HAMPTON, N.H. — A representative of nuclear watchdog group C-10 urged the Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week not to allow any “short cuts” concerning the alkali-silica reaction concrete degradation problem at the NextEra Energy Seabrook nuclear power plant.
C-10 staff member Debbie Grinnell said the situation at Seabrook Startion has to be investigated thoroughly to ensure its safety not only until 2050 — when an extended operating license that the plant has requested would expire — but now.
“As Seabrook (Station) is the first in the nuclear industry to demonstrate extensive and marked ASR concrete degradation and the NRC had no technical or regulatory basis for ASR, the NRC must require a comprehensive extent of condition on all of Seabrook (Station’s) buildings and structures with actual, not virtual, data from concrete at Seabrook (Station) using appropriate acceptance criteria ... ,” Grinnell told the panel.
Grinnell was among 120 area residents and members of watchdog groups who turned out for an information session Tuesday night organized by the NRC to offer an update on the status of the ASR problem, which was discovered two years ago on areas of several subterranean cement walls at Seabrook Station, as well as details of the most recent inspection of the plant.
Alkali-silica reaction is a slow chemical reaction that can occur when moisture is present and causes an interaction between the alkaline cement and reactive silica found in some aggregates used to make concrete. ASR forms a gel that expands, causing micro-cracks that affect concrete properties, but which can take five to 15 years to show up. The aggregate used when Seabrook Station was built has been discovered to be vulnerable to ASR.
Although ASR is commonly found in dams and transportation structures like bridges, roads and airport runways where it has been successfully mitigated, Seabrook Station is the first nuclear power plant in the U.S. to discover and report the presence of ASR.