APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

South Korea Nuclear Corruption Investigation Update

It's been a while since I have reported on the developments in the corruption scandal concerning nuclear plant parts and quality assurance, and production contracts, in the South Korean nuclear energy program.  Here are the important updates since my last post (which I'll link below.)

•There have been no further implications of any sort that plant safety is actually compromised.

•Not long ago a former Vice Commerce Minister was indicted in the scandal, for influencing the decision to award contracts for construction of the nuclear plants in the UAE.  Click here.

•A former Vice Minister for Trade and Energy has just been named as the new head of KHNP, or Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power. Click here for brief announcementClick here for detailed piece.

As we can see, the corruption appears to have reached high levels in South Korean government, but as we also see the rate at which further persons are being implicated has greatly slowed.  It may be that the investigation is reaching its ultimate limit; this however is not yet guaranteed, and for that reason I'll keep on the story... and of course should any actual realistic implication against plant safety appear, I'll report on that here as well.

Click here for the previous update on this situation, which includes background links.

2:35 PM Eastern 9/25/2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013

NRC Finds Flaws in Mitsubishi RSG Design for San Onofre

Those of us watching the San Onofre situation closely have been waiting for a good, solid hint, one way or the other as to which way the continuing situation between SCE and Mitsubishi would play out.  The matters covered in the release below may constitute a significant, if early, hint.


(Press release from SCE, Sunday evening 9/22)

Media Contact: Media Relations, (626) 302-2255

SCE Announces that Nuclear Regulatory Commission Finds Flaws in Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Design that Led to Failed Steam Generators at San Onofre

ROSEMEAD, Calif., Sept. 22, 2013 — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has confirmed to Southern California Edison (SCE) that the NRC has identified flaws in how Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) used its computer codes to design the failed steam generators at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). The NRC further informed Southern California Edison that it is issuing a “Notice of Non-Conformance” against MHI for its flawed computer modeling in the failed design. The NRC is also citing SCE for failing to ensure that MHI’s modeling and analysis were adequate.

In particular, the NRC reports indicate that MHI’s use of its computer codes in the design of the steam generators inaccurately predicted thermal hydraulic conditions in the steam generators, leading to tube vibration and wear, and a steam generator tube leak. The NRC also found that MHI embedded the same computer modeling error in the design of steam generators at four other nuclear plants, although none developed the fluid elastic instability that caused San Onofre to shut down. The NRC inspection findings reinforce an NRC Augmented Inspection Team report a year ago that identified MHI’s computer modeling errors. The San Onofre units were permanently shut down in June.

Pete Dietrich, SCE senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, said it is not unusual for the NRC to cite the licensed operator of the nuclear plant as a responsible party even when problems are created by a vendor or contractor, and that SCE takes its licensee oversight responsibilities seriously. The NRC’s decision to also directly cite MHI reflects the fact that MHI created the flawed design and also failed to properly perform the verification and checking that SCE hired MHI to do.

“Mitsubishi designed the system. Mitsubishi built the system. Mitsubishi’s system failed. They are the experts. SCE was the customer,” Dietrich said.

“SCE is responsible for the safe operation of San Onofre and will continue to make safety our top priority as the plant is decommissioned,” Dietrich added. “MHI is accountable for its failure to provide properly functioning steam generators.”

Dietrich said SCE relied upon MHI, the qualified vendor authorized to design, manufacture and test the steam generators in accordance with American Society of Mechanical Engineers Code requirements, to meet specifications. Dietrich added that during the design of the steam generators, SCE appropriately questioned MHI about its design and use of computer models on multiple occasions. MHI repeatedly reassured SCE that its design and models were correct.

In its letter to SCE, the NRC also noted that MHI hired consultants with expertise in designing large steam generators, but that MHI did not rigorously evaluate their concerns about MHI’s computer modeling.

No financial penalties were imposed by the NRC.

On July 18, SCE served MHI with a Notice of Dispute http://www.songscommunity.com/docs/noticeofdispute.pdf for breach of contract and warranty for supplying defective steam generators that resulted in the permanent closure of San Onofre. The notice details MHI’s failures in designing the steam generators.

SCE announced June 7 that it would permanently shut down San Onofre Units 2 and 3, and begin the process to decommission the facility.

SCE has provided an online Digital Document Library containing thousands of pages of primary documents about the history of the design and testing of the Replacement Steam Generators, and a summary of design review minutes at http://www.songscommunity.com.

For more information about SCE, follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

About Southern California Edison
An Edison International (NYSE:EIX) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of nearly 14 million via 4.9 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.


BACKGROUND LINKS  (for further information)

SCE:  Rates not impacted by San Onofre (APR Sept. 8)

SCE Releases San Onofre documents (APR Sept. 7)

MHI Document Release by NRC, and evisceration of the claims by Boxer / Markey that "SCE and MHI knew the steam generators were bad."  My analysis of just the MHI documents, an injection of reality, and proof that Boxer and Markey have no idea what they're talking about.  Also contains many further informative links on steam generator design and testing (these are past APR articles as well.)

7:45 PM Eastern 9/22/2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fukushima Daiichi 5 and 6 - finally a solid plan?

Long time readers of this site (as well as people I talk to frequently) will know that I have maintained the position for years that TEPCO intends, or at least, has intended to attempt to restart not only the four units at its Fukushima Daini nuclear station (south of Fukushima Daiichi) but also Unit 5 and Unit 6 at Fukushima Daiichi.

If you don't believe that, look at this post I made in May 2011.

Now we have seen a rather startling and abrupt statement by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has directly asked TEPCO to decommission and dismantle Units 5 and 6 at Fukushima Daiichi.

I would imagine for some people the reaction will be essentially "you mean there was a plan to restart these plants, at that site?  Really?"  Really.  Make sure you read the above link and realize that it's two years old.... and that TEPCO has essentially said nothing either way about these two units for the intervening time.

There are numerous stories out today about Abe's statement. Here are just a couple of these news links, carrying information about Abe's most recent tour of Fukushima Daiichi and the revelation that he's asked TEPCO to decommission the two undamaged units at the site:



TEPCO continues to release periodic updates on the status of restoration and modification of the Fukushima Daini nuclear station (such as this one) although the alterations and improvements at that plant are absolutely miniscule when compared with work at the gigantic Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant on the opposite coast.

TEPCO appears to have continued, at least until now, the possibility of restarting the two undamaged units at Fukushima Daiichi although it's been silent on the prospect -- the evidence for this assumption being somewhat more omission of data than admission of fact.  Plans to restart the other Fukushima station to the south are more clear; plans for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa could not be more clear.  The Fukushima prefectural government, on the other hand, has stated that no nuclear plant would ever again operate on its soil; it appears now that at least in terms of Units 5 and 6 at Fukushima Daiichi, the Prime Minister agrees.

What remains to be seen is a clear response from TEPCO.  When one appears, you'll see it here.


Background link:

Preparing to Restart:  Tsunami Safety Measures at Japanese Nuclear Power Stations.


UPDATE 2:00 PM Eastern 9/19

TEPCO has provided a response to Prime Minister Abe's request to dedicate itself to decommissioning Units 5 and 6.  That terse response, as well as two others to requests made by Abe, can be found at this link:  TEPCO responds

Analysis:  TEPCO in fact had no plan to decommission Units 5 and 6.  TEPCO will now have to consider this, and this will kick the lid off the barrel that's been containing the eventually required discussion about operating any nuclear plants in Fukushima Prefecture at all.  TEPCO may be forced to come to grips with a determined future not only for Fukushima Daiichi 5 and 6 but also for the Fukushima Daini site as well through this process.  My feeling is that this is a discussion TEPCO very much did NOT want to have.. at least, not yet.


UPDATE 9:40 AM Eastern 9/20

Japan's Industry Minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, has gone on record as saying that adopting the strategy to scrap Unit 5 and Unit 6 at Fukushima Daiichi could have multiple parallel benefits to the remediation of the site.  His comments include the concept that the area the units occupy could eventually be used for more storage tanks, and that (before this, of course) the scrapping process could be used to train personnel who will be required to scrap the damaged units.

Click here for NHK World link to this story.

Following up on earlier posts, just as a matter of interest... yesterday, NHK posted a brief piece which stands as its revelation that, until now, TEPCO has actually not said anything one way or another about Units 5 and 6 ... click here to see it.  Readers of this blog of course knew this fact, but it appears as if it's been hiding in plain sight in front of many analysts and reporters. 

9:40 AM Eastern 9/19/2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

SCE testifies to CPUC that rates will not be impacted by SONGS

Press release from Southern California Edison below.


ROSEMEAD, Calif., Aug. 14, 2013 — Southern California Edison (SCE) submitted testimony to the California Public Utilities Commission today that outlines expected cost reductions due to labor and other operating changes at the recently retired San Onofre nuclear plant that, combined with related financial factors, are projected to leave customer rates unchanged. Key points include:

· A ratemaking proposal to recover SCE’s remaining investment in San Onofre at a lower rate of return over a five-year period within current rate levels.
· A $42 million average annual reduction in revenue collections from customers for San Onofre in 2013 and 2014, followed by additional reductions in the subsequent three years.
· A proposal to apply the operating cost savings to offset replacement power costs; those market costs are up 12 percent over last year in Southern California.
· A proposal to apply similar terms to San Onofre Units 2 and 3 that the utilities commission authorized 20 years ago for the retirement of San Onofre Unit 1.

SCE announced June 7 that it would retire San Onofre Units 2 and 3, and begin preparations to decommission the facility. The site workforce will be reduced to about 600, a reduction of 900 employees, by the end of this year. For more information about SCE, follow us on Twitter.
About Southern California Edison

An Edison International (NYSE:EIX) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of nearly 14 million via 4.9 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.

Decommissioning fact sheet: http://www.songscommunity.com/docs/DecommissioningSanOnofreComplete.pdf


This release is important to understand in light of the amount of noise anti-nuclear activists are making about the decommissioning costs of the plant, and potential rate hikes to dismantle it even though it's producing no energy.  The release from SCE -- detailing testimony to the California Public Utilities Commission -- clearly rebuts that type of thinking.

1:10 PM Eastern 9/8/2013

Saturday, September 7, 2013

SCE Releases SONGS Steam Generator Documents; MHI Info Page

Below is a press release from Southern California Edison.


Media Contact: Maureen Brown, (626) 302-2255

SCE Opens Digital Document Library, Making Public Key Documents Related to the Design of the San Onofre Replacement Steam Generators

Library Contains Nearly 100 Documents Totaling More Than 3,200 Pages,
Many Made Public for the First Time

ROSEMEAD, Calif., Sept. 4, 2013 — Southern California Edison (SCE) today opened the San Onofre Digital Document Library at www.SONGScommunity.com/library. The library makes public key documents related to the design of the replacement steam generators, whose malfunction resulted in the shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

“The San Onofre Digital Document Library will help the public, elected officials and regulators better understand the history of the replacement steam generators that led to San Onofre’s closure,” said Ron Litzinger, president of SCE. “It is vitally important that we all achieve a full understanding of the facts so that future decisions by regulators and legislators are based on transparency and the highest quality information.”

The closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant earlier this year was the result of the failure of the plant’s replacement steam generators, which were designed and manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI). SCE previously announced that it had commenced the process of pursuing legal action against MHI to recover compensation for damages caused by the failure of MHI’s steam generators.

The San Onofre Digital Document Library contains a wide variety of documents, many made public for the first time. In total, the library contains nearly 100 documents, comprising more than 3,200 pages. The library supplements the numerous documents related to the replacement steam generators that SCE had previously made publicly available at SONGScommunity.com.

Some of the documents included in the library are partially redacted. The redactions were made because MHI has asserted that the redacted sections contain proprietary information that cannot be made public. SCE has asked MHI to agree that unredacted versions of these documents can be made public.
SCE is planning to include additional documents in the library, and is asking MHI to confirm that these additional documents can be placed in the library without redaction.
About Southern California Edison
An Edison International (NYSE:EIX) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of nearly 14 million via 4.9 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California. 


There are a large number of documents; let me point out some key portions for the layman to read.

This document details the relationship between Mitsubishi (who designed and built the SONGS replacement steam generators) and Southern California Edison (who bought the steam generators and who exercised some oversight on the whole project.)  It goes on to highlight key areas of design and manufacture that were selected for DRM or Design Review Meetings.  Some of these focus areas did in fact become determinants in the actual failures experienced, meaning that while the focus and attention were on the right topical considerations, the "let down," if you will, was in execution.  (In other words, it is not as if the failures occurred in designs / equipment not even mentioned in DRM material.)

The document then moves along to detail specific relations between SCE and MHI concerning the parts that eventually failed, as well as causal items (simple scale-up of previous designs not guaranteed to perform adequately, etc.) 

Another document, found here, explains the process behind the decision that the replacement steam generators did in fact satisfy 50.59 requirements.  A lot of noise was made on this by anti-nuclear activists back at the time this problem surfaced.

The rest of the material gets about as technical as anyone would like - and I note that while MHI has redacted portions of some of the material, it's significant that this much has been released at all.


In the interest of fairness it's important to note that MHI does in fact have a page of information itself.  That page can be found at this link.

Further historical links:

Mitsubishi receives order for 4 steam generators for SONGS

Mitsubishi delivers two steam generators for SONGS Unit 2

Mitsubishi delivers two steam generators for SONGS Unit 3

Mitsubishi release upon announcement of closure of SONGS

2:25 PM Eastern 9/7/2013