published Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Sequoyah, Watts Bar get NRC’s top safety rating

The Watts Bar Dam site in Spring City, Tenn., taken from across the dam inside the Meigs County line off state Highway 68.
Photo by Kimberly McMillian
The Watts Bar Dam site in Spring City, Tenn., taken from across the dam inside the Meigs County line off state Highway 68. Photo by Kimberly McMillian

Nuclear safety meetings

* Watts Bar Nuclear Plant. 2-4 p.m. Thursday, April 28. Comfort Inn, 2811 Decatur Pike, Athens, Tenn.

* Sequoyah Nuclear Plant. 1-3 p.m. Friday, April 29. Sequoyah Training Center, 2600 Igou Ferry Road, Soddy-Daisy.

Despite the recent federal arrest of a safety contractor who allegedly falsified inspection reports at Watts Bar, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency has given TVA’s 2010 operation of Watts Bar and Sequoyah nuclear plants a “green” rating.

Green is the NRC’s best rating and means the plants are safe.

NRC officials have scheduled two public meetings, one for each plant, to discuss the agency’s annual inspections and assessments.

NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said federal inspectors “looked specifically at safety performance and at [plant officials’] corrective actions rather than the behavior of this individual.”

Contract electrician Matthew David Correll, 31, was charged in March with falsely indicating he had inspected and measured cables meant to provide electric power for safety systems in the nuclear reactor containment structure of the new $2.5 billion Watts Bar reactor near Spring City, Tenn. He issued the inspection reports in August.

Hannah and Tennessee Valley Authority spokesman Ray Golden said representatives of their agencies will present the assessment reports and answer questions at the public meetings later this month.

TVA’s third operating nuclear plant, Browns Ferry in Athens, Ala., has not yet received its final NRC 2010 assessment, Golden said.

Last month, the NRC demanded a special meeting with TVA about a stuck valve at Browns Ferry that could have hindered a safe shutdown of the plant’s unit 1 reactor. The stuck valve was discovered in December and may have been inoperable since March 2009.

Golden said the Browns Ferry problem may result in more frequent inspections there by the NRC.

Even with the green ratings, the NRC will continue inspections at Watts Bar and Sequoyah, Hannah said, but they’ll be baseline inspections.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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