Utility engineers are working to seal cracks at a Fairfield County, SC, atomic power plant before the fractures widen and make the plant more vulnerable to a nuclear accident.
As of right now, the SCE&G plant doesn’t present any threat to the public, but cracks in the reactor head at the nuclear plant are a concern the plant must address, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said.
Without repairs, the small cracks could widen and allow water that keeps the reactor cool to escape. In a nuclear plant, it is important to keep cool water circulating through the reactor to avoid a meltdown of atomic fuel and possible release of radiation.
In documents filed with the NRC, SCE&G said it plans to make repairs that will satisfy concerns about the recently discovered flaws at the V.C. Summer reactor. The repairs should be good for at least 40 years, the power company said in an Oct. 30 report to the NRC. The repairs have begun, a spokeswoman for SCE&G said.
SCE&G’s nuclear plant, located about 25 miles northwest of Columbia, began operating in the early 1980s. The Midlands, SC-headquartered power company is building two new reactors adjacent to the existing reactor. The new reactors are just two of a few approved for construction in the United States, where a reactor has not gone up in 30 years.
At issue is a steel dome that sits atop a room surrounding the core of the nuclear plant, where atomic reactions occur to produce power. The reactor head is a smaller dome underneath the larger containment dome. SCE&G discovered flaws in four welded holes where nuclear fuel rods insert to control the atomic reactions.
Company spokeswoman Rhonda O’Banion said SCE&G’s repairs are “preemptive to assure we have no issues in the future.” Repairs are occurring while the Summer plant is off line for refueling, something that happens about every 18 months. She characterized the reactor dome flaws as “minor defects.”
O’Banion did not say whether the company had long-term plans to replace the reactor vessel head, but NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said he believes the company will do so eventually.