United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 95-21: Unexpected Degradation of Lead Storage Batteries

                                 UNITED STATES
                         NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
                     OFFICE OF NUCLEAR REACTOR REGULATION
                         WASHINGTON, D.C.  20555-0001

                                April 20, 1995


NRC INFORMATION NOTICE 95-21:  UNEXPECTED DEGRADATION OF LEAD STORAGE
                               BATTERIES


Addressees

All holders of operating licenses or construction permits for nuclear power
reactors.

Purpose

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this information
notice to alert addressees to possible degradation of lead storage batteries
within the first two years of service.  It is expected that recipients will
review the information for applicability to their facilities and consider
actions, as appropriate, to avoid similar problems.  However, suggestions
contained in this information notice are not NRC requirements; therefore, no
specific action or written response is required.  

Discription of Circumstances

Palo Verde

Arizona Public Service Company (APS, the licensee) installed AT&T round cell
batteries at Palo Verde, after continued problems with the originally
installed batteries.  During a 1994 maintenance outage at Palo Verde Unit 2
the licensee tested performance on the AT&T batteries which were less than two
years old.  The capacities of the batteries were lower than expected; the
capacities had decreased instead of increasing.

Train B (Battery Banks B and D) had been declared inoperable on October 1,
1994, because the measured capacity was slightly less than 90 percent
capacity.  On October 7, 1994, Train A (Battery Banks A and C) was declared
inoperable because a projection of the capacity test results indicated that
the battery capacities would be below 90 percent.  The Palo Verde Technical
Specifications acceptance criterion for the AT&T battery capacity is at least
90 percent of the manufacturer's rating when subjected to a performance
discharge test.

Oconee Unit 2

Replacement Exide batteries of the standard lead calcium cells (rectangular)
were installed less than two years ago.  In testing batteries 2CA and 2CB, 
certain cells were found to have capacities lower than expected.



9504140211.                                                            IN 95-21
                                                            April 20, 1995
                                                            Page 2 of 3


At Oconee Unit 2, Battery 2CB was tested on January 4, 1995.  The test
indicated that the overall capacity of the battery was only 77 percent. 
Battery 2CA was tested on January 12, 1995, and its overall capacity was about
80 percent.  The Oconee design commitments require that the battery capacity
should exceed 80 percent.  The two batteries were installed in January 1993,
and the testing took place within two years of installation.

Discussion

IEEE Standard 450-1987, "IEEE Recommended Practice for Maintenance, Testing
and Replacement of Vented Lead-Acid Batteries for Stationary Applications,"
recommends that a performance test of the battery capacity should be made
within the first two years of service.  It is typically expected that battery
capacity will not decrease in that period and, in fact, it often shows a
slight increase.

Although the designs differ, in both cases the batteries indicated a
significant decrease in capacity, and a decrease is not consistent with the
normal behavior expected for either of these batteries.

Both licensees are taking steps to rectify the degradation in the batteries by
replacing the defective cells or entire battery banks.  In addition, they are
attempting to find the root cause of the abnormal degradation.  At Palo Verde,
the licensee determined that adequate margin existed between the projected
battery capacities and worst case design loading.

With respect to the AT&T batteries, APS maintains that the root cause of the
drop in capacity in the Unit 2 cells likely involves contamination and an
inadequate curing process because of an increase in production rate during the
time the Palo Verde Unit 2 cells were manufactured.  These problems apparently
did not exist when the Palo Verde Unit 1 and 3 cells were manufactured.  After
the licensee noted the degradation of the Unit 2 batteries, spare cells in
Units 1 and 3 were found to have no decrease in expected capacity.  In
addition, the licensee has learned that the AT&T cells used as the Class 1E dc
sources in McGuire and Byron/Braidwood nuclear plants were also not
manufactured in this time of very high production.

Although not as significant as the capacity loss noted above, APS and AT&T
have found additional cells that show some of the same tendency toward early
loss of capacity.  This may be due to existing variations occurring in the
materials selection and manufacturing process.  To minimize the effect on
final battery capacity, APS and AT&T developed a specific dedication process
to be used during the manufacture acceptance testing phase to identify and
reject cells that show early loss of capacity.

AT&T and APS also believe that some of the drop in capacity in the Palo Verde
Unit 2 cells, as well as the unexpected drop seen during the dedication
testing of the new cells purchased for replacement, is due to the additional
testing which has involved a number of discharge and recharge cycles in a
relatively short period of time.
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                                                            April 20, 1995
                                                            Page 3 of 3


APS has replaced the Unit 2 battery cells with new AT&T cells that have
undergone factory testing for at least two discharge/recharge cycles, that
still show substantially greater capacity than is needed for the design basis
Palo Verde Unit 2 loading, and that meet the specific dedication criteria
developed by APS and AT&T.  The licensee is also studying the influence of the
recharging methodology on battery performance.

AT&T and APS plan an extensive test program to establish the cause of the
unexpected capacity decrease in the replacement cells.  Exide is still in the
process of establishing the root cause for the degradation at Oconee.

This information notice requires no specific action or written response.  If
you have any questions about the information in this notice, please contact
one of the technical contacts listed below or the appropriate Office of
Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR) project manager.

                                          /S/'D BY BKGRIMES


                                    Brian K. Grimes, Director
                                    Division of Project Support
                                    Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation

Technical contacts:  S. N. Saba, NRR
                    (301) 415-2781  

                    Thomas Koshy, NRR
                    (301) 415-1176

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