Substandard fire protection at nuclear Plant Hatch?

Does Hatch nuclear Unit 1 have substandard fire protection, like many reactors built before 1975? Protection against fires that the NRC says cause about half the core damage risk, such as at Fukushima, which is the same design as Hatch?

According to 2 Jan 2012, Fire Risk At Older Japan Reactors Shows Potential Worldwide Problem,

The [Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Authority] NRA announced recently that reactors built before 1975 likely have sub standard fire protection designs. This includes having important cables coated in fire resistant insulation, isolating and protecting cables and creating barriers to prevent fires from spreading to other areas of critical equipment.

Source: The Mainichi, 1 Jan 2013, Over 10 nuclear plants in Japan have flawed fire-prevention equipment: sources.

What else was built before 1975? Plant Hatch Unit 1 “Operating License: Issued – 10/13/1974”, according to the U.S. NRC. 100 miles from here, and the same design as Fukushima.

DOE also instituted upgrades and changes to their reactor facilities which included facility modifications as a result of Browns Ferry fire. Private sector nuclear power reactors in the US are not all fully up to the newer rules. The NRC has issued a number of exemptions that watchdog groups have criticized as being unsafe. Browns Ferry still does not meet the NRC fire rules for cables. 47 of 52 reactors in the US still do not comply with the 1980 fire regulations.

Plant Hatch is privately owned and operated. Has it been upgraded? How will we find out? Will Southern Company tell us? Will the NRC, which doesn’t publish licensee documents? The NRC that gave Plant Vogtle a clean bill of health at a public meeting two days before Unit 1 shut down?

Do these fire regulations matter? The NRC set them up after TVA’s Browns Ferry reactor caught on fire. And NRC itself says, Briefing on Fire Protection Issues, U.S. NRC, 17 July 2008, p. 58,

Approximately one-half of the core damage risk at operating reactors results from accident sequences that initiate with fire events.

Like at, for example, Fukushima.

In 2002 the NRC gave Hatch 1 and 2 each 20 year license extensions, out to 2034 and 2038. But that doesn’t mean they’ll actually operate until then. Dominion Power also got 20-year extensions for their Kewaunee plant, but less than two years later Dominion is shutting it down. Why?

The market has spoken, and policy-makers should listen to and learn from that message.

The immediate excuse was natural gas prices, but it’s wind and especially solar that are abrading fossil and nuclear credit quality until soon the fossil fuel and nuclear power bubble will pop.


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