Saturday, December 31, 2011

Markey to NRC: Pump Problems Plague Palisades Power Plant

For Immediate Release Contact: Giselle Barry 202-225-2836 December 1, 2011 Markey to NRC: Pump Problems Plague Palisades Power Plant Congressman queries NRC about series of failures at Palisades, other nuclear power plants involving steel used in water pumps for cooling nuclear reactors WASHINGTON, D.C. – A recent investigation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) found that the failure of a water pump due to the corrosion of certain kinds of stainless steel components caused an August shutdown of the Palisades Nuclear Generating Station in Michigan. Despite scientific findings and industry experience reporting its vulnerability to cracks and corrosion, the types of stainless steel –known as 410SS and 416SS – continues to be used in water pumps used to provide cooling water to critical safety-related equipment such as component cooling water, diesel generators, and containment vessel air coolers for nuclear power plants throughout the U.S. Today, Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter querying the NRC about the vulnerability of these metals to corrosion cracking and their continued use despite two decades of failures in nuclear power plants. Despite NRC alerting licensees about issues with these pumps, failures continue and licensees have not been required to take any action or even report back to the NRC regarding what they are doing to identify, mitigate or prevent corrosion cracking that could cause component failures. “They say there was never a good knife made of bad steel. Similarly, you can’t have a safe nuclear reactor made of bad steel,” said Rep. Markey. “I am concerned that U.S. nuclear power plants using components made from 410 and 416 steel may be subject to failures of critical safety equipment and at risk of shutdown. NRC must ensure that it requires licensees to take steps to identify and mitigate any corrosion of its components in order to demonstrate that they will perform satisfactorily in service, especially for critical safety-related operations.” A copy of the letter to the NRC can be found HERE. In the letter, Rep. Markey asks the NRC to respond to questions that include:
  • Which U.S. nuclear power plants currently use 410SS and 416SS components and what are the known uses of 410SS and 416SS?
  • Will the NRC undertake a review of 410SS and 416SS steels to determine if additional periodic inspections and mitigation efforts are warranted?
  • What regulatory actions will be undertaken in order to assess, require licensee reporting and inspection of, and address problems involved in 410SS and 416SS components?

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