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Tuesday - 1/3/2012, 11:53am ET Hank Silverberg, wtop.com
WASHINGTON -- A leak that forced the North Anna nuclear power plant in Central Virginia to temporarily shut down has been fixed.
A spokesman for the Nuclear Regulator Commission says a steam line, which leads to a valve that leads to a reactor turbine, sprung a leak Monday. The plant operated at about 4 percent capacity while repairs were made and started powering back up early Tuesday.
The NRC spokesman says there was no radiation leak.
I have suspected they've been having problems for years now.
Scares me to death really, but what can we do?
On April 12, 2003 with one of the two units at South Texas Project nuclear power station near Bay City, Texas shut down for routine refueling, an inspection of the bottom of a major safety component, the reactor pressure vessel, found cracking in two bottom-mounted instrumentation penetration nozzles.
The unanticipated cracking was discovered after small crystalline deposits of leaking reactor coolant were visually discovered around the penetration nozzles.
[color=Chartreuse]The “first-of-a-kind” cracking at South Texas is another in a series of mounting surprises that plague an aging nuclear power industry and its federal regulator.
In fact, the cracking in a relatively young South Texas reactor may indicate that the industry and its regulator are falling behind an event-driven curve of unanticipated and significant safety problems that are emerging faster than can be recognized and effectively managed.
According to local Virginia media station, WHSV, "The two North Anna reactors are among 27 in the eastern and central U.S. that may need upgrades because those plants are more likely to get hit with an earthquake larger than the one on which their design was based, according to a preliminary Nuclear Regulatory Commission review." The Nuclear Regulatory Commission extended the operating licenses of these plants for an additional 20 years back in 2003. Dominion has publicly stated that on-site, spent-nuclear-fuel long-term storage canistersshifted during the earthquake along with various building cracks, all while maintaining such damage does not representunsafe operatingconditions.As of December 20, 2011, both units at North Anna Power Station have restarted, and are operating at full power.
On April 12, 2003, during a visual examination of the instrument penetrations located at the reactor vessel lower head at South Texas Project Unit 1(STP-1), a small amount of white residue was discovered around the circumference of two instrument penetrations. Susbsequent analysis of this residue revealed the presence of boron and lithium, indicating that this residue had originated from the reactor coolant system. The licensee repaired the instrument penetrations and committed to implementing monitoring programs at STP-1. After reviewing the licensee’s activities, the NRC staff concluded that the licensee had taken all actions necessary to ensure a safe restart and operation of STP-1. The licensee has restarted STP-1.
The small amount of leakage from the cracks discovered at STP Unit 1 did not represent an immediate safety problem due to the size and orientation of the cracks. In addition, safety systems included in plant designs and required to be available during plant operation would be able to mitigate the effects of more significant leaks, including a gross rupture of an RPV lower head penetration. Although unlikely, a significant leak from an RPV lower head penetration could introduce operational and safety concerns since it would require operation of safety systems for an extended period and complicate longer term efforts to stabilize the plant. To maintain the overall defense-in-depth philosophy incorporated into the design and operation of nuclear power plants, licensees should take appropriate actions to ensure the integrity of the RPV lower head penetrations
In 2006, the following NUREG was developed which includes the responses from the licensees to the NRC Bulletin 2003-02. NUREG-1863, “Review Responses to NRC Bulletin 2003-02-Leakage from Reactor Pressure Vessel Lower Head Penetrations and Reactor Coolant Pressure Boundary Integrity.”
STP is unique in its design of the safety systems for the reactors. Each unit has three, rather than the customary two, fully independent emergency core-cooling systems (ECCS) and associated support systems.
STP also has achieved the lowest production cost (1.356 cents per kilowatt-hour) and the lowest fuel cost (0.399 cents per kilowatt-hour) among U.S. nuclear power plants. Since uranium costs less than coal, natural gas and oil, STP has achieved the lowest fuel cost of all power plants in the country.
STP has received more awards and honors than any nuclear power plants in the United States. In 2010, STP was the first nuclear facility to be named to the EHS list of America's Safest Companies. The plant is the only repeat winner of the industry’s highest commendation, the B. Ralph Sylvia Best of The Best Award, which STP has won three times. The company also has garnered seven annual Top Industry Practice awards. In addition, STP has received a Project of the Year Award for Best Nuclear Project worldwide, and has twice won the American Nuclear Society (ANS) Utility Achievement Award.
If you want to focus on something focus on bigger issues, like loss of off-site power and BWR mk-1 containment vessels.
I can see your point about the headline, the fact remains, however, that the possibilty of a similar loss of cooling accident could lead to a substantial release.