Nuclear plant has crack

October 9, 2009

Tampa Bay Tribune

Workers have found a crack in a concrete containment wall at the Crystal River nuclear power plant, but the half-inch-wide gap doesn't pose a danger, officials said Thursday.

The plant, operated by Progress Energy, was shut down Sept. 26 for refueling, maintenance and replacing of two steam generators. It now has engineers and independent consultants studying the gap in the 42-inch thick concrete wall that is lined with a steel plate.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sending a special inspection team next week to learn what caused the crack and the extent of the gap.

Agency Chairman Gregory Jaczko and regional administrator Luis Reyes will be on site today for a previously scheduled visit and will be briefed about the situation while there, said Joey Ledford, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The plant was shut down when the crack was discovered, meaning the crack is not endangering the public. "There is no radiation that is being released as a result of this," Ledford said.

He said the regulatory agency will assess the implications of the crack. "We are concerned enough that we are sending a special inspection team," he said. "And they will determine when they issue their report if there is any safety implication involved in the gap."

Workers found the crack when they were hydro-blasting the containment wall to create a 23-foot by 23-foot hole to remove the two steam generators and add two new ones, Ledford said.

As they cut into the wall on Oct. 2, they found the half-inch separation, Ledford said. He said the crack appears about 9 inches beneath the wall's surface.

The wall is 150 feet tall and goes around the reactor, Ledford said.

Jessica Lambert, Progress Energy spokeswoman, said the shutdown had long been scheduled and the company is using additional reserves at other power plants.

The plan was to shut down the Crystal River nuclear power plant from October to December. Even accounting for the crack, Progress Energy may have the plant running by December, she said.

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