Massive Covid-19 Outbreak at Fermi-2

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• In the middle of a refueling outage that began Mar. 21, DTE Energy's Fermi-2 south of Detroit, Michigan, may have anywhere from 200-300 positive Covid-19 cases, according to media reports and recent Facebook postings by Fermi employees. If true it may be the largest outbreak at any single institution or workplace in the state, and could bolster calls to delay such operations elsewhere until the pandemic has abated (NIW May8'20). The outage at Fermi expanded the number of workers on site to more than 2,000. DTE has been unwilling to disclose the number of positive Covid-19 cases or any Covid-19-related deaths among its workforce. But DTE spokesperson Stephen Tait confirmed that on May 1, DTE instituted "an extended safety stand down" and commenced large-scale testing for the coronavirus at the facility (NIW Apr.9'20; NIW Apr.9'20). The company resumed limited work to maintain idle operations on May 4. DTE also submitted a May 11 letter to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) seeking exemptions from work-hour controls for staff. • The US Department of Energy (DOE) this week launched its long-planned Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program for developing two reactors "that can be operational within the next 5 to 7 years," according to a May 14 announcement. The DOE envisions spending $160 million toward initial funding for the project. Congress appropriated $230 million for advanced reactors in financial year 2020, and in its financial year 2021 budget proposal the Trump administration specified how it should be spent, with $30 million earmarked for risk reduction for up to five additional reactor projects, $20 million for the National Reactor Innovation Center, $5 million for advanced reactor safeguards and $15 million for regulatory development. It also asked for another $20 million to support execution of the program. The NRC this week published a controversial rule change, approved in December 2019, to allow smaller emergency planning zones for advanced reactors, with a comment period through Jul. 27 (NIW Dec.20'19). The NRC "is proposing much weaker emergency planning for small modular reactors and non-light-water reactors than for the existing nuclear fleet," dissenting NRC Commissioner Jeff Baran tweeted on May 13. • Prospects for Japan's long-delayed Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant rose this week after the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) approved a 310-page draft report that concluded that upgrade plans for the facility meet rigorous post-Fukushima safety standards. After a 30-day comment period, government agencies will review the draft report before referring it back to the NRA for final approval. NRA officials were quoted saying they believe it will be "impossible" for Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) to fulfill the remaining requirements and secure local sign-off in time to meet a targeted start-up in the second half of 2021, according to Aomori-based To-o Nippon Press (NIW Jun.7'19). The facility in Aomori prefecture is designed to process as much as 800 metric tons of spent fuel per year, producing roughly 8 tons of plutonium for use in mixed-oxide fuel. Built at a reported cost of some $130 billion, the plant on which construction started in 1993 was originally scheduled to start in 1997. JNFL submitted an operational change permit application in January 2014, and the Rokkasho operator vowed to realize the promised safety measures.

Security Risk , Nuclear, Nuclear Fuel
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