Power Engineering

Nuclear Safety is Making Headlines

By Brian Wheeler, Associate Editor

Nuclear power safety is still making news headlines as Japan’s crisis continues to unfold. Yes, the situation there is very serious and a review of nuclear power plants is the next move to make, as is being done in the United States.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission named a task force to conduct a near-term review to indentify topics for a longer review. At the time of publication, the short-term review was not yet complete. NRC said a written report was expected to be made public 90 days after the start of the review, which was in April. The task force is made up of senior NRC managers and staff who will identify potential near-term actions that affect U.S. power reactors, including their spent fuel pools. Areas to be reviewed include loss of all AC power for a reactor, external events that could lead to a prolonged loss of cooling, plant capabilities for preventing or dealing with such circumstances and emergency preparedness.

Early last month, the Department of Energy (DOE) dedicated the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL), a research facility DOE said will accelerate the advancement of nuclear reactor technology. Researchers will use “supercomputers” to study the performance of light water reactors and also develop models to help accelerate upgrades to the existing U.S. nuclear power fleet.

The facility, located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, brings together four national labs, three industry partners and three universities in an effort to develop tools that will advance new generations of nuclear reactors and safely extend the life and reliability of existing plants.

“Work done at this facility will help make our fleet of reactors even safer and more efficient while creating jobs, fueling the economy and saving consumers money on their utility bills,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

DOE also announced that CASL had completed its first “virtual reactor.” The Department said that this software will provide improved insight into reactor operations, help the industry reduce capital and operating costs, minimize nuclear waste volume, safely extend the lifetime of the current nuclear fleet and develop new materials for next-generation reactors.

With these recent efforts it seems that the needed organizations in the U.S. are addressing many of the public’s concerns about the safety of nuclear power generation. But one lawmaker did not seem to agree. Congressman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in early April introduced legislation known as the Nuclear Power Plant Safety Act of 2011 “to impose a moratorium on all pending NRC licenses and re-licenses in light of the need to fully understand the safety risks and include remedies into our own regulations.” The NRC, on April 1, had already established its task force and was moving forward with its review to develop recommendations for it to consider regarding immediate enhancements at U.S. reactors and possible changes to NRC regulations, inspection procedures and licensing processes.

Meanwhile in Europe, the European Commission is establishing a stress test review of Europe’s 143 reactors to make sure the plants are able to continue to operate safely. Christian Taillebois, spokesperson for the European Nuclear Society, said that once the stress test criteria is established it should be implemented at every plant as soon as possible. He said each European Union member state will decide whether the plant should be shut down, improved and so on.

“If the regulatory body says the plant needs work, we (nuclear industry) will make all necessary improvements,” he said.

Another question focuses on the need for a universal regulatory regime for reactors that are subject to any sort of natural disasters.

With over 440 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries, there are different cultures and work environments that, among other things, must be taken into consideration when it comes to deciding whether to have a “global nuclear regulator.”

Organizations already are established that do look over nuclear issues globally, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). Both have followed the situation in Japan closely to get timely information out, not only to the public, but to the entities involved in nuclear power generation as well.

“It is not possible to think about building, operating or dismantling a nuclear power plant without taking into account the recent accident and we did that after Three Mile Island in the U.S.,” said Laurent Stricker, WANO Chairman. “But clearly not enough.”

The international nuclear power community will continue to take in these “lessons learned” as the events in Japan unfold to assure that current designs, standards and operating approaches are capable of dealing with issues such as those confronting Fukushima Daiichi.

“We have to gather all CEOs of the nuclear industry and utilities in order to share our views and to move forward to a stronger commitment and obligation to follow the improvements we see,” said Stricker.

The nuclear power industry is putting its best foot forward and the NRC is doing what is needed to ensure that the existing and planned reactors will provide energy to this country in a safe manner.

More Power Engineering Issue Articles
Power Engineerng Issue Archives
View Power Generation Articles on PennEnergy.com

Sponsored by FLSmidth
Recommend this article Recommend this article () You recommended this article You recommended this article ()
Follow Power Engineering on Twitter

Products Showcase

Dynamic Fluoride Ion cleaning DFIC of industrial natural gas turbines Hi-Tech Furnace Systems

Dynamic Fluoride Ion Cleaning of IGT Parts

The Dynamic Fluoride Ion Cleaning (DFIC) Process from Hi-Tech Furnace Systems is able to clean deep, narrow cracks of oxides by cycling between negative, atmospheric, and positive pressure.

Latest News

Shutterstock coal production trucks

Weekly Coal Production

The Weekly Coal Production shows how much coal is being produced across the U.S.

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Weekly Economic Indicators financial business

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas' Economic Indicators

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas offers a glimpse into how the markets are doing domestical...

Kvaerner awarded contract for gas-fired power plant in Delaware

Kvaerner North American Construction Inc. and its joint venture partner, Parsons Brinckerhoff...

Canadian Solar purchases two solar projects

Canadian Solar Inc. has acquired a majority interest in two utility-scale solar power project...

Operators Restart Unit 2 at PPL Susquehanna

Unit 2 at the PPL Susquehanna nuclear power plant near Berwick, Pa. resumed generating electr...

Settlement agreement limits cost recovery at Edwardsport

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) on Dec. 27 modified and approved a settlemen...

Toshiba in talks to sell portion of Westinghouse nuclear unit

Toshiba Corp is in talks  to sell up to 16% of its stake in the Westinghouse Electric Co...

Utah nixes nuclear waste storage facility

Plans to park radioactive waste at a storage facility in Utah have been officially called off.

Archived Articles

2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013

Featured Whitepaper

There is no current content available.

Power Engineering Current Issue

03/01/2014
Volume 118, Issue 3
1403PE-cover

Buyers Guide Product Listings

Nondestructive Examination and Testing

Advanced nondestructive examination, NDE, techn...

Engineering Services

Structural Integrity Associates, Inc. (SI) is a...

Buyers Guide Company Listings

SPSI

SPSI is a privately held fabricator of high quality process, power and nuclear piping systems used primarily in the domestic and international power generation and petrochemical industries.

URS

URS plans, designs, engineers, constructs, retrofits, and maintains power plants and the systems that transmit and distribute electricity. Our expertise encompasses fossil fuel, nuclear, and hydroelectric power generating facilities, as well as alternative and renewable energy sources. We develop and install clean air technologies and perform major nuclear component

Serdula Systems Ltd

Provides consulting services from R&D, engineering, operations, and assessments to bid evaluation and feasibility studies to national and international organizations in the nuclear power industry.

The Merrick Group Inc

More than 20 years experience in the high-pressure water jetting industry. Our specialists offer vast experience and unparalleled expertise in industrial, nuclear plant cleaning maintenance.

Power Industry Wire News

Vantage Drilling Company Schedules Second Quarter 2014 Earnings Release Date and Conference Call

Vantage Drilling Company Schedules Second Quarter 2014 Earnings Release Date and Confer...

SCI Engineered Materials, Inc. Reports Second Quarter 2014 Results

SCI Engineered Materials, Inc. Reports Second Quarter 2014 Results

AXT, Inc. Announces Second Quarter 2014 Financial Results

AXT, Inc. Announces Second Quarter 2014 Financial Results

SEACOR Holdings Announces Results for Its Second Quarter Ended June 30, 2014

SEACOR Holdings Announces Results for Its Second Quarter Ended June 30, 2014

Miller Energy Declares Cash Dividends on Its Series B, Series C and Series D Preferred Stock

Miller Energy Declares Cash Dividends on Its Series B, Series C and Series D Preferred ...

Power Engineering

Article Archives for Power Engineering Magazine

Continuing Education

Professional Development Hours

To access a course listing associated to a specific topic listed below, click on the topic of choice from the list below.

Latest Energy Jobs

View more Job Listings >>