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TVA Bellefonte completion - is it a safe and wise option ?

  1. Aug 27, 2011 #1
    Arnie Gundersen evaluations seem to me rooted in sound and simple common sense.


    What do you think about it ?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 28, 2011 #2


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    Gunderson is definitely into self promotion, and not very careful with facts, and in fact gets a few things wrong.

    The Bellefonte units are not the only units of that type. WNP-1 and WNP-4 were of the same design, and another unit, Mülheim-Kärlich Nuclear Power Plant in Germany, actually operated three years, but was shutdown because the utility got tired of fighting the state government.

    Interestingly, Gunderson states that it is impossible to inspect underneath the reactor, but then he declares what is going on underneath the reactor.

    His comments about QA records are apparently flawed. It is doubtful that he knows the details of TVA activities at Bellefonte. "When TVA halted construction activities in 1988,
    in response to decreased power demand, BLN 1 was approximately 90 percent compete, and BLN 2 was approximately 58 percent complete."

    From the same report - "Subsequent asset recovery activities, along with more recent inspections of remaining equipment, resulted in BLN 1&2 now being considered approximately 55 percent and 35 percent complete, respectively."

    I would expect that there will be a fair amount of replacement.

    In order to complete and operate the plant, the plant and all components will be under QA. They don't need QA documents for components removed and scrapped. If components are sold, then the QA records are transferred to the buyer.

    As for engineers using slide rules, Gunderson's statement is disingenous. Engineers used mainframe computers. Industrial companies bought mainframe computers or rented time on them. Bear in mind that much of the technology at the time, aircraft, spacecraft, automobiles, ships, dams, bridges, . . . were built with engineers who used slide rules, but also electronic calculators and computers. An engineering programming language, FORTRAN, existed back then (in the 1960s), and it has been used ever since.
  4. Aug 28, 2011 #3
    I'd just like to mention Arnie Gundersen has been selling his "expert" opinion to the highest bidder for years.

    I've been to Bellefonte and talked to several engineers, see their QA program, and seen the quality of work currently committed there. Bellefonte has had several evaluation studies done, years before the decision, which looked intensely at the containment integrity, nuclear steam supply system, and existing systems. They aren't making a 2-second decision, this has been considered with supporting evidence for years!

    Bellefonte's QA program was active throughout the mothballed period and investment recovery period. In response to the current NRC regulations and projected future ones, they are updating and fully restoring old existing plant systems. They haven't just left it to die and aren't just slapping it together. TVA is going to be fully committed to bring the unit 1 online within NRC, EPA, ASME, and ANSI standards or regulations.

    Bellefonte will end up being the most advanced reactor in the USA with the exception of the AP1000s building built now.
  5. Aug 31, 2011 #4
    Doesn't sound unreasonable or out of kilter with what seems to be the dominant culture pervading the nuclear industry today. Lots of accidents and incidents are in the public domain.

    Sentiment here so far seems to be that Mr Gundersen is telling porkies or exaggerating .
    Well if they didn't turn the pumps off, and, concrete doesn't leach calcium,and they didn't destroy the QA paper trail, and it isn't a 50 year old design , I would expect Mr Gundersen to be already in the process of being sued into oblivion in litigation friendly USA. Let's wait and see
  6. Sep 3, 2011 #5


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    If Gunderson is just expressing his opinion; then he's protected no matter how off base he is. TVA would have to prove that Gunderson damaged their reputation. I doubt they could prove that since I don't know anyone in the NRC or any position of authority over TVA that gives two hoots about what Gunderson says.

  7. Sep 4, 2011 #6
    I turned it off when he said design by slide-rule was a problem. I personally believe that design by slide-rule was in many cases more thoughtful than the design by PC we do today.
  8. Sep 5, 2011 #7
    Shall we try to keep the discussion technical ?

    From the info Astronuc gently provided I am now aware that the specic design was completed and operated for about 2 years in Germany.

    Is this significant lack of operational history significant ? is there an "accumulation of operational experience" effect that may bear on the effectiveness of operating the reactor ?

    What about the status of the concrete foundations ? It does not seem unreasonable to me, as an engineer, that about 30 years of additional ageing is a factor that needs to be carefully checked and may be detrimental to the security margins that a NPP has to guarantee.

    My 2 cents

  9. Sep 5, 2011 #8
    Okay , does efflorescence occur?
  10. Sep 6, 2011 #9
    How long has the Hoover dam been in operation again?
  11. Sep 6, 2011 #10
    Well structural characteristics of a NPP foundation do not seem to be similar to the extra thick structure of a dam.
  12. Sep 6, 2011 #11


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    As an Italian, have you forgotten Roman concrete? The Pantheon is still in use today. Shouldn't it have crumbled over 1000 years ago? Rome was not built in a day but it also didn;t crumble in 100 years.
  13. Sep 6, 2011 #12
    The Pantheon or the Coliseum were not built in steel reinforced concrete either, nor do they have a nuclear reactor on top.

    Can we try to evaluate possible risks (or lack thereof) refraining from analogies ?
  14. Sep 6, 2011 #13


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    Okay, but I'm not going to let you completely off the hook. You called Arnie Gunderson's clip "sound and simple common sense." You didn't add any technical discussion to that clip, so apparently you agree with him. Your use of Arnie Gunderson telling us that a containment can't last 100 years led directly to the inconvenient truths that concrete has a pretty strong case for longevity. Arnie, and by extension, your, case against Bellefonte is based entirely on a false premise and circular reasoning:

    If I don't understand it, it is a problem.
    If there is a problem, it is insoluble.
    It is insoluble, because I don't know how to solve it.
    I don't know how to solve it because i don't understand it.

    Yes, ground water and acid leaching can degrade concrete and corrode the steel reinforcement. Yes, cracks can develop over time due to stresses and external loads like earthquakes. Yes weathering and freeze/thaw cycles can affect concrete.

    These effects can be detected and monitored. pressurized containment Leakage rate testing is effective in identifying degraded containment integrity. Physical inspections, including samples from foundation excavation can determine the current condition. Chemistry of ground water and containment sump water can reveal in leakage or out-leakage. Delamination has been detected in some plants - but that means it is detectable.

    If the TVA can make the economic case that it is a positive cost benefit to deal with all of the intervenors and technical requirements to satisfy regulatory reviews to complete Bellefonte, then they should proceed.

    Last time I checked, TVA hadn't asked for funding from Italy, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't keep an eye on us. I welcome the thought and input. Nobody can be wrong all of the time, although in Arnies case, the hype he adds to every paid opinion makes it difficult to see the right. The next time he testifies to congress, he should ask to hold the meeting outside on the mall. He probably won't do that, because the TV cameras and reporters will be inside the building.
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