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Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant  (Source: svsnowgoose.com)
A valve on its residual heat removal system was stuck shut, which prompted in-depth inspections by the NRC

Nuclear power has received a lot of criticism lately due to the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that rocked Japan on March 11. U.S. Senators urged the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to repeat the inspection of nuclear power in the United States after it was already deemed safe, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for a global nuclear review after visiting Japan.

Despite all of these negative reviews, there are also many advocates who see the benefits of cheap, clean and reliable nuclear power as an alternative energy source. U.S. President Barack Obama even embraced nuclear energy in last year's State of the Union address

No matter which side you're on, many can agree that safety comes first, and now, federal regulators are concerned about the safety of an Alabama nuclear plant after its emergency cooling system failed. 

The Browns Ferry nuclear power plant is located near Athens, Alabama and is run by the Tennessee Valley Authority. A valve on its residual heat removal system was stuck shut, which prompted in-depth inspections by the NRC.  

According to reports, there have been previous problems with the valve. Originally, the valve failed sometime after March 2009, but wasn't identified until October 2010 when the plant was being refueled. The valve was fixed at that time, and was labeled as a manufacturer's defect. Despite the plant's effort to fix the valve and inspect all others like it, the NRC criticized the plant for not finding the valve issue sooner through routine inspections.

"The valve was repaired prior to returning the unit to service and Browns Ferry continued to operate safely," said Victor McCree, the NRC's Region ll administrator. "However, significant problems involving key safety systems warrant more extensive NRC inspection and oversight." 

Had there been an emergency, the NRC worries that the faulty valve could have prevented the emergency cooling systems from working correctly. For this reason, the NRC will continue to review the safety culture, organization and performance of the plant. 

"The results of this inspection will aid the NRC in deciding whether additional regulatory actions are necessary to assure public health and safety," said McCree.  

For the time being, the NRC has issued a red finding against the Brown Ferry nuclear plant, which is the most severe ranking given to a plant for inspection. Only five red findings have been issued in the U.S. in the past decade. It is unknown whether the Tennessee Valley Authority will appeal the finding from the NRC at this time.



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RE: oh please...
By B-Unit on 5/12/2011 4:09:17 PM , Rating: 2
Your right, we dont know when it actually broke. BUT we do know that noone bothered to check on it between March 09 and October 2010. Plenty of cause for concern, wouldn't you say?


RE: oh please...
By ebakke on 5/12/2011 5:57:30 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Plenty of cause for concern, wouldn't you say?

I wouldn't say ... yet. Without knowing the maintenance schedule of that valve it seems foolish to claim any length of time is acceptable or not.


RE: oh please...
By Solandri on 5/12/2011 9:02:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
BUT we do know that noone bothered to check on it between March 09 and October 2010. Plenty of cause for concern, wouldn't you say?

Reactors normally run about 18 months between refueling. Mar '09 to Oct '10 is 19 months. So this sounds like the regular interval between scheduled refuelings and maintenance checks.

It's difficult to say without knowing exactly where the valve was, but it's impractical or exceedingly dangerous to test certain sections of the cooling system (emergency or otherwise) while the reactor is in operation. You're better off building in multiple redundant systems, so it's highly unlikely that any one will fail. Then test them all during refueling. (Chernobyl happened because they conducted a live test of a new cooling system on an active reactor.)


RE: oh please...
By Solandri on 5/12/2011 9:04:08 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
so it's highly unlikely that any one will fail

Obviously that should be "highly unlikely that all will fail". Serves me right for visiting the bathroom before hitting post. =p


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