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Honeywell Modifications Mark a Victory for Public Safety

Jim Hickey
Branch Chief, Division of Fuel Facility Inspection
Region II

Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that caused unprecedented damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station in Japan, the NRC began a special review of the U.S. facilities involved in the production of uranium and manufacture of fuel assemblies for nuclear power plants.

Our traditional approach to inspections involves confirming such facilities are complying with the license requirements the NRC established to ensure safety and security. Our approach for these inspections was a little different. These inspections were designed to confirm these facilities were capable of withstanding an unlikely but credible event such as an earthquake or tornado.

We determined only one facility was in need of changes to ensure safety and security prior to resuming operations. That plant was the fuelcyclelistHoneywell Uranium Conversion Facility, in Metropolis, Ill.

When presented with our inspection results, Honeywell agreed with our conclusions. Over the next year, the building where the uranium conversion process takes place was fortified — imagine really big steel beams. Also, the process equipment was modified by adding supports and an automatic shutdown system that immediately stops the operation if an earthquake occurs.

How simple and straightforward that description seems! Let me assure you it was far from that. First, Honeywell had to determine what forces the facility could be subjected to and then translate that into how strong the building and process equipment would need to be to withstand the event. Then, they had to figure out how to modify the plant, where to put additional supports and how those supports would be installed. They also had to design the automatic seismic shutdown system, and then actually do the work to install the changes.

For the regulatory oversight portion, we reviewed Honeywell’s analysis, and asked questions until we were satisfied the answers gave us the information we needed. We reviewed and inspected the modifications. We drew a path from the initiating event earthquake or tornado to what was actually installed in the facility to ensure the changes accomplished the design goals.

Our efforts crossed multiple organizational boundaries within the NRC as well as state and local agencies. It would take too much space to document all of those who contributed as it’s a lengthy list. After all this, last month we granted Honeywell authorization to restart the facility.

We all recognize the importance of our day-to-day efforts to ensure the safety and security of our nation’s nuclear facilities, and occasionally we embark on an activity that significantly improves the safety of a facility. This was one of those times.

8 responses to “Honeywell Modifications Mark a Victory for Public Safety

  1. Hassan July 10, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    safety from Earthquakes and tornado can’t be guarantied but honeywell is providing such an amazing thing!

  2. ayoub October 2, 2013 at 4:12 am

    There has never been an eco disaster of the proportion you have described. Hurricane Katrina, the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami, and even the Deepwater Horizon oil spill were an order of magnitude less than your trillion dollors you quote. Even Chernobyl was two orders of magnitude less than that. An educated or informed reader can recognize $%^& when they see it.

  3. Jess September 4, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Well done on the article. Very informative.

  4. CaptD August 30, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Nuclear energy also has the potential to cause Trillion Dollar Eco-Disasters like Fukushima if something goes wrong, especially in the older Nuclear Power Plants (NPP’s), which are the very same NPP’s whose Utilities are seeking or have gotten uprates! Since Nature can destroy any land based nuclear reactor, any place anytime, the NRC saying that nobody needs to be concerned sounds to me like “whistling while you are passing the graveyard” since the Japanese people thought nuclear was 100% safe until until some BAD happened at Fukushima, so thinking that will not happen in the USA is faulty logic, at best. Now they have a Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster, which will NOT be fully contained (despite that TEPCO and their Regulators claim as it being “in cold shut down”) for another 40 to 100 years while at the same time, it has been and continues to leak radioactive water into the Sea of Japan (aka the Pacific Ocean) for over 2.5 years which is now spreading globally!

    So in reality, our US Leaders and the entire nuclear industry are just living in Nuclear Denial* claiming that US reactors are also 100% safe, which is nothing but nuclear baloney**.

    Nuclear Power Plants provides by far, the most RISKY power in the US ( and the World).

    The nuclear industry for the most part denies that they need to do any real safety upgrades and complains about any NRC required safety upgrades, yet they will not insure themselves against risk, having gotten Congress to pass that risk along to the US Govt. and the people of the USA, thanks to the Price-Anderson Act.

    Per the NRC: Fact Sheet on Nuclear Insurance and Disaster Relief http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/funds-fs.html

    In short, if there is more than $12 Billion in damages, residents are left holding a empty radioactive bag! BTW: This is only a tiny fraction of what it will cost in Fukushima, which I estimated to be about a Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster!

    What is the value of all the homes and Commercial property downwind of every nuclear power plant (NPP) in America?

    Probably at least several TRILLION dollars…

    Here is a great graphic that will help everyone visualize what is downwind of any of the US reactors! NRDC Nuclear Fallout Map: http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/fallout/

    Just click on a reactor and zoom in… (BTW: These are conservative fallout estimates).

    Here is what Former Japanese PM Kan (1), Gregory Jaczko (2) the Former Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and 2 other Nuclear Experts (3) had to say at a June 4, 2013 seminar in San Diego,CA, “Lessons for California” which was based upon what they experienced as the Leaders “in-charge” when 3/11/11 occurred:

    (1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAYVK8_W2h4

    (2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG1QmEQ84aY

    (3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8g6mViUvHUo

    Remember a nuclear accident in the USA could cost Trillions and/or bankrupt the country…

    * http://is.gd/XPjMd0

    ** http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Nuclear+Baloney

    • Anonymous September 3, 2013 at 12:07 pm

      Did you REALLY just cite Urban Dictionary?

    • Robin Franke September 3, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      There has never been an eco disaster of the proportion you have described. Hurricane Katrina, the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami, and even the Deepwater Horizon oil spill were an order of magnitude less than your trillion dollors you quote. Even Chernobyl was two orders of magnitude less than that. An educated or informed reader can recognize $%^& when they see it.

    • Anonymous September 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      Thank you for providing no relevant information to this article.

      Now, please go spread your FUD elsewhere.

    • Anonymous September 20, 2013 at 11:55 am

      You are right in asuming nuclear reactors can never be 100% safe. However, they are very hardened to disasters and heavily monitored and regulated. Conversely, chemical (chlorine) plants are less regulated, less safe, and have led to the largest industrial accidents in human history (as measured by loss of life).

      Nothing will ever be 100% safe. But if you like to use a swimming pool or drink city water, fly in an airplane, drive a car, or do most things in life, there are some risks that have to be accepted.

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