Shortcuts at U.S. Nuclear Fuel Facility?

The Chemical Engineer, a magazine published by Britainâ''s Institution of Chemical Engineers, is reporting allegations that safety standards are being neglected in the design of a nuclear fuel fabrication facility being built in South Carolina. The $4 billion plant, near Aiken, will produce so-called mixed-oxide fuel, consisting of uranium and plutonium recovered from spent nuclear fuel or nuclear weapons. Dan Tedder, an emeritus professor of chemical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told The Chemical Engineer that basic process design information was incomplete, with serious implications for safety.

Tedder, who served last year as an independent technical reviewer on the project for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, predicted that safety problems will manifest themselves when the plant is operational. â''The documentation provided in the license application is very superficialâ'' and â''isnâ''t consistent with reasonable and generally accepted good engineering practice,â'' Tedder told The Chemical Engineer.

The NRC has dismissed Tedderâ''s accusations as unfounded but has barred access to documents in dispute, on security grounds.

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