Monday, September 18, 2006

Reactors Not Exactly Panacea

Reactors Prone to Long Closings, Study Finds - New York Times:
The heart of the problem, Mr. Lochbaum said, is that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not good at assessing the ability of a reactor staff to keep the plant in good physical condition and maintain training and other requirements. As a result, he said, plants operate until serious problems accumulate and force a shutdown.

“This is the wrong way to do business, from a safety standpoint and an economic standpoint,” he said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Fertell, of the industry trade group, agreed.

The only reactor currently in an extended shutdown is the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry Unit 1, in Alabama. It last ran in 1985. The shutdown of more than a year that ended most recently was at Davis-Besse, near Toledo, Ohio, where workers found that an acid used in the plant, boron, had corroded a 70-pound chunk of steel in the reactor’s vessel head, leaving only a half-inch stainless steel liner.

Early in the era of commercial nuclear power, analysts theorized that shutdowns were what was known in the industry as “teething problems” and that with experience, reactors would run more smoothly. But most of the shutdowns came after the reactors were 10 years old. The Davis-Besse plant was more than 23 years old when it was closed in 2002. It was closed for more than two years. Besides the hole in the reactor head, engineers later found that crucial pumps that used water for lubrication were prone to break down because of debris in the water. Discovery of decades-old design problems is common during lengthy shutdowns.
It comes down to priorities, and this "govoration" doesn't have them in the proper order to achieve the efficiency and effectiveness we need. Down with the plutocracy!

1 comment:

James Aach said...

The UCS report is interesting, and there is also the argument that government oversite tends to mean layers and layers of government requirements, many (but not all) of which are paper-oriented vs. "let's go look for holes" oriented. (The law of diminishing returns, perhaps.) This hasn't changed in the 20 + years I've been in the business. If you'd like a perspective on the nuclear industry from an insider in an easily-digestible format (a novel) see my blog at It won't answer your concerns, but it's a perspective you don't hear very often.


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