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Quad cities crack up April 11, 2006

Posted by dr. gonzo in Nuclear Power.

And back to nuclear power I go.

First, check out the update to my recent post, Braidwood leaks radioactive steam (click for update). I took a semi-in-depth look at the tritium contamination around the Braidwood plant and looked less deeply into the problem around Byron. I will probably delve futher in a future post.


I have an item of note about the Quad Cities plant, nothing huge, but I will offer up some analysis that is rather foreboding for the nuclear power industry.

First you have to look at this Preliminary Notification of Event or Unusual Occurrence.

On its surface its nothing too big, "a crack in the Unit 2 steam dryer [discovered] during the unit’s ongoing refueling outage."

While this is of "possible safety or public interest significance," the unit is offline

The real problem here is what follows in the report and what it says about maintenance practices at U.S. nuclear reactors.

From the above linked report (emphasis added):

"The steam dryer is an internal reactor structure designed to remove moisture from steam before it enters the main steam lines to the turbine. The steam dryer was installed in May 2005 as the first steam dryer replacement in a U. S. reactor.

The steam dryers for both Quad Cities units were replaced because of cracking concerns caused by acoustic loading and vibration from operation at Extended Power Uprate power levels. The replacement dryers were designed and constructed to be more robust and resistant to cracking than the previous steam dryers."

Ahem, stepping up to the Gonzo soapbox; brace yourself.

This plant is not new, none of the U.S. nuclear plants are. In fact Quad Cities Unit 2 received its operating license in 1972. What bothers me most about this is in the above report quote they state that the May 2005 replacement of the steam dryer was the first of its kind in the United States. I cannot think of very many mechanical devices that still function optimally after 30+ years.

What this implies is that there are numerous maintenence items that are essentially ignored for over 30 years. That's scary. They came right out and said that the steam dryers in nuclear plants have never been replaced. And on top of this, the new one broke in less than a year. Unbelieveable.

This is splitting atoms, not milking cows. Shouldn't an endeavour this dangerous be undertaken with the utmost caution?




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