US Nuclear Plant Cracks Reactor Vessel

The Sharon Harris nuclear plant admitted to having a crack in the reactor vessel. The 1/4 crack did not penetrate all the way through the vessel steel. It was not reported how long or deep the crack was. The reactor ultrasound data was collected a year ago but the plant officials are only now going through it. This raises questions about why they were allowed to wait so long and also to restart before the review is conducted.

The plant owners said the repair would need to be done with robots on the reactor head section of the reactor vessel due to the high radiation. The crack appeared on a weld for a control rod nozzle on the reactor head. The unit in question is a 3 loop PWR reactor, this operates with 2000 psi. That high internal pressure would have been working on that crack for a year while they operated the plant without completing the ultrasound reviews.

The plant is already operating on borrowed parts. One of the electric generators from the Three Mile Island meltdown site was sent to Harris to be reused there. The plant has had 12 incidents that required unexpected shutdown of the plant between 1999 and 2003. NC WARN called the plant the most dangerous in the US. Project Censored also reported the story as a considerable unreported risk to the public.

The plant currently has one newer PWR unit that began operation in the 1980’s making it much newer than most of the US reactor fleet. A plan for 3 more units was scrapped in the 1980’s but the operator has tried to add two new units again in recent years.

More background on the reactor head corrosion problem as originally published by the NRC can be found here:

http://news.nuclear.com/blog7.php/rpvh-crdm-nozzle-weld-cracks

 

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