For release:  8:00 a.m., CST Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2004


EVANSTON—The operating licenses of Exelon’s aging Dresden and Quad Cities nuclear reactors should not be renewed for an additional 20 years by the federal regulators, maintains David A. Kraft, director of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), Illinois’ nuclear power watchdog organization.

“These aging Exelon reactors have extremely poor operating and material condition histories, alone and compared to other U.S. reactors.  Extending their lifetimes represents an environmental, security and public health risk that Illinois should not have to bear,” Kraft contends.

The remarks come in response to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) public hearing scheduled for Wednesday, January 15th in Morris, Illinois, to deal with Exelon’s advance request to extend the operating licenses of Dresden 2 and 3, and Quad Cities 1 and 2 for an additional 20 years.

“Advance relicensing on generic grounds of an inherently dangerous technology shows a serious flaw in NRC’s regulatory process, if one can even call it ‘regulation,’” Kraft continues.  “It demonstrates more NRC’s obsequiousness towards the nuclear industry than it does any substantive effort to protect the public health and safety,” Kraft concludes.

Exelon’s Dresden 2 and 3 reactors have a history fraught with poor performance.  They set the all-time record for poor operating conditions by remaining on the NRC’s “close watch list” for poorly performing reactors for fifteen consecutive oversight periods stretching 7-1/2 consecutive years in the 1990’s.  They experienced unanticipated and advanced pipe corrosion costing millions of dollars to retrofit.  Poor maintenance practices at the Dresden site (and the adjacent and closed Dresden-1 reactor) led to a weather-related pipe shear in the mid-1990’s that could have drained the spent fuel pool of its vitally important cooling water.  The reactors have been fined by NRC 25 times, totaling over $1.65 million.

“Even if these reactors were the best performing reactors in the nation; and even if the NRC possessed the radical notion that it was supposed to regulate, the proximity of these boiling water reactors within less than 15 minutes flight time to the world’s busiest airport at O’Hare Field constitutes a real-world security and safety threat in the post-9/11 world,” Kraft asserts.  “This factor can’t be engineered away by Exelon; and it has yet to be squarely addressed and resolved by the NRC.”

The Dresden and Quad Cities boiling water reactors (BWR’s) are of an old vintage, with questionable emergency core cooling system capabilities.  Worse still, the site design places the much more vulnerable and much less protected spent fuel pools on the second floor of the buildings – above ground level.  Even if terrorists using fully loaded and fueled international flights coming out of O’Hare Field were unsuccessful in breaching the reinforced reactor buildings, cooling water pipes of the less-reinforced spent fuel pools required to prevent the reactor fuel they contain from melting down are far more vulnerable to such a strike.  National Security Advisors have already admitted that al Qaida operatives have considered nuclear reactors as potential strike targets.

“Face it:  reactors are World Trade Centers with 1,000 Hiroshima’s worth of radiation stored inside. Even an extremely ‘unsuccessful’ terrorist strike damaging the spent fuel pools at Dresden could result in severe contamination of a sizeable portion of Illinois (a huge agricultural state) and its river systems,” Kraft points out.

Among other points of criticism NEIS has of Dresden relicensing and the process are:

·        Allegations by former Exelon engineer Oscar Shirani maintaining that the “quality assurance” programs for both Dresden’s power up-rate, and the “dry-cask” high-level radioactive waste canisters onsite was fraudulently run, and therefore the reactors cannot be certified to actually be running in regulatory compliance (to contact Oscar Shirani directly: 630-745-0381;  “If the ‘paperwork’ can’t demonstrate you’ve done the job properly, you can’t claim you’re in compliance,” Kraft notes.

·        Dresden’s poor operation during the drought years of 1988 – despite millions of dollars in retrofits for additional cooling apparatus — presage their inability to function safely, properly or cost-effectively in a real global warming world.  “They’ll either not be allowed to function when they’re needed most; or they’ll be permitted by irresponsible EPA or NRC regulators to thermally kills the rivers they use for discharge water,” Kraft states.

·        Data from researcher Joseph Mangano indicate unusually high, statistically significant health effects (childhood cancers and infant mortality) which correlate to the emissions and operation periods of the reactors.  No federal or state agencies are required to either maintain or analyze such health data.  “The ‘precautionary principle” alone would suggest that responsible regulators would move for closure of the reactors, at least until these health data are explained,” Kraft maintains.  “But then, the operative term is ‘responsible.’”

·        The potential for these reactors as terrorist targets shows both that NRC should recognize the long-term threat to society represented by Dresden’s proximity to O’hare Field; and a need for NRC to change the “design-basis” for all reactors requesting license extensions.  “If these reactors cannot conclusively and publicly demonstrate their survivability in a post-9/11 world,”  Kraft demands, “then NRC has a legal, moral and regulatory obligation to demand they do, or shut them down.”

The NRC meeting will be held at:

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Environmental Impact Statement for License Renewal for Dresden 2-3

Jennifer’s Garden (a conference center), Morris, IL

January 14, 1:30 p.m.

For more information about the Dresden and Quad Cities reactors, visit the NRC website at: