Doel Nuclear Power Station
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doel_Nuclear_Power_Station
How does the nuclear industry get by with continuing to operate these nuclear reactors? The Doel Nuclear Reactors endanger the Antwerp diamond district with an annual turnover of 54 billion dollars, direct employment of 8,000 people and indirect employment of 16,000 [1], as well one of Europe’s most important ports (Antwerp), worth about 19 billion euros per year, and a major area employer. [2] While Doel’s operator, Electrabel, is a major investor in the port, they aren’t the only player, and a nuclear accident at Doel could have a major impact on Europe’s economy, from the vantage of impacts on port operations alone. Are people really this stupid? It’s amazing!

A nuclear accident at one of several nuclear reactors along the Mississippi River could shut down Mississippi River traffic, and south Louisiana ports, which are vital to the US economy.[3]

Old nuclear reactors endanger Switzerland’s banking center, Zurich. The UK government is going to let a Chinese state owned company build nuclear reactors near the City of London banking center. A nuclear accident at the old Indian Point Nuclear power station 25 miles north of New York would destroy Wall Street and the New York banking sector. There is also the huge and valuable Port of New York and New Jersey. [4] Many will not shed one tear over loss of the banking sector, diamonds, or Wall Street, but how is the nuclear industry getting by with this?

The RTL [5] title calls the “incident” on Saturday night a “Détonation importante” and fire in the Doel 1 Nuclear Reactor. The Larousse dictionary says that a “Détonation” is a loud explosion. But, then there appears insistence on smallness – a fire and small explosion “petite explosion” occurred Saturday night. Now isn’t that so cute – it was just a little bitty, itsy bitsy, explosion and fire in the non-nuclear part of the reactor, which lasted 20 minutes. Apparently a transformer blew. While they say it is non-nuclear and no fuel in the reactor, pending life-extension upgrades for this ancient nuclear reactor, they fail to say where the spent fuel is located and what impacts there could be upon cooling of the spent fuel pool. [6]

Transformer fires are very serious, as explained by Power Magazine, which calls them “particularly fearsome” [7].

Doel NPS 1-4 with transformers
Doel Nuclear Power Station. Reactor 1 is to the far right and Reactor 4 to the far left.

Subsequent to the Transformer fire at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Station, Dr. Bill Cocoran commented on the USNRC blog: “This isn’t a recent problem of aging transformers. Many relatively new transformers (like this one) have failed. INPO issued Significant Operating Experience Report SOER 02-3 “Large Power Transformer Reliability” in 2002, but the industry continues to have significant issues in 2015. I’m sure that you know that SOERs are rare because they deal with “significant” issues. This isn’t just a large power transformer issue. Many plants have had lower voltage transformers fail, resulting in a fire and declaration of an Alert. I’m not sure why EPRI hasn’t addressed this. This is not only embarrassing to the industry, this is a safety concern since an Unplanned Scram or loss of a safety bus challenges safety systems.“[8] (Emphasis added).

The smoke didn’t look very itsy, bitsy in the video. [5] The fire lasted 20 minutes, which sounds alarming and like a long time, in the context.

Few would even put a car as old as these nuclear reactors on a highway, and certainly not by choice. Additionally, any fire on a nuclear reactor site is potentially very dangerous.

Prize for high comedy routine, however, goes to Entergy (Keith Huff) and the US NRC regarding Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station, America’s largest single nuclear reactor. There was a fire reported at Grand Gulf nuclear power station on the Mississippi River, last June. A nuclear disaster there would have serious repercussions upon shipping, just as an accident at Doel would on the Port of Antwerp, Europe’s 3rd most important, as well as serious repercussions on Antwerp diamond trade. But, ONE MONTH after the fire was put out at Grand Gulf: “The site fire brigade responded and extinguished the fire“, it was decided that it wasn’t a fire after all! [9] (Dad-gummit; I’ll be durned, those over-zealous Mississippi workers put out a fire that wasn’t? Dunna ’bout that.)

In Belgium the operator, Electrabel, owned by France’s GDF-Suez (renamed ENGIE), said that the cause of the explosion was unknown and they are collaborating with the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (AFCN). However, the public prosectors office said that it was an accident and not an act of sabotage and that thus the public prosecutor would not be investigating it. [10]

Only Doel 4 is currently operating. Doel 3 has a reactor pressure vessel with major age-related defects. Doel 1 and 2 were to be shut down permanently, but there was a decision to re-vamp them and keep them going.

The comments on the incident at Doel were interesting. One says that as time passes, he wonders if they shouldn’t nationalize Electrabel, given what he calls the crass incompetence and lack of responsibility of those in control. At best there could be a total black-out, and at the worst a nuclear catastrophe, he observes. Another, JBP, observes that no problems with furnishing energy is one thing, but was there an emission of radioactive particles? JBP says that by the focus on energy provision, rather than nuclear safety, one sees that they aren’t worried very much about the population, or the environment, but the financial aspects. JBP says “Thank you Mr. and Mrs., the damned.” [5] A later article clarifies that the fire was in the transformer. [10]

NOTES-REFERENCES
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antwerp_diamond_district
[2] https://www.nbb.be/doc/ts/publications/wp/wp260en.pdf
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antwerp
[3] http://portsoflouisiana.org/wp-content/uploads/2012-final-report.pdf
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_of_New_York_and_New_Jersey
[5] “Détonation importante et incendie à la centrale nucléaire de Doel 1 hier soir: on ignore encore les causes de l’explosion” Publié le 01 novembre 2015 à 07h34, 3 réactions”
http://www.rtl.be/info/regions/flandre/detonation-importante-et-incendie-a-la-centrale-nucleaire-de-doel-1-hier-soir-on-ignore-encore-les-causes-de-l-explosion-767165.aspx
[6] “Reactor operators are not required have backup power supplies to circulate water in the pools and keep them cool in the event of onsite power failures. Reactor control rooms rarely have instrumentation keeping track of the pools’ water levels and chemistry.” See: Alvarez, Robert. “Improving Spent-Fuel Storage at Nuclear Reactors.” Issues in Science and Technology 28, no. 2 (Winter 2012). http://issues.org/28-2/alvarez/
On Belgian Spent Fuel: https://www.iaea.org/OurWork/ST/NE/NEFW/Technical-Areas/NFC/documents/spent-fuel/TM-47934-2014/Agenda-7-Belgium-Suls.pdf
[7]”Fighting Transformer Fires“, Power Magazine,
07/01/2013, by Kennedy Maize http://www.powermag.
com/fighting-transformer-fires/
[8] On the NRC blog, the following comment was posted subsequent to an Indian Point Nuclear Reactor Transformer fire:
drbillcorcoran, May 16, 2015 at 5:31 am
A colleague posted elsewhere:
While the oil leak is embarrassing, to me the bigger issue is the transformer failure. To be honest, I don’t care about the oil in the Hudson. The oil spill shouldn’t have happened, and needs to be investigated, but the oil can be cleaned up. It’s not the significant issue though./ This isn’t a recent problem of aging transformers. Many relatively new transformers (like this one) have failed. INPO issued Significant Operating Experience Report SOER 02-3 “Large Power Transformer Reliability” in 2002, but the industry continues to have significant issues in 2015. I’m sure that you know that SOERs are rare because they deal with “significant” issues. This isn’t just a large power transformer issue. Many plants have had lower voltage transformers fail, resulting in a fire and declaration of an Alert. I’m not sure why EPRI hasn’t addressed this. This is not only embarrassing to the industry, this is a safety concern since an Unplanned Scram or loss of a safety bus challenges safety systems.
http://public-blog.nrc-gateway. gov/2015/05/12/indian-point-transformer-fire/
[9]
Grand Gulf NPS fire canceled one month later
http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/event/2015/20150710en.html
[10] Despite the title, which implies the contrary, the article says that the court stated that it was not sabotage, but an accident: “Incident à Doel Aucune preuve d’un acte malveillant, selon le parquet” Agence Belga , publié le 01 novembre 2015 à 14h08 See article in French here: http://www.rtl.be/info/monde/economie/incident-a-doel-aucune-preuve-d-un-acte-malveillant-selon-le-parquet-767271.aspx

Location of reactors by number is shown in a picture here: http://deredactie.be/cm/vrtnieuws/politiek/1.2365680 As might be suspected, since they date from the same year, the two which are hooked together are Doel 1 and 2. Doel 1 is to the far right. Doel 4 is to the far left.