No defects found in Millstone part made by French company under probe

Waterford — A critical cooling system component at the Millstone Power Station met all requirements during ultrasound testing on Monday, providing assurance that flaws found in other parts made by a French manufacturer are not present at the Waterford nuclear plant, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

The tests were conducted on a pressurizer made by AREVA’s Le Creusot Forge, which is under investigation by French regulators for making defective parts and falsifying quality-control documents. Two plants are shut down in France as a result of the investigation, and 12 others temporarily were shut but have since restarted.

The pressurizer at Millstone, installed in 2006, is needed to maintain constant pressure in the reactor coolant system. The ultrasound tests were done voluntarily by Dominion at the request of Connecticut regulators to verify that there are no cracks or flaws that would cause it to fail. The tests on the pressurizer at Unit 2 were done while the plant is shut down for a scheduled refueling outage.

Millstone was the only plant in the country to voluntarily test its Le Creusot part, despite calls from a Maryland-based nuclear watchdog group for such testing to be done at all 17 U.S. nuclear plants with components made by the French company.

“The results of the testing were favorable,” said Ken Holt, Millstone spokesman. “We’re confident the pressurizer meets all appropriate requirements and will be fully operational for the remainder of the life of the plant.”

Officials in the Radiation Division of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection observed the tests remotely via a camera feed, Holt said. The results of the tests are being shared with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, he added.

The NRC has thus far not required plants to test their Le Creusot parts, and said it did not have any concerns about the Millstone pressurizer. Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC, noted last week that inspectors confirmed when the pressurizer was installed that it “conforms to design drawings, and there are no fabrication deviations from design.”

Sheehan could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Holt said no further testing is planned on the pressurizer.

Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project for Beyond Nuclear, said the ultrasound test at Millstone was “a good first step, but not conclusive.”

He said further testing should be done of the carbon content of the metal used in the pressurizer. Excess carbon has been found in some large components made at Le Creusot Forge, compromising the strength of those parts.

“We really think more in-depth testing is needed,” Gunter said, noting that information coming out in the French media has revealed that regulators there found quality-assurance problems at the forge at the same time the Millstone pressurizer was being manufactured there. In some European countries, chemical testing is being done on Le Creusot parts in nuclear reactors, he added.

“If you want to have full confidence, you need to do the material testing,” Gunter said. “There needs to be the same level of testing done here as is being done in Europe. The NRC is not pushing this issue at all.”


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