NRC Event Reports: Emergency system failures, a bad day in the desert, another drunk supervisor and quality problems with Georgia nuke expansion project

These items were on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Event Reports pages Monday and Tuesday of this week:

1. Illinois’ Dresden nuclear power plant reported Monday that the High Pressure Coolant Injection (HPCI) system for its Unit 2 reactor had failed during surveillance testing Sunday.  In a fast initiation test, the emergency cooling system “did not produce the required flow rate….” How close did the HPCI come to fulfulling its required function? Dresden reported: “The flow rate achieved during the test was 3000 gpm and the required minimum flow rate is 5000 gpm.” Just for comparison, that percentage deficiency in liquid volume is roughly equivalent to the average size man being short 3.2 pints of blood….
2. The Hope Creek nuclear plant in New Jersey reported Monday that its Unit 1 reactor suffered an automatic shutdown Sunday morning due to a turbine trip. As usual, plant officials explained how swimmingly the plant’s emergency systems performed. Still begs the question of why the turbine stopped working.
Two-thirds of the reactors at the Palo Verde nuclear station in Arizona went down Monday night:

3. First, in the late afternoon, the Unit 2 reactor shut itself down. Initially, plant operators “diagnosed an uncomplicated reactor trip,” but then discovered that one of the reactor coolant pumps was not running. That was bad enough, but the night was still young.

4. Just before midnight, operators at Palo Verde began ramping down power to the Unit 3 reactor in what in known as a Technical Specification shutdown. This is a step below a reactor scram. The cause for the shutdown: a dropped Control Element Assembly, a bundle of control rods that wouldn’t retract.

The shutdown resulted in one of the more effusive examples of the usual Nuke Speak The-public-was-never-in-any-danger claptrap. Palo Verde reported: “The event did not result in any challenges to fission product barriers and there were no adverse safety consequences as a result of this event. The event did not adversely affect the safe operation of the plant or the health and safety of the public.” Reminds me quite a bit of Graham Chapman’s police character’s signature phrase on Monty Python’s Flying Circus: “Move along now. Nothing to see here.” 

Then, there were Monday’s snafu’s at the Nine Mile Point station in New York:

5. Monday morning, operators at Nine Mile Point had to manually shut down the Unit 2 reactor due to the loss of both reactor recirculation pumps. Whether the glitches had anything to do with another event from that day’s report is, of course, idle speculation.

6. Nine Mile Point reported that a non-licensed employee supervisor tested positive for alcohol in a for-cause fitness-for-duty test. As a result, the supervisor’s unescorted access to the plant was terminated. He was not fired, just required to have a babysitter. How far down the corporate ladder to you think someone has to be before he becomes the guy who has to be the disgraced supervisor’s sober companion, and how much real work do you think either of them gets accomplished in a day?

7. And the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia, which is in the middle of building two additional reactors at its facility, reported what it described as “a significant breakdown in the Quality Assurance (QA) Program of Chicago Bridge & Iron (CB&I) Lake Charles facility, a sub-supplier of CB&I. CB&I Lake Charles supplies safety-related structural sub-modules for the Vogtle 3 & 4 construction project.” And so, the Nuclear Renaissance marches on….


About Robert Singleton

By day, I work for a call center. In my spare time, I try to save my hometown (and planet) from a nearly constant onslaught of greedheads, lunatics and land developers. I live in a fictional town called Austin, Texas, where I go to way too many meetings.
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