Manufacturer: Grand Gulf plant could have safety hazard

CLAIBORNE COUNTY — A major manufacturer in the nuclear industry is reporting a potential “substantial safety hazard” with control rods at Vermont Yankee and more than two dozen other reactors around the country, according to a report made public Wednesday by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Claiborne County is among the plants that manufacturer GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy lists as having a possible problem.

GE Hitachi said it had discovered extensive cracking and “material distortion,” and likely would recommend that the boiling water reactors using its Marathon control rod blades replace them more frequently than they had been told to previously.

“The design life if not revised, could result in significant control blade cracking and could, if not corrected, create a substantial safety hazard and is considered a reportable condition,” the company said in its report to the NRC.

Both David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry engineer who now frequently consults with groups critical of the industry, said the faulty blades could make affected control rods inoperable.

Jim Klapproth, chief engineer with GE Hitachi, said in a statement, “Customers with affected control blades can avoid the safety concern by monitoring the water chemistry of their plants and replacing affected blades prior to the end of the revised service life.”

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