Report: Every U.S. nuclear plant has staff of workers checking eBay to buy old parts (AUDIO)

Published: April 19th, 2013 at 10:11 am ET


Title: Too Big to Fail
Source: Fairewinds Energy Education
Date: April 17, 2013

At 6:45 in

Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds chief engineer: The average nuclear power plant has 6 guys on Ebay trying to buy old parts. And the reason for that is that if they put a new part in, and it isn’t like the like replacement, they have to go to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and ask permission. So they literally have a staff at every nuclear power plant of people scouring Ebay, looking for old parts, so they can put those old parts in their warehouse. When one of their parts breaks they can replace in kind, as opposed going out and getting something better or newer.

Full show here

Published: April 19th, 2013 at 10:11 am ET


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33 comments to Report: Every U.S. nuclear plant has staff of workers checking eBay to buy old parts (AUDIO)

  • It is difficult to believe that there is an adversarial relationship between the NRC and the nuke plant operators. It is far more likely that using Ebay costs less than buying 'something better or newer.' Corporations seek profits first.

    I'm tired of Arnie's useless info…

    • amberlight amberlight

      Your comment indicates that corporate profits are a legitimate excuse for compromising on quality. Maybe you didn't mean to say that, but that's precisely what you are implying.

      Arnie is reporting what he knows. If he didn't, you would accuse him of concealing information.

      • Time Is Short Time Is Short

        "…corporate profits are a legitimate excuse for compromising on quality."

        Certainly in their minds. Thanks for making that clear, amberlight. That is exactly right.

        Yes, Arnie walks a fine line.

  • patb2009

    it's called managing conformance.

    The plant is documented, and if you make changes, you have to change all the paperwork
    in the plant office, as well as at the manufacturer and at the NRC.

    That way, say "Pump ACME- 1234" has a habit of failing, and it fails silently by breaking an internal shaft, so it isn't clear what the failure is. Well if the NRC issues a notice to replace all these, they know who to notify and how big of a problem it is.

    Also if the old pump had Earthquake tie downs on the top and the new pump has earthquake tie downs on the side, somebody has to approve the change.

    Look at the 787. Boeing worked a battery fix, took almost 6 months, and lots of paperwork.

    • Time Is Short Time Is Short

      Or they can lie through their teeth like San Onofre did, come within inches of destroying the entirety of Southern California – millions and millions of people – and haven't received so much as a slap on the wrist. Nothing.

      They all still have their jobs, and the NRC is in the process of allowing them to restart – with the same ILLEGAL equipment installed.

      NRC – 'Not Really Caring' about the extinction of all life on this planet.


      thanks for elaborating on this issue patb2009. In the course of my daily business, I'm sometimes called upon to cross-referenced obsoleted or unavailable parts that are used on our client's assemblies. This process requires the ability to decipher manufacturer's specifications, for client engineers. I seriously doubt that many NPP technicians are able to make such judgement calls. As such, I'm grateful the NRC had the sense to keep 'appliance' operators from using replacement parts that may not meet engineering specifications. Of course, you'd next have to wonder if these same dolts are capable of qualifying those 'used' replacement components!!!

  • ftlt

    It common practice in military, some government and hospital work that "unlisted" equal to or better products are not allowed without a going through a stringent and time consuming process if allowed at all in the end… Sometimes, it does go to the absurd …

    I can only imagine the process at nuclear plants for introducing new materials… It is so important that these materials perform safely..

    There is also a point where some materials have become archaic and impossible to locate too…

    This is really speaking to a bureaucracy that is not working or is not allowed to work for many reasons… Most likely oversight cost saving reasons…

  • weeman

    Who confirms that these parts are certified parts and not knockoffs, just look at the problem of knockoff parts in the airline industry, please tell me no substandard parts makes it into reactors, as if I don't know.

    • ftlt

      It costs money to do so probably nobody does…

      It is not always knockoff parts in general in all industry…

      Propitiatory listing is a sales Specs game that played that can have lasting negative effects too

      Some things as simple as simple as – They are not made any longer…

      You are stuck…

      Just guessing here on the Nukes… I've seen it happen in other industries though…

      I have often installed material in the past that no younger worker could (no experience and not familiar with the materials, the process, tools and machinery needed to complete task) It is not better material at all – just spec…

      This was only because the "specs" had not been updated to common industry standards… No difference in quality… Just outdated.. It takes time and money to change spec…

  • thatmonk thatmonk

    Finally, I something in common with the nuclear plant operators!

  • markww markww

    most parts may be counterfeit


  • WindorSolarPlease

    I thought it would be against the law to sell Nuclear parts.
    Not that I really want to know, but how would someone get these items to sell (just something to think about).

    If it's that easy to get parts, could someone build a mini nuclear plant? Sounds dangerous to me.

  • TheBigPicture TheBigPicture

    Like a vintage car, searching for parts, hoping to get lucky.

  • PinkFlamingo PinkFlamingo

    Another problem with nuclear parts is they weren't tested to be sure they are "nuclear-grade quality."

    The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was cited in March for not testing thousands of parts.

    6,200 shipments dating back to 1995 were not checked for nuclear-grade quality.

    Some of these parts were installed/stored in Watts Bar, Sequoyah and Browns Ferry nuclear plants. (all of TVA's seven reactors at three nuclear plants)

  • snowwy snowwy

    this might sound strange to some people but energy should not generate any profits at all. every little bit should be invested into other methods of producing energy, not to fill the pockets of the few above. to measure success in profits is to play the game that tepco played among all the other corrupt businesses and politicians.

    that game is their gain and our loss… to buy parts at ebay makes me wonder who sells parts, what are those parts exactly and was there not regulations on which suppliers are used when it comes to nuclear power?

    i think the next big accident is waiting in the (burst) piplines

  • Cavebear Cavebear

    Buying parts on ebay is understandable. Nobody wants to go through all the bureaucratic paperwork and all that. But installing 30 years old (and maybe used) parts surely doesn't improve safety.

    Maybe OT but Germany had the biggest Green Energy producing day ever: Two days ago strong Winds and full Sunshine boosted the power output to the equivalent of twenty six (26) nuke power plants.

    Time to shut the monsters down.

  • Mike Mulligan

    Don't forget, it is big business in the nuclear industry to purchase "reverse engineer" contractor services… obsolete, stranded and no longer made parts stream…

  • NeoVG

    It was also common practice for NASA to get a special revision of old Intel 8086 CPUs for their shuttle fleet:

    It's totally okay, as these old parts simply not produced anymore. You could go to some specialized dealer, but he would also buy the parts at Ebay.

  • bwoodfield bwoodfield

    Does no one else find it a concern that people are even able to purchase parts for a NPP off of Ebay?