By Bruce Henderson
A dozen anti-nuclear groups said Wednesday they have found new flaws in a nuclear reactor design that Duke Energy and Raleigh’s Progress Energy plan to use.
The groups said federal regulators should stop licensing work for the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, 14 of which are planned for use by U.S. utilities. Westinghouse Electric disputed the report.
Corrosion has been found in the containment buildings surrounding reactors at existing nuclear plants, the groups said. Corrosion coupled with the passive design of the new reactors’ emergency cooling systems would make them “inherently less safe than current reactors,” the groups said.
The flaw could accelerate the release of radiation during an accident, they said, citing a report by a 38-year veteran of the nuclear industry.
“A containment failure … could be devastating, as would construction projects going belly-up and leaving the public with the tab for billions of dollars,” said Jim Warren of the N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network.
“This has been reviewed and analyzed over the years. Without question, corrosion will not be an issue,” said Vaughn Gilbert, a Westinghouse Electric spokesman in Pittsburgh. The steel of the containment building is highly likely to corrode, Gilbert said, but would be detected by inspections.
Duke Energy would use the AP1000 in a new nuclear plant it is planning near Gaffney, S.C.
Spokeswoman Rita Sipe said Westinghouse and federal regulators review reactor designs as part of certification and licensing. “We’re confident that the process is going to work,” she said.