Nuclear Regulation:

Action Needed To Ensure That Utilities Monitor and Repair Pipe Damage

RCED-88-73: Published: Mar 18, 1988. Publicly Released: Apr 1, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO: (1) assessed the pipe degradation problems at the Surry and Trojan nuclear power plants; and (2) addressed actions that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the utilities took to identify and correct pipe system problems.

GAO found that: (1) prior to the Surry accident, neither NRC nor the industry believed that nuclear plants were susceptible to pipe deterioration; (2) neither NRC regulations nor industry standards required monitoring of erosion and corrosion in single-phase pipes; (3) utility companies found widespread damage at Surry and widespread erosion and corrosion in both the regulated and unregulated portions of Trojan; (4) although the utilities took corrective action to replace unacceptable pipes, no industry-wide commitment exists to ensure that all utilities monitor pipe system integrity; and (5) after NRC required all utilities to report the extent of known damage due to erosion or corrosion, it identified 34 nuclear plants with some damage.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NRC has accepted an industry developed program to inspect, repair, and replace single-phase pipes. NRC and INPO will monitor the industry's program. Since NRC believes that the industry's commitment satisfies the Commission's safety concerns, NRC does not plan to issue requirements in these areas.

    Recommendation: Due to the significance of the information that has been developed concerning erosion and corrosion at nuclear power plants, the Chairman, NRC, should require utilities to: (1) inspect all nuclear plants to develop data regarding the extent that erosion and corrosion exist in pipe systems, including straight sections of pipe; (2) replace pipe that does not meet the industry's minimum allowable thickness standards; and (3) periodically monitor pipe systems and use the data developed during these inspections to monitor the spread of erosion and corrosion in the plants.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission


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