Posts Tagged ‘nuclear energy’

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Inside Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station

May 26, 2012

The two boiling water reactors at Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station are of the BWR/4 product line from General Electric and are housed in Mark I (“lightbulb”) containments.  They share a common turbine building and a common control room.  Electrical output is about 1200 MW each, leaving the station at a respectable 500 kV to feed the power-hungry metropolitan areas of the northeastern United States.  Condenser waste heat is rejected to the Susquehanna River, supplemented during particularly hot weather by some small forced-draft cooling towers.  Peach Bottom’s official name harkens back to 1958, when “atomic power” was a celebrated novelty, and construction began on a unique gas-cooled reactor at the Peach Bottom site.  The GCR operated until 1974.  Units 2 and 3 came on line that same year on a site on the right bank of the Susquehanna River just north of Unit 1.

Nuclear power plants have understandably committed unprecedented attention to safety and security in the last decade or so.  An unfortunate side effect has been that those of us who don’t work in these facilities have scant resources to help wrap our heads around their scale, layout, equipment, and operations.  With that in mind, I’m profoundly grateful to Exelon Corporation’s Peach Bottom staff, and in particular Jim Kovalchick, director of security, for allowing the comprehensive tour on which these photos were taken in April 2012.

To see pics with my descriptive captions, you must click “permalink” in the slideshow view after clicking the thumbnails below.  Sorry that’s not obvious, but WordPress.com has gone all knuckle-head in the tech department this year.  If you want to see the FULL SIZED photo: (1) click the thumbnail; (2) select “permalink”; (3) click the larger photo.  Whew!

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Visiting Vogtle and Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plants

September 6, 2011

The control room in Unit 2 at Plant Vogtle, August 12, 2011, just before 5:00PM. Reactor controls at left, balance of plant on the right. The reactor is at full power. A routine maintenance and refuelling shutdown is planned for the Fall.

The American South is widely seen as the most viable US market for new nuclear power plants.  Although the “nuclear renaissance” faces serious obstacles in the post-Fukushima world, if reactors are to be put on the grid then the South is almost certainly where it will happen first.  Dominion’s North Anna plant, which I visited in 2009, plans to add an ESBWR. This August 12th and 15th I accompanied Atlanta fusion hobbyist Chad Ramey, his father, and friend Steven Shaw to two other southern nuclear nurseries. Plant Vogtle (pronounced “VO-gel” in local dialect) is an operating two-unit Westinghouse PWR plant of recent vintage that is adding two additional Westinghouse AP1000 reactors.  Bellefonte Nuclear Generating Station, by marked contrast, is a 37-year-old never-completed Babcock and Wilcox PWR plant with two units, one of which TVA elected to complete by unanimous vote of its board on August 18.

Nuclear power plants are some of the most uptight and inaccessible places on the planet unless you work there, so I’m grateful to Mike McCracken at Plant Vogtle and to Chris Griffin at TVA for accommodating us.  I’m especially indebted to Mike for all the photos from Plant Vogtle.   (Unfortunately there is a strict no-photography policy in place at Bellefonte, so my gallery contains just two exterior shots.  However, we visited the reactor vessel head, a steam generator, spent fuel pools, a cable spreader room, and the well-preserved ’70s-vintage control room, among many other parts of the plant.)  Click any image below for a larger version with caption.

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Inside Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant 2011, Part IV: Switchyard Control Room

August 11, 2011

Its reactors have been out of service for years, but Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s vast electrical switchyard still buzzes with some of the highest voltages on the European continent.  It’s a distribution hub that channels hundreds of megawatts generated at other plants to consumers in northern Ukraine and southern Belarus.  The bustling control room for the switchyard is sited between the Unit 1 and Unit 2 reactors along the deaerator corridor.  The men who work there not only control the flow of juice to parts distant, but also are responsible for maintaining the power plant’s grid connection and backup Diesel generators: power is essential for cooling thousands of spent fuel assemblies.

Click any photo below for a larger version with my description; click again for a full-size file.

For this summer’s other photos from ChNPP, see Part I, Part II, and Part III.

To compare and contrast facilities at Chernobyl with those at an operational RBMK-1000 plant, please see this recent photodiary featuring the Kursk NPP (the 14th photo shows one of the switchyard control rooms there).

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Inside Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant 2011, Part III: Dosimetry Control Room

August 9, 2011

With a decade-plus lead on the rest of the RBMK fleet in confronting the uncertainties of the decommissioning process, which involves fuel movements and the continuing generation of radioactive wastes, Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant must continue to remain particularly vigilant on matters of radiation safety.  There is a well-maintained underground bunker at the ABK-1 administrative building that serves as a modern emergency operations center, for example.  This year we visited the Phase I dosimetry control room as part of our tour, where a dosimetrist monitors radiation levels and aerosol levels in the rooms of the Unit 1 and Unit 2 complex, and monitors discharge of radioactivity from the operational VT-1 ventilation stack.  The dosimetry control room is accessed from the +10-meter deaerator corridor, between Unit 1 and Unit 2 reactor buildings.

Click any photo below for a larger version with my description; click again for a full-size file.

For this summer’s other photos from ChNPP, see this post and this post.

To compare and contrast facilities at Chernobyl with those at an operational RBMK-1000 plant, please see jencha’s wonderful recent photodiary from the Kursk NPP (the 12th photo shows the dosimetry control room there with obviously more modern equipment than ChNPP).

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Inside Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant 2011, Part II: Deaerator Corridor and Unit 1 Control Room

August 8, 2011

More interior photographs from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, this selection focusing on highlights of the Unit 1 control room and the building’s perhaps most distinguishing interior feature, its 600-meter-long “Gold Corridor.” Right-click any photo and select “open in new window” (or equivalent) for a larger version with my caption.

For this summer’s photos of the Unit 3 end of the power plant, see this post.

Our photos from ChNPP last year are displayed at this site.

The floor plan below is compiled from an official plant safety document and is meant to help illustrate the geography of the power plant on the +10-meter elevation, near Units 1-2.

+10-meter floor plan, Phase I, Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

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Inside Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant 2011, Part I: Unit 3 and V Block

August 8, 2011

I just returned from another trip to Chernobyl. We visited some parts of the power plant that we didn’t get to see on last year’s trip, but—as I’m sure my readers can understand—one day at the station wasn’t enough and I’m left pining for more! (I’m particularly lusting after a certain pachyderm appendage, if you catch my drift.) Anyway, without further ado, here’s a gallery of select images from the Phase II end of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant—that is, from the Unit 3 reactor building and the Unit 3-4 ventilation building (in which is located a memorial to Valery Khodemchuk, the young engineer whose remains have never been recovered from the Unit 4 north main circulation pump engine hall). Click on any image for a larger version with my descriptive comments (and click again for the full-sized photograph).

I’m deeply indebted to Mr. Igor Gramotkin, General Director of ChNPP, and Ms. Irina Kovbich of ChNPP’s Information Department, for permission to visit, and a most fascinating tour of this unique facility.

Watch a short video of our trip to the Khodemchuk memorial:

To get a bearing on the station layout and the path we took within it, please see the floor plan at bottom, depicting the station’s +10/+12.5-meter elevation, compiled from an official plant safety document.  My comments in the photos / video make reference to specific locations visible on this map.

Floor plan of ChNPP Phase II, +10/+12.5-meter elevation

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Back from Chernobyl

June 19, 2010

I just returned from a week-plus vacation to Ukraine, where I spent three days in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone with three of the best folks one could ever hope to get stranded with in a radiological wasteland: Mike Coffey, Chad Treloar, and Edward Geist.  We spelunked through pitch-black hospital basements in Pripyat amidst firefighters’ clothing emitting a quarter of a roentgen per hour of gamma radiation.  We toured parts of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.  We ate good food, pondered the relics of late Soviet society left behind in schools and civic centers, and just had a roaring good time.  The Geiger counters had a “roaring” good time also.  I’ll be posting photos and videos on our travelog at www.kiev2010.com, so please follow our efforts there.  Also, please visit the personal blogs of my companions:

Edward Geist: sovietologist.blogspot.com

Chad Treloar: cwtreloar.blogspot.com

Mike Coffey isn’t as into personal bloggery as the other three of us, but we’re indebted to him for running the group travelog.

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