Information Notice No. 93-08: Failure of Residual Heat Removal Pump Bearings due to High Thrust Loading

                                UNITED STATES
                           WASHINGTON, D.C.  20555

                              February 1, 1993

                               DUE TO HIGH THRUST LOADING


All holders of operating licenses or construction permits for nuclear power


The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this information
notice to alert addressees to the failure of certain residual heat removal
(RHR) pump bearings due to high thrust loading.  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.


On November 10, 1987, reactor operators at the Seabrook Station noted that the
"A" RHR pump had become noticeably noisier.  The RHR pumps at Seabrook are of
an Ingersoll-Rand model 8X20WDF driven by a Westinghouse vertical,
400-horsepower motor (frame 5009P39).  After operators measured the vibration,
they declared the pump inoperable and removed it from service.  Operators
disassembled the pump and found that the thrust bearing had been damaged. 
Subsequent analysis of the failed bearing concluded that the bearing had been
subject to a thrust loading substantially greater than the design value of
7,562 newtons (1,700 pounds force).

In situ testing was performed to determine the actual thrust on both the A and
B train RHR pumps.  The measured values confirmed that the bearing thrust
loading was significantly greater than the design value and varied with flow
rate.  A licensee event report, LER 50-443/88-09, was submitted which
described the failure and the proposed corrective actions.  The corrective
actions were to include modification of the Seabrook RHR pumps and further
testing of a spare pump at the vendor facility.
During the period between July 20 and August 2, 1992, an NRC inspection team
conducted a probabilistic risk assessment based inspection at the Seabrook
Station.  The potential failure of the RHR pump due to high thrust bearing
load was identified as a result of this inspection.  This prompted further
licensee review and a supplemental LER was issued in November 1992, describing
actions taken to address the problem.  


                                                           IN 93-08
                                                           February 1, 1993
                                                           Page 2 of 3

Description of Circumstances

On November 19, 1992, North Atlantic Energy Service Corporation, the licensee
for Seabrook Station, filed an LER supplement (LER 50-443/88-09 R1)
documenting actions taken following the 1987 failure of an RHR pump thrust
bearing.  The supplement states that the modification consisted of reducing
both the inner diameter of the suction side wear ring and the outer diameter
of the impeller wear area.  The bearing design was not modified.  The
supplement notes that thrust bearing loading, although reduced by the
modification, would remain substantially above the original design value,
reducing the expected life of the bearing.

The LER supplement also documented the results of the testing of the spare
pump at the vendor facility.  The test results verified that the in situ
values were not caused by such site-specific factors as installation details
or piping geometry.  Thus, the test results indicated that all pumps of the
same design were probably subject to similar high thrust values.

NRC Inspection Report No. 50-443/92-80 contains additional information about
this matter.


The licensee estimated that the operating time for the failed Seabrook
RHR pump corresponded to about eight refueling outages, due to extended
operation of the RHR system preceding issuance of the full-power license. 
Other facilities that have the same model pumps could be vulnerable to the
same failure mechanism. 

The RHR pump thrust test results are shown in Figure 1, adapted from a
licensee report.  The highest thrust values occurred in the flow range of
3,785 - 9,842 liters per minute (1,000 - 2,600 gallons per minute) and
remained well above the design thrust in that range even after the pumps were
modified.  During normal shutdown cooling operation, RHR flow typically
exceeds 11,356 liters per minute (3,000 gallons per minute) which is
sufficient flow to remain above the design thrust of the bearings, but during
mid-loop conditions, the flow rate is limited to a maximum of 5,678 liters per
minute (1,500 gallons per minute).  Such a reduction is necessary to prevent
the formation of a vortex and the consequent introduction of air into the
RHR pump suction that could cause cavitation and damage the pump (see NRC
Generic Letter 88-17, "Loss of Decay Heat Removal.")

The Figure 1 thrust values for the mid-loop flow rate were about three times
the original design value before the Seabrook pumps were modified.  The thrust
values for mid-loop operation remain at about 175 percent of design value
after the modification.  The design life of the bearing was substantially
reduced because of the higher thrust conditions.  Seabrook has developed
maintenance schedules to ensure thrust bearings are replaced before they reach
the end of predicted service life.


                                                           IN 93-08
                                                           February 1, 1993
                                                           Page 3 of 3

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.

                                     ORIGINAL SIGNED BY

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

Technical contacts: James E. Beall, RI
                    (215) 337-5374

                    Patricia L. Campbell, NRR
                    (301) 504-1311

1.  Figure 1. Ingersoll-Rand Test Curve - 
     RHR Pump Thrust Bearing Loads
2.  List of Recently Issued NRC Information Notices  

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, March 25, 2021