Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station has a problem with its nuclear waste storage, federal officials said.
The power station, located in southern York County, PA has been working with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to fix the problem, according to Krista Merkel, a company spokeswoman.
At issue are Peach Bottom’s “spent fuel pools,” two tanks of circulating water, about 40 feet deep, located in buildings near its two reactors. Used fuel rods, still lethally radioactive, are stored in the pools, where the water helps to cool the rods and keep radiation contained.
The walls of the above-ground tanks have linings of special panels that help to prevent unwanted nuclear reactions, said Neil Sheehan, NRC spokesman.
Peach Bottom’s panels degraded, making the nuclear waste more likely to threaten plant safety, Sheehan said.
“The pool could heat up, and it would be an event they’d have to respond to,” he said. “The idea is to prevent this from ever occurring.”
Peach Bottom has 210 days to tell the NRC what it has done to address the issue, Sheehan said.
Though not an immediate safety concern, “degradation” of the panels has been “a longstanding issue,” he said.
In March 2012 the NRC issued a violation against Exelon, the company that owns the plant, for failing to keep the panels from degrading below required levels, Sheehan said.
Following that violation, the company submitted a plan to install new panels, he said.
Peach Bottom has been working with the NRC to resolve this issue for several years, Merkel said.
Exelon designed and installed new spent fuel pool rack inserts on one of the fuel pools, and is on track to make similar upgrades to the other fuel pool this year, Merkel said.
“The enhanced inserts have been inspected and tested and meet all NRC safety criteria,” Merkel said.