Climate change brings threat of sea level rise to nuclear power facilities
25 November, 2014
New nuclear plants in most countries are located in coastal regions so that these water-guzzling facilities can largely draw on seawater for their operations and not bring freshwater resources under strain.
But coastal areas are often not only heavily populated but also constitute prime real estate. Moreover, the projected greater frequency of natural disasters like storms, hurricanes, and tsunamis due to climate change, along with the rise of ocean levels, makes seaside reactors particularly vulnerable.
The risks that seaside reactors face from global-warming-induced natural disasters became evident more than six years before Fukushima, when the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami inundated the Madras Atomic Power Station. But the reactor core could be kept in a safe shutdown mode because the electrical systems had been installed on higher ground than the plant level.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew caused significant damage at the Turkey Point nuclear power plant in Florida, but fortunately not to any critical system. And in a 2012 incident, an alert was declared at the New Jersey Oyster Creek nuclear power plant — the oldest operating commercial reactor in the U.S. — after water rose in its water intake structure during Hurricane Sandy, potentially affecting the pumps that circulate cooling water through the plant.
All of Britain’s nuclear power plants are located along the coast, and a government assessment has identified as many as 12 of the country’s 19 civil nuclear sites as being at risk due to rising sea levels. Several nuclear plants in Britain, as in a number of other countries, are just a few meters above sea level……
Belgian nuclear crisis continues with fire at Tihange
3 December, 2014
75% US Nuclear Plants Leaking Toxic Tritium Radiation Into Drinking Water Supply
Seismic Faults Pose Risk to
California Nuclear Power
A former California senator has stated that the multiple faults around the seaside Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant are more serious than it had been previously estimated and scale up a risk of nuclear disaster.
3 December, 2014
WASHINGTON, December 3 (Sputnik) – Multiple fault lines pose a risk to the safety of the seaside Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California, as they could be more powerful than previously estimated, a former state senator told a Senate hearing on Wednesday.
The US nuclear power plant fleet will be compliant with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) new safety requirements by 2016, based on the lessons, learned from the Japanese Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011.
"The faults surrounding Diablo [Canyon] are now understood to be larger and more connected than previously believed," Sam Blakeslee, who is also the former California Seismic Safety Commissioner, said before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
In his testimony, the geophysicist and former California state senator said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has relaxed seismic standards and regulation, while utility company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has downplayed the threat, posed by earthquakes.
Since the completion of Diablo Canyon in 1973, six fault lines have been discovered in the vicinity of the nuclear power plant. Most recently the Shoreline Fault located within 600 meters of the plant was discovered in 2008.
The safety of nuclear power plants came under renewed focus following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. That combined earthquake and tsunami disaster compelled the US to review nuclear safety.
The NRC and PG&E claim the safety standards of the plant can withstand any possible earthquake scenarios.
Experts Concern About California’s Only Nuclear Plant Safety After Powerful Earthquake
However, Blakeslee explained in a detailed presentation how PG&E has used suspect geological methodologies and issued "major revisions literally with each newly issued report" that states the plant is up to earthquake safety standards.
"These facts raise significant regulatory issues that need to be addressed at the highest levels of the NRC," Blakeslee said. "In this instance we see a nuclear power plant that is found to be exposed marked greater seismic threats than ever envisioned during the licensing process."
Blakeslee stressed that "the regulatory determination of safety should not hang tenuously upon the results of an ongoing science experiment."
In a statement to the Senate committee members, Daniel Hirsch, a lecturer on nuclear policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz, argued the Fukushima disaster was caused by two problems. One was Japan, allowing a nuclear plant to be designed and licensed to withstand an earthquake and tsunami smaller than occurred, and the second a cozy relationship between the nuclear utility and regulator.
The lessons of Fukushima have not been learned in the United States, Hirsh suggested, adding that "these problems plague the American nuclear regulatory system as well".
"Unless the underlying dysfunctional nature of nuclear regulation in this country rapidly undergoes sweeping reform, a Fukushima-type disaster, or worse, may occur here, perhaps on the Central California coast," Hirsch warned.
The Diablo Canyon plant is California's only nuclear power reactor, located between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The United States gets nearly 20 percent of its energy from nuclear power.
Safety systems shut down Callaway nuclear plant
3 December, 2014
Safety systems at Ameren Missouri’s nuclear power plant in Callaway County unexpectedly kicked in and shut down the plant early Wednesday morning, federal regulators said.
Ameren reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that a “reactor trip” occurred at the plant just after midnight. Power in the plant’s core went from 100 percent to a complete shutdown, the NRC said.
The NRC classified the incident as a nonemergency, and said a turbine trip caused the reactor trip. The turbines produce electricity from steam generated using heat from the nuclear reaction in the core.
“Something happened on the electrical side of the plant,” said Mark McLachlan, Ameren’s senior director of engineering. “What we don’t know is what caused that electrical problem yet, and we’re investigating. ... This is completely separated from the nuclear side of the plant.”
The plant recently finished refueling, which happens every 18 months, and replacing its reactor head, a major maintenance project. McLachlan said neither of those activities was related to the electrical issue that caused the reactor trip.
The 1,200-megawatt nuclear reactor in mid-Missouri supplies about 20 percent of the utility’s electricity when at full power.
The plant is stable, the NRC notice said, and no safety relief valves were opened that would expose the core to the outside.
A reactor trip is a safety mechanism that shuts down the nuclear reaction in a power plant if coolant temperature, pressure, reactor power or other conditions fall out of safe operating parameters, according to the NRC.
Control rods are inserted into the core that absorb neutrons to stop the nuclear reaction and prevent damage to the core.
The NRC notice said all safety systems operated normally after the reactor shut down except for a throttle valve. McLachlan said the company has a team looking at why that valve did not work properly, but other than that, the safety systems worked “per design.”
He said the utility must first complete its investigation and does not know how long the plant will be shut down.
“We’re just beginning the investigation,” McLachlan said. “Ameren has other plants that can make up the power, so there is no net effect to our customers.”
Ed Smith of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment said he was concerned about the shutdown.
“Unexpected shutdowns like today show how nuclear electricity production can go from 100 percent to 0 percent without warning,” Smith said in a statement. “Nuclear energy comes with its own set of risks that vulnerabilities that are often minimized by the industry and its supporters.”
The core reaction was last shut down by a reactor trip in the summer of 2013 after a small fire broke out in the turbine building.
Japan Nuclear Experts: Footage shows 'major problem' at Fukushima Unit 1; Cesium release to continue for next 5 decades — Tepco: Even if we knew where it's broken, how can we stop it? — "Still in the dark" about other 2 units
Ukraine has reported an accident at a nuclear power plant but the government says it poses no danger.
It lies some 300 kilometres west of Donetsk, well away from the conflict zone where the Ukrainian army is fighting pro-Russian separatists