In the wake of the Japan nuclear accident, the federal government has told U-S plants how to improve their safety – and one concern was to keep the water flowing in the cooling pools in the event of an emergency. Radiation can be released if the water levels are not high enough.
But Mark Kanz of the Kewaukee plant said the moving of the spent fuel rods was not tied to the federal report or the Japan disaster. He said the pool was getting close to its capacity – and the plant might not have been able to store all the fuel rods that needed to be cooled by 2013, had last week’s move not been made.
Opening up space now enables Dominion to move all of the fuel rods from inside the reactor core to the pool during refueling, Kanz said. “One of our main concerns was that we would have enough space in the spent fuel pool to be able to do a full core offload, if necessary”
“We’re trying to create additional space in our spent fuel pool, which was getting near capacity,” he said.
Nuclear plants must store their spent fuel at their sites, now that the federal government has given up trying to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The Kewaunee plant is owned by Dominion Resources, which announced in late April it would sell the facility.
NRC inspectors reviewed the plants’ preparedness and identified a number of specific items that need to be addressed at Kewaunee and Point Beach, including better coordination between the plants if both are experiencing extreme emergencies.
Kewaunee operators were asked to consider replacing a fire door that may not be fireproof and to address the fact that its hydrogen recombiners – equipment used to minimize the risk of a reactor explosion – were stored off-site and would require some lead time to be delivered to the plant.
“An accident or attack at a Wisconsin nuclear power plant would be catastrophic for Wisconsin’s environment and economy,” stated Alfred Meyer, of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has estimated that a severe nuclear accident at the Kewaunee nuclear plant near Green Bay could cause $47 Billion in property damage. According to the NRC, a severe nuclear accident at Point Beach Unit 1 could cause $41 Billion in property damage, and $44 Billion in property damage could result from a severe accident at Point Beach Unit 2.
The possibility of a serious accident at a Wisconsin nuclear plant is a known threat. The NRC has issued the operator of the Point Beach nuclear plant 2 RED findings, its most serious safety ranking, for violations involving reactor emergency cooling systems. Point Beach has received half of the RED findings the NRC has issued to the 104 licensed nuclear plants in the U.S.
Many of the serious safety or security lapses at U.S. nuclear power plants in 2010 happened because plant owners — and often the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) — failed to address known safety problems, according to a report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
The Kewaunee Power Station occupies a 900-acre (3.6 km2) site in Carlton, Wisconsin, 27 miles (43 km) southeast of Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA. Kewaunee was the fourth nuclear power plant built in Wisconsin, and the 44th built in the United States. The plant is currently owned and operated by Dominion Resources, of Richmond, Virginia. In 2008, Dominion applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for an extension of its operating license for an additional twenty years. The license was extended until 2033
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dominion purchased Kewaunee for $192 million in 2005 from Wisconsin Public Service Corp. and Alliant Energy. At the time the purchase was expected to be one of several in the Midwest, but Dominion was unsuccessful in buying other nuclear plants in the region. The Kewaunee plant no longer fit in the company’s plans, the article stated. Dominion also owns nuclear plants in Virginia and New England.
Dominion Resources Inc.plans to sell the 568 MW Kewaunee nuclear plant.
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