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.