Questions raised about equipment made by French company may affect Millstone

Waterford — A key component in the coolant system of the Unit 2 reactor at Millstone Power Station may receive additional scrutiny by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in response to concerns raised about the integrity of equipment made by a French company.

On Monday, the NRC said it is talking to AREVA, the French company that manufactured the equipment in question at its Le Creusot Forge, to determine whether there are implications for U.S. nuclear power plants.

“We have also been in contact with AREVA regarding the extent of irregularities found at the forge,” Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC, said Monday.

An AREVA pressurizer made at the Le Creusot Forge was installed in Millstone Unit 2 as a replacement part in 2006, according to Ken Holt, Millstone spokesman. The pressurizer is essential for maintaining constant pressure in the reactor coolant system, he said.

“It’s a necessary part for operations,” he said.

Concerns about AREVA pressurizers installed in French nuclear plants have been raised in that country, and brought to the NRC’s attention by the international environmental activist organization Greenpeace. According to independent experts in France who first raised the concerns, the metals used in AREVA pressurizers are defective and could be prone to catastrophic failure.

Holt said the pressurizer in Unit 2 is a different type than the ones used in the French reactors. However, AREVA has contacted plant owner Dominion Resources about the issues raised in France, he said.

Holt added that the pressurizer in Unit 2 undergoes routine surveillance and is inspected every 18 months when the reactor is powered off for refueling.

“We are confident the pressurizer is fully operational and will continue operating through the life of the plant,” Holt said. “We are aware of the issues raised and we have had conversations with AREVA, and have no concerns.”

The NRC, however, said it is continuing to evaluate AREVA equipment in this country. Sheehan said AREVA has notified Dominion that its pressurizer “received an extra heat treatment” during the manufacturing process.

But “AREVA has stated the extra treatment does not affect the pressurizer’s safety or quality,” Sheehan said.

He said the NRC is continuing to monitor tests and analysis by AREVA of its equipment.

“Also, NRC staff plan to take part in a multinational inspection,” Sheehan said.

The inspection, which will take place from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2, will be led by the French regulatory agency that is the counterpart to the NRC.

Sheehan said that once the NRC obtains sufficient information, it may alert the entire U.S. nuclear industry to the issues.

“The NRC may also conduct inspections in the future, as deemed appropriate, to ensure conformance and/or compliance,” he said.

AREVA officials did not return a message Monday requesting comment.

j.benson@theday.com

 

 

 

 

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