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NRC Regulations Slipping

Nuclear Regulations Weakened to Keep Plants Running

Written by Brianna Panzica
Posted June 20, 2011 at 1:21PM

The U.S. is starting to crack down on nuclear regulations.

Unfortunately this crackdown isn’t coming from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The Associated Press recently underwent a yearlong investigation into the standards of and regulations on nuclear reactors across the country.

This included inquiry into documents from the government and nuclear power industry regarding nuclear issues and respective solutions.

What they found is frightening for nuclear safety, especially in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

Federal regulators at the NRC have been working with the nuclear power industry, changing regulations in order to allow nuclear reactors to work longer and with less expensive repairs.

The first reactors were built in the 1960s and ’70s, and at that time licenses on the reactors were set to expire no more than 40 years later.

Since then, around 66 of 104 of these licenses have been extended for 20 years.

As reactors weaken, the government has been changing regulations, saying some of the restrictions were unnecessarily tight and the dangers weren’t as great as originally thought.

Essentially, instead of shutting down the reactors, the NRC has just been loosening regulations.

For example, the original standard for leakage of radioactive steam valves was 11.5 cubic feet per hour. Nuclear sites were having difficulty keeping to this standard, so in 1999, the NRC changed this to 200 cubic feet per hour for all 4 valves in the reactors.

The problem is, even these expanded rates of leakage have been violated.

Other major problems include brittle vessels in reactors. The rods have been frequently rearranged to minimize wear, but even that hasn’t stopped damage.

Tubing from steam generators that contain radioactive coolant have become increasingly cracked.

Underground pipes have also caused frequent problems with leaks due to corrosion.

In all, it has been revealed about 62% of reactor problems are due to age and wear and tear.

Industry officials have been quoted saying nuclear plants do not have specific life spans – they can be fixed with parts reparations.

Due to the Fukushima disaster and the AP’s investigation, the NRC is required to review the state of reactors. This report is due to be released in July of this year.

At least the problem is being pinpointed before serious consequences have to be faced.

That’s all for now,

Brianna

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