SEARCH

Entries in Nuclear Regulatory Commission (3)

Tuesday
Aug302011

NRC Probes Nuclear Plant Near Virginia Earthquake

Scott Olson/Getty Images(LOUISA, Va.) -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sending more inspectors to a Virginia nuclear power plant to further review what -- if any -- damage last week's 5.8 magnitude earthquake may have caused.

The NRC is sending the inspectors to the North Anna station near Louisa, Va., about 40 miles northwest from plant operator's Dominion's Richmond headquarters. The plant is less than six miles from the Aug. 23 earthquake's epicenter in Mineral, Va.

The NRC stressed that the expanded investigation does not necessarily mean the plant is any less safe, but they have formed an Augmented Inspection Team to conduct the investigation.

According to the NRC, an AIT is formed by the NRC "to review more significant events or issues at NRC-licensed facilities." This is an additional investigation after the NRC initially sent a seismic expert and another structural expert, according to an NRC statement released Monday, to "assist the agency's resident inspectors on site."

The agency reported that "no significant damage to safety systems has been identified," but the plant's operator Dominion Power has reported to the NRC that "initial reviews determined the plant may have exceeded the ground motion for which it was designed."

The plant's two units were automatically shut down after the station lost offsite power following the earthquake, and emergency diesel generators were used to cool the reactors until offsite power was brought back. In the release, the NRC said the investigation will "determine the precise level of shaking that was experienced at key locations within the North Anna facility."

The NRC requires that the plant not re-start "until it can demonstrate that no functional damage occurred to those features needed for continued safe operation."

Members of the surrounding communities should not worry, and the plant remains in "cold shutdown," Roger Hannah, senior public affairs officer at the NRC, told ABC News.

"Based on all the information so far there doesn't appear to be any damage to major safety systems or systems that would prevent a radiological release," Hannah said. "What they are continuing to do is look at how severe the earthquake was and if it exceeded what the plant was designed for."

Hannah said that Dominion and NRC workers checked the safety of the plant "immediately after the earthquake" doing "a very careful walk down" where they found "no indication that any of the safety systems were damaged." A "walk down" is what members of the industry call the initial inspections.

Hannah added that the NRC will be doing further analyses to see if the plant can withstand a larger quake than the range it now can currently withstand.

Jim Norvelle, a spokesman for Dominion Power, explained that the range is roughly between a 5.9 to a 6. 2 on the Richter scale, but they actually measure earthquake damage via ground force acceleration, which measures the intensity of an earthquake at a specific geological location and it measures east, west, north, sound and vertical while a Richter scale measures the magnitude of an earthquake at the epicenter.

Norvelle told ABC News that the part of the nuclear plant that is built on rock is designed to withstand 0.12 g or about 5.9 on the Richter scale and the portion of the station built on soil can withstand 0.18 g or about 6.2 on the Richter scale. Norvelle added that there is always a "safety margin" in play that goes above those numbers.

Norvelle agreed with the NRC that there has been "no significant damage" from the earthquake including to any of the station's "pumps, valves, pipes, support structure, or safety equipment."

Norvelle said Dominion is "fully cooperating" with the NRC and the NRC's team will be onsite for one week and then will return for a second week, after which a public exit meeting will be held to tell the community about what inspectors found in their investigation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

Regulators Call for Further Investigation at Earthquake-Affected Plant in Virginia

Scott Olson/Getty Images(LOUISA, Va.) -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sending more inspectors to a Virginia nuclear power plant to further review what damage that last week's earthquake may have caused.

The NRC is sending the inspectors to the North Anna station near Louisa, Va., about 40 miles northwest from plant operator Dominion's Richmond headquarters. The plant is less than six miles from the Aug. 23 earthquake's epicenter in Mineral, Va.

The NRC stressed that the expanded investigation does not necessarily mean the plant is any less safe, but they have formed an Augmented Inspection Team to conduct the investigation.

According to the NRC, an AIT is formed by the NRC "to review more significant events or issues at NRC-licensed facilities." This is an additional investigation after the NRC initially sent a seismic expert and another structural expert, according to an NRC statement released Monday, to "assist the agency's resident inspectors on site."

The agency reported that "no significant damage to safety systems has been identified," but the plant's operator, Dominion Power, has reported to the NRC that "initial reviews determined the plant may have exceeded the ground motion for which it was designed."

The plant's two units were automatically shut down after the station lost offsite power following the earthquake and emergency diesel generators were used to cool the reactors until offsite power was brought back. In the release, the NRC said the investigation will "determine the precise level of shaking that was experienced at key locations within the North Anna facility."

The NRC requires that the plant not restart "until it can demonstrate that no functional damage occurred to those features needed for continued safe operation."

Members of the surrounding communities should not worry and the plant remains in "cold shutdown," Roger Hannah, senior public affairs officer at the NRC, told ABC News.

Hannah said that Dominion and NRC workers checked the safety of the plant "immediately after the earthquake" doing "a very careful walk down" where they found "no indication that any of the safety systems were damaged." A "walk down" is what members of the industry call the initial inspections.

Hannah added that the NRC will be doing further analyses to see if the plant can withstand a larger quake than the range it now can currently withstand.

Jim Norvelle, a spokesman for Dominion Power, explained that the range is roughly between a 5.9 to a 6.2 on the Richter scale, but they actually measure earthquake damage via ground force acceleration, which measures the intensity of an earthquake at a specific geological location and measures east, west, north, sound and vertical, while a Richter scale measures the magnitude of an earthquake at the epicenter.

Norvelle told ABC News that the part of the nuclear plant that is built on rock is designed to withstand 0.12 g, or about 5.9 on the Richter scale, and the portion of the station built on soil can withstand 0.18 g, or about 6.2 on the Richter scale. Norvelle added that there is always a "safety margin" in play that goes above those numbers.

Norvelle agreed with the NRC that there has been "no significant damage" from the earthquake, including to any of the station's "pumps, valves, pipes, support structure, or safety equipment."

"What we have found is some thermal insulation shook off pipes. Some equipment on the electric transformers needed to be replaces. We have seen cracking in a wall of a commercial grade building, an office building adjacent to the power station," Norvelle explained. The office building is not built to the same standards as the nuclear plant.

Norvelle said Dominion is "fully cooperating" with the NRC and the NRC's team will be onsite for one week and then will return for a second week, after which a public exit meeting will be held to tell the community about what they found in their investigation. Norvelle said members of the community are welcome to come with questions and concerns.

Dominion told ABC News they will thoroughly evaluate the results of the investigation before reopening the plant.

"We all want to demonstrate to the NRC this power station is safe to operate and we have to do that before we think about restarting the units," Norvelle said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

Records Show 56 Violations at U.S. Power Plants in Past Four Years

Mario Tama/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Among the litany of violations at U.S. nuclear power plants are missing or mishandled nuclear material, inadequate emergency plans, faulty backup power generators, corroded cooling pipes and even marijuana use inside a nuclear plant, according to an ABC News review of four years of Nuclear Regulatory Commission safety records.

And perhaps most troubling of all, critics say, the commission has failed to correct the violations in a timely fashion.

"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has very good safety regulations but they have very bad enforcement of those regulations," said David Lochbaum, a nuclear scientist with the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists.

There are 104 U.S. nuclear power plants.

Lochbaum and the Union of Concerned Scientists found 14 "near misses" at nuclear plants in 2010. And there were 56 serious violations at nuclear power plants from 2007 to 2011, according to the ABC News review of NRC records.

At the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Illinois, for instance, which is located within 50 miles of the seven million people who live in and around Chicago, nuclear material went missing in 2007. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission fined the operator -- Exelon Corp. -- after discovering the facility had failed to "keep complete records showing the inventory [and] disposal of all special nuclear material in its possession."

As a result, two fuel pellets and equipment with nuclear material could not be accounted for.

Two years later, federal regulators cited Dresden for allowing unlicensed operators to work with radioactive control rods. The workers allowed three control rods to be moved out of the core. When alarms went off, workers initially ignored them.

"This event is disturbing," Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists said. "In August 1997, the NRC issued information...about a reactivity mismanagement problem at Exelon's Zion nuclear plant," which was retired the following year.

"It was an epoch event in the industry in that other plants owners noted it and took steps to address [the issue]. Yet, a decade later, Exelon's Dresden plant experiences an eerily similar repetition of the control-room operator problems."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio