— Norway’s Halden Reactor: A poor safety culture and a history of near misses

From Bellona.org

March 3, 2017

By Nils Behmer

haldenreactor

Are those who operate Norway’s only nuclear research reactor taking its safety seriously? A new report raises concerns.

October 25th brought reports that there was a release of radioactive iodine from the Halden Reactor. The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority subsequently withdrew the reactor’s operating license from the Institute for Energy Technology. The NRPA has pointed out several issues the institute must resolve before the reactor goes back online.

It’s not the first time the NRPA has had to issue an order to the IFE. The NRPA had been supervising the IFE since 2014 over its lack of safety culture. The incident in October shows this frame of mind persists.

Reactor cooling blocked

So what happened in October? The iodine emission began when the IFE should have dealt with damaged fuel in the reactor hall. This led to a release of radioactive substances via the ventilation system. The release began on Monday, October 24 at 1:45 pm, but was first reported to the NRPA the next morning.

The next day, the NRPA conducted an unannounced inspection of the IFE. The situation was still unresolved and radioactive released were still ongoing from the reactor hall. The ventilation system was then shut off to limit further releases into the environment.

This, in turn, created more serious problems. When the ventilation system was closed down, the air coming from the process should also have been turned off. Pressurize[d] air kept the valves in the reactor’s cooling system open, which in turn stopped the circulation of cooling water.

‘A very special condition’

In the following days, the NRPA continued to monitor the reactor’s safety, and many repeated questions about the closure of the primary cooling circuit. The IFE initially reported that the situation at the reactor was not “abnormal.” By November 1, the NRPA requested written documentation from the responsible operating and safety managers. A few hours later, the NRPA received notice from the IFE that the reactor was in “a very special condition.”

What that meant was that the IFE had discovered temperature fluctuations in the reactor vessel indicating an increased neutron flux in the core, and with that the danger of hydrogen formation. Bellona would like to note that it was hydrogen formation in the reactor core that led to a series of explosions at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011.

The IFE therefore had to ask the NRPA for permission to open the valves again, even if that meant releasing radiation to the public. The release that followed was, according to the NRPA, within the emission limit values specified in the operating permit.

In Summary

The IFE has been under special supervision by the NRPA, but it doesn’t seem to Bellona that the IFE has taken the requirement for increased reporting nearly seriously enough. It seems they further didn’t understand the seriousness of the situation that arose in October. The IFE either neglected procedures it’s obligated to follow, made insufficient measurements, or failed to report the results satisfactorily.

Bellona is concerned that the reactor core may become unstable by just closing the vents. Hydrogen formation in the reactor core is very serious, as Fukushima showed. The IFE has previously stopped circulation in the primary cooling circuit for, among other things, maintenance while the reactor has been shut down.

Those who live around Halden had previously been satisfied with guarantees that the ravine in which the reactor [sits] could hermetically seal it off. As the incident in October shows, this guarantee no longer applies.

Nils Bøhmer is Bellona’s general director.

http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/2017-03-norways-halden-reactor-a-poor-safety-culture-and-a-history-of-near-misses

Posted under Fair Use Rules

News articles from incident:

http://enenews.com/alarm-radioactive-leak-at-nuclear-plant-damaged-fuel-in-reactor-workers-immediately-evacuated-from-site-reactor-in-a-very-special-condition-dangerous-neutron-flux-in-core-reported

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— MIT’s floating reactors — “outstanding safety performance” or dangerous fraud? (VIDEO)

Here is the transcript and MIT description for the Jacopo Buongiorno video. Again, this is a must-see video; archive it for future use.

In this video are many errors and assumptions. Obviously neither Buongiorno nor his team are sailors who have experienced weather and ocean conditions. The evacuation and contamination zone for Fukushima is not a few miles. The only thing infinite about the ocean is its goodness. Certainly the ocean is not an infinite heat sink. Heating the ocean is never, ever, a good idea, and discharging radioactivity into the water is insane. Radioactive gases will also burp out of the ocean as fast as they are pumped in, as anyone who has blown bubbles into water knows. So much for mitigation. So much for ‘higher’ education.

These universities seem to be publicly-funded industry profit enrichment systems. There is little critical thinking going on here, and degrees are being given to fools and yes-men who develop systems that endanger the Earth and everyone on it. 

Video and description from Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Published April 15, 2014

“When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused most of the damage and contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects — specifically, the lack of cooling for the reactor cores and spent fuel, due to a shutdown of outside power — that caused most of the harm.

A new design for nuclear plants built on floating platforms, modeled after those used for offshore oil drilling, could help avoid such consequences in the future. Such floating plants would be designed to be automatically flooded by the surrounding seawater in a worst-case scenario, providing sufficient cooling to indefinitely prevent any melting of fuel rods, or escape of radioactive material.

The concept is being presented this week at the Small Modular Reactors Symposium, hosted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, by MIT associate professor of nuclear science and engineering (NSE) Jacopo Buongiorno along with others from MIT, the University of Wisconsin, and Chicago Bridge and Iron, a major nuclear plant and offshore platform construction company.

Video filmed by Christopher Sherrill, courtesy of MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.”

Transcript:

Speaker: Jacopo Buongiorno,
Associate Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, MIT

Today I want to tell you about a new nuclear reactor concept that we’re developing here at MIT, and that is the possibility of revolutionizing the nuclear industry both in terms of economics and safety.

This is a floating offshore nuclear power plant.

It’s a power plant that can be entirely constructed in a centralized shipyard and then towed to the site where it would be moored or anchored a few miles off the coast and link to the electric grid with a transmission line.

Now the idea of the floating plant is not entirely new. In fact, the Russian are building a floating plant themselves, but the key difference between our concept and theirs is that ours is not only floating but is sited a few miles off the coast, and this affords some absolutely crucial advantages.

First of all, tsunamis and earthquakes are no longer a source of risk for the nuclear plant because essentially the ocean shields the seismic waves. And the tsunami waves in relatively deep waters – say, 100 meter deep – are not big and so they don’t really pose a hazard for the plant.

Number two, of course, the ocean itself can be used as an infinite heat sink. And so, the decay heat which is generated by the nuclear fuel, even after the reactor is shut down, can be removed indefinitely, and this is a major advantage with respect to current terrestrial plants in which the ultimate heat sink is not assured necessarily for the very long term as demonstrated by the accident in Japan at Fukushima.

The other key safety advantage is that because of distance from shore, even if an accident should occur at the plant, it will not force people to evacuate, to move away from their homes and their jobs on shore. Because of distance, and also because of the possibility of essentially venting radioactive gases under water, therefore minimizing the impact onshore.

Now, a nice characteristic of this idea is that it combines essentially two established technologies. One is nuclear reactors – for example, light water reactors, PWI and PWR — and the other technology is offshore platforms which are currently used obviously for oil and gas exploration, exploitation, and extraction.

So we think that the combination of these two technologies give some solid ground on which we can build a plant that has good economic performance and, as I explained, an outstanding safety performance.

And we have a great team here at MIT of students, both graduates and undergraduates, as well as professors, and we’re also collaborating with other universities and with industry to develop these new concepts.