Get the Facts
We want to set the record straight on a number of inaccuracies in the Better Government Association's recent series.
Exelon Generation’s nuclear fleet has one of the best safety records in the industry, and nuclear energy is by far the safest source of large-scale power generation. Differing opinions during NRC design and safety reviews are not only encouraged, they are expected. Because safety is our highest priority, Exelon Generation does not tolerate any discrimination or retaliation against anyone who raises safety concerns, and in fact, we encourage an open and questioning dialogue around safety. To suggest otherwise does a disservice to the thousands of Illinois nuclear employees working to ensure public health and safety in the communities we serve. At Exelon Generation, we are committed to operating our plants safely and responsibly, being a good neighbor and supporting our local communities. Exelon Generation provided detailed information on key aspects of the story to the BGA, but those facts were not included.
Exelon's Fact Check on the BGA's Inaccurate Story
to get the real facts about our commitment to safety and the safe operation of our plants.
Read our Chief Nuclear Officer's letter to the editor about the BGA story.
Exelon Generation provided the following detailed information to the BGA, but none of it was included in the story.
- All 14 of Exelon Generation’s nuclear facilities are well-prepared and robustly fortified against flooding events. Independent design reviews and engineering studies confirm that our nuclear stations could withstand the most severe local flood on record with margin to spare.
- If Exelon Generation or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were not fully confident in our ability to defend Dresden and Quad Cities Station during a severe flood, the plants would not be operating. It’s just that simple.
- In an effort to determine how U.S. plants might withstand “beyond design-basis” risks, the NRC went beyond historical worst-case scenarios and developed highly theoretical, computer-generated flooding models. To put the probability in perspective, the models used at Dresden and Quad Cities present an extremely unlikely, apocalyptic scenario in which the entire state of Illinois, and most of the Midwest, would be underwater.
- Quad Cities adopted precautionary measures to ensure the plant is safe from the hypothetical rainstorm and wind-driven wave heights postulated by the NRC, and Dresden remains fully prepared to withstand floods that far exceed the worst on record. At Quad Cities, the most severe flood ever recorded reached 586 feet, more than 9 feet below the plant’s elevation. At Dresden, the worst recorded flood reached 509 feet, almost 15 feet below the level of plant impact.
- Today, Dresden and Quad Cities remain well-fortified against even the most severe flooding event, and we’ll continue to look for ways to make our robust nuclear facilities even safer.
- Differing opinions during NRC design and safety reviews are not only expected, they are encouraged. The nuclear industry is unique and collaborative, and our success is predicated on acceptance and promotion of diverse viewpoints, openness and transparency, a safety-first culture, and an unyielding commitment to continuous improvement and personal accountability.
Industry Open Phase Condition
- Exelon identified an electrical anomaly at Byron Station in 2012 and performed a fleet wide review to identify any similar issues.
- We continue to work cooperatively with federal and state regulators to make our plants more resilient to electrical disturbances but we do not wait for them to identify issues at our plants.
- In this case, we brought the matter to the NRC’s attention and invested millions of dollars in equipment upgrades and modifications to increase reliability at Byron and across our nuclear fleet.
- Exelon shared its solutions with the nuclear industry and helped develop an initiative, endorsed by the Chief Nuclear Officers across the industry, to eliminate the issue at all U.S. facilities.
- The NRC plans to close this issue by verifying that all licensees have implemented the initiative by the end of 2018.
NRC Backfit Rule
- Exelon recently appealed an NRC “backfit” ruling for power-operated and pressurizer safety relief valves, and the agency concurred with Exelon’s challenge.
- The NRC’s process allows operators to appeal backfit decisions, and we followed the prescribed appeal process.
- Our engineers performed a comprehensive design review of the pressurizer safety valves and power-operated relief valves installed at both Byron and Braidwood. This review confirmed that the valves would open and close as designed during a theoretical event. The NRC had concurred with this conclusion multiple times in the past.
- An independent panel of NRC experts (and ultimately, the NRC's Executive Director for Operations) concurred with our conclusion. The expert panel also found that the NRC's prior approvals of this issue were "based on reasonable and well-informed engineering judgment of the NRC staff."
- Ultimately, NRC experts concluded that "the current licensing basis for Byron and Braidwood complies with the applicable regulations and provides adequate protection of public health and safety." There was extensive documentation associated with the NRC's ultimate granting of our appeal.
- The backfit appeal is a textbook example of multiple nuclear power experts applying their technical knowledge to an issue and independently coming up with the same conclusion.
- After we exercised the appeal process, the NRC issued agency-wide guidance, adopting many of our arguments regarding the proper implementation of the backfit rule.