SEABROOK, N.H. — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has found no violations after completing its regular quarterly safety and compliance inspection at NextEra Energy Seabrook’s nuclear power plant.
The inspection carried out by the NRC examined activities conducted under Seabrook Station’s license as they relate to safety and compliance with the commission’s rules and regulations and the plant’s license conditions. The inspection was completed June 30, according to the NRC report..
The quarterly inspection report was compiled by the plant’s resident inspectors, according to NRC Region I spokesman Neil Sheehan. The report frequently includes information provided by specialists.
Sheehan said that, according to the report, which covered the second quarter of 2012 — from April 1 through June 30 — there were no negative inspection findings that indicated violations or required enforcement.
The clear report card from the regular quarterly inspection came on the heels of an early-June NRC finding that, if seven still outstanding issues are fixed, the power plant will have met the requirements needed for a new 20-year extension of its license.
That report was a technical review of safety concerns at Seabrook Station required in the commission’s lengthy process of reviewing licensing at the nation’s nuclear power plants. The safety evaluation report is one of two license-related reviews; the second review is a environmental review, which has not yet been issued.
NextEra Energy Seabrook is trying to have its operating licence extended from 2030 to 2050.
Sheehan said at the time that the license renewal process is on the aging management programs for key safety systems, structures and components.
“We seek assurance that the systems, structures and components will be able to continue to safely perform their functions for an additional 20 years of operation,” he said. “Such plans may include replacement of a component, such as a pump or electrical system, at some point during the license renewal period.”
For nearly all the systems reviewed, commission staff concluded that Seabrook Station demonstrated that it met the NRC’s requirements. However, the seven issues that remained open include concrete degradation found in some areas of Seabrook Station’s subterranean walls, due to alkali-silica reaction within the concrete.
ASR is more commonly found in transportation structures like bridges and roads, where it has been successfully mitigated. But Seabrook Station is the first nuclear power plant to discover and report its presence within parts of the plant’s structure.
Occurring when moisture is present, alkali-silica reaction is a slow chemical reaction between the alkaline cement and reactive silica found in some aggregates used to make concrete. ASR forms a gel that expands, causing micro-cracks that affect concrete properties, but which can take five to 15 years to show up.
According to Debbie Grinnell, of Seabrook Station’s citizen watchdog group C-10, the ASR issue at the plant is a perfect example of why relicensing of nuclear plants should not occur 20 years in advance of license expiration.
The push for renewing the station’s license has drawn debate not only in New Hampshire, but along Massachusetts’ North Shore including on Cape Ann. The plant sits just 17 miles as the gulls fly from parts of Rockport and Gloucester, and is visible across the water from Rockport’s Halibut Point, Gloucester’s Folly Cove and parts of Lanesville.
Seabrook Station is the first nuclear plant in the nation to deal with ASR degradation during a license renewal, and there are no NRC guidelines to address it, she said.
“The NRC license renewal allowance 20 years in advance of a license expiration must be changed to no more than 10 years,” Grinnell has maintained. “It is unsafe, unreasonable and unacceptable, and routine NRC inspections done at U.S. plants are inadequate.”