|St. Luice Nuclear Plant|
Steam generators are safeFor more on the St. Lucie plant, consult the FPL website.
The steam generators at the St. Lucie nuclear plant are safe. Since their replacement in 2007, our team of experienced engineers, with validation from independent experts and oversight from federal regulators, has inspected 100 percent of the tubes every 18 months during planned refueling outages. These inspections have shown that there are no tube integrity issues that would cause failure.
Steam generator tube wear is not a new issue in the nuclear industry. In fact, there is significant data and operating experience detailing how to safely monitor and manage this issue. Like belts in a car engine, a certain amount of wear is expected over time. But, with regular monitoring and inspection, the belt will be removed well before it causes any mechanical issue. The same is true for steam generator tubes.
While engineering analyses have shown that steam generator tubes can function with over 60 percent wear, no U.S. nuclear plant would ever come close to that level. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires that tubes with 40 percent wear be removed from service. Florida Power & Light's threshold, however, is even lower and more conservative than federal requirements.
The Times article also pays considerable attention to the number of wear "indications" on the St. Lucie generator tubes. In reality, there is a significant difference between an indication of wear, which could be anything from a scratch to a rub mark, and the potential for failure. Again using the car analogy, it's like having a dent in your car door — you can see it, but it does not make the vehicle unsafe.
With respect to how these components would perform given the plant's power uprate, the safety performance of the steam generators was both verified and validated by independent experts and then again by the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — all of whom have detailed specific experience with the systems at St. Lucie. Given this fact, it is highly disturbing that the reporter chose to all but bury the perspective of our federal regulator, the NRC, while giving significant attention to the comments of two antinuclear activists.
Finally, some have implied that St. Lucie is similar to the now-closed San Onofre plant in California. Nothing could be further from the truth. The steam generators at San Onofre were a different design, made by a different manufacturer and operated at a higher power level. In fact, the type of wear evident at San Onofre is not present at St. Lucie.
Site Vice President
St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant