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Expert on Nuclear Power Addresses Bristol Area Lions Club 06/10/2011

Posted by DS in club business, meetings, speakers.
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The Bristol Area Lions Club was fortunate to have Jim Connell as its guest speaker at a recent meeting. An electrical engineer and authority on nuclear power, Mr. Connell is vice president of Maine Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Wiscasset. With an eye toward the recent nuclear disaster in Japan, he spoke about the numerous steps that go into decommissioning a nuclear reactor and into storing spent fuel.

Maine Yankee, an eleven-megawatt plant opened in 1972, was owned by eleven utilities around the Northeast; Central Maine Power was the largest owner. As Maine’s sole operating nuclear power plant for those 25 years, Maine Yankee produced 90% of the state’s power. The plant closed in 1996 when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission identified too many problems to make their correction cost effective for the operator.

Disassembling a power plant facility is no easy matter, Connell admitted, especially faced with the problem of what to do with nuclear fuel rods. At Maine Yankee, spent fuel is stored above ground in a series of nested containers. The first part of the process takes place under thirty feet of water, where two dozen fuel assemblies are inserted into a stainless steel container. Each filled container is then welded shut, set inside a steel-reinforced concrete canister, removed from the water, vacuum dried, and back-filled with helium before moving to an on-site fuel storage yard. A full canister weighs 350,000 pounds and is designed to handle a wall of fifteen feet of water moving at 15 MPH. Today Maine Yankee’s storage yard holds 64 filled canisters, each one constantly cooled by a forced air flow method used in numerous nuclear fuel storage facilities in the US.
Had there been more standardization of designs for nuclear plants forty years ago, Connell noted, some of Maine Yankee’s construction and maintenance problems could have been avoided. Connell sees a trend toward more nuclear energy usage in the United States, citing the current development of plants in Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Florida. Although very expensive to build, at the same time such nuclear plants are also economical to run.

The business meeting that followed Jim Connell’s presentation reviewed the many fundraising events planned for the summer, among them an upcoming Tailgate Flea Market at Bristol Consolidated School on June 25, a Treasures and Treats sale on July 28, the Bristol Lions Club’s third annual golf tournament and silent auction on August 13 and the annual summer-long raffle in New Harbor. All funds raised from these efforts go to support the Club’s several college scholarships as well as a number of local charities.

The Bristol Area Lions Club will hold its end-of-season meeting and new officer induction on Monday, June 20. To make dinner reservations for that meeting, or to learn more about the Bristol Area Lions Club, please call 677-2095.

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