12 Sep 2011
The 5.8-magnitude earthquake last month in Virginia caused about twice as much ground shaking as a nearby nuclear power plant was designed to withstand, according to a preliminary federal analysis.
Parts of the North Anna Power Station in Mineral, Va., 11 miles from the quake’s epicenter, endured jolts equal to 26 percent of the force of gravity from vibrations unleashed by the quake, said Scott Burnell, Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman.
An NRC document says the reactors’ containment structure was built to withstand 12 percent of the force of gravity. Dominion, the plant’s operator, says parts of the plant can handle up to 18 percent (18g).
“It’s the things inside the buildings that may have been shaken more than the design called for,” Burnell said, adding the buildings themselves appear to have been less affected. He said the analysis is based on a seismograph reading taken about 30 miles away by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Whatever the final numbers on shaking or ground motion, the plant withstood the jolts, Burnell said. “That margin was certainly enough for North Anna this time.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t rely on the margin,” countered Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The jury is still out,” he said, on whether the plant was adequately designed. 12 Sept. 2011.
10 Sep 2011
It didn’t take long for the National Association of Utility Regulatory Commissioners to issue a loud Bronx cheer for the Obama administration’s proposal to unblock what it see as barriers to transmission development. The proposal drew criticism both for the process that led to it as well as its substance.
The proposal, which has been shopped around inside the Beltway and the utility industry for weeks, would have the Department of Energy cede to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission DOE’s authority under section 1221 of the 2005 Energy Policy Act to designate certain transmission corridors and, in some cases, issue construction permits. http://bit.ly/q44mmf
In a tart letter to Energy Secretary Steve Chu, NARUC executive director Chuck Gray said, “Given that our members remain the primary transmission siting authorities, we are disappointed that we were not privy to the details or even informal conversations about this proposal prior to the above-referenced meeting, especially since the proposal has been under discussion since June and was vetted with industry stakeholders long before it was even revealed to us.
“To the extent that this proposal is motivated by a desire to reduce barriers to transmission, it fails. It relies on a tortured reading of the statute that would cause uncertainty, litigation, damage to State and federal relations, and delays in transmission development. Our members understand the importance of timely development of needed transmission as much as FERC and DOE. The proposed delegation and implementation of this proposal runs counter to congressional intent. It will create new forms of legal and regulatory uncertainty and will divert resources from existing processes, including . . . FERC’s recently issued Order 1000, and State transmission siting processes. [W]e urge you not to move forward with this proposal.
12 Sep 2011
A judge has dismissed a significant lawsuit by federal regulators who want to force DTE Energy to install more pollution controls at Michigan’s largest coal-fired power plant.
After more than a year of litigation, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman didn’t need a trial to convince him to rule in favor of the utility. He said the Environmental Protection Agency went to court too soon and needs to collect more data to determine whether improvements at Monroe Unit 2 have caused an increase in emissions.
DTE last year replaced key boiler parts at the plant about 40 miles south of Detroit. The EPA claims the project qualified as a “major modification,” which should have forced the utility to install state-of-the-art pollution controls.
DTE acknowledged the “project may eventually prove to be a `major modification,’“ Friedman wrote in a 12-page decision dated Aug. 23. “That determination, however, cannot be made until the completion of the first year for which such measurements are required.” 12 Sept. 2011.
09 Sep 2011
A massive power outage knocked out electricity for nearly 1.4 million customers in San Diego as well as parts of Southern Orange County, Palm Springs, and parts of Mexico Thursday.
San Diego Gas & Electric advised its customers via Twitter at 5:37 p.m.: “If you have a personal family emergency plan, please activate it now.”
The California Independent System Operator, which manages the state’s power grid, issued a transmission emergency notice for the San Diego area.
“It sounds like it’s really widespread,’’ Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Marc Stone said. “It could be as widespread as from Mexico to Phoenix. “
The outage was triggered after a 500 kV line from Arizona to California tripped out of service, according to the California Independent System Operator.
SDG&E said crews repaired the problem and were in the process of restarting the system but that it would take several hours to actually generate power to customers.