Flaw has Nukes Refiguring Heat

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 05:02 PM gHale

A flaw in calculating the potential heat from nuclear fuel in the event of an accident has the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) seeking information from energy companies running 11 reactors.

This was not something that presents an immediate safety concern so there was no reason to shut any of the plants, the NRC said.

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“But we do want them to come back to us to show they are meeting our regulations,” said NRC spokesman Scott Burnell.

The 11 reactors are located at FirstEnergy’s Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania, Exelon’s Byron in Illinois, Duke Energy’s Catawba in South Carolina and McGuire in North Carolina, American Electric Power’s Cook, and Dominion’s Kewaunee in Wisconsin.

A computer program Westinghouse Electric used has a fundamental flaw in determining how the fuel loses the ability to conduct heat, Burnell said.

This phenomenon is “thermal conductivity degradation.”

Because of that error there is a possibility that plants could underestimate how hot their fuel could get in an accident, Burnell said.

Westinghouse is majority-owned by Japan’s Toshiba Corp.