* NRC says no immediate threat at Seabrook reactor
* NextEra expects test results on concrete in 2014
* NRC to inspect plant again in early 2013
Dec 4 U.S. nuclear regulators said on Tuesday
concrete degradation at NextEra Energy Inc's
1,247-megawatt (MW) Seabrook nuclear power plant in New
Hampshire did not pose an immediate risk to the public or
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, however, has told
NextEra it must determine the future implications of the
degradation and develop a plan to fix it, said Neil Sheehan, an
NextEra identified the degradation in below grade concrete
structures at Seabrook in June 2009 and confirmed the problem
was from alkali silica reaction, or ASR, in August 2010.
ASR is a chemical reaction that can cause expansion and
cracking in concrete, potentially resulting in structural
The NRC said this was the first time ASR has affected a
nuclear power plant.
ASR has not caused structural problems at Seabrook, in part
because the concrete walls are reinforced with rebar, the NRC
In its latest report issued Monday, Sheehan said the NRC
conducted three weeks of on-site inspections and four months of
in-office reviews to assess the adequacy of actions taken by
NextEra to address the problem.
Based on these assessments, the NRC decided to close five of
11 items in a Confirmatory Action Letter (CAL) the agency issued
to NextEra last May regarding regulatory commitments the company
made to address the concrete degradation.
Sheehan said the remaining six confirmatory action letter
items will be reviewed during another inspection the agency
plans to perform in early 2013.
"We have said previously that no final NRC decision on the
plant's license renewal application will be made until we fully
understand and approve of NextEra's plans in response to
Seabrook concrete degradation," Sheehan said.
Seabrook entered service in 1990. Even though it is one of
the newest reactors in the nation, NextEra applied with the NRC
to renew the plant's original 40-year license for another 20
years in June 2010. The original license does not expire until
Although the NRC has completed several non-contentious
license renewals at other plants in less than two years, the NRC
staff in the Seabrook case still has several reports to complete
before the staff can make a recommendation to the commission on
NextEra has told the NRC it does not expect to get results
of testing of the degradation from the concrete laboratory at
the University of Texas until 2014, so the NRC could not make a
decision on the license renewal until at least that time.
That 2014 timeframe also fits with the NRC's self-imposed
moratorium in August on issuing new licenses until the agency
reviews the environmental impact of storing spent nuclear fuel
at temporary sites, like nuclear power plants, due in part to a
lack of a permanent waste storage facility. That decision
followed a federal court ruling in June.
The commission in September directed the NRC staff to
develop the environmental waste confidence study within 24