April 18, 2011

TVA planning improvements for its nuclear reactors

The NY Times reports that the Tennessee Valley Authority said Thursday it was considering millions of dollars of improvements to protect its six nuclear reactors from earthquakes and floods.

It is the first American reactor operator to announce safety changes that it is weighing since an earthquake and tsunami set off a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan last month. Other operators have said publicly that they might have to make changes, but they have avoided saying what those were.
The T.V.A. issued a fact sheet saying that it was considering reducing the amount of fuel in its spent fuel pools by transferring older fuel to passively cooled "dry casks" and adding additional backup diesel generators.
It also listed three changes that are less commonly discussed: improving electrical switchyards to make them more resistant to earthquakes, adding small generators to recharge cellphone batteries and keep the lights on, and reinforcing the pipes that provide cooling water to spent fuel pools.
Of the six reactors operated by the T.V.A., three are boiling water reactors that resemble the Fukushima reactors. The authority said that none of its reactors are in areas where an earthquake risk is high. But it said it was looking at "potential vulnerabilities from a chain of events, such as damage from a tornado or earthquake combined with flooding from a dam failure."

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