Heart of America Northwest, PSR Petition Rejected by NRC

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.

Jet Pump Indication edit

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).

Hanford Map

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 221mil-lifetime-generationGenerating 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)

10 thoughts on “Heart of America Northwest, PSR Petition Rejected by NRC

  1. Indeed, that would stop a lot of the frivolity. Right now, this type of frivolous harassment is their bread and butter, and brings them lot of donations from uninformed anti-nuclear people who believe them without checking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Intervenors game the system like this all the time. They know the NRC has to respond to their spurious “petitions”, even though a lot of the time all they end up being is a rehash of previously-rejected “arguments”. But they know the agency has to, by law, recover over 90% of its operating budget by fees collected from licensees, so it is a back-door way of making anything nuclear-licensed more expensive. Yet another “unintended consequence” (or maybe not) of the licensing fees law.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. HOANW has been a recipient of “Education” grants from WA Dept of Ecology who received “Hanford Education” money from DOE. HOANW Executive Director is a Wa State legislator. In his testimony, he preached that a seismic event at Hanford would cause a waste spill which in-turn would cause an EN meltdown. The greatest risk assessment of this event would be “laughing to death.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Left out of the discussion, which those in the public who maintain an open mind might accept, is the location of the Jet Pump and how many there are!! It is INSIDE the reactor vessel, outside of the reactor core. This is one of several Jet Pumps that control flow through the core to vary the power generated. If this pump “failed” due to this “indication” what would be the result? Worst case: a slight decrease in water flow through the reactor core when the plant is operating to produce power. This would probably show up in the measurements of the many power instruments throughout the core. The measurements might make it necessary to reduce reactor power a few percent yo reduce “hot spots” in the fuel.
    “Failure’ of this jet pump would have no effect on the water flow for emergency cooling.


  4. This is an interesting blog post. Yes, the NRC dismissed their petition. Why all the hyperbole from Energy Northwest? It makes the organization look small, and ideological, which seems to be the chief complaint about the antinuclear groups.

    This is America. You have a right to be antinuclear, and file petitions, and be wrong.

    Ever consider demonstrating a little respect for people who disagree with you, if only for their diligence? You share a pretty important value: safety.

    Projection of a more generous spirit would be a far better path for Energy Northwest. This type of chest thumping makes Energy Northwest look pretty petty. Your organization and your people are better than that. Lots better.

    And what’s with all the hairsplitting about where the plant is located? It’s obviously on the Hanford site. Yes, it is a few miles away from the waste tanks and ditches, but still at Hanford, which is the home of lots of different interesting and great things, not just nuclear waste.

    Your focus on this topic makes it appear that Energy Northwest does not want to be associated with the word: Hanford. Or the place. Or the people.

    Energy Northwest is manifestly associated with Hanford, physically, as a community, culturally, historically and professionally – it’s one big talented high technology community.

    Hanford is something Energy Northwest should be proud of. The strength of the Hanford community is integral to your past and vital to your future.

    Your map reveals that your nuclear plant is “close to” the middle of the Hanford site and part of Hanford. That’s a fact for Energy Northwest, in more ways than location. Embrace it.


    • Thanks for commenting.

      No hyperbole. The petition was filed based on erroneous assumptions and lack of knowledge about how nuclear reactors work, or their working parts.

      That could have been explained via a phone call. Instead, it was a media stunt.

      As you probably know, news outlets will cover the filing of the petition but not the final rejection of it.

      The Hanford distinction is important because people equate the used nuclear fuel produced by commercial reactors with the defense waste buried on the Hanford Site. They are not the same and it is important to point that out. For an anti-nuclear activist it is important to continue to confuse people about this, but we won’t play along.

      The location is important because, again, the anti-nuclear activists posit that because we are “so close” to the Hanford tank farms and what not that in a seismic event bad things will come of it. Well, we aren’t that close. The NRC understands this.

      Your assumption of the organization’s feelings toward the Hanford community is “a bridge too far” as it were. We have great respect for the professionals, past and present, who are doing great work with the clean-up. To assume otherwise would be a mistake.

      Please subscribe to the blog and perhaps when we have to “correct the record” in the future you can join us in clarifying fact from fiction.


  5. Pingback: 294th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers | Hiroshima Syndrome

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