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If we were really on our toes, we might even be able to find some way to recoup some of the costs of this endeavor. To that end, the ERAB report suggests that revenues from the sale of steam could significantly offset the costs of building and operating an NPR facility. I will pursue that matter further during questioning, following the oral testimony.
REPORT SHORTCOMINGS AND INCONSISTENCIES One last comment, Mr. Chairman, concerning the ERAB report. While there were many good points made in the document, I could not help but notice some areas of inconsistencies and some statements which were inadequately substantiated by the facts. I am sure that much of this is a direct result of the shortness of time within which the panel had to finalize its efforts. But, I wouldn't be surprised at all if some of these gaps weren't purposely included to entice those of us with inquisitive minds to go much deeper into many of these issues before making any final decision on NPR capacity. The gaps are so transparent in some instances that I am sure that even the ERAB panel itself would not want to see an NPR technology decision made based solely on this one report.
Which leads me into one final area I wanted to cover and that concerns the process by which the Energy Systems Acquisition Advisory Board, chaired by Mr. Salgado, will assimilate the ERAB report, as well as input from the site evaluation team and other administrative agencies, to come up with a consistent and a coherent and a defensible decision with respect to our future capabilities
our future capabilities to produce weapons materials.
I am most anxious, Mr. Chairman, to hear from Secretary Salgado, Dr. Graham, Dr. Duncan, Mr. Wade, and Mr. Ahearne concerning this crucial decisionmaking process.
For the record, I would remind the witnesses, who have so generously agreed to appear here today on such short notice, that the purpose of this hearing is not to delay decisions on the NPR and not to put down the ERAB report or the decisionmaking process, but rather to help enable the process and the outcome to withstand the tests of time in terms of our nation's well being and in terms of the health, safety, and security of our people.
Mr. Chairman, I would ask unanimous consent that the articles to which I made reference be made a part of the record at this point. I also have an article from Energy Daily, and report by the National Defense Council Foundation which I also ask be included in the record.
Senator JOHNSTON. Without objection, so ordered. (The information follows:]
(From Nucleonics Week, July 14, 1988)
TECHNOLOGY CHOICES FOR NEW DOE REACTOR ALL INCLUDE UNCERTAINTIES
With a decision approaching on a technology for the United States new defense materials production reactor, Nucleonics
Week's Danialle Weaver examined the opinions being given DOE. This is the first of her two-part report.
resulted in the current power restrictions (NW, 5 Nov., '87,4).Recent revelations of missing engineering drawings and hand-calculated safety calculations (NW, 9 June, 2) have fueled the debate over the reactors' safety.
Many of the other concepts have been at least par. tially reviewed by NRC, the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS), or both. NRC has fully licensed one HTGR and reviewed two large HTGRS through the construction permit stage, ERAB said. The proposed MHTGR is a scalcd-down version of the Fort St. Vrain plant that more closely resembles Peach Bottom-l, both of which were licensed by NRC. The ACRS has reviewed DOE's Fast Flux Test Facility, an LMR, although DOE facilities are not subject to NRC review. The large LWR concept is based on Union Electric Co.'s Cal. laway, which was licensed in 1984,
In addition, the HTGR, LMR, and, to a lesser extent, the small LWR are "passively safe" concepts that rely mainly upon gravily, natural convection and circulation, and a few engineered safety features. Choosing one of those concepts would advance nuclear technology far more than would building another HWR, and should be considered despite somewhat higher initial capital costs, ERAB said.
A decision on DOE's new production reactor (NPR), the largest U.S. nuclear power plant order in the foreseeable future, inched closer last week as an expert panel said that a heavy water reactor (HWR) at the Savannah River"; Plant (SRP) has the best chance of quickly producing' ""! uiuium for nuclear weapons. However, the panel noted there are technical uncertainties in every design reviewed.i
The recommendation by a special Energy Research, Advisory Board (ERAB) panel appcars to give two teams : of HWR proponents—led by Ebasco Services, Inc. and Westinghouse Electric Corp.--an early leg up in the com-, petition for thc contract, estimated to be worth $5-10 $10billion over perhaps 10 years. The panel stopped short, si however, of a full-Nedged endorsement of the HWR tech-nology, noting that other "passively safe" designs would do more to advance reactor technology than an HWR.
After Energy Secretary John Herrington announces by! August 1 a preferred technology and site for the NPR, DOE will begin preparing an environmental impact stalo-'. ment (EIS), which could take two years, DOE spokesman Will Callicou said. DOE will issue a request for proposals. • (RFP) after the EIS is finished.
The NPR eventually would replace DOE's 34-yearold SRP reactors, which are shut down for seismic fixes..., routine maintenance, or to comply with stale environmeni tal laws (NW, 30 June, 11). The power levels of all threo reactors were halved more than a year ago after the Na. tional Academy of Sciences (NAS), the first outside rcvicw team to examine them, raised questions about the... capacities of their emergency cooling systems in the eyent of a severe accident (NW, 26 March '87, 3).
The Reagan administration postponed the decision 10,.,; build an NPR because of budget cuts. The administration elected in November could change whatever decision Herrington makcs.
ir".146.9716 Many in DOE have wanted to build a new HWR, 42!!!111 rather than gambling on other technologies. DOE statistics show, the reactors performed well unuil safety concerns prompted power culbacks: as measured by reactor "in. 192 nage," or operational days per given year (with 365 days ry equaling 100%), the SRP reactors have dipped below 60% (lo 58%) during only three fiscal years. During 18 fiscali!!! years, the reactors averaged between 80% and 84%.".1 PM
But pressure from Congress and cabinet officials: prompled DOE to look at LWRs—as a large plant, a converled commercial reactor, and an "advanced" LWR, at modular high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (MHTGRs), and at liquid metal reactors (LMRS). According to ERAB, the major Naw of the other reactors is that thcy are unproven tritium producers. The new HWRs would use the SRP sucl and targets, but the other technologics require demonstrations.
For example, Westinghouse, which is proposing all the LWR technologies, would need $91- to $137-million to . qualify ils targets, depending on how many must be developed and tested and how many tests need to be done, according to Robert Vijuk, Westinghouse manager of spacc, defense, and nuclear programs. General Alomics' MHTGR target has been developed but would require another $25-million for full-scale target tests and building and operating pilot target fabrication and recovery lines, said Linden Blue, GA's vice chairman of the board.
The major drawback of the HWR is that it is totally new to the safety review process. The SRP reactors have been reviewed by only one outside group; that review
Safety of Current HWRs Uncertain
The six-loop Savannah River HWRs operate at 2,350 megawalls thermal at full power and are coolcd and moderated by heavy water. Each loop contains a pump and a heat exchanger. The coolant enters the top of the reactor through a plcnum, flows down through the sucl assemblies, and exits the boltom of the reactor. A secondary loop of light water cools the primary coolant.
The low-temperature (230 degrees F) and low-pressure (5 pounds per square inch gauge) reactors currently Use two types of fuel assemblies, several types of target assemblies (for tritium, plutonium-239, and Pu-238), and one type of blanket assembly (for trilium).
The Mark 16B (for plutonium) and Mark 22 (for tritium) fuel assemblies contain either two or three concentric fuel tubes of highly enriched uranium-235 in an aluminum sleeve housing with an inner lithium target. Depending on the type, the assembly also contains either a permanent or removable lithium-aluminum outcr target. These fuel assemblies are used in conjunction with depleted uranium targets to produce plutonium-239, with neptunium largels lo produce plutonium-238, or with lithium targels to produce tritium. In the plutonium production mode, some tritium is produced in the lithium blanket assemblies, in the inner largels of the fuel assemblies, and in the control rods.
The Mark 16 fuel is in the reactor for five to six months at full power, and the targets are in the reactor for about one month at full power, according to Roger Rollins, chief of the reactors branch at DOE-Savannah River. The Mark 22 fuel and targel assemblics are each good for nine months at full power. Loading of fresh targets takes about five days, and reloading of both fuel and larget assemblies lakes 10 days. The reactors are in annual maintenance outages that last from 60 to 75 days, Rollins said.
Partial and full-length control rods, made of either cadmium poison or lithium or cobalt for isotope production, control the flux across the reactor corc. In an emer
gency, the reactors can be shut down through the use of safety rods, a gadolinium nitrate poison-injection system, or a computer-generated scram. Three of the cooling loops also could function as an emergency cooling system (ECS) to injcct light water in to the top of the core during an emergency
After 25 years of full-power operation, SRP operator E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. discovered that the loss of cooling capability in the fuel assemblies could occur during a loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA), even with the ECS operating, at lower power than previously thought. During a LOCA, the reduced downward coolant flow could be cut off by steam produced from bulk boiling in the core. The power was reduced to prevent bulk moderator boiling, and DOE plans to add a fourth ECS; line to each reactor.
DOE also has had problems with oxygen-induced intergranular stress corrosion cracking (IGSCC) because : of the large amount of carbon in the stainless steel vessels and piping. Cracks in C reactor's lank were exacerbated by the unique, curved construction of the vessel, which was designed differently than the other reactors in order to allow ultrasonic testing for cracks. The curving and welding stressed the metal before it was irradiated, Rollins ! ; said. The cracks in C reactor have defied repair attempts. :
DOE's reactors also lack containments. Rather than contain radionuclides, the confinement systems rely on a high-efficiency, particle-air filter to remove particles, a charcoal-bed filter to absorb iodine and halogens, and demisters to remove water droplets, Rollins said. "The filters are designed to remove all radioactivity except for noble gases," such as xenon, krypton, and trilium, Rollins said.
The potential problcm with the filters is that they may not withstand the loading that results from a severe accidcnt. Bccausc thc source tcrm calculations were done when little was known about radioactive relcases, DOE undercstimated the amount and form of iodine and the amount of cesium that would be relcased. The biggest thrcal to filler integrity would be large amounts of cesium: recent Icsts on Savannah River fucl have shown that ncarly all iodine would be released from damaged fuel and that ccsium and iodinc will combine into the particulate ccsium iodide, which could collect on the filtration unil instead of the charcoal bed.
coolant slow, Kirkland said. "The downslow does work," he said, "but people thought it might bc) bcllcr to have the upslow because natural convection allows the water to rise and allows cooling in a shutdown condition without pumps.... We haven't decided whether (the containment) will be rectilinear like a conventional containment building or circular with a dome," he said. “Either one will work and the cost of either is about the same. But it will be a low-pressure containment because of the low temperature" of the system.
According to DOE and industry sources, however, the Ebasco/Babcock & Wilcox/NUS Corp. "enhanced heavy water reactor" most impressed the ERAB pancl. The Ebasco HWR would be a four-loop, 2,500-MWi low-lemperature (250 degrees F), low-pressure (45 psig) reactor with separate heavy water moderator and coolant loops, according to Robert louti, Ebasco's vicc president, advanced technology. The reactor vessel and the primary system would be made of Type 316 austenitic stainless steel which, lotti says, is less susceptible to IGSCC than carbon or low-alloy stccls. Tighter control over oxygen concentrations in the primary and moderator circuits, as well as other precautions that can be taken during manufacture and installation, will minimize IGSCC polential, Ebasco said.
The core would use 588 of the current SRP Mark-22 fuel assemblies, except that the outer cladding could be either aluminum or zircaloy. The number of sucl assemblies could be reduced to 504 if DOE decided it wanted to use 84 blankct assemblics to produce isotopes other than tritium, Ebasco's literature says. The larget assemblies also would be the same as at SRP. The fuel and target lifetimes would be the same as for the current SRP reactors.
Core power would be controlled by a control rod drive structure using 79 lithium-aluminum control assemblies and 79 inner cadmium poison rods. The design also incorporates 90 safety shutdown assemblies containing gadolinium nitrate.
Tritium would be removed in two strcams from the primary coolant and moderator through cryogenic distillation, which permils a "very small but reasonable leak rale into the containment vessel," said louli's assistant Vincent Walker. The tritium would be removed from the containment atmosphere by a heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system that uses air dryers. This writium control and removal system would result in a plant personnel dose of only 10% of current SRP levels, Ebasco said.
To eliminate potential filter and confinement problems, Ebasco's vessel would be housed in a large, dry, post-tensioned reinforced concrcle containment vessel with a steel liner and a design pressure of 60 psig. To control potential hydrogen generated during a severe accident, the design would use a combination of containment sprays, hydrogen recombiners, and hydrogen igniters, locui said.
Ebasco plans to conduct level onc, two, and three Probabilistic Risk Assessments (PRA) on the design .. should it land the contract, lolli said.
Design enhancements have eliminated problems expericnced by the SRP rcactors, lolli said. The condition limiting operating power would be resolved in the Ebasco design because the primary coolant would enter the reactor vessel through a downcomer surrounding the moderator and core region, and slow up through the assemblies, as in commercial PWRs, lotti said. The upper and lower end fittings would be changed to accommodate the change in Now direction, Walker said.
Other issues raised by NAS, including questions ? related to human performance, liquid cfluent relcases, and emergency planning would be resolved during the design and licensability review processes, Ebasco said.
New IIWR Designs In Progress
The industrial proponents of the new HWR designs say they have solved the problems with DOE's SRP reactors. Two industrial teams-- from Ebasco, Babcock & Wilcox, and NUS Corp., and from Westinghouse/ Bechtel-made presentations to ERAB. DOE also has been designing an improved HWR design with the help of DuPont and Savannah River Laboratory scientists. Both Ebasco and Westinghouse said thcy could build smaller versions of their proposed designs rather than one large plant.
All the designs are updated versions of the current SRP reactors and would usc the same design, fuel, and largel lcchnologics and facilities. All would rely heavily on safely codes being developed and validated by DOE for the current SRP reactors, representatives from each team acknowledged--a lask complicated by the lack of documentation for the old reactors' designs. ! DOE has been designing a new HWR for a number of years, said M.C. Kirkland, director of the DOE-Savannah River projcct enginccring division. It is "basically the same reactor" but would contain "all the safety features we'vc learned about over the ycars," he said.
Three changes are being considered. DOE “may go lo underwater resucling insicad of dry refucling," could add a containment, and might change the direction of
Ebasco would plan an annual outage of about 30 days, loui said. Total core replacement could be accomplished in 14 days using robotized charging/discharg.. ing machines, he said. The remaining 16 days would be used for preventive maintenance and in-service inspection activities, he said. The Ebasco design incorporales two redundant resueling machines and two transfer tubes from the containment uansser pool to the spent fuel pool to minimize possible schedule delays due to machine failure, he added.
The Westinghouse HWR design would be a six-loop. 3,300-MWi plant using the same larget design as the SRP reactors but 762 fuel assemblies of 8% enriched U-238. The Westinghouse design would use 210 blanket assemblies containing lithium-aluminum target materials for
vitium production. The larget materials and fuel would be changed out at 10-month intervals.
Westinghouse also would go to automated refueling equipment to speed resucling and reduce personnel exposures. The reactor tank would be made of type 304L stainless steel, which also has a lower carbon content than the SRP reactor tanks, and Westinghouse also would conwol water chemistry to inhibit IGSCC.
The major difference between the Westinghouse design and the current SRP reactors is the incorporation of a robust containment with a design-basis pressure of 45 psig. The metal containment would transfer any decay heat through the shell, and the outer surface of the containment would be cooled by a passive air system operaling by convection, Vijuk said.
(From Nucleonics Week, July 21, 1988)
WEAPONS TECHNOLOGIES: HOW SAFE IS SAFE ENOUGH? With a decision approaching on a lechnology for the United States new defense materials production reactor, Nucleonics
Week's Danialle Weaver examined the opinions being given DOE. This is the second of her two-part report
tervention, for shutdown. The smaller, modular designs should cut costs and reduce hasty design changes.
But linking LWRs lo weapons is a connection many in the industry want to avoid. The two LMR proponents, who are also trying lo avoid that connection, have sacrificed efficient breeding ralios for bigger safety margins. And Public Service Co. of Colorado's (PSC) Fort SL Vrain, the only U.S. commercial HTGR, has been plagued with operational problems, although the plant was taken off NRC's "problem plant" list last week.
DOE officials, who openly prefer the HWR, have argued that they cannot gamble the nation's nuclear deterrent on unproven technologies. Proponents of non-HWR technologies argue that DOE must upgrade its public image by choosing a "safer" reactor. What is clear, say DOE observers, is that the ERAB panel told DOE exactly what it wanted to hear. It is also clear that the reactor safety debate is far from over.
DOE's scheduled August 1 decision on a new weapons materials production reactor (NPR) has sent industrial lcams scrambling for the contract, worth $5-10 $10-billion and the largest U.S. nuclear plant order in the ncar fulure.
DOE says it will pick a new reactor Icchnology by giving equal weight to the goals of production efficiency and safety. But an Energy Rescarch Advisory Board (ERAB) panel, which reviewed several designs for DOE, recommended DOE opt for a heavy-water reactor (HWR), built next to the existing but shut-down HWRs at the Savannah River Plant (SRP), to attain quick tritium production (NW, 9 June, 1). The report contradicted earlier studies showing that all the technologies, including, the passively sase designs, had roughly the same construction times. . But all of the lcchnologics entail schedule risk. For the HWR, the risk is in the safety review process. DOE is developing policies on safety objectives, severe accidents, and probabilistic risk assessments (PRAS) in response to the first-ever outside review of the SRP reactors. The safety effort, begun in fiscal year 1988, will take four years and $12-million to develop, according 60 DOE doc, uments. Each new HWR design would use the safety: ...... codes to be developed in that program. Thc SRP codes, which use revised commercial industry codes as a base, must be recalculated for their higher fucl enrichments, lower operating pressures, and heavy waler modcration. Other complications include missing documentation for the SRP rcactors and proposed HWR design changes reversing the direction of coolant flow (NW, 14 July, 9).
For the other designs-LWRs, modular high-temperalure gas-cooled reactors (MHTGRs), and liquid metal rcaciors (LMRs)—the schedule risk lies in development of uitium production capabilities. All the designs have been or will be reviewed by NRC for safety, but they are unproven trilium producers, though the MHTGR has what is considered the most malure technology. Proving that capability could delay those reactors, ERAB said.
DOE should consider an advanced reactor despite potentially higher costs, ERAB said. All the non-HWR concepts could sell sicam 10 offset costs. The MHTGR and the LMR would advance nuclcar lcchnology more than a HWR or even a large LWR, thc panel said. The MHTGR and LMR and, to a lesser extent, a small LWR, are "passively safe" designs that rely on gravity and natural convection and circulation, rather than operator in
MHTGRs: Will the technology work?
The MHTGR, which by most accounts presented the only serious challenge to the HWRs, impressed the ERAB panel because of its passive safely features, the maturity of its larget technology, and the ability of its modular construction to provide redundancy and Nexibility in materials production, sources said.
General Alomics' (GA) MHTGR would consist of eight, 135-MW, helium-cooled, graphite-moderated modules. Each module would contain a carbon steel rcaclor vessel, an interconnecting crossduct, and a vessel housing a helical coil steam generator and a molor-driven main helium circulator. Each module would have its own lurbine, which would allow production of different isotopes as well as staggered resucling and target changeout times. The carbon steel would not exhibit the intergranular stress corrosion cracking shown in the SRP
because the MHT system does not contain water, GA said.
According to Linden Blue, GA's vice chairman of the board, every performance problem experienced by Fort Sl. Vrain has been linked to the unique design of the helium circulators. The Fort St. Vrain circulators have bearings that are cooled by water, rather than oil, which has resulled in water leakage into the helium coolant. The bcarings for the proposed circulalors would be conventionally cooled, Blue said.
The fuel would consist of highly enriched uranium
dicarbide particles with a TRISO coating consisting of three layers of pyrolytic carbon, silicon carbide, and
pyrolytic carbon. The coating is designed to retain fission I products. The particles are mixed with graphite, formed into fuel rods, and inserted into graphite blocks to make fuel elements. A total of 660 suel elements make up one modulc's core. The fuel is identical to that used in Fort Sl Vrain and has performed well, according to PSC. The fuel has a design life of three years, there is no degradation of the fuel up to 3,600 degrees F.
GA's larget technology, the most advanced of all the non-HWR concepts, would use TRISO-coated lithium aluminale kernels. The coating retains citium, which dissuses rapidly through most materials. The target particles are mixed with graphite, assembled into graphitc sleeves, and inserted into the fuel assemblies. The trilium largels are designed to last six months and relain their integrity up to the same temperature as the fuel.
GA anticipales a two-week maintenance and inspec. Lion outage each time the targets are removed, Blue said. The reactor is resueled through control rod drive penetrations in the top of the vessel. A resueling machine is inserted into the penetrations and entire graphite blocks-one-third of the core-are removed and replaced. The removal of the entire block every three years precludes the neutron-induced graphite distortion that plagued DOE's Hanford, Wash., N reactor, Blue said (NW, 18 Dec. '86, 7).
The tritium recovery technology consists of crushers to fracture the target particles and a vacuum fumace with a purification system. Reprocessing of driver fuel could make major use of existing facilities at SRP and the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL), GA said.
The two key passive safety features of the MHTGR, Blue said, are passive decay heat removal and a negative temperature coefficient. Decay heat would be dissipated from the core by conduction and radiation to the silo cooling system or to the surrounding earth. The large negative temperature coefficient would shut the reactor down in the event of a loss of forced circulation at full power. At Fort St. Vrain, forced circulation could be lost for 18 hours without fuel damage (NW, 15 Oct. '87,8).
The reactors would be housed in underground silos, with the "containment" being unlined reinforced concretc horizontal blowdown tunnels designed for a maximum 15 pounds per square inch gauge (psig). The low contained energy within the system would preclude a breach of the tunnel containments, Blue said. LWRs: Building on a technology base
The LWR technologies have a theoretical advantage because of their widespread use in the commercial power industry, ERAB said. The problem with the LWRs is that they lack a proven lcchnology for producing tritium, sources said.
A Westinghouse/Bechtel team, which also proposed an HWR concept, proposed two technologies: a “special water reactor" (SWR) based on the design of Union Electric Co.'s Callaway, and conversion of the Washinglon Public Power Supply System's (WPPSS) mothballed WNP-1. Late in the selection process, ERAB also considered a small, “inherently safe" Westinghouse spin-off of ils AP-600 concept, called a Small Advanced Special Water Reactor (SASWR). The SASWR would be redesigned for weapons production, according to Robert Vijuk, Westinghouse's manager of space, defense, and nuclear programs.
The SWR would be very similar to Callaway, a fourloop, 1,170-MW (ncl) PWR. The SASWR would be a two-loop, 700-MW (nel) modular PWR. Like the AP-600, the SASWR would have fewer valves, sewer large pumps, and less piping than current LWRs. The SASWR would rely on passive safety injection systems, passive decay
heat removal systems, and passive containment cooling using gravity and natural convection.
The SWR would use a 19x19 zircaloy-clad fuel assembly, but the uranium would be 8.5% enriched. Cal. laway's fuel is in a 17x17 zircaloy-clad assembly and is 2% to 5% enriched. The SASWR also would use 19x19 fuel assemblies, but the fuel enrichment would be 8.8%. WNP-1 is designed to use 17x17 sucl assemblies, but the enrichment would be upped to 10%.
The fuel for each reactor would have a three-year life, with onc-third of the core changed out at cach refueling. Westinghouse began ils SWR design using highly enriched uranium, but the enrichment was gradually lowered lo 8.5% lo preclude recriticality problems, Vijuk said.
The ceramic lithium-aluminum target rods would be contained in a stainless steel tube with a tridium diffusion barrier and a getter in the tube to relain the tritium during irradiation. Westinghouse has tested small-scale largets in INEL's Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) and would test fulllength simulated largets in an operating commercial reactor, Vijuk said. The largels would have a one-year lifetime. Unlike GA's largels, the Westinghouse targets have not been demonstrated, although the target concept is feasible, Vijuk said.
Westinghouse anticipates 42 days per year outage lime for target change-out, resucling and maintenance for its SWR concepts. The company expects an annual 80% availability rate for all its LWR concepts, Vijuk said.
A disadvantage for the LWRs is that they would require new suel fabrication facilitics, assuming that DOE wanted that capability on-site, Vijuk said. Otherwise, he said, the fuel could be fabricated in existing commercial or government fuel facilitics. “The targets could be fabricated anywhere," he said, but tritium extraction facilities would have to be built.
- The SWR design, through the Callaway plant, is 100% complete, "so we have complete plant drawings and specifications, and only the changes need to be engineered in the same delail," Vijuk said. The SASWR is still a concept. The SWR reactor vessel would be slightly larger than Callaway's, and there are other, minor disscrenccs, he said.
WNP-1, a 1,250-MW Babcock & Wilcox PWR, would appear to be a perfect solution to DOE's current dilemma: at the 63% completion level, the plant's major systems have been installed, and the reactor's design is 98% complete. WPPSS has been careful to keep a skeleton maintenance crew on site to keep up the plant, so thc !" ! reactor could thcoretically be brought on line in five years, or half the estimated time required to build a new reactor from scratch. WNP-1 is located on fcdcral land at DOE's Hanford reservation and could use the N reactor's work force. A Bechtel study last year concluded the conversion was feasible, and the company had proposed finishing the plant on a $1.6-billion fixed-price contract. :
But WPPSS sold $2.1-billion in bonds to finance the plant, and any attempt by DOE 10 purchase or otherwise acquire thc unit could result in bondholder litigation that could tic the issue up in court for several years (NW, 22" Oct. '87, 2) and dramatically increase DOE's costs. And, although the Arms Control & Disarmament Agency and the State Department have said that the conversion would not violate U.S. law or treaty obligations, significant, political opposition to the conversion of a commercial
1 reactor exists.
LMR Advocates: We're Not Interested
DOE requested early this year that General Electric and Rockwell International make presentations to the ERAB panel on their proposed commercial LMR designs, which are sponsored by DOE. But thc companies would just as soon not have their reactors linked to weapons