The Nuclear Regulatory Commission delivered a lump of coal to two anti-nuclear energy groups last week by rejecting a petition the groups filed in May.
The petition from Heart of America Northwest and Physicians for Social Responsibility sought to prevent Columbia Generating Station from re-starting following its spring refueling outage because of a “crack indication” in a weld on one of its jet pump risers.
The groups said the indication should be repaired (not necessary); the NRC should take into account seismic information post-Fukushima (already doing so); and that the indication would (somehow) prevent the core from being cooled if there were some seismic event (not true).
We are talking about an indication that is an inch and a quarter in length that doesn’t affect Columbia’s operation.
Some history from our earlier post:
In April, Energy Northwest sent a (courtesy) letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission informing them of our assessment of potential crack growth rates on a single indication (the one in the photo above). The industry normally applies the same standard growth rate to both ends of a crack. The letter simply explains to the NRC that we are applying a slightly lower crack growth rate to one end of the potential crack and provided sound engineering support, including: the material condition at the potential crack tip; mitigation of cracking through effective hydrogen water chemistry; and, industry and plant experience which shows low crack growth rates for similar indications.
In fact this letter is similar to the 2011 letter to the NRC on the same issue.
Additionally, in 2005 we proactively installed slip joint clamps since these are designed to limit vibration and fatigue stresses.
The anti-nuclear groups stumbled on the publicly available courtesy letter and away they went…
What the NRC Found
On May 27, the NRC’s petition review board denied the HOANW/PSR request for immediate action because their “petition did not provide new information demonstrating an immediate safety concern to the plant or to the health and safety of the public.” The NRC letter went on to say Energy Northwest used a more robust standard from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Code in the evaluation of the weld with the flaw and that EN is monitoring the indication and will re-inspect it during the 2017 refueling outage.
Not good enough for HOANW/PSR. They wanted a teleconference.
During the call, two more issues were raised: the groups wanted access to proprietary information from an EN vendor so it could be reviewed by other anti-nuclear energy groups; and that the NRC “Consider the location of this plant and the fact that it sits in the middle of the Hanford Reservation.”
In August, the NRC rejected these points as well.
The NRC Letter sent to the groups last week provides an education on nuclear reactor core cooling and puts a cork in the anti-nuclear hyperbole.
Highlights of what the NRC wrote:
“The jet pumps are designed and built to withstand a seismic event.”
“…Licensees (Energy Northwest) have demonstrated seismic margins supportive of continued plant operation while additional risk evaluations are conducted.”
“The NRC staff further emphasized in a June 4, 2015, public meeting that ‘the staff notes that Columbia continues to operate safely including consideration of new seismic hazard information.’”
“…jet pump failure has no impact on the structural integrity of the reactor coolant pressure boundary. Therefore, jet pump failure will not cause the reactor to depressurize and result in loss of coolant.”
The issue raised about the location of Columbia Generating Station “in the middle of the Hanford Reservation” is telling. As the NRC wrote in rejecting this part: “…fails to provide sufficient facts to support the petition…” There’s defense nuclear waste at Hanford and Columbia has spent nuclear fuel so… what? The NRC knows we have spent nuclear fuel on site. They regulate its existence.
Beyond that, a quick Google search would find Columbia not even located “in the middle” of the Hanford Site. It’s sloppy stuff. Shouldn’t one’s raison d’etre demand a little more precision and rigor? (We lease the land from the Department of Energy, to which the NRC sent the anti-nuclear groups for any issues they have with Hanford).
Just the Facts. Well…
Facts, as the saying goes, are stubborn things. Which is probably why this entire petition filed by Heart of America Northwest and Physicians for Social Responsibility contained very few of them. But if the purpose was to waste the time and money of two organizations, mission accomplished.
That’s what happens when one is driven by ideology alone – facts don’t matter, and responsibility is the worry of the other guy.
The anti-nuclear energy activists have been wrong about Columbia Generating Station for 31 years. Who else gets to be wrong that much and still have anyone pay attention to them? More than 221,000,000 megawatt-hours of carbon-free generation later, the men and women of Energy Northwest continue fulfilling the promise, working safely and effectively to provide electricity to homes and businesses throughout the Northwest.
We think that’s something to be proud of.
(Posted by John Dobken)