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UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS UPDATE ON JAPAN'S NUCLEAR POWER CRISIS TELEPRESS CONFERENCE
MARCH 23, 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 listeners are in a listen-only mode, but later today, we will conduct a question-and-answer sessions, and instructions will follow at that time. If you should require assistance during today's conference, you may press star, then zero on your touchtone telephone to speak with an operator.  Finally, as a reminder, this conference call is being recorded. Now, I would like to introduce your host for today's conference, Elliott Negin.

MR. NEGIN:  Good morning.  Thanks for joining our call this morning. Just to remind you, again, the Union of Concerned Scientists is an independent, science-based advocacy group that has been a nuclear industry watchdog for 40 years.  We are not for or against nuclear power.  Our goal has always been to ensure that the industry operates its reactors as safely as possible. If we do not get to your question during this morning's briefing, please email us at media@ucsusa.org, and we will get back to you as soon as we can.  Please do not contact our experts directly.  We have been overwhelmed with requests, and we can't, unfortunately, respond to everyone.

If you are having trouble getting everything down that you need from today's briefing, there will be a transcript and an audio file on our website later today.  And some of the answers to your questions may already be posted in our Frequently Asked Questions feature on our website, and answers to more technical questions may be on our allthingsnuclear.org blog.  We are updating both on a regular basis. Now, after our speakers are done this morning and we open the phones to your questions, please ask only one question and, if necessary, one follow-up.  And, please, mute your phone after you ask your question; otherwise, the sound of your typing will make it difficult for everyone else to hear. This morning, our speakers are David Lochbaum and Edwin Lyman, who will update us on the latest developments in Japan. David is the Director of UCS's Nuclear Safety Project.  He is a nuclear engineer by training, and he worked at U.S. nuclear plants for 17 years.  He has also worked as a safety trainer for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Dr. Edwin Lyman is a Senior Scientist in the UCS Global Security Program.  Ed has a doctorate in physics and is an expert on nuclear plant design and the environmental and health effects of radiation. I will now turn the phone over to David Lochbaum.

MR. LOCHBAUM:  Thank you, Elliott, and good morning. There was progress made since yesterday in Japan.  Both Units 5 and 6 are now being supplied with electricity from outside sources, which is a step in the right direction.  Up until two days ago, both of those units had been powered from emergency diesel generators, so they have been able to restore the connection to the external grid and power equipment on those two units from that source. Progress was also made in restoring power for lighting on Units 3 and 4 from outside sources.  They also got another source of water injection to the Unit 1 reactor core to supplement the one source of injection, seawater, that they had been using for several days.

They still have some work to do ahead of them to regain control over all three reactor core cooling and the seven spent fuel pools, but things are moving in that direction. Some of the problems they faced yesterday were, as they tried to restore power on Units 1, 2, and 3, some of the pumps and other equipment were damaged by either the explosions or the use of seawater, or both, and so as they restore power, they're finding that some components aren't working and they are having to go to either redundant components or bring in replacement parts to replace the pumps and motors that aren't working.  So, that's slowing down their efforts to regain control of the cooling systems on all the units. That's pretty much the update we have for this morning.  Thank you.

MR. NEGIN:  Thank you, David. Ed Lyman.

DR. LYMAN:  Thank you, Elliott. I'd just like to discuss a couple of things that have been reported this morning. One is a report coming out of Norway that estimates the quantity of radioactivity that's already been released.  In particular, iodine cesium isotopes are now from 20 to 50 percent of the release from the Chernobyl accident. Some of the stories have been reporting this as if it's good news, that this event is not as bad as Chernobyl, but one has to remember that there's still no evidence that the containment structures at the damaged reactors, 1, 2, and 3, have been significantly breached, which is a difference from Chernobyl, where the confinement structure was destroyed in the very early stage of the accident.

So, the fact that radiation releases are approaching the level that they did at Chernobyl is a cause for concern, a sign of the severity of the accident that has already taken place.

The difference with Chernobyl is that spent fuel pools at Fukushima have been implicated, that up to three of them may have damaged fuel and potentially have released some radioisotopes that could contribute to the additional cesium.  But, you know, since we do have six reactors, of which four have experienced some level of fuel damage, the potential source term for what could be released ultimately could be significantly greater than Chernobyl.

I would also like to mention there are reports of black smoke being emitted from reactor number 3 today.  Authorities don't know what the origin is, but they say they don't think it's a serious problem if this is originating from the spent fuel pool; however, it could be an indication that there has been severe damage to the fuel itself in that there's larger particulate matter that's now being carried into the air in the form of smoke.  That would be fuel particles that would include less volatile isotopes, including plutonium.

So, if the levels of a type of radiation known as alpha radiation start increasing, that could be an indication that the fuel itself is starting to degrade and being released, which might be additional cause for concern.

There are also reports of elevated iodine levels as far away as Tokyo that are now violating drinking water standards for infants. A child under the age of one is roughly ten times more sensitive to the same intake of radioiodine, which explains why there is more stringent standards for children and infants. But I think this is, again, an indication that the significant effects of this accident are being felt further away than the nuclear industry has led most people to believe over the last 20 years. Thank you.

MR. NEGIN:  Thank you, Ed. We will now open up the phone to questions.

OPERATOR:  Certainly. Ladies and gentlemen, at this time, if you wish to ask a question, please press star, then one on your touchtone telephone.  If your question is later answered or you wish to remove yourself from the queue for any reason, you may press the pound key to do so.  Once again, to ask a question, please press star, then one. Our first question.

REPORTER:  Hi. Could you give us whatever additional information you might have about the condition of the spent fuel pools, because we had the impression that Number 4 had damage to it, but all of the -- at least four of the six or six of the six pools had been refilled. Are these continuing emissions an indication that the pools are now re-exposed or that the reactor cores themselves no longer -- are lacking coolant?  Can we separate out any of this?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  This is Dave Lochbaum. It's difficult to tell, because the smoke that's periodically emitted from the plant can be coming from a number of sources.  It could be coming from equipment that they try to reenergize, and if there's a short or damage somewhere that could cause an electrical fire, it takes a while to extinguish.  So, there's a number of sources that could explain the smoke and other problems they're having. We're not getting reliable indications of the condition of the six spent fuel pools, other than they're continuing to add water. There could be a couple of reasons for that. One is that there's water leaking out of the pools and, therefore, they keep adding water to replenish the water that's being lost; or it could be that water's being evaporated off the pool because they don't have forced circulation yet and, therefore, the water being added is just to replace the evaporation; or both.  We just don't have any reliable sources of information as to explain why they keep adding water to the pools.

I wish I could be more definitive.  I just don't have those facts in front of me.

REPORTER:  Well, can you say anything about the condition of the reactors, because one has to assume that with the control rods inserted in, that there's still decay heat, and there has to be as much heat or more inside those reactors, and there's been ten days of no circulation.  So, what do we know about the reactors?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  Well, there are signs of damage on the three reactor cores, and one of the -- I guess we should have indicated in the updates that in addition to the seawater that's being injected into the reactor cores of 1, 2, and 3, they are also injecting boron, boric acid.  The reason they're doing that is to guard against criticality, recriticality. That would suggest that there's some concern about fuel damage involving relocation of the fuel, either broken segments or melting, and the boric acid is being added to ensure that any relocated parts remain subcritical. So, there is pretty clear evidence of significant damage.  The extent of that damage has not yet been reported.

REPORTER:  Okay.  Just one last quick one.

Iodine, is that a marker for material coming out of the reactors or spent fuel pools or could it be either?

DR. LYMAN:  This is Ed Lyman.

It's primarily a marker of damage to the reactor.  Even the most recently discharged spent fuel, which is in Unit 4, was discharged at the beginning of December, and given the half-life of the -- the longest half-life isotope, which is iodine 131, is eight days, you would expect that after three months or more, that those would have decayed to very, very low levels.

So, the iodine 131 that's being seen is most likely attributed to release from the reactor that occurred when they vented gas from the primary containment to reduce the pressure.

MR. NEGIN:  Next question?

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Hi, and thanks for making yourself available.

I wanted to see if you could react to the EPA/DOE report out late yesterday about the radiation levels, the plume they found northwest of the Fukushima plant, and the 12.5 milli-REMs that they observed over three days, and specifically, whether that changes assumptions that we have domestically about the emergency planning zones or whether that should be reevaluated.

DR. LYMAN:  This is Ed Lyman. I actually haven't analyzed those figures yet, but all the numbers I've been seeing do suggest that there was good justification for the U.S. evacuation order within 50 miles and that dose rates are a cause for concern further away than the 10-mile zone that's imposed in the U.S.

So, I don't think we've seen any data to contradict that, our previous assessment that at least a 50-mile evacuation zone is appropriate and that the Japanese should have also imposed such a zone, and that there will need to be reassessment of emergency guidance in the United States based on the evidence that we're seeing now in Fukushima.

REPORTER:  Just to be clear, your position is that the U.S. should have a 15-mile evacuation zone in lieu of the 10-mile zone?

DR. LYMAN:  No.  I didn't say -- I don't think -- no, I don't think we have a recommendation yet what that should be.  It depends on the objective of emergency planning.

Now, in the U.S., the basis for the ten-mile zone in the first place was not to prevent increased doses that do not have acute effects but might significantly increase the risk of cancer.  They were primarily imposed to avoid the appearance of acute effects, like acute radiation syndrome.

And, again, the basis is the perception that any accident that would cause higher doses further away is so remote that it does not require a high level of those regulatory attention.  We think that the bases for those decisions are going to have to be reexamined and made consistent with other government regulations that protect the public from a certain level of harm due to the emission of carcinogens, and where that level should be set I think is not clear at this point.

REPORTER:  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Thanks.  Hi.  Thanks again for these briefings.

My question has to do with the likely effects of decisions here in the U.S. on relicensing of old plants.  What do you think is going to be the effect and what lessons do you think we should take from the Japanese experience when assessing these older plants and whether or not to allow them to continue to operate?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  This is Dave Lochbaum.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has already relicensed 62 of the nation's 104 reactors, and I don't think the incident in Japan will directly affect what it looks at and how it does so.  I think the lessons learned from Japan will be applied by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission outside of the relicensing process, so that any improvements that we need to make to make our plants less vulnerable to that kind of situation will be adopted for plants whether they're relicensed or not, whether they're in the queue, or whether they've already been relicensed.

So, I think any changes that the NRC requires plant owners to make will be done outside of the license renewal process, as it should be done.

REPORTER:  Thanks.

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Good morning, and thanks again, gentlemen, for doing this.  I know you're probably exhausted.

A quick one I just want to get off the top, it just appeared in my inbox from your blog a statement that expresses apparently organizational thinking that the Japanese should expand the evacuation zone.

Is that an official statement from you guys and is that something that you've just decided to issue now?

DR. LYMAN:  This is Ed Lyman.

No.  We have actually been expressing that view for several days, and it's just we decided to post it in writing, but it doesn't represent any change in our thinking, and I haven't seen anything that would indicate -- that would contradict that.

REPORTER:  Okay, but this is the first time you have said it -- you have essentially advocated it publicly, though?

DR. LYMAN:  Just in writing, but we have expressed that view informally in these calls and other public statements.

REPORTER:  Okay, understood.  Let me get to the substance of my questions, then.

My question is about the conditions at Reactor 1.  The data that's been released over the last several days indicate that the temperature of the -- the external temperature of the core vessel is now approximately 400 degrees Celsius and that the pressure, to the degree that they can measure it -- I'm not sure how they're doing it -- is also rising significantly.

Can you just give me a sense of what those particular measurements portend?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  This is Dave Lochbaum.

I saw the temperatures yesterday of 400 degrees C.  It seemed, on first impression, that there could be an instrumentation failure, because they have had a hydrogen explosion and then seawater poured in, so that could be an instrumentation issue.  The reactor vessel pressure and the containment pressure were more stable, which would not be consistent with the high temperature reported on the feedwater nozzle.  So, there's a disconnect there.

On the best side, it would be an instrumentation problem, and the very high metal temperature is the bad -- is the outlier.  On the downside, it could be a reflection that the temperature of the water inside the reactor core is increasing or, worst case, that there's not much water there at all and that the metal is being heated up by the decay heat being put off by the uncovered reactor core.

I think there's more data supporting the best case than the worst case, but at the moment, the worst case can't be ruled out.

REPORTER:  I'm not sure what these numbers mean exactly, and maybe you do, but the readings from this afternoon for pressure inside the reactor core are 0.376 MPa, as opposed to, on the other two reactors, they're negative numbers, in the thousandths.  These are the numbers that were similar to what we were seeing in, I think, Reactor 2 or 3 last week, when they said they had to consider venting it to reduce the pressure.  Is that a possible outcome here?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  It's possible.  At that level, it's still pretty low.  That's only -- I think 0.37 megapascal per square -- is on the order of, like, 40 or 50 pounds per square inch, which is within the containment design pressure. The negative numbers on Units 2 and 3 are most likely instrumentation issues and not -- they don't have a vacuum inside the vessel at the moment.

MR. LYMAN:  But actually, if you could email us the latest data that you have on these, we can see if we can provide a better -- you know, any more information.

REPORTER:  Okay, sure.

And then if I could ask just one other quick thing, when you talked about the iodine decay that is likely to have occurred in the spent fuel pools, at a certain point, would that iodine decay also apply to the fuel that's in the reactors?

In other words, at some point, will the reactor -- if the iodine was coming from the reactor cores, at some point, will that be significantly reduced just because of the natural decay?

DR. LYMAN:  Yes, this is Ed Lyman.

As long as recriticality doesn't occur that would cause additional fission, yes, the iodine in the core is decaying away at the same rate.

REPORTER:  And what would that mean practically as far as further releases of iodine?

DR. LYMAN:  Well, you know, the longer they delay, even if they have to continue controlled venting over a matter of weeks or months, you know, the iodine source term will continue to decrease.  So, the objective, as always, is to try to prevent -- try to avoid a larger loss of containment completely, but falling short of that, to delay a larger breach of containment as long as possible, so that that's -- but generally, it's not just iodine.

But there are a lot of other short-lived fission products that are most concerning if there's a containment breach soon after the accident is initiated.  The longer the amount of time, the more those short-lived fission products decay away, and the less toxic will be the emissions, although there are, you know, plenty of longer-lived isotopes, again, like cesium 137, which will continue to pose a long-term hazard.

REPORTER:  Okay.  Thank you, I'll stop monopolizing the call.

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Hello.  Thank you for doing this.

I have a question that follows up on some comments from an earlier call about U.S. fuel storage.  There's been some comments by scientists, including the NRC Chairman, about moving the assemblage from the pools to dry cask storage in five years, and when I asked the local utility here about that, they commented that the dry cask storage that the NRC has currently licensed, they couldn't transfer fuel from pools to casks in five years; we would have to wait 10 years to 12 years.  And I would ask you to comment on that, please.

MR. LOCHBAUM:  This is Dave Lochbaum.          

The casks that have been licensed by the NRC for use in the United States can receive fuel that's been out of the reactor core for at least five years.  That period of time allows the key heat levels to drop down such that just air convection cooling is enough for the spent fuel stored in those casks.

So, I think the casks that have been available for years can be used to store fuel that's been out of the reactor for at least five years, which is what the NRC Chairman and the National Academy of Sciences, and almost anybody who's looked at the issue has been recommending.

REPORTER:  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Yeah, hi.  Thanks for doing this.

I've been looking through some of the NRC inspection records of a nearby nuclear plant, and what I've found is basically a series of green citations and one white citation that are in regards to the mitigating systems.  And I was just wondering if you could comment on the significance of that and if that's unusual in one year.

MR. LOCHBAUM:  This is Dave Lochbaum.

It's not unusual.  The NRC has a four color-coded system, green being least serious, then white, yellow, and red.  Last year, I forget the exact number, but there were approximately 40 to 50 white findings.  Most of the findings were green or less.  So, it's not unusual for a plant to have a white finding.

The way that the colors were set up originally was that 95 percent of the findings would be white -- excuse me, 95 percent of the findings would be green and 5 percent of the findings would be white, yellow, or red.  So, again, over the course of a year, 95 percent of the plants would be green, 5 percent would have something other than green.

So, without knowing the exact nature of the white finding, it's hard to comment on it specifically, but in general, if you look at all the other plants, there's a smattering of whites, one yellow.  There were no reds last year issued.

REPORTER:  Okay.  The white finding was a failure of the time delay relay which caused one of the emergency diesel generators to trip prematurely.

MR. LOCHBAUM:  Yeah.  The emergency diesel generators, as came into play in Japan, are the backup source of power.  So, if they don't work when you need them to, there's a safety significance.  So, that's why it was not a green finding; it was an elevated finding.

REPORTER:  Okay.  And it looks like it's taken them about a year to go back and reinspect that.  Is that the usual time?  The NRC I'm talking about, it's taken them a year to go back and reinspect to see if it's been addressed.

MR. LOCHBAUM:  That's pretty common. It takes at least that -- four quarters for the NRC to go back.  They want to -- they don't want to reset something prematurely and then have it reoccur three months later.  So, they generally wait until they have enough data to go back and sample to see if it's really been fixed once and for all.

REPORTER:  Okay.  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Hi. 

My question pertains to the 62 reactors that are -- that have been -- their licenses have been extended.  I'm just trying to figure out, does this concern you, that these reactors are this old, and can this kind of thing just go on forever?

And is there a need for greater NRC oversight on these older units or any special needs that the operators should do to make sure these things are operating properly for this extended period of time?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  This is Dave Lochbaum.

There is nothing magic about the original 40-year lifetime of the plants.  It's really pulled from the Federal Communications Commission.  They were licensing TV and radio stations for 40 years, so the Atomic Energy adopted the same period.  So, there's nothing magic about that.  Plants don't become unsafe at 41 years.

As Davis-Besse and Three Mile Island showed us, you can definitely incur problems before 40 years.  So, there is no guarantee that you're safe until 40, and there is no guarantee that you're unsafe after 40.

It really depends on how well the plant owner is maintaining the plant, maintaining the safety margins.  That's what the NRC focuses on when they review license renewal applications, is how well are the owners doing aging management programs.  So, I think that's -- we don't have a beef with that.

Our concern is that the license renewal process doesn't look at the aging of the regulations themselves.  Many of the plants are grandfathered from new regulations that were adopted as a result of Three Mile Island or Chernobyl or other events that show that we needed to improve safety in the future.

The NRC doesn't look at the exemptions and the waivers that have been given to plants in the past to see that the basis for the original exemption is still good for 20 more years.  We think the NRC should be doing that, should have been doing that all along.

Hopefully, the answer would be fine, that even though they don't meet the new regulations, what they're meeting -- the old regulations they meet provides equivalent protection in public health and safety, but unless the NRC does that review and reaches that conclusion, there may be a gap that someday might hurt somebody.

REPORTER:  So, they kind of grandfather the original -- at the time for the relicensing, they grandfather the original conditions into the future permit as well, if I'm understanding you correctly?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  That's exactly right. That's what they do, yeah.  And we're not necessarily saying that's wrong, but there should be a formal review before that's done across the board.

REPORTER:  Okay.  So, it isn't age and fatigue or any of that stuff that we should be worried about?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  Well, again, as long as you're doing aging management and you're monitoring the degradation of equipment and replacing or repairing it before safety margins are compromised, then there's no big problem operating a 45-year-old plant or a five-year-old plant.

In fact, if you look at the bathtub curve, with the two ends being highest chance of failure, if you were to shut down a 40-year-old plant and start up a brand new plant in its place, you're just swapping from one end of the bathtub curve to the other.  So, you're not necessarily improving risk by putting a brand new one out on the field.

REPORTER:  Okay.  Thanks a lot, you guys.  I appreciate it.

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Hi, thank you.

I was just following up on yesterday's conversation about the power uprate at BWRs, and I was looking online to see if I could find the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards' position that you talked about, and I didn't know where to look.

Could you elaborate a little bit more on how to find that and whether they still maintain the position that you described yesterday?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  Yes.  I don't have the exact -- the session number, the ML number for the NRC's ADAMS system, but I can get you that after this call.

The ACRS, just a few weeks ago, this year, took that up again and said that they -- you know, they're vehemently against reducing that defense or that mechanism.  There was a subcommittee conference -- a subcommittee of the ACRS that took that up again and, once again, bemoaned their opposition to what the NRC has been doing.  They can provide advice; they're not any power of authority.  So, the NRC has so far ignored that advice.

REPORTER:  All right.  Thanks a lot.

MR. LOCHBAUM:  Um-hum.

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Hi.  Sorry.  Excuse me. Thanks for having the call.

I was just looking through the -- some numbers that the IAEA released yesterday about how many fuel assemblies there were in the spent fuel pools at the various units, and along with that, they had both irradiated assemblies and unirradiated assemblies in those numbers in the spent fuel pools.

Why would you be unirradiated assemblies into a spent fuel pool?

MR. LOCHBAUM:  This is Dave Lochbaum.

When you shut down a reactor for refueling, you transfer the irradiated fuel bundles from the reactor core to the spent fuel pool, and you replace those with unirradiated fuel assemblies.  The equipment that's used to move fuel assemblies, it is easier for workers to access that or use that equipment if the unirradiated fuel assemblies are already in the spent fuel pool for then transfer into the reactor core.  So, the fresh or the new fuel assemblies are put in the spent fuel pool for later loading into the reactor core.

REPORTER:  Okay.  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Hi.

I was wondering whether, in light of the report from Norway, whether the Union agrees with what NRC and EPA are saying, that they don't expect radiation at harmful levels to reach the United States.

DR. LYMAN:  This is Ed Lyman.

Our assessment is that we still -- well, again, there's no safe level of radiation. So, it really has to do with any individual's perception of risk.  But you know, if the potential dose to any American associated with this accident is still, you know, far lower than background, then it's up to that individual's assessment of whether or not, you know, they consider that a concern.

I mean, it's our judgment that the potential doses at this point are probably not likely to trigger any, you know, regulatory limits and from that point of view are not a huge health concern to the extent that we agree with the way those regulatory limits are set. But it is conceivable that, you know, in the worst case, this event could release significantly greater amounts of certain isotopes than Chernobyl, in which case the baseline of our understanding, which is set by the recorded radiation in North America as a result of Chernobyl, could be reassessed.

So, still, at this time, we don't think there's cause for concern.  We don't want to say there's no risk, because we accept the linear no-threshold hypothesis, which is that any radiation, you know, is associated with some risk, but it is proportional to dose.  So, you know, at this point, we would concur, but we're going to continue to reevaluate that.

REPORTER:  Maybe everybody else is in the know, but this report out of Norway, could you identify the source and do you agree with what they're saying in terms of the radiation emissions reaching, at the high end, 50 percent of Chernobyl?

DR. LYMAN:  Yeah.  We have not yet assessed that.  Oh, this -- I apologize.  This is actually not Norway.  It's the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics.

REPORTER:  I'm sorry?

DR. LYMAN:  It's Austria's National Weather Service agency, the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics.  That's where that statement came out of.  I misspoke.

REPORTER:  Okay.

DR. LYMAN:  We need to -- you know, data is starting to come in.  We may be able to provide our own assessment of whether these are reasonable, but clearly that high end -- let's say it's -- if there were only minimal damage to the fuel, to the extent that only -- there was cladding rupture, but the fuel itself did not experience significant damage, that is, the uranium pellets, you wouldn't expect more than 5 percent of the iodine to be released.

Now, we have three reactors where there is core damage, so what would -- the way to think about this, which we haven't done yet, is to assess whether that initial source term, what you'd expect just from cladding failure but not more extensive core damage, is consistent with those numbers.

If it isn't, it could imply that there is more serious damage to the fuel pellets themselves and potentially also a larger containment breach than authorities have alluded to, because, again, the function of the containment is to limit -- even if iodine were released significantly into the containment, if the containment is still functioning, that would only be released at a very low rate.

So, the fact that this occurred -- you know, they're saying this occurred within three or four days of the initial accident may suggest that there's a larger containment breach somewhere, or it may not, but one needs to really know something about the inventories first before concluding that.  So, we are going to be exploring this, but we don't have an answer at this time.

REPORTER:  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Our next question.

REPORTER:  Hi.  Thank you.

Yes, I have a question -- a couple of previous questions have sort of touched on this, but I'm interested in, in light of the fact that there seemed to be an underestimation of how large the maximum storm surge would be at Japan that could inundate the nuclear facility, what this means in terms of what the maximum estimates are for storm surges for the U.S. coastal facilities, and whether the NRC needs to revisit -- whether you think the NRC needs to revisit how it incorporates something like sea level rise into the calculation of maximum storm surge.

MR. LOCHBAUM:  This is Dave Lochbaum.

After the 2004 tsunami, the NRC did go back and revisit what the -- their basis for tsunami protection in the United States.  It's been a while since I've looked at that report. I suspect they'll revisit that ground, but since they had recently covered it, I don't anticipate major changes being done.

As far as the second part of the question, whether the NRC looks at the potential for sea level rising, thus far, the NRC -- the answer would have been no.  The NRC has a backward-looking projection.  They look at what conditions have been for the past 50, 100 200 years, depending on whether it's rainfall or seismic activity.  Part of that's limited by not having enough data to go back too much further than that.

But thus far, the NRC's been looking backwards at what the history has shown us and not done much projecting forward as to what trends may tell us in the future.  And I don't anticipate them changing that stance since they've been using it for so many decades.  I think they'll continue to use it.

REPORTER:  Okay.  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to ask a question, please press the star and then the number one key on your touchtone telephone.

At this time, I see no further questions in the queue.

MR. NEGIN:  Okay.  Well, then, I just want to thank everyone for participating this morning on the call.  We will be back tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. to update you on the latest developments in Japan and answer your questions about the implications for the U.S. nuclear fleet.

If you have any other questions later today, please email us at media@ucsusa.org, and we will get back to you as soon as we can.  And keep in mind that we are continually updating our Frequently Asked Questions feature on our website, which you can get to on our homepage, as well as our allthingsnuclear blog, which you also can access from our homepage.

Thank you very much.

OPERATOR:  Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attendance in today's conference. This does conclude today's program, and you may now disconnect.

(Whereupon, the telepress conference was concluded.)

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