To the Editor of Green Energy Times,
About a month ago, I began seeing reports from various European news sources that the Doel 3 nuclear reactor, in Belgium, had been shut down because of possible cracks in the reactor vessel. A few days later, reports were that though they were each tiny, there were thousands of them. The head of the regulating agency in Belgium said it was hard to envision the reactor ever being repaired.
The investigation that followed indicated the cracks were the result of manufacturing flaws. All reactors built by the Rotterdam Drydock Company, which went bankrupt some years back, are considered suspect. There were 21 such reactors, and the regulators of the countries where these reactors were sited met to consider what to do about the situation. One thing clear is that cursory inspection is not enough. It must be done by ultrasound.
Some countries, including Belgium and Germany, shut down reactors built by Rotterdam Drydock for inspection. The government of the UK took the matter a step further, and shut down a reactor for inspection even though it was made by a different manufacturer, because it was of the same design.
Vermont Yankee has one of the reactors in question. I am finding two different stories about this, and unfortunately NRC records do not seem to clarify them for me. The reactors involved were made so long ago, that in some cases it is difficult to know precisely who made them. Some reports say Rotterdam Drydocks subcontracted the entire reactor for a US company, while others say it only manufactured a huge part of the reactor, with other parts from this country. In either case, there could be trouble.
I would think the NRC would be on this and talking about what they intend to do. I should think Entergy would issue a statement, unless it is afraid there may be something to hide. I find the silence on this issue distressing, and I think everyone should be made aware of it. VY’s reactor is must be considered suspect until it all reactor parts that may have been made by Rotterdam Drydock have been cleared by ultrasound inspection.
George Harvey’s daily energy blog is http://geoharvey.wordpress.com/.
As it happens, the above letter has been called inaccurate by at least some of the important anti-nuclear people in the area. The reason for this is that VY is a boiling water reactor, but all of the other reactors listed as coming from the Rotterdam Drydock Company were pressurized water reactors.
I recognized this when I first saw the list of Rotterdam Drydock reactors. VY was clearly the only boiling water reactor on the list. So I did a fair amount of research at the NRC’s website to find out who actually manufactured the VY reactor, and the letter reflects that research.
The US company I mentioned is Chicago Bridge and Iron. It is listed as the manufacturer of the VY reactor in at least some NRC documents, and I feel sure this means the reactor was subcontracted. Though one might expect this company to be located in Chicago, it is not. It has an administrative office in Texas, but its registered office is in The Hague, Netherlands. I do not know what its status was at the time the VY reactor was made, and I did not find out where the manufacturing was actually done.
I also got the fact that at least the reactor’s sleeve was manufactured by the Rotterdam Drydock Company from NRC documents. This does not mean that the rest of the reactor vessel was not also manufactured by Rotterdam Drydock. The sleeve can be described as huge, and the possibility of cracks in it is discussed in NRC documents, but there is no record I have ever found of its being examined by ultrasound.