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A View from the Altar / Nuclear industry issue to watch
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Nuclear industry issue to watch

This link will take you to an in-depth report on a little known issue at nuclear power plants, which is fire protection.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has recently taken fire protection enforcement to a higher level.

One of the more serious nuclear events ever to occur on U.S. soil took place at the Browns Ferry plant in northern Alabama.  In that event, workers were checking for air leaks using a candle, which used to be common practice.  Air flowing into a leak sucked the flame from the candle and ignited insulation in some temporary sealing material.  The fire spread into an adjoining room where it disabled critical circuits needed to shut down the reactor.  Before the event was over, the plant experienced a very serious failure known in the industry as an “Anticipated Transient Without Scram,” or ATWS (pronounced AT-wass).  In this condition, a signal was generated for all the control rods to insert into the core to shut it down, but the disabled electrical circuits resulted in only part of the rods going in.

The industry learned that ordinary industrial fire suppression was not adequate for nuclear plants and undertook very extensive and costly changes after that event.  The fundamental nature of power generation remains, however.  It is the business of handling gargantuan amounts of energy.  Big energy sources always have the potential to get out of control, and when they do, one of the effects tends to be fire.  Check out the article linked about to see what the NRC is doing, what industry critics are saying, and where the nation goes from here.

otherbrothersteve@gmail.com

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