Group Calls for Hearing Because Utility has Made Illegal Modifications to the St. Lucie 2 Nuclear Reactor
Contact: Jennifer Rennicks, Director of Policy & Communications, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 865-235-1448
Tampa, Fl. (May 6, 2014) ///PRESS STATEMENT/// In a filing to the NRC submitted late yesterday, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) replied to Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Staff’s opposition to the organization’s March 10 request for a hearing on the safety of the St. Lucie Unit 2 reactor located near Ft. Pierce, Florida.
The group reiterated its call for a hearing based on the fact that FPL and the NRC have been complicit in running the St. Lucie 2 nuclear reactor with safety equipment that has not been properly approved and therefore is outside the bounds of FPL’s operating license.
“If Florida Power & Light is going to run a nuclear reactor, they must run it by the book. Nuclear technology is inherently unforgiving, and there are clear guidelines for how to run a nuclear reactor safely,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Through our filing last night, we clearly demonstrate that FPL, starting in 2007, violated the rules when they made significant modifications without a proper hearing and replaced the steam generators at St. Lucie Unit 2. NRC has been complicit in allowing this to happen for the last seven years. What we have uncovered is more than just a filing error because the replacement steam generators at St. Lucie Unit 2 are experiencing unprecedented wear damage, the most in the industry.”
Shortly after a scheduled and routine refueling outage began in March, SACE requested that the NRC not allow FPL to return the reactor to service until it held a public hearing regarding the major changes made by FPL to the design of the steam generators – components that are critical for removal of heat from the reactor. FPL made significant alterations to the original steam generator design in 2007, without notifying the public. The NRC technical staff went along with the design changes, despite the fact that the revised design may be responsible for the unprecedented degree of deterioration shown by the steam generators during inspections over the past five years. SACE’s March hearing request was supported by an expert witness declaration from nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen with Fairewinds Associates.
“Steam generators are the heart of a nuclear plant and are critical to nuclear plant safety. Replacing steam generators is similar to a heart transplant in humans. In any transplant, it is important to make sure there is a match with the original. The transplanted (Replacement) Steam Generator (RSG) must have the same DNA as the Original Steam Generator (OSG), or it will be rejected. The NRC promulgated the 10CFR 50.59 regulations to assure that any transplanted nuclear component has the same DNA as the original,” said Arnie Gundersen.
“St. Lucie Unit 1’s Replacement Steam Generator (RSG) was a perfect donor match, so it is not rejecting its transplant. FPL made huge design changes to St. Lucie Unit 2’s RSG, making it very different from the Original Steam Generator (OSG) design,” said Gundersen. “The ongoing damage occurring at St. Lucie 2, which is the worst in the nation, shows that the reactor is rejecting its transplanted steam generator (RSG) due to FPL’s multiple modifications to the original design and its neglect of the 10CFR 50.59 processes. Quite simply, the DNA of the St. Lucie 2 RSGs does not match the DNA of the OSGs, and as a result the RSGs are deteriorating and putting public safety at risk.”
SACE’s attorney, Diane Curran, said that in late April, FPL released an internal document showing that the design changes it made to the steam generator designs in 2007 were substantial, “Under the Atomic Energy Act, these design changes should have been public information and discussed in a hearing. But the NRC allowed FPL to go ahead with the changes and keep them a secret.” SACE now seeks a hearing to probe the relationship between the re-design of the steam generators and the unusually high level of tube denting they have experienced since they were installed. Curran said the group will now await a ruling from the NRC Commissioners.
While in early April, the Commissioners rejected SACE’s stay motion to keep the reactor offline until a hearing could be held. They did not make a decision on SACE’s hearing request. The Commission directed FPL and the NRC technical staff to respond by April 28 and for SACE to reply to those filings by May 5.
The scheduled 30-day refueling outage, which began March 3, ended up being anything but “routine” as it extended 51 days, with restart beginning on April 23, 2014. The 21-day delay in restart was reportedly due in part to an “errant piece of metal” that was left during the refueling outage, which caused damage to a steam generator tube and was eventually found in the cooling system on April 12.
You can listen to a recording of the SACE telepresser, held May 6, 2014 here.
Access additional information, including SACE’s recent filing, here.
Founded in 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at www.cleanenergy.org.