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BREDL Continues Challenge of Duke Energy Plutonium Test at Catawba

On Thursday, January 15th, representatives of the southeastern regional Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League will argue against plutonium fuel testing at Duke Energy’s Catawba nuclear plant at a second hearing before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The hearing will begin at 9:00 AM at the federal courthouse on Tryon Street in Charlotte, NC.

BREDL will present new information about safety concerns raised by French scientists about plutonium fuel in that nation’s reactors. The IRSN (Institut de Radioprotection et de Surete Nucleaire) has determined that plutonium fuel rods, also known as MOX, fail at far lower temperatures, 400-570 degrees-F lower, than traditional uranium fuel rods. Also, the metal sheath, or cladding, which holds the fuel rod together may form balloons which would block cooling water, leading to an uncontrolled core meltdown.

BREDL’s attorney Diane Curran last appeared before the ASLB in December 2003 to describe deficiencies in Duke Energy’s proposal to test plutonium in its Catawba nuclear power station in 2005. At this week’s hearing she will detail BREDL’s additional contentions filed in December based on this and other new information.

Dr. Ed Lyman, a senior nuclear physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists will testify as an expert witness for BREDL. Dr. Lyman has done extensive evaluations of the dangers of the plutonium fuel program and ice condenser reactors such as Catawba.

Recent BREDL challenges to the proposed plutonium fuel project include:

Intervention in Duke’s 20-year relicensing of Catawba and McGuire nuclear power plants in 2001

Request to dismiss or hold in abeyance Duke’s license extension as premature in 2001

Intervention in the license application by Duke, Cogema, Stone & Webster for a plutonium fuel factory at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina in 2001

Requested re-instatement of BREDL contention 1 regarding anticipated plutonium fuel use at Catawba and McGuire nuclear plants on , 2003

Petition for review of the ASLB panel’s rejection of BREDL’s contention 2 regarding severe accident mitigation at ice condenser reactors on November 4, 2003.

Lawsuit with Greenpeace International to implement safe containment standards for plutonium shipments and to challenge the export license for plutonium shipments on November 26, 2003. BREDL members in tidewater Virginia and in Charleston, SC signed affidavits.

In November BREDL achieved a significant victory resulting in DOE’s realignment of the boundary for the proposed plutonium fuel factory at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. This decision will result in an indeterminate delay in the fuel factory program. BREDL maintains that the entire program is in disarray.



Janet Zeller (336) 982-2691

Louis Zeller (704) 756-7550

Diane Curran (202) 328-3500