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Safety and costs – the top concerns about keeping aging nuclear reactors

two questions — safety and economics — lie at the heart of the research agenda now under way on plant aging…..the environment inside nuclear plants is like nothing else, subjecting reactor components to intense heat, stress, vibration and neutron bombardment that could potentially cause hidden weaknesses in reactors, pipes, joints, wiring and other components…if one were to have a seismic event — an earthquake — would the structures withstand the forces?”.

Experts Weigh Extending the Lives of Nuclear Power Plants to 80 Years- NC WARN , September 22nd, 2010 By PETER BEHR of ClimateWire Next year, when two nuclear reactors near Syracuse, N.Y., are shut down for normal refueling operations, technicians will enter their cavernous containment structures looking for signs of aging in the thick steel walls surrounding shrouds of concrete. Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, which runs the Ginna and Nine Mile Point 1 reactors, volunteered for the inspections at the Department of Energy’s request. It is a new phase in a government and industry investigation into the possibilities of running the nation’s 104 nuclear plants for as long as 80 years — twice their expected lifespans when they were originally licensed.

The failure of Congress to reach agreement on climate and energy legislation has left the future of U.S. new nuclear projects up in the air, focusing more attention on the possibility and the challenges of further extending the life expectancy of the current nuclear fleet, industry officials say.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials, Energy Department counterparts, utility executives and research leaders are scheduled to meet in February for a “tabletop” conference on the technical and regulatory issues that could confront a new wave of relicensing applications by reactor owners…….
two questions — safety and economics — lie at the heart of the research agenda now under way on plant aging. …..the environment inside nuclear plants is like nothing else, subjecting reactor components to intense heat, stress, vibration and neutron bombardment that could potentially cause hidden weaknesses in reactors, pipes, joints, wiring and other components. Replacement of impaired components is a major industry activity now…….“One of the questions we have is, are there any [aging] effects that would structurally affect the concrete?” Sheron said — for example, the concrete supports for the reactor vessel that are subject to radiation exposure. “Not that we think it would crumble, but if one were to have a seismic event — an earthquake — would the structures withstand the forces?”……the furor that began last year over leakage of radioactive tritium from underground pipes into the groundwater around the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor in Vernon, Vt., illustrated how concerns about reactor safety could suddenly swamp relicensing plans. Last February, the Vermont Senate voted overwhelmingly in opposition to a renewed 20-year license for the plant when the current NRC license expires in 2012.

NC WARN » Experts Weigh Extending the Lives of Nuclear Power Plants to 80 Years

October 7, 2010 - Posted by | safety, USA | , , , , ,

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