Commissioner Jaczko, Respectfully Dissenting in Part to Oyster Creek Re-Licensing

I concur with my colleagues in large part on this order. I do, however, have a
concern with the way in which the Order handles the recent Inspection Report. I believe
that the Inspection Report provides evidence that directly contradicts evidence the Board
relied upon in ruling against Citizens on its contention in this proceeding. Having
contradictory evidence now before us, I believe the better approach would have been for
the Commission to address the issue directly and transparently.
Therefore, I would have preferred that the Commission, on its own motion, admit
the Inspection Report into evidence, rendering moot the motion to reopen. Considering
the new information contained in the Inspection Report, I believe the Commission could
support issuance of the renewed license with a relatively minor modification to Exelon's
Commitment 27. The current commitment has Exelon perform a full scope sand bed
region inspection during the 2008 refueling outage and thereafter at every other refueling
outage throughout the renewal period. Based upon Exelon's failure to effectively
implement its commitments in the 2008 refueling outage, I believe the commitment
should be modified so that a full scope sand bed region inspection is required in the
2010 refueling outage throughout the renewal period; if not implemented effectively, then
inspections should be performed in every outage. To say that this simple and
straightforward solution would undermine our licensing and regulatory process, as
argued by the majority, is hyperbole, at best.
The contention filed by Citizens raised safety concerns about Exelon's
commitment to take ultrasonic testing (UT) measurements in the sand bed region every
four years. Citizens argued this commitment was not sufficiently frequent to ensure an
adequate safety margin is maintained between measurements due to the uncertain
condition of the drywell shell, the uncertain corrosive environment, and the uncertain
corrosion rate. Water could result in corrosion, and the subsequent deterioration of the
drywell shell could jeopardize the integrity of the drywell shell, which is a critical line of
defense for preventing the release of radioactive material in the event of an accident.
The Board ultimately rejected Citizens' argument that the Applicant's
commitments would not be effective in ensuring that water from the refueling cavity will
not leak into the sand bed region. The Board concluded that the only source of
corrosive-causing water on the external wall of the drywell shell in the sand bed region is
the refueling cavity liner; that Exelon's commitments effectively eliminate the potential for
water leakage from the refueling cavity liner into that area; and that in the absence of
water, there will be no further corrosion. Without any evidence of further corrosion, the
Board determined that the thickness of the shell in the sand bed region would not violate
the acceptance criteria during the renewal period and, thus, the Board rejected Citizens'
challenge to the frequency of Exelon's UT program.1
The Inspection Report now before us calls into question part of the Board's
findings on this issue - namely that Exelon's commitments effectively eliminated the
potential for water to leak into the sand bed region from the refueling cavity liner. This
Board finding was premised upon a series of Exelon commitments, and the Inspection
Report highlights a series of Exelon errors that now call into question Exelon's ability to
implement its commitments in a manner that would ensure their effectiveness in
eliminating the potential for water to leak from the refueling cavity area into the sand bed
Exelon's commitments attempt to establish a line of defense against water
entering the sand bed region. The first line of defense is captured in Exelon's
commitment to "apply stainless steel tape and a strippable coating to the refueling cavity
liner prior to flooding the refueling cavity."2 This is intended to minimize the amount of
water that would leak into the cavity trough drain, and thus, ultimately, minimize or
eliminate the amount of water that could enter the sand bed bays. In expert testimony
introduced by Exelon, and cited by the Board in its decision, the expert clearly relies
upon the past success demonstrated by the strippable coating in the 2006 refueling
outage as evidence of future success. But the Inspection Report reveals that this
commitment is not as fool-proof as the Board was led to believe by the expert testimony
that supported it. In fact, the inspection found that a part of the strippable coating delaminated
and water puddles were subsequently identified in four different sand bed
bays.3 Initial evaluations revealed that human error was probably largely to blame.
Thus, the testimony relied upon by the Board would have been notably different had the
expert been confronted with the evidence contained in the inspection report - evidence
that clearly noted that human errors may compromise the effectiveness of the strippable
coating to prevent water in the sand bed bays.
Perhaps most troubling, the Inspection Report also discloses that Exelon's action
plan, as written, would not have required it to inspect the sand bed bays in this instance.
Since the cavity trough drain flow did not exceed 12 gpm, the assumption was that water
should not have entered the sand bed bays because the cavity trough could contain it.
Thus, were it not for the blistering identified on the epoxy coating, the inspectors noted
that Exelon employees would not have been in the bays to notice the water in the first
2 Id. at 354.
3 Inspection Report at 4.
place; instead, employees were in the bays only by chance, and only because they had
not met their original schedule to close out the sand bed bays.4 None of this provides
much confidence in Exelon's ability to ensure water remains out of the sand bed bays,
as Exelon's experts testified before the Board.
The next two layers of Exelon's proposed defense against water in the sand bed
region are Exelon's commitments to check the drains to make sure that, if water does
end up in certain areas, the water drains appropriately, and that Exelon has the ability to
monitor and measure its volume and flow rate. These commitments require Exelon to
verify that the refueling cavity concrete trough drain is clear with no blockage, and to
monitor the refueling cavity seal leakage trough drains and the drywell sand bed regions
for leakage.5 According to the Inspection Report, Exelon's drain lines were not originally
set up in a manner that would allow for monitoring. Thus, in order to meet this
commitment, Exelon isolated the cavity trough drain line to install a tygon hose to allow
drain flow to be monitored. Yet, at least once after the reactor cavity was filled, an
examination revealed that the isolation valve had been left closed preventing the water
from draining.6
Moreover, the Inspection Report continues by explaining the importance of the
tygon hose to the monitoring commitment. Exelon's plan was to remotely monitor sand
bed drains by checking for the existence of water in poly bottles attached via tygon
tubing to a funnel hung below each drain line. In order for the tygon hoses to work
4 Inspection Report at 7.
5 LBP-07-17, 66 NRC at 354-55.
6 Inspection Report at 4-5.
effectively, they would have to be connected to their funnels. Yet, Exelon found two of
the five tygon tubes disconnected from their funnels and laying on the floor, obviously
not fulfilling their intended purpose and thus, further invalidating the effectiveness of
these procedures, and thus calling into question the expert testimony that the Board
relied upon in making its findings.7
The final layer of defense relied upon by Exelon and accepted by the Board is
the epoxy coating on the exterior of the drywell shell. In dismissing Citizens' claims that
the thickness of the shell in the sand bed region needs to be more frequently monitored
than Exelon's commitment requires, the Board concluded it was confident that additional
monitoring was not necessary based on the "overwhelming record evidence" that there
are no pinholes in the protective epoxy coatings, and that visual inspections indicate the
epoxy coating is in "very good condition".8 The theory was that early indications of
coating failure would develop at a very slow rate and thus, visual inspections every four
years would catch any deterioration in time to prevent failure.9
Yet, according to the Inspection Report, the results of a 2006 video inspection
which reportedly identified no coating problems in any sand bed bay directly contradict
more recent inspections that reveal one small broken blister and three small unbroken
blisters in Bay 11. There was also minor chipping in the epoxy coating noted in three
different bays, as well as a discoloration noted on Bay 9.10 This evidence either
demonstrates that visual inspections were not as useful as testimony led the Board to
7 Id. at 6.
8 LBP-07-17, 66 NRC at 360-62.
9 Id. at 361.
10 Inspection Report at 10-12.
conclude, or that the defects noted were new, and thus, deterioration could be occurring
much faster than the testimony led the Board to conclude. Either way, the Inspection
Report does call into question the expert testimony the Board relied upon in its finding -
testimony in which Exelon described the coating as being in "pristine condition".11 It also
provides strong evidence as to why more frequent monitoring of the thickness of the
shell in the sand bed region may be necessary in order to ensure safety.
Although the Board ultimately concluded that even if water entered the sand bed
region there was an adequate margin of safety to ensure the integrity of the drywell
shell, its finding appears premised upon the testimony that indicates each of the layers
of Exelon's defense against this would be effectively implemented. It is not clear if the
Board would have been as comfortable with that margin knowing what we now know
about Exelon's inability to meet its commitments to eliminate water from the sand bed
region in the first place. The contention at issue was about the adequacy of the planned
frequency of the UT monitoring commitment. Not even Citizens argued that the new
information merits a decision to reject the license renewal application, but only that the
monitoring should be required more frequently.
Effectively, in this case, Exelon persuaded the Board that water could only reach
the exterior drywell shell from the reactor cavity liner, and that the commitments ensure
that any water from this cavity liner will not flow through to the sand bed bays because of
a strippable coating to minimize or eliminate leaks and because of monitoring that would
identify water that in fact ended up in the sand bed region. The Inspection Report cites
to a failure of the strippable coating to prevent water from entering the sand bed region
11 LBP-07-17, 66 NRC at 360.
and a failure of the monitoring commitments to alert Exelon to the presence of water in
the sand bed region. As the Inspection Report makes clear, Exelon identified water in
the sand bed region only accidentally and not because of an effective program to do so.
In fact, Exelon's series of errors laid out in this Inspection Report provides evidence that
directly contradicts Exelon's ability to meet the commitments. And it provides evidence
that the expert testimony the Board found persuasive was optimistic, at best.
Therefore, I believe a reasonable safety solution in this instance is not to allow
Exelon to rely upon the 2008 inspection in meeting its commitment for the renewed
license. Instead, I believe the Commission should have modified the commitment to
require Exelon to perform a full scope sand bed region inspection during the 2010
refueling outage. If Exelon implemented the commitments effectively at that time, then it
could move to doing the inspection upon every other outage. This would have provided
Exelon an opportunity to demonstrate it has the ability to implement its commitments
effectively, and would have provided the Commission with the reasonable assurance it
needs to have confidence that the conditions in the renewed license will be achieved.
Because the majority has not required a modification of Exelon's commitment in
this area, I dissent from this portion of the Order.