Regulators Investigating Broken Pipe at Nuclear Power Plant : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Dec 11, 2000 - 04:28 AM

Regulators Investigating Broken Pipe at Nuclear Power Plant The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Federal regulators will have a section of cracked pipe from a South Carolina nuclear plant tested to see if similar problems are possible at other plants across the country. Regulators say the crack at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station appears to be the first of its kind at a commercial nuclear plant in the United States. A 2.7-inch tear occurred along a weld seam in a large pipe that carries scalding, contaminated water out of the nuclear reactor core.

"This is fairly unusual to have a crack in this particular kind of pipe. The key question is whether this was just an anomaly, or something that may show up in similar welds and pipes," Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Roger Hannah said.

The section of cracked pipe was shipped to a Westinghouse plant in Pennsylvania for testing. The plant's operator, South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., thinks answers could come by the end of this month.

The pipe, one of the biggest lines at a nuclear power plant, carries 600-degree water away from the nuclear reactor.

Regulators say the leak, which caused 100 pounds of boric acid to spill in October, never posed a threat to the environment.

But if the crack had become wider and allowed large amounts of water to spill, it could have been harder to keep highly radioactive fuel from melting, according to the Nuclear Control Institute, a watchdog group.

Utility officials say the nuclear plant's backup systems would have kept cooling water around the fuel.

While U.S. plants haven't reported weld cracks on major pipes near reactors, two similar splits have been reported at nuclear reactors in Sweden and Spain, said South Carolina Electric & Gas spokesman Steve Byrne.

The Summer nuclear plant remains shut down, and probably will not restart until after Jan. 1.

-- Carl Jenkins (, December 11, 2000

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