2 reactors shut after fire, leak

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Both reactors at Arkansas Nuclear One near Russellville were shut down nearly 30 hours this weekend after unrelated problems involving a fire in a turbine building for Unit 1 and a steam leak in a turbine line that serves Unit 2.

Neither occurrence caused extensive damage – and none to the reactors, plant spokesman Phil Fisher said Monday. Plant workers were unharmed, and neither event threatened public safety, he said.

However, they marked the third such occurrence in three days at the plant and the fourth within a month for a facility that supplies about one-fourth of Arkansas’ electricity, according to the Energy Information Administration.



Reactor’s leak keeps it closed

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LUCAS HEIGHTS engineers are ready to test their second attempt at fixing a water leak that has plagued Australia’s $400 million nuclear research reactor since it was officially opened last year.

But a spokesman for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Andrew Humpherson, warned yesterday that the latest repair effort was being considered only as “an option”.

“We are cautious not to say this is the solution,” Mr Humpherson said. It was the responsibility of the reactor’s Argentinian designer, INVAP, to resolve the problem.


Davis-Besse leak no hazard, officials say

Davis-Besse leak no hazard, officials say

By JASON SINGER | Saturday, October 25, 2008 6:41 AM EDT


(AP Photo/FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, file) The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station is shown in a company photo, date unknown. A leak from a drainpipe involving tritium, the radioactive form of hydrogen, is not a hazard to public health, FirtEnergy and Ottawa County officials said Friday.

Deanna Brown watched the gray vapor billowing from the cooling tower at FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear plant.

Even as orange rays from the setting sun poked through dark rain clouds for the first time all afternoon, Brown said the plant “was uglying the neighborhood. Poisoning it.”

The mother of two, who lives less than two miles from the plant in Carroll Township, had just learned a leak was discovered at the facility for the second time in six years.

“It just looks ominous,” she said. “It’s hard to know — even if they say (the leak) isn’t dangerous — if they’re telling truth. How do we know? No one knows how dangerous nuclear material is.”

On Wednesday, FirstEnergy personnel discovered a leak in a drainage pipe at 4 p.m.

The leak contained tritium, a normal byproduct of nuclear reactors, though it can cause cancer with significant exposure.


But the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and company officials both said the leak hadn’t migrated off the site, and neither the public nor the public’s drinking water were threatened.

Jim Greer, director of Ottawa County’s Emergency Management Agency, said FirstEnergy ran extensive tests and confirmed no one was in harm’s way.

“They have a number of monitoring wells on site to measure the contamination,” Greer said. “It was a reportable level, but not an alarming level, and it hadn’t migrated off the property.”

The Davis-Besse nuclear plant was the site of the worst corrosion ever found at a U.S. reactor when inspectors in 2001 discovered an acid leak. The plant closed for two years and underwent $600 million in repairs.

Two company employees were convicted of concealing the leak from the government.

But James Sass, an Ottawa County commissioner, said this leak “wasn’t an issue.”

“We were told there’s a natural amount of tritium actually found in soil,” he said. “(First Energy) is always good and prompt and informs us quickly whenever there’s a problem. I don’t think there’s any reason to fear.”

Many of the residents in the area weren’t even aware of the leak. Sass said commissioners “didn’t see any point in sounding the alarm.”

But those who did know were not comforted by officials’ reassurances.

“It’s just wrong,” said Julia Mitts, who lives about a mile from the plant. “Kids play around here all the time. In my opinion, it’s more dangerous than (officials) even know.”

Officials didn’t know how long the 3-inch pipe had been leaking or how much got into the ground, FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Schneider said.

According to Schneider, the pipeline leads to a retention pond where water is stored and does not go outside the plant property.

FirstEnergy, an Akron-based company, paid a record $28 million in fines a year ago.

Brown said she didn’t trust anyone associated with the plant.

“They’ve had problems before,” she said. “When you’re dealing with something as dangerous as nuclear energy, you should only get one strike.”


Nuke plant leak leads to indefinite shutdown of Miami reactor

Nuke plant leak leads to indefinite shutdown of Miami reactor

Turkey_point One of the two nuclear reactors at Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point plant near Miami has been taken off-line because of a leak, according to the Miami Herald.

Roger Hannah, spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the problem was caused by a small leak in a pipe. The shutdown started on Friday afternoon and was completed on Sunday after several discussions between NRC staff and FPL, the Herald reports.

FPL spokesman Tom Veenstra said there was never any danger to the public. The event report filed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the shut-down was ”required by technical specifications” after a leak developed from a “structural weld crack. . . . The cause of the crack is being evaluated.”

Fueling Station readers may recall Turkey Point made news earlier this year when the NRC hit FPL with a $130,000 fine because security guards had been caught catnapping, and when the state Public Service Commission gave FPL permission to build additional nuclear plants at Turkey Point.

[Turkey Point photo courtesy FPL]

Craig Pittman

Leak ruled out in probe of Hanford’s underground tank waste

Leak ruled out in probe of Hanford’s underground tank waste

By Annette Cary, Herald staff writer

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A leak has been ruled out as the cause for a drop in the level of liquid inside one of Hanford’s huge underground waste tanks holding high-level radioactive waste.

That’s been the good news at the Hanford tank farms this summer, as an equipment malfunction has suspended work at the only tank where radioactive waste was being retrieved. Waste from 142 older, leak-prone, single-shell tanks is being transferred to 28 newer double-shell tanks.

The Department of Energy and its contractor CH2M Hill Hanford Group had feared that a leak was responsible for a sudden drop in the liquid level earlier this year in a single-shell tank believed to have leaked radioactive waste into the soil beneath it in the past.

In May, Hanford workers saw a drop of about 1.7 inches in Tank SX-104.

But a leak was the worst-case scenario, with several other possibilities also considered for the fluctuation of the liquid level in the tank.

“Every 10 years (the tank) seems to sort of shove itself into the spotlight,” said Steve Pfaff, the DOE federal project director for tank retrieval.

In 1988, the tank was declared an “assumed leaker” when its waste level dropped, although a leak never was detected. In 1998 level fluctuations again were detected, and that time responses to changes in barometric pressure were blamed.

But by 2008 all the pumpable liquid had been removed, leaving just liquid oozing among solids too deep in the waste to likely respond to barometric pressure.

Instead, the fluctuating level of liquid has been linked to the installation of a vertical pipe inside the tank in December. It’s being used as a new observation well to measure the level of liquid among the tank’s solids.

A water lance sprayed about 200 gallons of water into the tank to dissolve or wash away solids in the tank and drill a hole down to its bottom to install the well.

The new liquid earlier appeared to have settled among the solids in the tank to bring the liquid level to about 91 inches, although it’s difficult to measure in the enclosed tank.

Now engineers believe that the liquid had remained high above difficult-to-penetrate solids in one area of the tank and the liquid in the rest of the tank was at about 73 inches. It appears that the drop in the liquid level observed this year was the water slowly leveling out as liquid finally dispersed through the solids.

“The true level does not appear to have changed,” Pfaff said.

New contamination was not detected with dry wells that surround the exterior of the tank. However, any tank waste that leaks is likely to gel once it cools outside the tank rather than seeping through the soil to the monitoring wells.

The Washington Department of Ecology has agreed with DOE’s assessment of the tank.

But results of the investigation still must be presented to representatives of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, DOE said at a Tuesday committee meeting of the Hanford Advisory Board.

The board also heard an update on progress on emptying single shell tanks after retrieval of waste was stopped for 10 months after a spill of waste at Tank S-102.

The tank picked for the restart of retrieval was Tank C-109, but CH2M Hill Hanford Group ran into a mechanical problem before retrieval began. One of the two tracks that roll the robot across the waste came off a couple of days after the robot began working to position the waste to be pumped out of the tank.

The robot, which cost about $500,000, was not intended to be removed from the tank after it was contaminated with radioactive waste, limiting options for repairs.

CH2M Hill opted to continue running the robot with a single track. But the extra stress on one side of the operating equipment apparently caused a hydraulic oil leak of about 15 to 20 gallons inside the tank.

Work was stopped because of the mechanical problems and problems removing the waste from the tank.

The robot was breaking up solids with high-pressure liquid sprays and using its blade to push the waste toward the pump at the center of the tank.

But the waste particles still were so large that they could not be pumped out, said Herb Berman, a CH2M Hill vice president and chief engineer.

DOE considers the robot still to be a potentially viable tool, said Ron Frink, the DOE facility representative for the tank farms. With more operating time, it might have performed better, he said.

“We’re really disappointed it has failed prematurely,” he said.

What to do next will be up to the incoming tank farm contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions, which takes over Oct. 1.

It may decide to try pulling the contaminated robot out of the tank to repair it or it could try a new technology.

This is the second technology used to empty the tank after modified sluicing failed to empty more than 88 percent of the waste in the tank. Modified sluicing uses liquid sprayed from the top of the tank to move waste toward a pump.

CH2M Hill is preparing to begin retrieving waste from Tank C-110, expecting modified sluicing to work on its waste. Pumping should begin before Oct. 1, and then the new contractor will take over.

By Annette Cary, Herald staff writer

Radiation leak is unacceptable

Radiation leak is unacceptable

Eight years ago I sent a letter to this column about Indian Point 2. At that time Consolidated Edison owned the plant, and there was a “small” leak of radioactive water for at least six months before the public was made aware. A crack in a steam generator caused radioactive water to leak at a rate of 75-90 gallons per minute.

In 2006, under a new owner, Entergy, radioactive strontium 90 and tritium were found in monitoring wells at the plant at levels well above what was/is allowed. Indian Point was the only plant in the nation leaking strontium 90, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Fast forward (again) to today. According to the front-page article in Wednesday’s paper, trace amounts of strontium 90 have been found in monitoring wells outside Indian Point’s property for the second time in less than a year. Now it is being blamed (possibly) on testing during the Cold War. As always, we are told there is no threat to public safety. But it does involve off-site water. Any radiation leak is unacceptable, and any radiation leak (no matter how small) is a threat to our safety.

Florence Cerbone