Sunday, November 25, 2007

Feds tell Indian Point to fix pumps

This news comes from India (from The Journal News):

Indian Point doesn't need 14 months to fix a chronic sump pump problem that could prove critical in a nuclear reactor emergency, Nuclear Regulatory Commission documents show.

Company officials failed to make "a convincing case" to delay completion of the Indian Point 3 work until a refueling shutdown in the spring of 2009, according to a Nov. 20 letter from the NRC, obtained by The Journal News.

The project was supposed to be finished by Dec. 31, the letter says; the company expects to complete similar pump work at Indian Point 2 during that reactor's refueling outage in the spring.

"The issue is they wanted additional time," said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan. "The commission has been very concerned about the lack of progress on this. It's been going for years and the industry has been well-briefed."

Company spokesman Jim Steets said Entergy will work as quickly as possible to complete the work.

The sump pumps work like industrial-sized versions of what many people have in their basements. They would collect water in the event of a major pipe break in the pressurized-water reactors at Indian Point, and cycle it back through the system to keep the reactor from melting down and possibly releasing radiation.

Entergy officials, who asked for extensions for both plants in an Oct. 24 letter to the NRC, were granted three months for Indian Point 2, but not for Indian Point 3. Steets said that Entergy would submit a revised completion schedule and work to complete the project as quickly as possible.

"We will do it between now and the next outage," he said. "We've already done a significant amount of work, and we're evaluating whether we can finish it offline or not. It may take a brief outage."

The reactors are each estimated to make as much as $1 million a day when working at full capacity. Steets said yesterday that a preliminary estimate of shutdown time to complete the work is "several days."

In 2003, the NRC ordered Indian Point and the 68 other reactors to inspect these systems because agency studies found that the steam released at high temperatures could cause the pipe insulation to disintegrate and keep the pumps from recirculating water.

The sump studies clearly stated that installing ancillary safe-guards would not be adequate to prevent the clogging. "Years ago, the NRC identified this (problem) and told the utilities to address it," Sheehan said. "Progress has been slow, but now we are nearing the end of the modifications for the plants. Indian Point is one of the last left to address it."

A recent Entergy report to the NRC states that the company completed extensive modifications to the containment sumps at both units during recent outages. The work included installing 3,000 square feet of strainers, trash racks, new pumps and other flow barriers to prevent clogging the intake of the emergency recirculation pumps.

Completing the work can be done while a reactor is online, according to Entergy's report, but not as easily as when the plant is shut down, since it involves entry into the reactor's containment area. The federal agency doesn't have a problem with the corrections proposed, but when they'll be accomplished.

"After reviewing Entergy's submittal, the NRC staff concludes that Entergy has a plan to complete the remaining corrective actions and has compensatory measures in place," the Nov. 20 letter stated. "However, NRC finds that Entergy has not made a convincing case why the proposed modifications and other changes cannot be accomplished before the next refueling outage."

NRC officials said Entergy can submit another extension request for NRC consideration, "proposing a shorter extension consistent with the time needed to prepare for and implement remaining corrective actions."

Berlin Technologies

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