News of Poor Quality Piping Comes Week before NRC “Status” Meeting on MOX Plant Construction at the DOE’s Savannah River Site, Piping Issue to be Raised at Meeting
July 17, 2012
For Immediate Release
Contact: Tom Clements, 803-834-3084, cell 803-240-7268
MOX Services July 12 letter to NRC Available on Request
Columbia, SC --- Quality of important piping in the construction of the plutonium fuel (mixed oxide fuel, MOX) plant at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina has emerged as an issue of concern, according to a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
Shaw AREVA MOX Services, in charge of the MOX plant construction, has admitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it has received stainless steel piping from BF Shaw which does not meet required specifications. In a July 12 letter to the NRC, which is reviewing a license application for the facility, the company admitted that some of the piping failed a key test but did not reveal if any of the low-quality pipe had already been placed in the MOX facility.
MOX Services revealed in the letter that some of the ½-inch pipe delivered to the MOX plant was evidently subjected to improper heat treatment and thus did not meet the rigorous standards required for materials being used in the MOX plant construction.
“We call on MOX Service and the NRC to immediately reveal if any faulty piping has been placed in the MOX plant and for it to be removed if that is the case,” said Tom Clements of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. “In its letter to the NRC, the company does not reveal if any below-specification piping has been installed and the public must now be made aware if this is the case or not. Further, the NRC and MOX Services must do a full review of all other piping placed in the MOX plant and inform the public if that piping meets applicable standards or not.”
In the letter, MOX Services states “that some of the pipe provided is thermally sensitized and fails ASTM A262 tests to detect susceptibility to intergranular attack (IGA).” According to its website, ASTM, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, “is a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of international voluntary consensus standards.”
Thermal sensitization results from improper heat treatment of stainless steel, possibly containing an improper mix of alloys, causing corrosion-inhibiting elements used to alloy the steel to fail to form the necessary corrosion-resistant protection. Intergranular attack results when the corrosion-inhibition elements do not properly form on the boundaries of the steel, opening the surface to corrosion.
MOX Services says in the letter to the NRC that the faulty piping was supplied to BF Shaw, which appears to be a Shaw-owned company, by Tubacex, a Spanish company which manufactures stainless steel tubing. According to its website - http://www.tubacex.com – the company is “dedicated to the manufacture and sale of special seamless stainless steel tubes, exporting to over 60 countries all over the world.”
It appears that the piping was set to be used in the area of the MOX plant where plutonium would be purified, or “polished,” to remove impurities before being converted to an oxide and fabricated into fule pellets. According to the two-page “60-Day Interim Report Notification Information” attached to the July 12 letter, “Testing of this heat of material has since been performed twice more by the independent test lab contracted by MOX Services with failing results thus indicating that the pipe is thermally sensitized and susceptible to intergranular corrosion if utilized in an environment with electrolytic potential (e.g., nitric acid, oxalic acid). The 1/2" 304L SS pipe in question is intended for use within the aqueous polishing portion of the MFFF, where these environments exist for many processes.”
The NRC is set to hold a “status” meeting on MOX plant construction on July 24 at 2 p.m. in New Ellenton, SC. The issue of faulty piping in the MOX plant construction will be raised by the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability at that meeting. “We will ask the NRC if faulty piping has been used in the MOX plant and for the NRC to require its removal if installation has occurred,” said Clements. (See NRC’s July 16 news release
No customers (reactors) exist for the MOX product that may be produced at the plant. A Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) analyzing use of two aging reactors owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is due out of July 27, though the SEIS may be distributed before the formal notice in the Federal Register.
Text of letter below; letter and 2-page attachment available on request:
Shaw, AREVA MOX Services letterhead
12 July 2012
Document Control Desk
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001
Subject: Docket Number 07-03098
Shaw AREVA MOX Services
Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility
Part 21 60-Day Interim Report Notification:
Thermal Sensitization of Pipe
This letter provides information concerning an evaluation being performed by Shaw
AREVA MOX Services, LLC (MOX Services) regarding a deviation identified by MOX
Services. The deviation being evaluated pertains to the procurement of 1/2" (0.109
MW), Type 304L SS pipe where through independent testing MOX Services has
determined that some of the pipe provided is thermally sensitized and fails ASTM A262
tests to detect susceptibility to intergranular attack (IGA). Per the MOX Services
specification, the pipe is required to pass ASTM A262 testing for susceptibility to IGA.
MOX Services has not concluded that this is a reportable condition in accordance with
the requirements of 1 OCFR 21.21(d) and continued evaluation is required to determine
the impact of using thermally sensitized pipe which is not in accordance with MOX
Services' procurement specification.
The information required for a 60-Day Interim Report Notification per §21.21 (a)(2) and
the commitment for follow-on action is provided in the Enclosure.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at (803) 819-2156 or Dealis
Gwyn, Licensing and Nuclear Safety Manager at (803) 819-2780.
Kelly D. Trice, President and COO