Aug. 12, 1992
WASHINGTON (AP) _ An anti-nuclear group asked federal officials Wednesday to shut down seven U.S. reactors that contain a fire-blocking material they say fails to meet government standards.
The petition also asks the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to block the restart of a Louisiana reactor that uses the material, Thermo-Lag, and to issue a letter asking utilities nationwide to perform independent tests on Thermo-Lag if it is being used in the plants they operate.
As many as 80 U.S. plants may use the material, said the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, which filed the petition.
Thermo-Lag is used to protect a reactor's electrical cables in the event of a fire. Without a protective barrier, the cables could burn and operators could lose control, creating the risk of a meltdown and the resulting release of radiation.
The petition asks the NRC to order the operators of the Louisiana plant and the seven others to replace Thermo-Lag with ''a tested, effective fire barrier material.'' Those eight plants use the material in fire wall patterns consistent with those used in tests where the material did not perform properly, the group said.
The group wants the NRC to block the restart of the River Bend reactor, near Baton Rouge, La., scheduled for Saturday, because the Thermo-Lag in the reactor cannot be removed and replaced while the reactor is operating.
The reactors the group wants the NRC to shut down are Shearon Harris, in Newhill, N.C.; Fermi 2, in Monroe, Mich.; Robert E. Ginna, in Ontario, N.Y.; Washington Public Power Supply System in Richland, Wash.; Robinson Unit 2, in Hartsville, S.C.; and Comanchee Peak Units 1 and 2, in Glen Rose, Texas.
The NRC declined to comment on the petition ''until the staff has reviewed it,'' said spokesman John Kopeck.
According to the petition, the NRC released test results last month showing temperatures in an area protected by a firewall containing Thermo-Lag reached 1,716 degrees within 45 minutes.
To meet government standards, the temperature should have been about 325 degrees after an hour. The average temperature during the test was 1,206 degrees, the firewall panels burned through and 85 percent of the protected area ''was blackened,'' according to the petition.
''The Thermo-Lag itself was on fire,'' said Michael Mariotte, NIRS executive director. ''They know it's no good. But they aren't doing anything about it.''
Thermo-Lag's manufacturer, Thermal Science Inc. of St. Louis, Mo., defended its product, saying it works when installed correctly and used in the proper configuration.
The Nuclear Information and Resource Service is a nonprofit, nuclear watchdog organization that provides resources to local environmental groups.