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E-M:/ Critics Slam Loss of Radwaste Records in Palisades Fire

Enviro-Mich message from Terry Lodge <tjlodge50@yahoo.com>

COVERT, MI July 28. Nuclear power critics are calling
upon the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to fine
Consumers Energy for negligence in connection with a
suspicious fire on June 17 that destroyed the office
trailer containing quality control documents for the
high-level radioactive waste storage project at the
Palisades nuclear power plant. The groups criticized
the NRC for not effectively overseeing the regulations
for preserving records affecting the long-term storage
of  highly radioactive nuclear waste, which, they
maintain, undermines public safety.

Don't Waste Michigan, Washington-based Nuclear
Information and Resource Service, the Coalition for a
Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, Citizens Resistance at Fermi
2 (CRAFT) and the Toledo, Ohio Coalition for Safe
Energy all urged federal regulators to impose a stiff
fine on the utility for keeping unduplicated original
documents in a "tinderbox" -- a trailer complex built
of highly combustible materials with no sprinkler

Hundreds of pages of documents and computerized data
were apparently lost in the trailer fire. The fire's
origin remains a mystery and is officially
undetermined. Arson can neither be proven nor ruled

Flames were discovered inside the triplewide trailer
at the power plant site by a maintenance worker during
the evening of June 17. The combustible structure
contained original, unduplicated copies of documents,
including recent records of mishaps during the loading
of highly-radioactive spent fuel rods into a dry
storage cask on June 9. The cask, formally known as a
ventilated storage cask 24 (VSC-24), was built by a
now-defunct manufacturer, Sierra Nuclear Corporation.
Two small hydrogen fires had been touched off during
welding activity on June 9 to seal the cask. 

The 20-foot-tall VSC-24 is the fifteenth cask to be
loaded at Palisades. It is the first one to be filled
at the plant following a serious explosion inside a
VSC-24 cask at the Point Beach, Wisconsin nuclear
power plant. That 1996 explosion forced a 3-ton shield
lid to sit up on its edge after hydrogen gas formed
and exploded from an unforeseen design flaw involving
a chemical reaction of the cask's zinc liner and
borated fuel pool water inside the cask. 

Besides the Wisconsin detonation, the controversial
design has been the subject of numerous manufacturer
safety noncompliances and 3 smaller hydrogen fires,
including the two at Palisades.

Palisades' critics charged Consumers Energy with
negligence for violating NRC regulations requiring
that duplicates of quality control records related to
the troubled VSC-24 cask design be kept secure and in
separate locations. The citizens demanded that the NRC
immediately investigate the storage of quality control
records for all other civilian high-level nuclear
waste storage sites around the country, and to set
stricter standards to protect and preserve them.

NRC regulations currently require duplicate records
related to nuclear waste storage to be held at a
separate location "sufficiently remote from the
original records that a single event would not destroy
both sets of records." 

“The public will never really know what kind of
documents were destroyed for these problematic casks,”
said Paul Gunter of NIRS. “It’s absolutely
irresponsible for Consumers Power to have stored
quality control documents in a tinderbox so vulnerable
to fire. These dubious casks must now stand an
indefinite measure of time without the documents
necessary to certify their original integrity."

"Each of those casks contains radioactive material for
240 Hiroshimas in fissionable material," observed
Alice Hirt of Don't Waste Michigan. "The utility
expects them to hold lethally radioactive material for
up to 140 years at the Palisades site, 150 yards from
Lake Michigan and maybe 30 feet above groundwater
emptying into the Lake. Since extreme consequences
could result from cask failure, it's troubling or
suspicious that they didn’t think to keep quality
control documents secure from fire simply by backing
up their computers or making copies of papers."

"My question is, given how important these records are
concerning high-level radioactive waste, why did
Consumers Energy not store them in fireproof file
cabinets protected by sprinkler systems?" asked Kevin
Kamps, Kalamazoo representative of the national
Nuclear Information and Resource Service based in
Washington. "As it is, the office trailer was a fire
trap just waiting for a spark to destroy essential

“Where were the federal inspectors assigned to ensure
the public’s future safety from bogus radioactive cask
design?” asked Michael Keegan of CRAFT. “The public
must demand to know the current condition of document
storage at other nuclear power stations, or determine
if Palisades is the only reactor to store its records
in a fire trap.”

"If the utility can't store its records safely, how
the public feel confident that the high-level
radioactive waste itself will be kept out of the
environment?" mused Terry Lodge of the Toledo
Coalition. "They'll need those details in 50 years
when they're trying to figure out what to do to
protect the public for the remaining 239,950 years
that stuff will be lethal."

CONTACTS: Alice Hirt and Mary Sinclair, Don't Waste
Michigan, 616-335-3405 & 517-835 1303
Terry Lodge, Toledo Coalition for Safe Energy,
Michael Keegan, Coalition for a Nuclear Free
GreatLakes, 734-457-5979
Paul Gunter and Kevin Kamps, Nuclear Information and
Resource Service, 202-328-0002

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