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Thursday, 2 June 2011

Solar Panels for Backup Power at Nuclear Plants

Nashua NH (SPX) 
May 31, 2011

The Foundation for Resilient Societies, a citizen group dedicated to protection of critical infrastructure against natural disasters, has proposed solar panels and other high-reliability power sources to supply backup cooling for spent fuel pools at nuclear plants. Because solar panels do not require ongoing maintenance and continual resupply of fuel, this would contribute toward making spent fuel pools "walkaway safe," a concept that has recently gained support in the nuclear industry.

Currently, cooling systems for spent fuel pools rely on commercial grid power, with emergency backup power supplied by diesel generators. Only seven days' worth of fuel is typically stored on-site for diesel generators at United States nuclear plants. Because emergency diesel generators have many moving parts, they require ongoing maintenance and are prone to malfunction. A recent report by the office of Congressman Edward Markey found "recurrent and prolonged malfunctions of emergency diesel generators at nuclear power plants in the U.S."

According to the report, in the past eight years there have been at least 69 reports of emergency diesel generator inoperability at 33 nuclear power plants. The failure of diesel generators at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan caused overheating and boiling of the spent fuel pools and may have contributed to a fire and explosion at Fukushima Daiichi Pool No. 4.


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