Friday, December 21, 2012

San Onofre Nuke Plant: "Mitsubishi Heavy failed certain requirements", Says NRC

NRC says Mitsubishi Heavy Industries failed to meet requirements related to the mock-up and testing of re-designed components for the steam generators.

So-Cal Edison wants to restart Reactor 2 in March. It says independent experts from Areva, Westingshouse/Toshiba, and Intertek/Aptech conducted the operational assessment.

SCE insists the company didn't rely on Mitsubishi (as if it is a good thing; maybe it is...).

For more on the Mitsubishi-made steam generator problems at San Onofre, see my posts (here and here).

From Reuters (12/19/2012; emphasis is mine):

SCE's Calif. San Onofre restart plan didn't rely on Mitsubishi

* NRC says Mitsubishi Heavy failed certain requirements

* SCE wants to restart Unit 2 at San Onofre

* NRC may approve of San Onofre 2 restart in March

* San Onofre reactors shut in January

Dec 19 (Reuters) - California power company Southern California Edison (SCE) said it did not rely on testing by Japanese engineering firm Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd to develop its restart plan for Unit 2 at the San Onofre nuclear plant in California.

Both reactors at the 2,150-megawatt (MW) San Onofre plant shut in January due to tube wear problems in the units' new steam generators. Mitsubishi Heavy built those steam generators and installed them in 2010 and 2011.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said in a letter posted on its website that Mitsubishi Heavy failed to meet certain requirements related to the mock-up and testing of re-designed components for the steam generators that may be used to repair the San Onofre steam generators.

But in a statement Tuesday night, SCE, a unit of California power company Edison International, said it did not consult or rely upon the Mitsubishi testing under review by the NRC to create the utility's plan to restart Unit 2.

The NRC is also reviewing SCE's plan to restart Unit 2 and may issue a decision on that plan in March. The reactor cannot restart without the NRC's approval.

SCE's plan to restart Unit 2 includes preventive plugging of tubes in the steam generators and operating the 1,070-MW unit at 70 percent power for a five-month period.

San Onofre is one of the biggest power plants in California and its shutdown since January has caused reliability challenges for the Southern California power grid.


SCE said its team of experts conducted three independent operational assessments of tube wear. The assessments were done by units of nuclear engineering firm Areva SA of France, the Westinghouse Electric unit of Japan's Toshiba Corp , and international testers at Intertek/Aptech.

SCE said none of its experts based their review and recommendations on testing by Mitsubishi. SCE said this was confirmed Tuesday at an NRC public meeting in Rockville, Maryland.

SCE submitted technical information to the NRC in October in support of its proposed restart plan for Unit 2. That plan did not include a restart for Unit 3 in part because the steam generators in Unit 3 suffered more tube wear.

The company shut Unit 2 on Jan. 9 for a planned outage. Unit 3 shut on Jan. 31 after station operators detected a leak in a steam generator tube.

SCE operates San Onofre for its owners: SCE (78.21 percent), Sempra Energy's San Diego Gas & Electric (20 percent) and the city of Riverside (1.79 percent).

I think NRC's letter mentioned in the article is this. It's more a report than a letter, dated November 30, 2012. So NRC staff made a trip to Kobe, Japan to inspect Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' noncompliance. Interesting.

Addressed to the Quality Assurance Manager Mr. Otake, NRC says:

From October 9-17, 2012, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff conducted an inspection at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd (MHI) facility in Kobe, Japan. The purpose of this reactive inspection was to assess MHI’s compliance with the provisions of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) Part 21, “Reporting of Defects and Noncompliance,” and selected portions of Appendix B, “Quality Assurance Program Criteria for Nuclear Power Plants and Fuel Reprocessing Plants,” to 10 CFR Part 50, “Domestic Licensing of Production and Utilization Facilities.”

This reactive inspection evaluated MHI’s quality assurance activities associated with the mock-up and testing of re-designed anti-vibration bars that may be used as a long-term repair of both Unit 2 and Unit 3 San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) steam generators. The inspection will assist the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) when and if modifications are installed at SONGS. The design and installation of the modification will require that the NRC conduct an independent review of the modification and possibly approval of the design change. The inspection evaluated if MHI’s design, manufacturing, preparation, and testing of the mock-up and testing of re-designed anti-vibration bars meet the applicable requirements of Appendix B to 10 CFR Part 50, 10 CFR Part 21, and American Society of Mechanical Engineers Code Section III, “Rules for Construction of Nuclear Facility Components”. The enclosed report presents the results of this inspection. This NRC inspection report does not constitute NRC endorsement of MHI’s overall quality assurance (QA) or 10 CFR Part 21 programs.

During this inspection, the NRC inspection team found that the implementation of your quality assurance program failed to meet certain NRC requirements imposed on MHI by its customers or NRC licensees. Specifically, MHI: 1) failed to verify the tube outside diameter straightness, tube bending radius, and total tube length conformed to the requirements identified in the purchase order and purchase specifications to Sumitomo Metal Corporation for the alloy 690 seamless tubes used to construct the steam generator u-tube bundle mock-up; and
2) failed to perform dedication of the commercial calibration services provided by Tokyo Sokki Kenkyujo Co., Ltd.
The enclosed Notice of Nonconformance (NON) cites these nonconformances, and the circumstances surrounding them are described in detail in the enclosed inspection report. Even though the NRC inspection team did not identify issues in all areas reviewed, in the response to the enclosed NON, MHI should document the results of the extent of condition and determine if there are any effects on other associated QA activities.

Please provide a written statement or explanation within 30 days from the date of this letter in accordance with the instructions specified in the enclosed NON. We will consider extending the response time if you show good cause for us to do so.

The letter is followed by the notice of nonconformance and the detailed inspection report.

Quick check on MHI's website, and there is still no mention of the accident.


Anonymous said...

Sounds "safe".

Anonymous said...

Mitsubishi gets thrown under the bus. Who's idea was it to rework the steam generators design until it no longer resembled the original design??? Operator is suppose to submit paperwork when a change takes place that replaces original equipment designs.

Removed the pipe supports and replaced it with more pipes for more heat transfer availability and can't understand why pipes vibrate and wear out within a few months of installation and now want to throttle back reactor power so not to disturb the unsupported pipes.

Unit 3 is so damage by the new design that it will probably and shouldn't ever run again.

Restarting Unit 2 is like playing Russian roulette but not with NRC's heads just the taxpayer's lives.

VyseLegendaire said...

Sounds like a very secure, in-control industry they have there.

Anonymous said...

So, if I get it right, Mitsubishi had built the redesigned steam generators that failed rather quickly because Mitsubishi made a mistake in some calculation or other (a redesign not reviewed/approved by the NRC and an error not noticed by SONGS experts either who surely reviewed the new design and testing parameters carefully prior to purchase?). Now Mitsubishi builds the repair parts and doesn't comply with quality assurance requirements ... I'm sure, there is nothing to worry about as far as future reactor safety is concerned.

But then the restart wouldn't occur with the repair parts, and the independent experts didn't review those, but rather the operational performance of the SONGS reactor "as is" with some preventive tube plugging and run on only 70% of power for a limited time. In other words, they did a theoretical evaluation of a faultily designed equipment run under conditions(lower power) different from those it was designed for. And meaning that they must have based their review on initial technical specifications from Mitsubishi and damage reports from SONGS. I hope I'm understanding this wrong because this sure does not sound reassuring to me.

Never mind that - unless I missed it - there is still no explanation why unit 3 fared worse damage-wise than unit 2 under the same conditions, indicating that the problem with the redesigned steam generators is still not completely understood.

The restart remains an experiment with a faulty design and a technology that allows little, if any room for error. Otherwise, if it was so certain that all will be well and safe, SONGS wouldn't limit the initial reactor restart run time to 5 months now, would they?


Atomfritz said...

I am not sure whether Mitsubishi should be the one getting thrown under the bus.

They got an order from SC&E, approved by the NRC and built to that specification.
These formal things the NRC complains of don't actually mean anything.
Failing to calibrate measurement instruments doesn't actually mean any danger or damage. If the measurements were correct, even if a new calibration formally would be due, there probably won't be any actual damage Mitsubishi would be responsible for.

Problem is the botched design that can be only solved by replacement. However, I strongly hope NRC will permit SONGS to restart and to go to full power 5 months later.
We really need at least one more serious nuke accident, preferably in a densely-populated area!

Atomfritz said...

mscharisma, as you correctly noticed, there isn't actually known how the damages in the steam generators developed.

As far as I understand, they just plan to plug hundreds of tubes, and then try to run the reactor at 70% for a while to see if vibrations don't get large enough to cause more damages, and then maybe to increase a bit to, maybe, 75 or 80%.

Obviously they want to start with unit 2 which is still in a slightly better shape, and if it works out, do the same with unit 3 until the lawsuit between SC&E has been settled a few years later so they can pay part of another new steam generator from the settlement compensation.

Anonymous said...

Atomfritz, you wrote "... If the measurements were correct, ... there probably won't be any actual damage ..."
Apart from the fact that there indeed was actual damage, namely to the tubes, for my taste, "if" and "probably" don't go together well with quality ASSURANCE in general and even less so in connection with NPP parts.

Besides, the calibration issue was only 1 of 2 nonconformances cited, with the 1st having been: "...failed to verify the tube outside diameter straightness, tube bending radius, and total tube length conformed to the requirements identified in the purchase order and purchase specifications..." Well, I'm not a technical person, but ... come on! The "size" and "shape" of the tubes went unchecked - in a new design where they are cramped closer together and the "thingy" that stabilizes them having been removed? Seriously?
Or is that just as well given that measuring equipment maybe was or then again maybe was not correctly calibrated?

By the way, the cynicism in your reasoning for wanting the restart gave me a good chuckle. ;)

Anonymous said...

The reason I know about the replacement generators not being replaced like-kind of the original design is because Arnie Gundersen was discussing it (video had him on the San Onofre beach going into great detail using a mock up of the new flawed design) and according to him the operator wanted to avoid submitting paperwork for a new design or major modification which would require a lengthy re-certification process.

The new re-designed steam generators were only computer software tested and really did remove the original design of the pipe supporting structure, to add-in more pipes with lesser vibration prevention.

NRC was pretending the new steam generators were just like the old ones and approved. Now Mitsubishi's test parameters get thrown out and other big companies fill the void but the new tests still show the design as faulty hence the reduced power requirement, this after plugging tubes.

Operator submits like and kind paperwork to the regulatory agency for approval with the Operator knowing full well the manufacture's test results are for a new design. The Agency approves of start ups, (new) design fails (twice) with one leaking reactor core radioactive nuclides into the environment. Agency points finger at manufacture and now relies on post-installation testing results for solution.

No fines assessed for installing different generators or faulty paperwork, all at taxpayer's expense, so far. Operator and Agency will work together even if they have to run one plant at 10% power to keep the plant lights on so they can bill the taxpayers.

Just another day in paradise.

Anonymous said...

Here's Arnie on the beach..

Other tidbits I picked up from Arnie interviews along the way during the cluster fu...

Anonymous said...

Peddling Gundersen is not welcome here.

Atomfritz said...

mscharisma, I should have clearly stated that I meant "no damage Mitsubishi is responsible for" from the lawyer's perspective.

What makes me think is that the American side (SC&E and NRC) do not at all focus in the botched custom design, which they approved and ordered from the Japanese (Mitsubishi), who in the end only manufactured the device as specified in the order.

Usually in case a company manufactures an experimental device to the specifications it has been given, there are no warranties that it will work as intended.
This is different than with off-the-shelf devices designed and tested by the manufacturers, who in this case usually grant warranty for its functionality.

So I find very interesting that the American side concentrates on some insufficient QA details that are possibly more of mere minor formal bureaucratic nature.

I suspect the QA certification was not completely done in a manner exactly resembling the American (NRC) industry rulings, but instead according the (slightly different) Japanese rulings.

Look, if the Japanese side (Mitsubishi) now proves that the diameter straightnesses, tube bending radiuses, total tube lengths and so on actually conformed to the specifications in the order, there won't be an actual damage in the sense of a product delivered differently than ordered.

But this is all speculation as the actual contracts are probably not made public yet.
I guess that the outcome will be a settlement between both sides whose details won't be disclosed to the public.
I guess Mitsubishi will have to refund a symbolic part of their profit from the steam generator deal so that both sides can save their faces.

Anonymous said...

Long and careful research has revealed the Zionist plan to waste San Diego with massive amounts of radiation. You people better LEAVE that area now.

Anonymous said...

Atomfritz, I understand what you're saying. However, Mitsubishi is required to comply with the US requirements - period. And part of the purpose of quality assurance is, of course, to determine if a manufactured part is exactly as ordered - BEFORE something goes wrong.

Of course, I sure don't mean to argue that Mitsubishi's nonconformance with QA requirements indeed did have any negative consequences as far as the performance of the steam generators is concerned. I am, however, saying that it is certainly not exactly reassuring and in fact unacceptable (even to the NRC) that a manufacturer of NPP parts is kind of laissez faire in double checking what they built.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

It looks like a case of NRC and all parties dancing around the core issue.

Quality assurance "lapse" because Mitsubishi failed to verify what Sumitomo Metal delivered probably happened all the time, as a matter of normal business. Not because Mitsubishi was lazy, but that was (or used to be) part of being in close relationship. For Sumitomo Metal to deliver exactly what was specified was a given, no need for Mitsubishi to even check.

Anonymous said...

Some more info on the unresolved question of covering the cost:

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