Westinghouse Designs Emergency Nuclear Fuel Pool Cooling System

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, May 25, 2011 (ENS) – Westinghouse Electric Company has developed an emergency fuel pool cooling system to keep spent nuclear fuel cool in emergency situations, including the loss of all plant power.

“Recent industry events have placed increased focus on the need to be prepared for every contingency,” Nick Liparulo, senior vice president, Westinghouse Nuclear Services, said today.

He was referring to the ongoing nuclear crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant where a nuclear fuel meltdown occurred after the facility lost power to its cooling systems during the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The exposed nuclear fuel in three of the six Fukushima Daiichi reactors emitted hydrogen gas, which exploded three times in the days following the earthquake, spreading radiation far and wide.

The damaged spent fuel pool at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 reactor (Image from video courtesy TEPCO)

First sea water and then fresh water was pumped by trucks into the damaged reactors and spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi in an attempt to keep the nuclear fuel rods cool. But contaminated water has leaked from the damaged reactor buildings, spilling into the Pacific Ocean and possibly seeping underground as well.

The crisis continues today as the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. is inspecting a wastewater disposal facility for further possible leaks.

“We are extremely pleased that we could apply our spent fuel cooling expertise and technology to develop this new product that will serve to provide an added layer of safety for nuclear plants around the world,” Liparulo said.

The Westinghouse system consists of a permanently installed “primary” cooling loop located inside the reactor building or spent fuel pool building, and a mobile “secondary” cooling loop, Liparulo said.

The secondary cooling loop is stored off-site and then located outside the reactor building for either emergency or pre-planned use. This approach reduces the time required for system assembly and startup, which is especially important during emergency situations, and eliminates the need to enter the reactor building.

The emergency fuel pool cooling system includes mobile diesel generators, air compressors, switchgear and other support equipment required to operate this stand-alone system.

The Westinghouse emergency fuel pool cooling system is designed to be a stand-alone backup system for the removal of decay heat from the spent fuel pool during site emergencies when off-site electrical power or emergency diesel power is not available.

The system also allows for the addition of makeup water so that safe spent fuel pool water levels are maintained.

Design features of the Westinghouse emergency fuel pool cooling system include: seismic requirements, environmental release limits, fuel pool temperature limits, supplemental cooling mode, remote operating interface, independent diesel power and spent fuel pool keep-fill system.

In addition to supporting plants during emergency situations, the Westinghouse emergency fuel pool cooling system can be operated in the temporary cooling mode during refueling outage.

This mode is similar to Westinghouse’s temporary fuel pool cooling system. Operation of this system during refueling outages can reduce fuel movement delays and improve refuel floor working conditions by reducing spent fuel pool temperatures.

Nuclear power plants generate 20 percent of America’s electricity. Sixty-six of the nation’s 104 reactors have had their licenses extended for 20 years, and license renewal applications for 18 reactors are under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Westinghouse Electric Company, a group company of Toshiba Corporation, is a supplier of nuclear plant products and technologies to utilities around the world.

Westinghouse supplied the world’s first pressurized water reactor in 1957 in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. Today, Westinghouse technology is the basis for about half of the world’s operating nuclear plants, including 60 percent of those in the United States.

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