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December 10. 2012 7:06PM

Public meeting planned on Seabrook concrete problem

SEABROOK - Area residents will have a chance to learn more about the alkali-silica reaction issue facing Seabrook nuclear power plant during a public meeting of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission tonight.

The open house and informational meeting will be held at the One Liberty Lane Conference Center in Hampton to update the public on reviews of concrete degradation in several structures at the plant.

The ASR issue was first discovered by NextEra Energy, owner of the power plant, in 2010.

The issue is currently affecting Seabrook's license renewal application and has led to increased scrutiny and inspections by the NRC.

The open house will take place from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. During the open house, members of the public will have an opportunity to speak with NRC staff involved in the reviews.

A public meeting will begin at 7 p.m., during which NRC staff will provide a presentation on the reviews and take questions from audience members.

Concrete degradation in localized areas at Seabrook power plant is being caused by ASR, a chemical combining of reactive silica from the concrete aggregate with the alkali from the cement paste in the presence of moisture. The result of the reaction is a gel, which can expand and may cause micro-cracks in the concrete.

The extent of the problem is still being evaluated, but the NRC has determined that the affected structures are able to continue to perform their safety functions.

Chris Miller, director of the Division for Reactor Safety at the NRC said NRC staff has spent about 2,000 on inspection efforts related to the ASR issue at Seabrook. Although ASR is not uncommon in transportation infrastructure, it is the first time it has been identified in a United States nuclear power plant.

He said the NRC will continue putting effort into the issue until it is resolved.

"We are going to be sticking with this for awhile to make sure the plant remains operable and safe," Miller said during a webinar held for the media on the ASR issue on Monday.

He said that even after they are done with their safety inspection, there will be further and separate licensing actions related to the issue as Seabrook moves forward with the renewal process.

gmacalaster@newstote.com

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