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Event Number: 49618

Notification Date: 12/09/2013
Notification Time: 09:20 [ET]
Event Date: 12/09/2013
Event Time: 08:00 [CST]

UNUSUAL EVENT DECLARED DUE TO UNIT 2 AUXILIARY TRANSFORMER EXPLOSION

"At approximately 0748 [CST] on 12/9/2013, an electrical fault occurred resulting in a fire and explosion on the ANO [Arkansas Nuclear One] Unit 2 Unit Auxiliary Transformer. This caused a unit trip and a loss of power to Startup 3 Transformer, which is one of the two offsite power feeds to ANO Unit 2. ANO Unit 2 is currently in a stable shutdown condition. With Startup 3 and Unit Aux Transformer unavailable, power was lost to the Reactor Coolant Pumps and Circulating Water Pumps. RCS [Reactor Coolant System] natural circulation is in progress removing core decay heat. Emergency Feedwater actuated due to low steam generator levels and is supplying both steam generators. The unit is steaming to the atmosphere. 2A-1 and 2A-3 are powered from SU [Startup] 2 Transformer. 2A-4 is powered from 2K-4B Emergency Diesel Generator.

"ANO Unit 1 is currently operating at 98% power. The auto transformer tripped off line with the fault in ANO Unit 2 Unit Auxiliary Transformer. This has caused Startup Transformer 1 to be inoperable. This places ANO Unit 1 in a 72 hour Technical Specification action statement (T.S 3.6.1 for Loss of the SU-1 Transformer).

"No significant injuries were reported as a result of this condition and offsite agencies have been notified."

RVL.AR2
River Valley Leader
Sigh. Gotta love this ever so timely "notification" protocol, just for its humorous value. Note that it took nearly two and a half hours for the wigs at AR-1 to notify the NRC about their little oops. Since the facility has had some electrical issues this year.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette had some details...

Arkansas Department of Emergency Management spokesman Tommy Jackson said that the fire had not extinguished within the 15 minutes of detection.

"The auxiliary transformer exploded in Unit Two, and there was fire within the protected area," he said.

Gov. Mike Beebe said after a speech Monday at the Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Directors' Winter Conference in Little Rock that he had been briefed on the fire and that there was "no damage to the actual nuclear reactor."

Later in the day, the The River Valley Leader mentioned that "The interruption of electrical power to Unit 2 caused protective systems to shut down the reactor." Meaning, it scrammed, and is now (according to NRC) steaming to atmosphere outside containment with residual heat removal powered with EDGs [Emergency Diesel Generators] and one source of grid power.

But the interesting part is that it took more than an hour to extinguish the blaze, because the Entergy decision-makers on-site decided to let the "oil fire" burn itself out. From UA/LR Public Radio -

"The issue was that the transformer itself contains oil. The fire was contained very rapidly. However, because the fire involved oil, after it was contained the responders made the decision to let the oil fire burn off," says Bowling.
Now, this is an interesting tidbit. Transformer explosion and fire, involving electrical equipment at a nuclear power plant, that was allowed to "burn itself out" because it was just an "oil fire." Deal is, such fires are a significant health hazard all by themselves...
Fire-related incidents are defined as incidents involving electrical equipment containing PCB's in which sufficient heat from any source causes the release of PCB's from the equipment casing. In soot-producing incidents an actual fire occurs in or near the PCB-containing electrical equipment eventually resulting in exposure of the PCB's to extremely high temperatures and in the formation and distribution of a black, carbonaceous material. PCB's have been identified in soot following numerous electrical equipment fires.11-17 Polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDF's)11-15,17-20 and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDD's)12-15,17-20 have also been identified following this type of fire-related incident. Laboratory studies have confirmed that PCDF's and PCDD's are formed from the pyrolysis of PCB's21-24 or chlorobenzenes25 at temperatures ranging from 500° to 700°C (932° to 1292°F).

In addition to PCDD's and PCDF's, other polychlorinated hydrocarbons have been identified in soot from electrical equipment fires. Polychlorinated biphenylenes,13,26 polychlorinated pyrenes,26 and polychlorinated diphenyl ethers18 have been detected in soot samples collected following capacitor or transformer fires.

The photo above from the River Valley Leader shows a considerable amount of soot from the fire. Because the location was a closed area they were able to isolate (fire walls between chambers), it was determined to let it burn on out rather than go in there with human firefighters to try and put it out. The unit will remain shut down until the incident has been fully investigated and all necessary clean-up and repair/replacement work done. As it should be.

The regulations on fires at nuclear plants are pretty strong, in that any fire in any system that lasts more than 15 minutes must be immediately reported as a serious incident for response. Yet this fire was allowed to "burn itself out" over more than an hour and a half, and it took another hour to notify the NRC. Even though there's an NRC 'resident inspector' on site. This is something that isn't SOP for nukes, or at least, it shouldn't be.

Relatively speaking, it is perhaps better to let it burn and the volatile hazardous substances to escape into the atmosphere for dispersion than to send a bunch of humans in there to put it out, as there would be considerable harmful exposure even if they're wearing protective masks with supplied air. Spreading out the 'harm' to a much wider area and larger population will lessen the dangers to each individual, as well as make it harder to later prove damages in court. Liability, you know. A bunch of sick and/or dead firefighters versus rural residents or townsfolk who maybe develop vague symptoms sometime down the line. If you're a corporation, what are you gonna decide to do or not do?

Or, more importantly, what is the NRC's practice on enforcement on its fire rules at nuclear power plants, that Entergy could decide for itself on the spot to let this "burn itself out" and still not even bother to tell the NRC for another hour afterwards? Well, ProPublica had an article on March 11, 2011 - the day Fukushima's disaster began - about this very issue.

NRC Waives Enforcement of Fire Rules at Nuclear Plants -

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is routinely waiving fire rule violations at nearly half the nation's 104 commercial reactors, even though fire presents one of the chief hazards at nuclear plants.

The policy, the result of a series of little-noticed decisions in recent years, is meant to encourage nuclear companies to remedy longstanding fire safety problems. But critics say it is leaving decades-old fire hazards in place as the NRC fails to enforce its own rules.

Huh. Doesn't look like things have improved much in the years since, does it?
Fires are common at U.S. plants. In all, there have been at least 153 since 1995 [this was 2011, remember], or an average of about 10 a year, according to NRC records. Small fires, brief fires and fires in areas that were not considered critical to reactor safety have damaged essential equipment and forced emergency shutdowns, reports reviewed by ProPublica show.
So. We might ask ourselves why the NRC would want to ignore its own regulations of the industry it's supposed to be regulating, when we know that there are some serious issues with antiquated transformers, electrical switching and such at these huge 35-40 year old Big-Megawatt plants...
"The agency takes full credit for the grace of God," said George Mulley, who wrote several scathing reports about lax fire enforcement while chief investigator at the NRC's Office of Inspector General.

The five-member commission has procrastinated on the issue for a simple reason, he said: "They don't want to cost the industry money."

There you have it. The more things change, the more they remain the same. They don't even have to bother to ring up the NRC these days when shit happens. Just let 'em know at some point when it's all over.

Sigh.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Once again (28+ / 0-)

    a 930 Mw nuke goes down for an extended period of time (this is gonna take awhile) due to lax operational foresight and even more lax regulatory oversight. Shouldn't we be actively phasing these things out?

  •  When nuke plants go rabid, there's no way (8+ / 0-)

    to put the beast down. Amazing that as the plants get older, the more lax the regulation and oversight, the more safety requirements get skipped and ignored.

    It really is all about the money and the weapon-making materials.

    At least there's been a re-thinking of the earthquake-resistance standards since the new thinking about how earthquakes, and their magnitude, occurs.

    What?

    We're just now testing for the first time ever what happens to steel container embrittlement after 50, 60 years and more of exposure to massive radiation. As I understand it, there's no way for either human or machine to actually test the current strength/fragility of a container, as anything which would approach close enough do so would die or fry before you could get a sample. Maybe I'm wrong on that.


    Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

    by Jim P on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 12:48:37 PM PST

    •  Was talking about this (4+ / 0-)

      with my grandson (who is 23 and quite bright) as I was gathering links and researching. He said - astutely - that the whole relicensing thing is a total no-brainer. These plants are at the tail end of their design lifetimes, and they HAVE design lifetimes for good reasons. If some utility wants another go-round, let 'em use the same facilities on the same "national sacrifice" land lot, just make them remove all the old stuff - ALL of it, including piping, and properly dispose of it - then replace every single component.

      But that would cost them too much money, of course, and money's the name of the game now that these cash cows are paid for. So they're being licensed to keep on going until they literally can't be sustained anymore [see: San Onofre].

      We've nearly a hundred of these suckers running, more than 20 of them are of the very same bad design as Fukushima Daiichi's. Anybody want to hazard a guess as to how bad each of their "can't keep going anymore" incidents is gonna be?

      Oy.

  •  This is the core truth (pardon the pun) (5+ / 0-)
    "They don't want to cost the industry money."
    The NRC is the model of a Captive Agency.
    By design.
    It's mission is dual, Promote AND Regulate nuclear power.
    The biblical phrase for that is serving two masters.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 12:56:47 PM PST

  •  Wait a second (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau, Another Grizzle

    Here's a clip from the the link you provided

    In 1976, the United States Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) (Public Law 94-469), which gave the EPA authority to control the production and use of chemicals in the United States. Under Section 6(e) of TSCA the manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, and use of PCB's after January 1, 1978 was prohibited; however, the EPA may, by rule, allow a particular use of PCB's to continue. In 1982, the EPA issued a final rule on the use of PCB's in electrical equipment. This rule permits the use of certain electrical equipment containing PCB's (e.g., small capacitors, large capacitors, and transformers) to continue under specified conditions for their remaining useful service lives.4 In 1985, the EPA issued a final rule on the use of PCB's in electrical transformers. The use of high secondary voltage network PCB transformers in or near commercial buildings (approximately 7,400 transformers) after October 1, 1990, is prohibited. Low secondary voltage network and high secondary voltage radial PCB transformers in or near commercial buildings (approximately 70,200 transformers) must be equipped with enhanced electrical protection devices by October 1, 1990, to avoid overheating from sustained electrical faults.10
    Was this a PCB containing transformer? Was there greater than 5 ppm PCB in the oil? Does the site environmental compliance officer have paperwork on this? The answers are most likely, no, no, and yes.
    •  Who the heck knows? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cheminMD, Another Grizzle, Jim P

      The EPA page goes into some detail (with hot-links) on "PCB-like" and "Dioxin-like" combustion products from exploding, burning transformers and other electrical equipment fires, right up to this very point in time.

      You probably know more detail than I do (not being a chemist), or could maybe look around and find out (please do!), but I sort of get the feeling that the replacement "oil" in these things even after PCBs were no longer directly allowed produces similar toxins when they burn.

      Of course, I don't know (and nobody seems to be saying) whether this transformer and every other bit of electrical equipment in this enclosure was actually replaced or simply given a waiver. The plant itself started up 1978, but its systems and supports were in place well before that date.

      I remember when they were building its cooling tower - at 447 feet the biggest danged cooling tower I've ever seen. Sort of a landmark on the I-40 old home visit path...

      •  It's probably a newer transformer (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau

        But you're right, without seeing the paperwork, who knows. When the fire broke out the fire dept should have hunted down the environmental officer to see what hazards they might encounter. They should know what's in there before approaching.

        It looks like the newer fluids are no longer chlorinated, so reduced hazard.

        Was this the place that had the crane accident a while ago? Man, that must have been fun to fix.

        •  Yep. Same place. n/t (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joieau

          I'm a Vietnam Era vet. I'm also an Erma Bombeck Era vet. When cussing me out and calling me names please indicate which vet you would like to respond to your world changing thoughts.

          by Just Bob on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 03:41:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Man, that sucks (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Just Bob, Joieau

            I bet they can't fart without checking a box.

            •  Hmmm... Update - oil spill (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Joieau, cheminMD
              * * UPDATE FROM ALBERT MARTIN TO VINCE KLCO AT 1812 EST ON 12/9/2013 * * *

              "Outside agencies (National Response Center, Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Coast Guard) were contacted due to a minor unknown amount of oil that entered the plant discharge to Lake Dardanelle. The oil was from the faulted Unit 2 Unit Auxiliary Transformer. The majority of oil was contained within the containment around the transformer or the oily water separator it drains to. Local inspection revealed only a small amount of what was released actually passed the containment booms that are continuously in place on the discharge canal. The oil boom was verified to be in good condition. The oil was verified to be mineral oil. The release was verified to be terminated. An additional oil boom was deployed. Reference [ANO] Condition Report CR-ANO-C-2013-03071."

              The licensee notified the NRC Resident Inspector.

              Notified the R4DO (Werner)

              I'm a Vietnam Era vet. I'm also an Erma Bombeck Era vet. When cussing me out and calling me names please indicate which vet you would like to respond to your world changing thoughts.

              by Just Bob on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 04:30:31 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Thanks, Bob. n/t (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Just Bob
              •  That's good to hear (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Joieau

                Those poor guys working in the plant are going to have to deal with more downtime, the startup, in addition to normal chores all the while enduring training dreamed up by the six sigma weenies that never manage to make it into their blues.

                •  I suspect that reactor will be down for a while (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Joieau

                  I don't think it's normal procedure to be relying on "natural circulation" to cool the reactor one hour after a scram. It sounds to me as if the only element of the emergency core cooling system that worked was emergency feed water to the steam generators.

                  I wonder how hot that reactor got and how low the water was in the reactor before they got things stabilized.

                  Just the usual fiasco of cascading failures no one could have anticipated.

                  I'm a Vietnam Era vet. I'm also an Erma Bombeck Era vet. When cussing me out and calling me names please indicate which vet you would like to respond to your world changing thoughts.

                  by Just Bob on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 05:06:01 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

  •  "RCS [Reactor Coolant System] natural circulation" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau

    They have emergency feed water cooling the steam generators, but no pumps running to cool the reactor?

    What happened to the emergency core cooling system?

    I'm a Vietnam Era vet. I'm also an Erma Bombeck Era vet. When cussing me out and calling me names please indicate which vet you would like to respond to your world changing thoughts.

    by Just Bob on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 03:18:34 PM PST

    •  The original NRC notification (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Just Bob, Jim P

      [top of the diary] said the EDGs were operating. At the time of their report, and with one off-site power line working. You're right that those would only power the primary RCS cooling. I think for at least 24 hours, at which point natural circulation works fine. Depends, but it's been more than 24 hours so...

      They wouldn't need the ECCS for a routine scram. It kicks in when you've got a sudden coolant decrease - like in a LOCA. Unless there's a considerable RCS leak all they needed was the post-scram cool-down.

      The switch from regular to emergency feedwater is a mere matter of valve open, valve shut. If the steam plant were operating full-bore when it went down, the loss of regular feedwater volume via the main steam dump valves probably triggered the system switch when the tanks hit a set low level.

      Haven't seen anything to suggest the plant side experienced anything but from-power scram (happens quite a bit). But if you catch something suggesting otherwise, please let us know!

      •  see my post above (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau

        http://www.dailykos.com/...

        Without knowing what this means:

        2A-1 and 2A-3 are powered from SU [Startup] 2 Transformer. 2A-4 is powered from 2K-4B Emergency Diesel Generator.
        I don't know what is running, but I doubt natural circulation would be the first choice one hour after a scram.

        I'm looking forward to seeing a detailed report.

        I'm a Vietnam Era vet. I'm also an Erma Bombeck Era vet. When cussing me out and calling me names please indicate which vet you would like to respond to your world changing thoughts.

        by Just Bob on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 05:13:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hmmm. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Just Bob

          I'd say they've still got pumps 2A-1 and 2A-3 and 2A-4, but those apparently aren't RCS coolant pumps. Or something. Does look like they've got no (or too little to count) coolant pumping ability if they're having to route convection to the SGs with the main steam dump valves open. Hope they've lots of extra water on hand (nice lake ya got there...).

          They can cool the thing this way, but it does make the situation a bit dicier. I do notice that nowhere in this notification does it list pressurizer level or system pressure stats, and you'd think those are pretty basic. Guess we'll have to stay tuned for the next update [grumble, grumble].

  •  There was a guy , who before he was banned (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Just Bob, Joieau, Jim P, WakeUpNeo

    for being an ass , liked to post a photo of a burning wind generator , he thought it proved that wind was a joke .
    I wonder if a photo of a burning transformer at a nuke plant leads him to believe that nukes are a joke ?

    http://thinkprogress.org/...

    In addition to the transformer problem, he conceded, there was damage to “perhaps a few fuel elements,” namely the radioactive core of a nuclear power plant. When asked how long the company had known about the problem, he replied, somewhat helplessly: “Please bear with us, because we need time to investigate the incident.” He could have offered more of an explanation.
    http://www.greenpeace.org/...
    A 6.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the world's largest nuclear plant on Monday, causing a transformer fire. Since then, revelations have been coming out about spills and leaks at the plant.
    zoom

    Black smoke rises from a burning electrical transformer near one of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear reactors.

    Initially, plant owner Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said there was no leak of radioactivity. Then it said there was a small leak of radioactively contaminated water.  Then the size of the leak turned out to be much larger than originally reported, and the water was 50 percent more radioactive than they had first said.

    http://www.spiegel.de/...
    On June 21, 2009, the Krümmel reactor was restarted for the first time since the 2007 fire, and the plant started to produce electricity again[5] but was shut down for the second time on July 4, 2009, only a few days after its two-year-long repair period.[6] The shutdown was caused by a short-circuit in a transformer that was very similar to what caused the June 2007 fire. The reactor shut down normally and was not affected, but it will be another year before the plant can re-open again because new transformers will not be available until April or May 2010.

    "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

    by indycam on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 03:46:13 PM PST

    •  Update to that last link (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joieau

      http://en.wikipedia.org/...

      On June 21, 2009, the Krümmel reactor was restarted for the first time since the 2007 fire, and the plant started to produce electricity again[5] but was shut down for the second time on July 4, 2009, only a few days after its two-year-long repair period.[6] The shutdown was caused by a short-circuit in a transformer that was very similar to what caused the June 2007 fire. The reactor shut down normally and was not affected. The plant's general manager resigned.[7] In a press conference July 9, Ernst Michael Züfle, head of the nuclear division of Vattenfall, acknowledged that there was damage to "perhaps a few fuel elements." Even before the shutdown, foreign bodies—sharp shards of metal from earlier work that should have been flushed—were found to have ended up, potentially dangerously, in the reactor and had, to some degree, been cleaned out. On July 7, Wulf Bernotat, CEO of E.on, wrote in a sharply worded letter to Vattenfall management in Sweden that his company was "appalled" by the handling of safety procedures at the plant, according to a lengthy report in Spiegel. The report went on to discuss how the accident could impact the German national debate about nuclear power plant license extensions.[8] Before new transformers could be installed, it was decided in March 2011 to decommission the plant.

      I'm a Vietnam Era vet. I'm also an Erma Bombeck Era vet. When cussing me out and calling me names please indicate which vet you would like to respond to your world changing thoughts.

      by Just Bob on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 04:47:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks, indycam. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Just Bob, Jim P, oldpotsmuggler, WakeUpNeo

      Daini isn't in great shape either, I've heard. Nobody's talking much about Tokai or Ibiraki. Could be up to 14 reactor plants in northeastern Japan that would never run again even if the people would allow it. Daiichi is just the most spectacular disaster...

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