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US nuclear power plants contain dangerous counterfeit parts, report finds via The Verge

The findings come as countries weigh turning to nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels

By Justine Calma


At least some nuclear power plants in the US contain counterfeit parts that could pose significant risks, an investigation by the inspector general’s office of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has found. Those parts “present nuclear safety and security concerns that could have serious consequences,” says the resulting report published on February 9th.

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The investigation was conducted after unnamed individuals alleged that “most, if not all,” nuclear plants in the US have fake or faulty parts. The inspector general’s office uncovered problems with counterfeit parts at a few different plants as part of its investigation. The report also says that the DOE had separately flagged 100 “incidents” involving counterfeit parts just last year. It’s a problem that the US will have to crack down on if it moves forward with plans to include nuclear power in its transition to clean energy. Without greater oversight at the NRC, the report warns, the risk of counterfeit parts going unnoticed in the nation’s nuclear power plants could rise.

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The NRC might be underestimating the prevalence of counterfeit parts, the report warns, because the regulatory agency doesn’t have a robust system in place for tracking problematic parts. It only requires plants to report counterfeits in extraordinary circumstances, like if they lead to an emergency shutdown of a reactor. The report also notes that the NRC hasn’t thoroughly investigated all counterfeit allegations. There were 55nuclear power plants operating in the US as of September 2021, and the inspector general’s office sampled just four for its report.

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Other groups, including the Electric Power Research Institute and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), have also identified counterfeit valves, bearings, circuit breakers, pipe fittings, and structural steel in nuclear power plants in the US and abroad in recent years. They’re a growing problem across the nuclear power sector and other industries worldwide, notes a 2019 IAEA report.

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