Do you live near one of these 32 reactors? GE Hitachi still not sure they can be shut down safely after an earthquake

GE Hitachi (GEH) posted an update on the NRC website today: “GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) provided an update to its guidance and supporting evaluations that were reported in MFN 08-420 R0 on December 19, 2008 and MFN 10-245 R5 on February 7, 2011.”
Not a particularly informative update. It’s more like the spinning rainbow ball that tells you your computer is about to crash.
Five years, and GE Hitachi still doesn’t know if its boiling water reactors can safely shut down following either an Operating Basis Earthquake or a Safe Shutdown Earthquake.
While GEH takes another five years to study the problem, I’ll give you a summary of the situation, just in case you need to move.
In 2008, GEH informed the NRC:
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has identified that engineering evaluations … do not address the potential impact of a seismic event on the ability to scram as it relates to the channel-control blade interference issue.
The initial report also said: “The scram capability is expected to be affected due to the added seismic loads at low reactor pressures in the BWR/2-5 plants.”
GEH is currently the leading manufacturer of boiling water reactors, having provided the Unit 4 reactor to Fukushima Daiichi, which had been defueled prior to the March 2011 earthquake. However, a hydrogen explosion knocked out the cooling system to the spent fuel pool, causing the spent fuel to overheat and melt down. Units 1, 2 and 3 were also boiling water reactors of the same design, although built by General Electric and Toshiba.
The inital report by GEH listed 32 U.S. reactors that might not be able to be safely shut down during an earthquake:
   Nine Mile Point, Units 1 and 2, in New York state
   Fermi 2, in Michigan
   Columbia, in Washington state
   FitzPatrick, in New York state
   Pilgrim, in Massachusetts
   Vermont Yankee, in Vermont, obviously
   Grand Gulf, in Mississippi
   River Bend, in Louisiana
   Clinton, in Illinois
   Oyster Creek, in New Jersey
   Dresden, Units 2 and 3, in Illinois
   LaSalle, Units 1 and 2, in Illinois
   Limerick, Units 1 and 2, in Pennsylvania
   Peach Bottom, Units 2 and 3, in Pennsylvania
   Quad Cities, Units 1 and 2, in Illinois
   Perry, Unit 1, in Ohio
   Duane Arnold, in Iowa
   Cooper, in Nebraska
   Monticello, in Minnesota
   Brunswick, Units 1 and 2, in North Carolina
   Hope Creek, in New Jersey
   Hatch, Units 1 and 2, in Georgia
   Browns Ferry, Units 1 and 2, in Alabama
A September 2011 update added the following detail:
GEH has determined that when channel-control blade interference is present at reduced reactor pressure and at friction levels considered acceptable in MFN 08-420, a simultaneously occurring Safe Shutdown Earthquake (SSE) may result in control rod friction that inhibits the full insertion of the affected control rods during a reactor scram from these conditions.
Which is not good.
The September 2011 update concludes: “Based upon the evaluation, GEH has concluded that a Reportable Condition under 10CFR Part 21 exists for BWR/2-5 plants.”
Further deponent sayeth not, at least until the next update.

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.
This entry was posted in Browns Ferry, Brunswick, Clinton, Columbia, Cooper, Dresden, Duane Arnold, Event Reports, Fermi, FitzPatrick, Fukushima, Grand Gulf, Hatch, Hope Creek, LaSalle, Limerick, Monticello, Nine Mile Point, Oyster Creek, Peach Bottom, Perry, Pilgrim, Quad Cities, River Bend, Vermont Yankee and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s