hour batteries. There's a small set, maybe around eight to ten reactors out of the 104, that have eight-hour battery capacity. No one has -- well, I can't say that. The Oconee plant in South Carolina doesn't have that situation. They use a nearby hydroelectric dam, but they're the exception to the rule, but most of our plants are vulnerable with only four hours battery capacity.

DR. LYMAN: This is Ed Lyman. I'd just like to generally address a more general issue, and that's with regard to new nuclear power plants. Now, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has a policy that new nuclear power plants do not have to be safer than current plants. Their policy is they expect they'll be safer, but they don't have to be safer, and they reaffirmed that policy, which initiates from two years ago, as recently as last week, right before this accident happened. I would suggest that Congress take a hard look at whether the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's policy is going to serve the public if there are new nuclear power plants built in this country.

OPERATOR: Okay, thank you. And our next question.

QUESTION: Thanks very much for doing this. One of you addressed earlier on in the call a question of the multiple containment methods, and I wanted to press a little further on that. The more that we hear about Reactor Number 2 at Dai-Ichi, the more it seems to suggest that there is such a high-pressure situation in the main reactor vessel that they can't force water in. So, I'm trying to understand both the options and the risk levels here. If you can't get seawater in, are there any other options other than praying that the temperature will, since we're three days out, begin to go down? And what would the design spec be for how hard -- how much pressure that primary containment vessel could take? And if it did breach, given what you've said about the venting capability, which remains intact right now at Reactor Number 2, any way to do any estimates about cesium and iodine release levels?

MR. LOCHBAUM: This is Dave Lochbaum. I think I can take the first half of that, and maybe Ed can address the cesium and iodine question after I do. Our understanding of the Unit 2 reactor's pressure problem is that there's too high a pressure in the reactor vessel, and it's the pressure in the reactor vessel that's higher than the pump discharge pressure, so the water just doesn't move. The -- we're hearing that that problem is caused by relief valves that are connected to the reactor vessel and can't be manually opened. The relief valves can open by either of two means: Automatically, they will open when the pressure inside the reactor vessel gets too high; the second method is for an operator in the control room to --

REPORTER: Do we know if the automatic part is working or we don't know that yet?

MR. LOCHBAUM: We have no reason to believe it's not.

REPORTER: Okay.

MR. LOCHBAUM: Because basically the way these valves are designed, there's a big spring that keeps them closed, and when the pressure gets high enough, it presses against that spring and opens it. In manual mode, the operator in the control room flips a switch that allows pneumatic nitrogen gas to press against that spring and open the valve. The nitrogen gas accumulator for the valves allows the valves to be opened and closed a small handful of times, and given the time since the accident, it seems most likely that they're just out of nitrogen gas and they can't overcome the spring pressure to open the valve manually. If the pressure would continue building, the relief -- the automatic mode would still likely function to protect the reactor vessel from catastrophic failure due to overpressure.

REPORTER: But if the -- just to follow that, if the reactor core has been exposed for as long as TEPCO seems to suggest it has, that would suggest that release would be pretty dirty. Would that be right?

MR. LOCHBAUM: The release would be dirty, but it would -- it's directed into the containment. So, it's still within the thick concrete walls and the steel liner that Ed described earlier.

REPORTER: Okay.

DR. LYMAN: Yeah, and just to follow up on the magnitude, both experiments and modeling over the decades indicate that as the core melts and forms a molten mass and then drops through the vessel to the floor, at that point, virtually 100 percent of the iodine and the cesium will have been released from the fuel into the atmosphere of the containment.

MR. NEGIN: Ed, do we have any way of measuring now or estimating how much cesium and iodine that is?

DR. LYMAN: Well, you could calculate it based on your knowledge of the reactor operating history for the reactors. You could calculate the inventories. Reactor Number 3, I believe, was refueled back in September of 2010. So, it hasn't been operating that long. I don't know about Number 1. But there is a way to do it. Now, the -- it's complicated to extrapolate from that to what escapes into the environment, because if the containment is breached, it will depend on the type of breach, the temperature and pressure conditions, the chemical form of various isotopes. It's very complex, but the actual releases to the environment could be up to the order of tens of percent of the inventory of iodine and cesium, which is what was seen at Chernobyl.

REPORTER: Tens of percent, right?

DR. LYMAN: Yeah.

MR. NEGIN: Not ten, but tens?

DR. LYMAN: Yeah, you know, it could be anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of the iodine and cesium.

REPORTER: Okay. And, I'm sorry. Who's talking?

DR. LYMAN: This is Ed Lyman.

REPORTER: Okay, thank you.

MR. NEGIN: Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Okay, we'll take our next question.

QUESTION: I had two questions, one of them, I guess, economic, the other one more technical. First, the technical one: If all the different layers of containment were, indeed, breached and you had a large-scale release, would any of that actually travel in any kind of concentration that would be harmful all the way to our coast here in California or Oregon or Washington? And then the economic question I had, since you had been talking earlier about all the different problems the industry was facing here in the states, without those big government loan guarantees, is it even economical to build one of these things these days?

DR. LYMAN: This is Ed Lyman. With regard to the radiation release, I think it's unlikely, even worst case, that there would be significant health effects for people in the United States. I think it's quite likely radiation would be detected, and, of course, with regard to cancer induction, there is no safe level of radiation, because even a single -- a single ionizing particle tracked through a cell could potentially damage DNA to the extent it could initiate a cancer. But the risk is proportional to the dose.

REPORTER: Um-hum.

DR. LYMAN: So, there may be -- no amount of additional radiation is a good amount, but I would think that would not be significant or anything for the U.S. to be concerned about.

REPORTER: Um-hum.

MS. VANCKO: And this is Ellen Vancko. Regarding your question about subsidies, no, I think it's very clear that the industry can't build a new reactor without subsidies. You're looking at a technology whose costs or whose projected costs have basically quadrupled over the past decade. The industry is slated to get subsidies from the Energy Policy Act of 2005, loan guarantees, production tax credits, and something called regulatory risk insurance, that would have been worth up to $5 billion for the first couple of reactors to move forward. So, yes, the subsidy is necessary, but given the current cost escalations, and prior to this accident, the perceived risk of the technology, it was clear that the -- you know, only a few were going to move forward, and nobody was willing to say how many exactly. John Rowe, again, CEO of the largest -- of Exelon, the largest nuclear utility in the country, said that he didn't expect any more than three to four reactors to move forward, and he is an exceptionally pro-nuclear supporter, but he doesn't put on rose-colored glasses when it comes to the economics of these things.

REPORTER: Um-hum. Um-hum, great. Thanks.

OPERATOR: Okay. And we'll take our next question.

QUESTION: Hello. Thank you for having this. I'd like to go back to the Mark Is again, please. I'm not sure you expressed this or addressed this in particular. Another group says the experience of this accident, the dual loss of power, highlights known flaws with these reactors, with the 23 in this country, and it says U.S. officials should take another look at them and reinvestigate their overall safety. Do you share that concern? Do you agree?

MR. LOCHBAUM: This is Dave Lochbaum. I think the concern is broader than just those 23 reactors. The -- any reactor in the country is -- as Ed discussed earlier with the ice condenser containments, any reactor in the country that's faced with a station blackout or a loss of power in the backup is not as well positioned as the reactor in Japan. So, I think it's -- a responsible thing to do would be relook at -- revisit that topic for all reactors and make any adjustments to correct any shortcomings.

MR. BOWERS: But are there any shortcomings in the Mark Is that you think need to be addressed in particular, or are they just in the same boat as everybody else?

MR. LOCHBAUM: Well, I think that the Mark Is need to be looked at for the power capacity issue for the batteries, but I also think the Mark Is are most vulnerable for the spent fuel storage issue. In those kinds of reactors, the spent fuel pool is located up in the attic of the building, whereas on the pressurized water reactors and the Mark III boiling water reactors, the spent fuel pools are at ground level, where they're less vulnerable to either acts of nature or acts of malice.

REPORTER: Okay.

DR. LYMAN: Ed Lyman. I'd just like to add that, you know, some containments, though, are better than others, and the boiling water reactors and the ice condenser and pressurized water reactors, based on the pressure suppression concepts, were not designed to be as robust as the containment buildings for a -- some other pressurized water reactors, which are called large dry reactors. So, I still have concern about the continued operation of pressure suppression containments and believe that they do need extensive backup to compensate for their shortcomings if they are going to continue to operate.

REPORTER: I'm sorry. I got kind of wound up there in the boiling water reactors and ice condenser pressure reactors and something else. Is there a simpler way to say that?

DR. LYMAN: Yes. Some containments are better than others, and -- of Mark I boiling water reactors and certain other types in the country are -- are the worst ones, and I think a fresh look is going to have to be taken at whether they are satisfactory in terms of their safety function.

REPORTER: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And we'll take our next question.

REPORTER: Thanks so much for holding this call. You got into this a little bit earlier on in the call about just how these reactors weren't equipped to handle the double-whammy of the earthquake and tsunami, so I wanted to ask a broader question about, you know, are any major disasters like this -- was this avoidable? Do you think these reactors can be built in a way that can withstand both of these at the magnitude that they were at? And then an even larger question about how this -- you know, we're always looking at these disasters, whether it's the BP oil spill or Three Mile Island or anything else, we're always looking at how we can learn from them after they've happened. Is there any way to learn from them pre -- you know, before they happen?

MR. LOCHBAUM: This is Dave Lochbaum. On the first point, my predecessor at UCS, Bob Pollard, used to say that he has no doubts in his mind that you could design and operate an inherently safe reactor, and he has no doubt in his mind that he could -- you could design and operate an inherently economic reactor. Where doubts arose was where you tried to do both. You could design a reactor to be bullet-proof, but nobody's willing to pay for it. So, it's the trade-offs between building something that you can make money at, because these plants make electricity, and making something that's sufficiently safe for the public and for the business. You know, they have an asset that became a liability three days ago. So, that's the challenge. I think the key to that is in your second question or second part of the question. I go by what I call the short list theory. Any time there's a disaster like this, there's a list of things you'll do to prevent the next one. If that's a long list of things, then there's probably several items on that list you should have done already. So, when there are events like this, I look at that list and try to figure out which of those things should have been done in advance, and I try to carry those lessons forward to look for the next items on the next list that we should be working on now. And I think that's the way we try to converge on a more safe -- where we gain safety every day rather than try to become less safety -- less safe with time.

REPORTER: Is there any comparison to the BP oil spill? And, you know, that was a pretty worst-case scenario in a different manner in respect to, you know, several missteps and technological breakdowns happened.

MR. LOCHBAUM: Well, I think the common denominator is the United States Congress, and what we're hearing now on the BP oil spill is that MMS was an ineffective regulator, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is another ineffective regulator, but it's not really the NRC's fault. The United States -- when the NRC, in the nineties, was trying to enforce its regulations after the debacle up at the Millstone Nuclear Plant in Connecticut, the nuclear industry ran to Congress, and Congress told the NRC to stop enforcing its regulations. You are going to put these guys out of business. So, the NRC, since their budget is controlled by the United States Congress, they listened. They haven't enforced regulations in about 15 years. So, when the accident occurs in a nuclear power plant, Congress will call the NRC and say, geez, what's wrong with you? They'll change their name and they'll do the same old stuff. The United States Congress should stop telling federal regulatory bodies to stop regulating. They're not doing the American public much good by those kind of shenanigans.

REPORTER: Okay, thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next Question.

QUESTION: I wanted to get back to the spent fuel issue and the dangers there, because obviously we've got a decommissioned plant here that's got its spent fuel about 100 yards from Lake Michigan. And can you address the -- I mean, the difference in the potential risk from a meltdown or a partial meltdown as opposed to the spent fuel? And then I've got a follow-up question after that.

MR. LOCHBAUM: This is Dave Lochbaum. The government has looked at studies of what would happen in a worst-case reactor accident, and they've also looked at what would happen in the worst-case spent fuel storage accident, and if you look at the numbers, the body counts are pretty -- pretty close. In worst case, depending on weather conditions and everything else and having it occur near a large population center, the body counts are in the tens of thousands. The difference is the reactor accident, because a lot of short-lived radio-isotopes are released, causes more fatalities in the first year, whereas the spent fuel pool accident, because of the iodine 131 and other short-lived radio-isotopes have decayed away, the primary casualty is due to increased and latent cancers down the road. So, that's not a huge difference, and, you know, nobody would pick one over the other since the outcomes are pretty much the same.

REPORTER: Right. And then with regards to the battery issue, there was that issue with the Davis-Besse plant on Lake Erie, wasn't there, where power was knocked out for some time after a tornado. Was there -- was there nothing done after that with regard to additional backup power required at all of the sites?

MR. LOCHBAUM: Yeah. That event occurred in June of 1999, where a tornado did knock down the power lines connecting the plant to the grid. The -- in that case, the emergency diesel generators did start, and there was no -- you know, the second half of the one-two punch didn't arrive. So, the diesel generators did provide power to the safety equipment until connection to the electrical grid occurred. So, there wasn't a lesson to be learned from that, because they never went down, just on the batteries.

REPORTER: Okay, okay.

OPERATOR: Are you ready for the next question? Assuming so, we'll take our next question.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you, guys, for having this session. I'm curious about MOX in these systems in Japan. I've read that it makes the problem worse, and now TVA, here in the Tennessee Valley, is considering using MOX in some of its reactors, and I was hoping you could talk about that.

DR. LYMAN: This is Ed Lyman. The use of MOX fuel, which is a fuel that's a mixture of plutonium, uranium oxides, is -- can potentially increase both the probability and the consequences of certain accidents. To focus on the second, it can increase the consequences because there's a large quantity of -- a large quantity of plutonium when you first load the fuel, and as it's irradiated in the reactor, it builds up additional isotopes which share plutonium's relatively high radiotoxicity. In the case of the Fukushima Number 3 plant, there's a very small amount of MOX fuel that was loaded in September. It's about 5 percent of the core. At that level, I wouldn't consider it to be a significant additional risk, although it -- you know, it would -- it could result in a somewhat larger and more hazardous source term, maybe on the order of 5 or 10 percent. But in the case of the U.S. program, which would use MOX cores of up to 40 percent, I have serious concerns about the safety of that, especially in light of the fact that they would be deployed in ice condenser plants -- and I believe Mark I BWRs -- which would share the concerns I said before about their containment integrity.

REPORTER: And TVA here has said that their plants are designed to be -- to earth -- to good earthquake standards. Do you agree with that?

DR. LYMAN: I would defer to Dave on that.

MR. LOCHBAUM: I used to work for TVA many years ago and worked down at Browns Ferry, and it's been a number of years since I looked at it, but my recollection is I have no reason to doubt what TVA said on that score.

REPORTER: I think Browns Ferry was one of the plants who was talking about using the MOX. What would you think about that?

MR. LOCHBAUM: Ed, do you want to take that or -- DR. LYMAN: Yes. I mean, I -- whether it's a pressurized water reactor or boiling water reactor, the use of MOX could potentially increase the probability or the consequences of an accident. MOX fuel is harder to control. It makes the control rods less effective and could make the core more unstable. MOX fuel also burns somewhat hotter than uranium, and there's a larger or a greater decay heat issue, which obviously could have been a concern if there had been more MOX fuel in the core of the Japanese reactor. So, all these issues really raise questions about whether the U.S. should consider -- should continue to go forward with its plan to use large quantities of MOX fuel for decades in U.S. reactors.

REPORTER: And if you would indulge me, I have one more question. We've heard a lot in the media about the dose rates that they're finding in measurements in Japan. Can you help us put that into perspective? Some TV stations have said, oh, it's what you would get in an MRI. Can you help us put the measures you're hearing into perspective?

DR. LYMAN: The dose rates have been highly variable. Sometimes they've gone up as high -- I think currently, 10,000 times above background at the site boundary. This is one of the reasons why early evacuation was a good idea. But it -- the real concern is should there be a much larger scale radiological release. I think at this point, the radiation exposures are -- will be limited. Some people have them -- have been exposed. Some workers have suffered acute radiation exposure, apparently, but if -- as long as the reactor -- as long as the further core melt and a large radiological release can be prevented, I think the environmental consequences will be limited.

REPORTER: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Okay. We will take our next question now.

QUESTION: Thanks for the call. It's really helpful. I have sort of three quick follow-up questions. Has anyone, prior to the Japan crisis, has anyone brought up the issue of battery power not being adequate at the U.S. nuclear facilities? The second question is, what is the policy in Japan regarding aging power plants? I mean, the most compromised reactor, I think, is forty years old, much like our reactors, and was it going to be retired? Does it have an extension? Do you know? And lastly, can you speak to any concerns that are particularly worrisome in the U.S. nuclear power plants that have failed aging as opposed to backup power, et cetera?

MR. NEGIN: Dave, Ed had to leave for a -- Ed had to leave the room, so, Dave, you are going to have to answer the question.

MR. LOCHBAUM: Okay. On the third -- on the first point, I don't know of any time when the battery capacity was challenged. It might have been. I'm just not aware of -- I know we didn't do it, but I'm not sure about everybody across the country, whether it was challenged or not. On the third part -- and I'll come back to the second one. On the third question, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has relicensed 62 of the nation's 104 nuclear power plants, originally licensed for 40 years. The NRC is granting 20-year extensions. In the course of that process, they do a pretty good job of looking at the programs plant owners have to monitor the condition of important equipment and structures and either replace or repair equipment before safety margins are compromised. So, we don't whine about that part of it. We think there's a part missing -- a key part missing from the whole process, and that's when many times over the years, as a result of Three Mile and then Chernobyl and like this accident, the NRC will upgrade its regulations to make existing plants safer. At times, reactors will either be grandfathered from those new regulations or a specific plant will seek and obtain an exemption from the new regulation. Frequently, those deltas are approved because the plant's only going to operate for five more years and the cost of coming into compliance isn't worth the safety you gain over five years, but the NRC never goes back and looks at, well, now we are going to extend that from five years to 25 years. Is that still the same answer? Because they still get the exemption or they still get the grandfathering, but the public never gets the analysis to see that it's still not worth it to protect them for 20 years instead of five years. So, we think the NRC should go through and identify all the differences between the old regulations that a reactor is licensed to and today's regulations and hopefully confirm that although they're different, that they achieve the same outcome, which is adequate protection of public health and safety. But the NRC never does that review, so any shortcomings are never flagged and fixed. And I -- to be honest, I forget the second part of your question now, but I'll be glad to answer it.

REPORTER: No, it was -- do you know in Japan what the policy is on reactor life?

MR. LOCHBAUM: My understanding -- and I'm not an expert on that. I know the U.S. policy pretty good, but my understanding is it's similar to ours, is they're initially given a 40-year license. They can seek ten-year extensions, whereas ours are 20 years. So, I -- that's about the extent of my knowledge of the differences. There may be others as well.

REPORTER: Okay, I just have a quick follow-up. Are these sort of exemptions that are given and then carried on public? Because a lot of the data I looked for, like safety, design, you know, final safety design things seem to be not public anymore.

MR. LOCHBAUM: Yeah. There are -- since 1999, basically records older than 1999 are -- they're public, but they're -- they're in microfiche and in local public libraries. So, they're difficult to access but not impossible. And the other complication is that there's no one repository for all the things. When you get an exemption, it goes into a certain bin. When you get grandfathered, it's a different bin. So, it's a big homework exercise to go back and find all -- you know, what are the regulations that are -- for example, I worked at the Salem plant before coming to UCS, and Congressman Markey asked a question of the plant owner about what fire protection regulation applies to this plant. It took the NRC eight months to track down the answer, and the answer happened to be out in the repository at Iron Mountain in a superceded document. It took that long to -- so, if it takes that long to find it, what are the chances of the NRC inspectors really ensuring that plant met it? That was the lesson I learned from that exercise.

REPORTER: Right, thanks. That's helpful.

MR. NEGIN: John, we have enough time for one more question, and then we're going to have to wrap up. We are tentatively planning to do another press -- telepress conference tomorrow, and we will let everyone know, via email. We're shooting for 11:00 tomorrow morning. We will send you a media advisory, and we can continue the questions and answers, but we're going to have to wrap up after this next one.

OPERATOR: Okay. We'll take our next Question.

QUESTION: Hi there. I actually do kind of have a final question here for you guys, and it goes back to the question about the reactors and the sort of gradual cooling. I mean, I mean, at what point do you think that they're going to be out of the -- out of the danger zone here, assuming that they can flood them with seawater? By the way, latest reports on Kyoto news are that Reactor 2 is being flooded with seawater again. And then the second part of that is, going forward, can you just talk a little bit about the process of getting these reactors cleaned up and how long that might take?

MR. LOCHBAUM: The -- when they're out of the danger zone is really going to be when they are able to reduce the water temperatures below 212 degrees. That's a term of art in the industry called cold shutdown. The reactors shut down, the nuclear chain reaction is stopped, and the water temperature is below the point of boiling. That's not inherently safe, but if they reach that point, if they're successfully able to get into that condition, if something else were to go wrong, they have quite a bit of time and quite a bit of margin to respond to that and prevent bad things from happening. So, that's a -- that would be out of the danger zone if they get that. The one -- it's not likely that these reactors are going to -- I think it's game over for these reactors. You've pumped seawater into the containment and the reactor vessel, and those are not really designed for seawater, which is very corrosive. Nuclear submarines are designed to operate in seawater, but not nuclear power plants. Seawater is a last resort. These are relatively old and aging plants, and the cost of undoing the damage that the seawater did is probably greater than just building something else in their place. But I'm not faulting the government or the company. You -- in the conditions they were in, they only had one option left, and that was seawater. So, you had to use it.

REPORTER: But, I mean, in terms -- sorry, but in terms of the actual cleanup process, I'm assuming these plants are lost. I mean, how long is it going to take to actually remove the cores and remediate the site?

MR. LOCHBAUM: That's really determined by the extent of fuel damage, because if the fuel is significantly damaged, then the fuel particles have traveled or been transported throughout the reactor -- you know, the reactor vessel, the attached piping, and places. If the fuel is damaged but largely intact, you know, there's been some cracks and holes in the cladding, but there has not been melting and relocation of the core, contamination in broader areas of the plants, then the cleanup will be simpler. Three Mile Island had a fairly significant -- you know, had partial core meltdown, and it took close to 15 years to deal with the decontamination of that plant, and basically removed all the core. The plant is still there. They're waiting for the adjacent units to shut down, and then they are going to decommission them both. So, it's a multiple-year process that they may have been able to speed it up from the lessons they learned from Three Mile Island, but it's not going to be fast.

MR. NEGIN: Okay. Well, thank you very much for participating today, and we'll talk to you again tomorrow. John, thank you.

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, this does conclude your conference. You may now disconnect, and have a great day. (Whereupon, the telepress conference was concluded.)

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