Friday, November 11, 2011

The Mother of Bad Decisions?

This is not about safety culture, but it’s nuclear related and, given our recent emphasis on decision-making, we can’t pass over it without commenting.

The steam generators (SGs) were recently replaced at Crystal River 3.  This was a large and complex undertaking but SGs have been successfully replaced at many other plants.  The Crystal River project was more complicated because it required cutting an opening in the containment but this, too, has been successfully accomplished at other plants.

The other SG replacements were all managed by two prime contractors, Bechtel and the Steam Generator Team (SGT).  However, to save a few bucks, $15 million actually, Crystal River decided to manage the project themselves.  (For perspective, the target cost for the prime contractor, exclusive of incentive fee, was $73 million.)  (Franke, Exh. JF-32, p. 8)*
Cutting the opening resulted in delamination of the containment, basically the outer 10 inches of concrete separated from the overall 42-inch thick structure in an area near the opening.  Repairing the plant and replacement power costs are estimated at more than $2.5 billion.**  It’s not clear when the plant will be running again, if ever.

Progress Energy Florida (PEF), the plant owner, says insurance will cover most of the costs.  We’ll see.  But PEF also wants Florida ratepayers to pay.  PEF claims they “managed and executed the SGR [steam generator replacement] project in a reasonable and prudent manner. . . .”  (Franke, p. 3)

The delamination resulted from “unprecedented and unpredictable circumstances beyond PEF's control and in spite of PEF's prudent management. . . .” (Franke, p. 2)

PEF’s “root cause investigation determined that there were seven factors that contributed to the delamination. . . . These factors combined to cause the delamination during the containment opening activities in a complex interaction that was unprecedented and unpredictable.” [emphasis added]  (Franke, p. 27)***

This is an open docket, i.e., the Florida PSC has not yet determined how much, if anything, the ratepayers will have to pay.  Will the PSC believe that a Black Swan settled at the Crystal River plant?  Or is the word “hubris” more likely to come to mind?

* “Testimony & Exhibits of Jon Franke,” Fla. Public Service Commission Docket No. 100437-EI (Oct. 10, 2011).

**  I. Penn, “Cleaning up a DIY repair on Crystal River nuclear plant could cost $2.5 billion,” St. Petersburg Times via website (Oct. 9, 2011).  This article provides a good summary of the SG replacement project.

***  For the detail-oriented, “. . . the technical root cause of the CR3 wall delamination was the combination of: 1) tendon stresses; 2) radial stresses; 3) industry design engineering analysis inadequacies for stress concentration factors; 4) concrete strength properties; 5) concrete aggregate properties; and 6) the de-tensioning sequence and scope. . . . another factor, the process of removing the concrete itself, likely contributed to the extent of the delamination. . . .” From “Testimony & Exhibits of Garry Miller,” Fla. Public Service Commission Docket No. 100437-EI (Oct. 10, 2011), p. 5.

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