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Shippingport open house focuses on emergency plan for disabled nuclear reactor

| Friday, April 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The nuclear power industry is developing a strategy to be able to bring power, water pumping capacity and needed equipment to a disabled reactor, employees of the Beaver Valley nuclear power station in Shippingport said Thursday.

They talked about the FLEX Mitigation Strategy during an open house held by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to meet with the public and others interested in the safe operation of the 1,800-megawatt, two-unit nuclear plant on the Ohio River. The event is held each year after the NRC releases its assessment of the plant's operation.

The NRC increased scrutiny at the nuclear plant operated by FirstEnergy Corp. since an inspection in August uncovered a security problem.

“They are telling us that they are ready to do a full inspection, which we will do soon,” said Erin Bonney, a NRC resident inspector at the plant. FirstEnergy has fixed the security problem, which officials have declined to detail, she said.

The inspection will try to demonstrate that to regulators within the one-year period the company has to address the issue. Regulators have stepped up assessements of security at nuclear plants since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. And the nuclear industry is working to address safety issues identified after the meltdown and radiation release at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan caused by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

The FLEX strategy is being designed by the industry to get power and coolant to a disabled reactor, said Dan Murray, director of performance improvement at Beaver Valley.

“We're designing common electrical equipment, diesel-powered portable pumps for water, hose and fittings” among other equipment that could support cooling a reactor, he said.

In the planning stage are three regional support centers across the country to supply more of that equipment to plants that might need it, he said.

Some safety issues from past problems need more attention, said Ted Robinson, at attorney for advocacy group Citizen Power of Squirrel Hill. He was one of the few people not connected to the NRC or FirstEnergy to attend the open house in the Shippingport Community and Municipal Building.

Citizen Power has asked FirstEnergy to re-examine testing of the plant's inner steel containment liner, stemming from discovery in 2009 of a small hole. The hole, caused by corrosion from a piece of wood left between the two containment structures, was discovered and repaired during regular service maintainance by FirstEnergy.

John Oravecz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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