Local News

Jul 19, 2010 9:49 PM by Nancy Chen

New nuclear reactor head arrives in Diablo Canyon

A new nuclear reactor head arrived Monday morning at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. The reactor head sits on top of the reactor vessel to maintain the proper pressure.

It will replace the original one, which has been in place for 25 years, in October during a refueling outage. This new reactor head weighs 70 tons and is 17 feet in diameter; it took a truck the length of three semis to get it here.

It started its journey to Diablo Canyon from Indiana almost three weeks ago.

"It's a very significant part of our equipment," said Jude Fledderman, the director of strategic projects at Diablo Canyon. "And that's one of the reasons we're proactively replacing it in the interest of safety."

Plant officials say the $141 million project has been in the works for about five years. Fledderman said the upgrade will help the plant operate more efficiently and safely. But longtime critics of the plant say larger safety concerns remain.

"You still have the same problem," said Jane Swanson, a spokesperson for Mothers for Peace. "It's two nuclear reactors and a radioactive waste storage dump sighted, surrounded by 14 earthquake faults."

PG&E says it's being proactive about safety by replacing a reactor head that's working just fine; the company wants to make sure it doesn't erode, which has happened at other plants.

"It has nozzle penetration, which is made out of what's called Alloy 690, which is less susceptible to some stress corrosion cracking that has been seen on other reactor heads within the industry," Fledderman said.

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