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Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #6: Reactor Daily Power Levels

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When something happens at a U.S. nuclear power reactor like an unplanned shut down or problem that prevents operation at full power, it can be helpful to place that incident in context. One means of providing that context is to examine that reactors’ operating performance. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission posts information online that can help. Each work day, the NRC posts a data set containing the daily power levels reported for each nuclear power reactor in the country during the past year.

Each entry in the data set contains a date, the reactor’s name (e.g, Indian Point 2) and the percentage of rated power (i.e., 0 to 100).

The data set can be easily downloaded as a text file and imported into a spreadsheet program like Excel to allow the data to be examined. Those steps for Excel are:

  1. Go to http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/reactor-status/
  2. Right click on the “Power Status (raw data text file) for the last 365 days” link and use “Save target as …” to download this file to your computer
  3. Start the Excel program
  4. Select the “Data” tab across the top
  5. Doubleclick on the “From Text” icon at the upper left and select the text file downloaded to your computer in Step 2
  6. Verify that the first step of Text Import Wizard seeks to import Delimited data (rather than Fixed Width data) starting at row 1, then click the “Next” button
  7. Change the Delimiters option in the second step of the Text Import Wizard from using “Tabs as Delimiters” to “Other”, and enter a vertical line (| which appears on a standard keyboard as a capital backslash, \) in the white box to the left of “Other”, then click the “Next” button
  8. Change the Column data format for the first column in the third step of the Text Import Wizard from “General” to “Date (MDY)” and then click the “Finish” button
  9. Place the data into the existing spreadsheet by clicking the “OK” button

The data will be sorted from the power levels for each reactor 365 days ago at the top and the power levels from today at the bottom. Excel can be used to resort the data by reactor (column B) and date (column A) to facilitate reviewing individual reactor performance.

Fig. 1: Fermi 2 Daily Status 4/18/12-4/17/13 (click to enlarge)

For example, the figure shows the daily power levels reported for the Fermi Unit 2 reactor in Michigan between April 18, 2012, and April 17, 2013. The plot shows a number of times when the reactor was shut down as well as prolonged periods when the reactor operated at reduced power levels. Although the data set doesn’t provide an explanation, other sources indicate that a broken feedwater pump prevents Fermi Unit 2 from achieving full power.

Peach Bottom 2 Daily Status 4/17/12-4/16/13 (click to enlarge)

The plot for Peach Bottom Unit 2 shows the reactor was shut down in September and October 2012 and generally operating at full power otherwise. Again, other sources reveal that a refueling outage explains the downtime in fall 2012. Circumstantial evidence from the plot reinforces this fact – the steady decline in reactor power level from late July 2012 until the reactor was shut down in September is suggestive of a coastdown as the consumption of uranium and plutonium atoms in the nuclear fuel no longer enabled the reactor to achieve 100 percent power.

A future NEAT post will cover the monthly operating reports available in the NRC ADAMS online library that can be consulted to explain why reactors are not operating at full power.

 

The UCS Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit (NEAT) is a series of post intended to help citizens understand nuclear technology and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s processes for overseeing nuclear plant safety.

Posted in: Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit (NEAT) Tags: , ,

About the author: Mr. Lochbaum received a BS in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1979 and worked as a nuclear engineer in nuclear power plants for 17 years. In 1992, he and a colleague identified a safety problem in a plant where they were working. When their concerns were ignored by the plant manager, the utility, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), they took the issue to Congress. The problem was eventually corrected at the original plant and at plants across the country. Lochbaum joined UCS in 1996 to work on nuclear power safety. He spent a year in 2009-10 working at the NRC Training Center in Tennessee. Areas of expertise: Nuclear power safety, nuclear technology and plant design, regulatory oversight, plant license renewal and decommissioning

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2 Responses

  1. sean mcgee says:

    i have to use a Geiger counter, low level wind charts and pollution reports (mainly for the tale tale MOX by product NO2)
    Blimey! and you can do it with an excel sheet! :(
    The UK is a bit more shifty than even the USA imo
    And there is this

    UN “Optional Protocol” fails the children of Fukushima!!

    http://nuclear-news.net/2013/05/14/un-report-bloggers-response-japanese-delegation-to-the-un-spreads-lies-and-deception/

    looks like the Japanese are shifty too!

    Only 3 days left to make a difference.. (2 days in the UK)
    :(

  2. sean mcgee says:

    Strange! The link above is to a repost , here is the original link

    http://nuclear-news.net/2013/05/16/un-report-bloggers-response-japanese-delegation-to-the-un-spreads-lies-and-deception/

    sorry about that

    i will leave a link to the new CODEX alimentarius recommendations while i am here..
    old level permissable 1 mSv/y
    new permissable level 100 mSv/y

    I am not sure if this includes nuclear workers though. If not then the dose allowable for nuclear workers outside a disaster zone like Daichi might have been raised too?
    From Russia with love!
    http://nuclear-news.net/2013/05/19/codex-and-food-safety-the-hidden-world-of-radioactive-food/