Category Archives: Pipeline

75 percent of US nuclear sites have corrosion issues — leaking tritium

BRACEVILLE, Ill. (AP) – Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping, an Associated Press investigation shows.

The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation.

Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the AP’s yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard – sometimes at hundreds of times the limit.

While most leaks have been found within plant boundaries, some have migrated offsite. But none is known to have reached public water supplies.

At three sites – two in Illinois and one in Minnesota – leaks have contaminated drinking wells of nearby homes, the records show, but not at levels violating the drinking water standard. At a fourth site, in New Jersey, tritium has leaked into an aquifer and a discharge canal feeding picturesque Barnegat Bay off the Atlantic Ocean.

Any exposure to radioactivity, no matter how slight, boosts cancer risk, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Federal regulators set a limit for how much tritium is allowed in drinking water, where this contaminant poses its main health risk. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says tritium should measure no more than 20,000 picocuries per liter in drinking water. The agency estimates seven of 200,000 people who drink such water for decades would develop cancer.

The tritium leaks also have spurred doubts among independent engineers about the reliability of emergency safety systems at the 104 nuclear reactors situated on the 65 sites. That’s partly because some of the leaky underground pipes carry water meant to cool a reactor in an emergency shutdown and to prevent a meltdown. Fast moving, tritium can indicate the presence of more powerful radioactive isotopes, like cesium-137 and strontium-90.

So far, federal and industry officials say, the tritium leaks pose no health or safety threat. Tony Pietrangelo, chief nuclear officer of the industry’s Nuclear Energy Institute, said impacts are “next to zero.”

EAST COAST ISSUES

One of the highest known tritium readings was discovered in 2002 at the Salem nuclear plant in Lower Alloways Creek Township, N.J. Tritium leaks from the spent fuel pool contaminated groundwater under the facility – located on an island in Delaware Bay – at a concentration of 15 million picocuries per liter. That’s 750 times the EPA drinking water limit. According to NRC records, the tritium readings last year still exceeded EPA drinking water standards.

And tritium found separately in an onsite storm drain system measured 1 million picocuries per liter in April 2010.

Also last year, the operator, PSEG Nuclear, discovered 680 feet of corroded, buried pipe that is supposed to carry cooling water to Salem Unit 1 in an accident, according to an NRC report. Some had worn down to a quarter of its minimum required thickness, though no leaks were found. The piping was dug up and replaced.

The operator had not visually inspected the piping – the surest way to find corrosion- since the reactor went on line in 1977, according to the NRC. PSEG Nuclear was found to be in violation of NRC rules because it hadn’t even tested the piping since 1988.

Last year, the Vermont Senate was so troubled by tritium leaks as high as 2.5 million picocuries per liter at the Vermont Yankee reactor in southern Vermont (125 times the EPA drinking-water standard) that it voted to block relicensing – a power that the Legislature holds in that state.

In March, the NRC granted the plant a 20-year license extension, despite the state opposition. Weeks ago, operator Entergy sued Vermont in federal court, challenging its authority to force the plant to close.

At 41-year-old Oyster Creek in southern New Jersey, the country’s oldest operating reactor, the latest tritium troubles started in April 2009, a week after it was relicensed for 20 more years. That’s when plant workers discovered tritium by chance in about 3,000 gallons of water that had leaked into a concrete vault housing electrical lines.

Since then, workers have found leaking tritium three more times at concentrations up to 10.8 million picocuries per liter – 540 times the EPA’s drinking water limit – according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. None has been directly measured in drinking water, but it has been found in an aquifer and in a canal discharging into nearby Barnegat Bay, a popular spot for swimming, boating and fishing.

SOURCE: http://gazettenet.com/2011/06/17/75-percent-of-nuke-sites-have-leaked-tritium

Mike Feuer Calls Upon Public Utilities Commission to Provide Gas Pipeline Safety Information

Feuer Requests Answers to Concerns Raised by Investigation of San Bruno Pipeline Rupture.

Assembly Member Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) has asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to provide information about the safety of gas pipelines in Feuer’s district after a devastating explosion in San Bruno, California raised questions about the safety of aging pipeline infrastructure.  In a letter dated June 10, 2011, Feuer called for the CPUC’s assistance in obtaining answers to a number of specific concerns identified by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in its investigation of the pipeline rupture in San Bruno.

“The safety of my constituents is my number one priority, which is why I called on the CPUC to provide answers to a comprehensive set of questions about the safety of the pipelines running through neighborhoods in my district,” said Feuer. “I want to ensure that residents and businesses have the information they need to protect their families and workplaces.”

After the San Bruno disaster, Feuer’s office met with representatives from Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), whose pipelines serve most of Southern California, to discuss issues of pipeline safety.  This session, Feuer supported Assembly Bill 56, legislation designating the CPUC as the state authority responsible for the development and administration of a safety program for natural gas pipelines. Feuer’s current request to the CPUC seeks information that would increase transparency and communication between SoCalGas and the communities it serves.

“I am asking for the CPUC’s help to gather information about SoCalGas pipelines to increase public awareness and promote industry practices that will contribute to safer communities,” Feuer stated.

In his letter to the CPUC, Feuer asked a number of specific questions, among them:

  • Has SoCalGas identified all gas transmission lines in the District that have not previously undergone a testing regimen designed to validate a safe operating pressure?
  • What steps has SoCalGas taken to ensure it is basing operating pressures on accurate information contained in its records?
  • Where are the high consequence areas (HCAs) located within the 42nd District?  Have residences, businesses, schools and other institutions been made aware of their proximity to the HCAs?
  • Does each high-pressure pipeline identified by SoCalGas pursuant to the NTSB recommendations have an automatic or computerized shut-off valve?  If not, why not, and when could a plan be developed to install and pay for such valves?

A complete copy of Feuer’s letter to the CPUC can be found here.

The 42nd Assembly District includes all or part of the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Sherman Oaks, Studio City, North Hollywood, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Toluca Lake, Universal City, Griffith Park, West Los Angeles, Brentwood, Bel Air, Holmby Hills, Beverly Glen, Westwood, Century City, Hollywood, Fairfax, Hancock Park, Los Feliz and the Cities of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.

SOURCE: http://studiocity.patch.com/articles/feuer-calls-upon-public-utilities-commission-to-provide-gas-pipeline-safety-information-to-42nd-district-residents

Illinois American Water continues its pipeline replacement program – Aging Infrastructure

The barricades are coming down on Illinois 159 at the Swansea-Belleville  border as Illinois American Water completes the first phase of its $1.6 million water  main replacement and corrosion project.

About  700 feet of 8-inch water main dating from 1958 was replaced at a cost of about $325,000.

The replacement program focuses on replacing mains where leaks occur,  corrosion has caused damage or the size of the pipe isn’t sufficient.

Work on the $1.6 million project is starting up in other parts of the  metro-east as 1.8 miles of two-inch water mains are replaced with six-inch and  eight-inch mains.

The replacement will enhance water quality and water pressure, as well as  fire protection, the company said. The main replacement projects kicked off in  May with the replacement of about 800 feet of water main on Fahey Place in Belleville.

“Water mains are critical to the delivery of water for use by residents,  businesses, manufacturers and fire fighters,” said Grant Evitts, operations  manager for Illinois American’s Interurban District. “While this infrastructure  is underground and out of sight, it is easy to take it for granted, but at  Illinois American Water, we continue to invest to ensure reliability.”

“The age of the pipes coupled with corrosion and sediment accumulation over  the years makes the replacements necessary,” Evitts said. “Illinois American  Water continues to invest annually in its systems to ensure that local water  quality and service continues to be as good as or better than local, state and  federal quality standards.”

SOURCE: http://www.bnd.com/2011/06/14/1747648/barricades-on-illinois-159-in.html#ixzz1PFYN2h7E

Rainbow Pipeline outage extended to end of June

Plains Midstream continues integrity work on oil line in northern Alberta

Follow-up article from a recent MATCOR Blog Posting: A pipeline which caused the largest oil spill in Alberta since the 1980s likely will remain out of service until the end of June, said operator Plains All American Pipeline.

The parent of operator Plains Midstream Canada said Thursday dig operations to check pipeline integrity along the northern portion of the 187,000 barrel per day line Rainbow pipeline will continue until at least the end of the month.

The line, which runs from Zama to Edmonton, has been shut down since rupturing late April near Little Buffalo in northwestern Alberta. At least 28,000 barrels of crude were spilled into boggy muskeg, flowing to a beaver pond where it was contained.

The rupture was caused by soil settlement after a maintenance program that allowed a section of the pipeline sag, according to initial reports. Plains was ordered by the Alberta Energy Conservation Board to check along the entire portion of Rainbow’s 20-inch line, from Zama to Nipisi in north-central Alberta, as part of the restart plan. The extended program came after the operator found a crack on a weld seam approximately 25 kilometres south of the original break.

“We asked them to do two dig programs and we are waiting for the results of the programs,” said Kim Blanchette, spokeswoman with the ERCB on Thursday.

After the April 29 spill, Plains identified five areas that has similar maintenance to the failure site, Blanchette said. The discovery of a crack downstream of those areas prompted the regulatory to call for a second, random dig program.

Plains said its digs were going slowly due to the remote locations of the sites, as well as the forest fire threat and bad weather.

“We are working to complete the remaining digs by the end of June,” the company said in an e-mail. It said it did not have a firm timeline for the restart of the line.

Plains said it expects repair and remediation costs of the Rainbow pipeline to range from $64 million US to $75 million US, with insurance covering the bulk of the expense.

Also on Thursday, the Houston-based company said it expected to “meet or exceed the high end” of its second quarter guidance for adjusted earnings of $290 million US to $320 million US

Operations on Rainbow’s 24-inch line from Nipisi to Edmonton started soon after the spill was detected, then interrupted for 10 days after forest fires caused power failures in the region.

The outage of the pipeline’s southern leg prevented delivery of about 150,000 barrels a day of heavy crude to the Edmonton, Alberta, refining and pipeline hub.

The northern section of Rainbow, which was built in the 1960s, carries mostly conventional crude from northern Alberta fields. It was moving about 75,000 barrels a day at the time of the rupture.

In May Enbridge Inc. also reported a major leak on its Norman Wells oil pipeline, which feeds directly into the Rainbow line. The spill, in a remote location of the Northwest Territories, could be as large as 1,500 barrels, Enbridge recently disclosed.

The 39,400 barrel per day line flows oil from Imperial Oil’s processing facility in Norman Well, NWT to Zama. Imperial had to reduce production on the Rainbow outage. When the Enbridge line started flowing again at reduced capacity, the company was able to add some barrels to the pipeline.

“That’s helping but it’s not resolving the situation for us,” said Imperial spokesman Jon Harding. “It is status quo.”

Imperial has been storing production at Norman Wells, increasing storage capacity by re-certifying tankage left over from the sites days as a refinery, Harding said. Other volumes are flowing to Zama, where it is being trucked to market.

The outages have had minimal impact on cash crude prices, traders said, but come at a time when several ruptures and leaks in pipelines carrying Canadian oil have raised questions about reliability and safety.

Since the Rainbow spill, TransCanada Corp. suffered two leaks and outages on its 591,000 barrel a day Keystone pipeline to Oklahoma from Alberta due two faulty equipment in pump stations.

SOURCE: http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Rainbow+Pipeline+outage+extended+June/4920080/story.html#ixzz1OsZyujf1

TransCanada reopens Keystone oil pipeline

There were no concerns about the integrity of the 1,300-mile Keystone oil  pipeline following a May 29 spill in Kansas, the U.S. government said.

Canadian pipeline company TransCanada restarted the Keystone oil pipeline  during the weekend. The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous  Materials Safety Administration issued a corrective action prohibiting a restart  last week but reconsidered in time for a Sunday restart.

Julia Valentine, a spokeswoman for the PHMSA, was quoted by The Wall Street  Journal as saying there weren’t any concerns about the integrity of  Keystone.

“Every pipeline incident is unique,” she said. “In this case, the failure did  not raise concerns for the integrity of the pipeline.”

Keystone transits around 591,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada.  A May 29 leak in Kansas spilled about 10 barrels of oil. There were 11 separate  spills on the pipeline recently though the company said all were relatively  minor.

TransCanada is pushing for a $13.3 billion extension to the pipeline. The  project is scrutinized by regulators and environmentalists who worry about the  potential for spills and uncertainty about the safety of transiting oil from tar  sands in Canada.

SOURCE: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2011/06/06/TransCanada-reopens-Keystone-oil-pipeline/UPI-85081307364816/#ixzz1OaJxzzrS