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Zaporizhya Nuclear Power Plant Issues

  1. Dec 30, 2014 #1


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    There are reports of a renewed reactor shutdown at Zaporizhya, the Ukraine's largest nuclear power station, as well as rumors of possible radiation leaks:
    Given wretched weather and a civil war about 100 miles away, there are lots of ways for things to go seriously amiss in Ukraine.

    Does anyone here have any insight into this situation?
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  3. Dec 31, 2014 #2

    Doug Huffman

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    Well Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge blog has no insight. Don't take science/technology from profit driven media.

    Zaporizha has had some electrical issues. These issues may have led to a shutdown from high power that can instigate a release of coolant. Ukraine is the target of Russian agitating propaganda.

    Radiation does not leak. Radioactive materials, water or gases, may leak. Dilution (in time and space) is always the solution to pollution, even radioactive pollution. Consider the dog poo on your shoe analogy. Dog poo on your shoe is contamination, be careful, don't step in it, clean it up. The stink of dog poo on your shoe is like radiation, get distance from it, smell it a short time and cover it up.
  4. Dec 31, 2014 #3

    jim hardy

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    Beware of psuedojournalists who want to be exciting.

    The only two numbers i saw in that link , ~5msv/year and around ten microroentgens/hour are not exciting.

    "huge radiation leak" ? Ten microroentgens ? Liar, Liar, pants on fire. Empty heads are not empty they're stuffed full with this sort of rubbish.
    There exists a standard guerrilla warfare tactic, to incite the gullible................

    Wait for a better report before you start worrying.
    But keep an eye out.

    here's a calmer report

    this appears to be the source document but i can't read it
  5. Dec 31, 2014 #4


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  6. Dec 31, 2014 #5

    jim hardy

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    Contamination and unplanned outages are symptoms of a chaotic work environment .
    That could be due to outside forces like the country falling apart around the guys, or unruly management.

    I'd guess they're short on manpower and supplies because of the chaos in the country.

    But really i have no idea.
  7. Dec 31, 2014 #6


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    Jim Hardy says:
    Contamination and unplanned outages are symptoms of a chaotic work environment .
    That could be due to outside forces like the country falling apart around the guys, or unruly management.
    I'd guess they're short on manpower and supplies because of the chaos in the country.
    But really i have no idea.

    It seems to me that this possibility should a concern for the entire nuclear community.
    If current nuclear plant designs are too delicate to withstand the disruptions our societies are making more and more likely, then we need to adjust the requirements before we create serial messes. In that sense, the Ukraine situation may be an alarm that we would do well to heed.
  8. Jan 1, 2015 #7

    jim hardy

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    Technology seems to run ahead of the social advancement needed to cope with it.
    US took a thirty year hiatus from building nukes.

    In my life growth and increasing prosperity was the norm . I can't imagine what it must be like trying to keep things orderly in nuke plant in a war torn country that's sliding backward.

    I'll twist your logic - If current political systems are too fragile to support safe operation of nuclear plants, what societal requirements should we adjust ?

    Are some societies just not quite ready for technology?

    Where to get energy will be a problem for the next generation. Mine used up most of the easy fuel.
  9. Jan 1, 2015 #8


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    The societal adjustment needed would be to implement the golden rule more broadly, but progress on that front is glacially slow.
    In the interim, just following the admonitions of wiser leaders not to go abroad in search of monsters to slay would be a start. I'm not optimistic about that either.

    On the technical side, the absence of cheap fossil fuels makes a nuclear resurgence inevitable imho, but the current designs do increasingly seem to be hostages to fortune.
    Ideally, there needs to be a modular nuclear unit that functions independently of outside supervision, something that can be sealed in place which simply produces power.
    It would surely be much more expensive on a $/kWhr than a big modern plant, but given the costs of wind and other 'renewable' energy sources, that may not be a serious problem.
    Is something like that even conceptually feasible?
  10. Jan 1, 2015 #9
    Looks like you think the situation is worse than it really is.

    Compared to March of this year, when old government fled, leaving some government branches' buildings in capital literally empty, there is no chaos in the country now.

    The army has been reformed and managed to stop Russians somewhere around September-October timeframe. Putin starts to realize just how deep the sh*t he is in, so he seems unwilling to escalate. Fighting subsided.

    Old Parliament, which did not flee, had a lot of ex-President people obstructing necessary measures, but now a new Parliament is elected, easing situation in this regard too.

    Finances are in a bad shape, but nuclear power is the last place Ukraine would try to economize now - it needs energy generation to work over this winter.
  11. Jan 1, 2015 #10
    Perhaps you need to check more recent data. Wind and solar are approaching price parity with traditional generation. Solar's price falls 20% with each doubling of production. Currently, doubling time is 2.5 years. If this holds, in 10 years solar generation would increase x8 and price would fall by 50%.
  12. Jan 1, 2015 #11
    I checked the forum of Ukrainian/Russian nuclear engineers, specifically this thread:


    The conclusion thus far is that someone photoshopped screenshots of webpages with regular radiation sensor data, and subsequently Russian media used photoshopped screenshots to claim that there is a leak. Ukrainians say there was no leak at all.
  13. Jan 1, 2015 #12

    jim hardy

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    Thanks nikkkom, for that good news.

    Is that a Russian designed plant ? Are they able to get parts ?

    well, i suppose media has been known to exaggerate ..... thanks for that great news as well...

    Golden rule would help a lot, wouldn't it ?

    i think so.. there exist little units for spacecraft.... and we'll see what comes out of the "small modular reactor" plants.
    Probably though it'll be an accidental discovery like Teflon.

    old jim
  14. Jan 1, 2015 #13


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    Thank you, Nikkom, for the very helpful info 'from the horse's mouth' so to speak.
    The news regarding the Ukraine is so colored by the violent conflict that facts are hard to come by.
    It is troublesome that this plant is not producing at full power, as the country surely could use it. Are there any indications of when operations can be brought back to normal?

    Separately, re wind and solar, afaik the actual power produced by either source is usually a fraction of the rated potential, so there will be ample economic opportunity for some time yet for a nuclear alternative that is akin to a sealed power source. Small size would be a plus, probably much smaller than the current SMR designs, which generally run around a half gigawatt thermal. The SNAP designs Jim Hardy mentions indeed offer just the kind of blind power that is wanted, but unfortunately the economics are remote, maybe 20Kg of plutonium providing a 400 watt supply for 50 years. We need a serendipitous discovery.
  15. Jan 1, 2015 #14
    All plants in ex-USSR are Soviet-era designs.

    Ukraine was trying to minimize its reliance on Russia for nuclear supplies for many years already. I don't think there are significant problems in procuring parts for routine maintenance.

    Russia was trying to prevent this - there are long threads on that forum about Ukrainian experiments with Westinghouse-designed fuel assemblies for VVERs, and Russian attempts to discredit them ("VVERs are not certified for Amerika's fuel, there can be accidents if you use it!!!1111eleven"). This saga seem to be coming to an end - despite Russian assurances that they will not cut supplies of nuclear fuel, Ukraine is going to buy most, or even all, future fuel from Westinghouse. (It would look stupid to ask West to sanction Russia but continue to trade with them yourself, right?).
  16. Jan 1, 2015 #15
    One of the units at Zaporizhya had a generator lockout -> Turbine trip -> reactor scram last Sunday. The unit was back online the same day. I haven't seen detail as to what happened, but the hunch I get is it might have been an instrumentation issue.

    As for 'radiation', it appears that they may have some fuel failures. Some news outlets are claiming that the plant recently switched to Westinghouse fuel. Westinghouse has had some trouble in the past with fuel failures in VVER-1000 and similar reactor types. If a fuel failure has happened, it means the site probably has a higher than normal amount of radioactive particulate in their offgas effluent (or whatever a PWR calls it). But this would not in any way, shape, or form, result in mSv/year levels of radiation outside the plant. That's well beyond the operating limits and license limits for a reactor in most countries, and I would believe the Ukraine as well.

    It is very unlikely that fuel damage would be caused by a generator trip. I believe they are two completely independent events and this is being all brought up at the same time for media hype. Just like how the original generator trip a few weeks ago was being called an "Accident" when it was simply an anticipated operational occurrence (AOO - an event which occurs at least once a year on average, results in no fuel damage or exceeding any radioactive release rates).

    That's what I've seen though.
  17. Jan 1, 2015 #16


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    PWRs usually report activity per unit volume of coolant, e.g., μCi/ml, or per unit mass μCi/mg, at least in the US. Activities are often reported for the Xe (133, 135, 138) isotopes, five iodine radioisotopes (131-135), Cs (134, 137) usually at shutdown, and Np-239.

    Occasional leaking fuel is expected, even though utilities and their suppliers strive for zero defects. Plants are designed to handle a certain number of failures, but it is undesirable to have even one leaking (breach cladding) fuel rod.

    Some failures coincident with a startup or restart may be indicative of debris failures, in which foreign objects, e.g., wire, from maintenance operations may become lodged in the fuel where the debris may wear (fret) a hole into the cladding. Otherwise, grid-to-rod fretting has a been a recent (last 20 years) problem for some plants and/or fuel designs. Activated crud (corrosion products) may also be an issue for some plants. Sometimes at shutdown, reactor cores might experience a crud burst. Rarely, one might find failures do to bad seal weld or primary hydriding (rod internal hydriding due to hydrogenous material contamination).

    Ukraine denies radioactive leak on Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant

    It may take some time to get to the bottom of this. There is no reason that Westinghouse fuel should be less safe than Russian fuel. They are nominally the same. Coolability and reactivity control would be essentially the same.

    Not sure about the use of Westinghouse fuel. If it was fresh, it would not be the cause of a radiation leak. The older (Russian) fuel could be a source of radiation if the cladding was breached.

    It would help to know which unit. One unit may be down for refueling.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2015
  18. Jan 1, 2015 #17
    Using translate.google.com, the first paragraph reads as follows:
  19. Jan 2, 2015 #18
  20. Jan 2, 2015 #19


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    Thank you for the very helpful inputs, these voices of experience allow making sense of the news media garble. That a trip/restart could dislodge crud seems plausible. I'd not heard of fuel leaks from fretting, another little engineering issue that was probably found rather than anticipated.

    One might think that Ukraine would be better served by continuing to buy its fuel from Russia, that way the Russians too are invested in the smooth functioning of those plants. As the late LBJ said 'better to have then inside the tent peeing out' rather than the other way around and they are doomed to be neighbors anyway.
  21. Jan 2, 2015 #20
    This particular "news" outlet is all too well known in Ukraine and is even less reliable than RT.
    Its stringers act as "attached reporters" with separatist troops in Eastern Ukraine, once they were even caught with antitank weapons in their car.
    It disseminates outlandish (and proven false by other _Russian_ journalists) "news" about Ukrainian soldiers crucifying children.
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