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Nuclear Power Plants and Power Cable Safety

Posted March 18, 2011 8:30 AM by Steve Melito

Last week's earthquake in Japan did what the New England Coalition (NEC) could not - delay the relicensing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Since 1971, the NEC has investigated "the safety, suitability and environmental effects" of the region's nuclear power plants, including the boiling water reactor (BWR) facility in Vernon, Vermont. The non-profit organization's ranks include engineers, lawyers and "technical advisors", as well as students and citizen-activists.

Just days before a massive earthquake rocked Japan, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) predicted that Vermont Yankee was a week away from receiving an operator's license renewal. Meanwhile, the NEC continued to argue that Entergy Corporation, Vermont Yankee's current owner, had improperly managed power cables that are submerged in water in underground tunnels.

"Entergy's plan", claims NEC nuclear issues consultant Raymond Shadis, "does nothing to prevent wetting or submergence of safety-related electrical cables that are rated for dry service only. Their only strategy is to look into manholes once in awhile and pump water out if they are flooded. This almost the equivalent of standing in the bathtub with a toaster and saying you pull the drain plug if the water gets too deep."

Are the NEC's concerns justified, or is the organization just using whatever arguments it can to stop the relicensing of Vermont Yankee?

Sources: Burlington Free Press, VPR News, NECNP Web Site, and NECNP News Release

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#1

Re: Nuclear Power Plants and Power Cable Safety

03/18/2011 4:52 PM

"Are the NEC's concerns justified, or is the organization just using whatever arguments it can to stop the relicensing of Vermont Yankee?"

Like everything, there will be at least a kernel of truth to it. However, any agency that is gunning to shoot down some project they do not approve will use every weapon they can find for their campaign. That is perfectly expected and why not?

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Re: Nuclear Power Plants and Power Cable Safety

03/18/2011 6:29 PM

Bottom line, either the cables are rated to be submerged, or they're not. It isn't a moot point, it's something to physically determine, and verify in the electrical codes and manufacturer's ratings.

The use of a submersible rated cable doesn't sound like a bad idea, to keep your power source secure against the risk of floods or tsunami.

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Re: Nuclear Power Plants and Power Cable Safety

03/18/2011 10:32 PM

Has Entergy replied to Shadis's (NEC) assertion? If so, in what manner? Libel suit maybe?

Or has Entergy indeed been sloppy enough to use dry-only cables in wet locations?

Just the facts, ma'am.

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Re: Nuclear Power Plants and Power Cable Safety

03/20/2011 4:12 PM

While the cables may only be rated for dry service, re-rating them might be possible. The history of these nukes has been that as new needs have been revealed, we have rechecked the calculations to see if the existing plant can sustain the loads. When they cannot, modifications have been made.

These were not omissions, but additional requirements revealed from more experience, and from better computer programs allowing more sophisticated analysis.

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#5

Re: Nuclear Power Plants and Power Cable Safety

03/21/2011 10:59 PM

You could be right that they are just finding excuses to stall the opening because they are nervous about nuclear fission plants. However, I personally do not like to regret anything I do. If you do not stall the waterproofing and there is a flood, you will deeply regret it. It will be a big deal to clean up the mess afterwards-much more expensive than waterproofing the wires.

Besides, you were able to turn on a computer to post this thread, so you must have enough electricity to function comfortably until the plant comes up .

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