Monday, May 23, 2011

NRC signals problems with reactor design

Anti-nuclear forces are gloating over problems with the reactor design that is planned for use in the nation's first wave of new nuclear plants in a generation. Duke Energy and Progress Energy both planned to use the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor.

With Fukushima vivid in the world's consciousness, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission appears in no hurry to sign off on a reactor design that's designed to save money.

In a brief statement Friday, NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko said additional technical issues have delayed approval of the AP1000.

The unresolved questions have to do with the strength of the reactor's concrete protective husk, called the shield building, which would also support a cooling water storage tank. Jaczko said there are also issues with calculating peak pressures within the inner steel shell, called containment, during an accident.

"The agency has made it clear to Westinghouse that it must prove to our satisfaction that the company has appropriately and completely documented the adequacy of the design," the statement said.

An NRC structural engineer has formally challenged the strength of materials to be used in the shield building. Experts hired by Friends of the Earth have challenged the strength of the AP1000's containment, among other issues.

“The fact that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which often operates as an industry lap dog, is voicing concerns is a sign of just how serious these design flaws are,” said Tom Clements, a Friends activist in Columbia.

Westinghouse, which has built reactors around the world, touts the AP1000 as the safest and cheapest available because of a simplified design that cuts construction time and operating expenses. It's designed to safely cool a reactor during an accident even if no electric power is available.

Westinghouse said it will work with the NRC on the outstanding issues, which the company asserted include none of safety significance. Westinghouse called the AP100 "one of the most studied, reviewed and analyzed" designs in the history of the nuclear power industry.


Anonymous said...

I am all for safety but we have too many groups against everything, drilling for oil, nuclear power, eating animals for food, on and on it goes. I'd like to see how these people live in their homes, what they drive? I know Hollywood is loaded with hypocrites and I suspect members of all these anti groups are too. A good example is Al Gore calling for using less energy when he was using more than anyone else in his HUGE home.

But hopefully they will get the kinks out and move on with construction but I'm sure the anti people will come up with something else. They have vivid imaginations and they do not mind stepping away from truth to get what they want.

Anonymous said...

Two huge concerns for and nuclear waste disposal. Unless and until those issues are satisfactorily address, I can't support moving forward with new plants. This country seemingly has plentiful reserves of non-renewable energy sources such as natural gas and coal, and renewable energy like solar and wind. We'll probably end up with a combination, I would just prefer less percentage of nuclear.