A recent investigation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission found that the failure of a water pump due to the corrosion of certain kinds of stainless steel components caused an August shutdown of the Palisades nuclear power plant in Covert.
In a news release from his office,Congressman Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, questioned why a substandard steel is still being used for certain plant components.
Here’s what it says:
Despite scientific findings and industry experience reporting its vulnerability to cracks and corrosion, the types of stainless steel –known as 410SS and 416SS – continues to be used in water pumps used to provide cooling water to critical safety-related equipment such as component cooling water, diesel generators, and containment vessel air coolers for nuclear power plants throughout the U.S.
Markey sent a letter querying the NRC about the vulnerability of these metals to corrosion cracking and their continued use despite two decades of failures in nuclear power plants, according to the news release.
Here’s more from the release:
Despite NRC alerting licensees about issues with these pumps, failures continue and licensees have not been required to take any action or even report back to the NRC regarding what they are doing to identify, mitigate or prevent corrosion cracking that could cause component failures.
“They say there was never a good knife made of bad steel. Similarly, you can’t have a safe nuclear reactor made of bad steel,” Markey said. “I am concerned that U.S. nuclear power plants using components made from 410 and 416 steel may be subject to failures of critical safety equipment and at risk of shutdown. NRC must ensure that it requires licensees to take steps to identify and mitigate any corrosion of its components in order to demonstrate that they will perform satisfactorily in service, especially for critical safety-related operations.”
In the letter, Markey asks the NRC to respond to questions that include:
• Which U.S. nuclear power plants currently use 410SS and 416SS components and what are the known uses of 410SS and 416SS?
• Will the NRC undertake a review of 410SS and 416SS steels to determine if additional periodic inspections and mitigation efforts are warranted?
• What regulatory actions will be undertaken in order to assess, require licensee reporting and inspection of, and address problems involved in 410SS and 416SS components?
In March, Congressman Fred Upton pledged support of the nation’s nuclear plants, three of which — Palisades Power Plant in Van Buren County and two at the Cook Nuclear Plant in Berrien County— are in his district, which covers southwestern Michigan.
Upton is chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.