Before the Shoreham Nuclear Power Station in New York was set to open, permission was obtained to test the three emergency diesel generators. On August 12, 1983, the crankshaft in one of the generators snapped during testing. Inspections revealed cracks in the crankshafts of the two other diesels, as well as other defects. Two more years of investigation and analysis passed before permission was again granted to test the generators. However, by the late 1980s, a conflict over the emergency evacuation plan was still delaying an operating license for the plant.
In 1992, after years of legal and political wrangling, LILCO sold the facility to New York State, which bought it with the intention of ensuring that it never opened. An additional two years and $185 million were required to deactivate the site—the first commercial reactor in the U.S. to be dismantled. By the time it was fully decommissioned in 1994, Shoreham had cost more than $6 billion without having sold a single kilowatt of electric power.
When the NRC disqualified the diesel engines at Shoreham, the suitability of similar components at nuclear plants across the country was brought into question. At thirteen nuclear plants across the country, Exponent performed first-principles analyses of the design of many components in the emergency diesel engines. Exponent engineers developed specialized procedures for these investigations that are still in use at U.S. nuclear plants today. These techniques include modal superposition for crankshaft stress analysis, and x-ray examination of engine bearings to determine suitability for service. To meet the requirements of the NRC for contractors working at nuclear sites, Exponent developed and deployed its first formal Quality Management System and earned certification to ISO 9001. This certification is maintained via ongoing inspections throughout the company by an independent auditing firm.