In separate reports, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission warned nuclear power plants about a pair of problems that it has observed, corroding steel and crumbling concrete.
The NRC found that rusting steel caused the shutdown of a Michigan nuclear power plant in August. As the Kalamazoo Gazette reported Thursday:
A recent investigation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission found that the failure of a water pump due to the corrosion of certain kinds of stainless steel components caused an August shutdown of the Palisades nuclear power plant in Covert.
The NRC investigation was the result of a request by Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey. Markey says that that defective stainless steel is common in nuclear reactors. A press release from his office said:
Despite scientific findings and industry experience reporting its vulnerability to cracks and corrosion, the types of stainless steel –known as 410SS and 416SS – continues to be used in water pumps used to provide cooling water to critical safety-related equipment such as component cooling water, diesel generators, and containment vessel air coolers for nuclear power plants throughout the U.S.
Markey was very critical of NRC action about complaints of corrosion:
Despite NRC alerting licensees about issues with these pumps, failures continue and licensees have not been required to take any action or even report back to the NRC regarding what they are doing to identify, mitigate or prevent corrosion cracking that could cause component failures.
“They say there was never a good knife made of bad steel. Similarly, you can’t have a safe nuclear reactor made of bad steel,” Markey said.
Here’s a link to the Kalamazoo Gazette article: http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2011/12/bum_steel_creates_dangers_at_p.html
And bad concrete at the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire has caused the NRC to issue a nationwide alert to nukes. As Seacoast Online reported on Thursday:
A problem with degradation of concrete in the Control Building at the Seabrook Station nuclear power plant has prompted the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to issue a warning to operators of nuclear power plants across the country.
“The NRC has issued an information notice to all U.S. nuclear power plant operators regarding the issue of alkali-silica reaction-induced (ASR) concrete degradation,” NRC Region 1 spokesman Neil Sheehan said. “This notice was prompted by the identification of ASR at the Seabrook nuclear power plant. NRC information notices are generic communications designed to make all plants aware of issues, with the expectation they will review the information for applicability to their facility and consider actions, if necessary to avoid similar problems.”
The NRC warning, however, did not specify any corrective action:
The notice, however, does not require plant operators to take action other than to be on the lookout for this problem at their facilities, the NRC document states.
The NRC has been tough on Seabrook. If the problem with defective concrete is not remedied, the Commission will not allow the plant to operate. Beyond 2030, that is:
With respect to the ASR identified at Seabrook, the NRC is continuing to evaluate the condition as part of its review of a license renewal application for the plant, Sheehan said. NextEra Energy Resources, operator of the plant, has asked the NRC to extend Seabrook’s operating license to 2050, though the current license will not expire until 2030.
Here’s a link to the Seacoast Online article: http://www.seacoastonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20111201/NEWS/112010375/-1/NEWSMAP