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Robert Trigaux

Shuttered for 2 years, Crystal River nuke plant on list of 27 that may be vulnerable to earthquake




Above: Earlier repair work under way at the Crystal River nuclear power plant in Citrus County.

Wake up and good morning. Progress Energy's Crystal River nuclear power plant, north of Tampa Bay, is one of 27 in the eastern and central United States that a preliminary Nuclear Regulatory Commission review has said may need upgrades, according to the Associated Press. That's because those nuke plants like Crystal River are more likely to get hit with an earthquake larger than the one their design was based on. Two other Florida nuclear reactors, the St. Lucie plants run by Florida Power & Light in Martin County, are also among the 27 listed.

The threat has reached the public spotlight in the wake of the ongoing nuclear power plant disasters in Japan following that country's earthquakes and tsunami and, more recently, the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that struck rural Virginia but was felt from Georgia to Canada.

Bottom line? "The risk that an earthquake would cause a severe accident at a U.S. nuclear plant is greater than previously thought, 24 times as high in one case, according to an AP analysis of preliminary government data. The nation's nuclear regulator believes a quarter of America's reactors may need modifications to make them safer," AP reports.

Just how many nuclear power plants are more vulnerable won't be determined until all operators recalculate their own seismic risk based on new assessments by geologists, something the agency plans to request later this year. The NRC on Thursday issued a draft of that request for public comment, Sp said. Here is that AP story. And here is a list of the 27 nuclear reactors that may be vulnerable.

crystalriver3delamination.jpgThe Crystal River nuclear power plant raises additional questions. That facility has been shuttered for two years now (it shut down in September 2009) after a delamination or gap (shown in photo, right) was discovered in the walls of a concrete containment building surrounding the nuclear reactor. Repairs to that building later revealed another delamination, caused by the process of retensioning metal straps that run throughout the concrete building.

Progress Energy announced plans to spend extra money to repair the Crystal River plant, but that was before the plant was identified as one of the nation's 27 that may be more vulnerable to earthquake damage than previously thought. The apparent weakness of the concrete in the Crystal River containment building, which has stymied initial repairs and prevented the plant from coming back online, should be of special concern. Especially since Progress Energy wants to win approval to renew its license to run Crystal River an additional 20 years beyond its original 40-year lifespan that would end in 2016. 

Photos: Progress Energy.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times

[Last modified: Friday, September 2, 2011 7:04am]


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