Skip to comments.AP IMPACT: NRC and industry rewrite nuke history
Posted on 06/28/2011 6:40:13 AM PDT by RS_Rider
ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) When commercial nuclear power was getting its start in the 1960s and 1970s, industry and regulators stated unequivocally that reactors were designed only to operate for 40 years. Now they tell another story insisting that the units were built with no inherent life span, and can run for up to a century, an Associated Press investigation shows.
By rewriting history, plant owners are making it easier to extend the lives of dozens of reactors in a relicensing process that resembles nothing more than an elaborate rubber stamp.
As part of a yearlong investigation of aging issues at the nation's nuclear power plants, the AP found that the relicensing process often lacks fully independent safety reviews. Records show that paperwork of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission sometimes matches word-for-word the language used in a plant operator's application.
Also, the relicensing process relies heavily on such paperwork, with very little onsite inspection and verification.
And under relicensing rules, tighter standards are not required to compensate for decades of wear and tear.
So far, 66 of 104 reactors have been granted license renewals. Most of the 20-year extensions have been granted with scant public attention. And the NRC has yet to reject a single application to extend an original license. The process has been so routine that many in the industry are already planning for additional license extensions, which could push the plants to operate for 80 years, and then 100.
(Excerpt) Read more at beta.news.yahoo.com ...
Most buildings have a useful life of 40 years but many buildings are older than 40 years. Why? Maintenance, repair and replacement.
Where is it? I want my pie!
The greatest limitation on a plants life is the reactor vessel itself, which becomes embrittled due to neutron exposure.
This exposure, over time causes that thick piece of metal to become less ductile and more hard or brittle. This is most important during temperature changes with cooldown being the most limiting.
So, a vessel is designed to have a useful lifespan based on the amount of time it is exposed to that high neutron flux. A plant is able to show, by run time and power levels, what the exposure has been for their vessel and IF it is till within that lifespan, it can request license extension.
Additionally, some palnts even run small metal samples that are analyzed to mimic the condition of the vessel, with an eye toward demonstrating the conditions that can lead to license extension.
As noted there are also other upgrades that would be required over time. Most plants upgrade in an almost continual basis.
There is nothing underhanded in this process.
Thanks for the intelligent response.
My concern about the article is that is minimizes the hardware portion of the re licensing process. I worked at Westinghouse for several years on reactor upgrade projects. In order for the WE plants to get a 20 year extension they had to replace the whole portion of the reactor from the head flange upwards. Lots of new equipment and engineering involved, hardly a rubber stamp.
“I want my pie!”
Pie? I want that friggin flying car I was promised by the year 2000. And while we are at it, I want it equipped with friggin lazers....