published Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Browns Ferry nuclear plant slapped with another NRC citation

Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, Ala., is shown from above.
Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, Ala., is shown from above.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Nuclear regulators on Monday slapped another citation against the Tennessee Valley Authority for a safety violation at its Browns Ferry nuclear plant, but officials said the incident last December was of "low to moderate significance."

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a "white" finding for an unplanned emergency shutdown at Browns Ferry due to the failure of a nuclear operator to follow proper procedures. The finding is the lowest among the four levels of the NRC's color-coded warning system.

In a meeting with the NRC in July, TVA argued against the finding based upon its statistical modeling for risk and significance for such a shutdown. TVA spokesman Mike Bradley said Monday "a lack of oversight or a peer check in the field while work was being performed" during a refueling outage helped lead to the error.

The NRC finding won't generate any fine against TVA or any intensified oversight by regulators since Browns Ferry is already operating under heightened review because of a more serious "red "finding that stemmed from the 2010 discovery of a blocked emergency cooling line in a key safety system at Browns Ferry that TVA was apparently unaware of for the previous 18 months.

NRC said it will conduct supplemental inspections to ensure TVA understands the cause and extent of the problem.

"Following procedures is extremely important in nuclear power plants and TVA is making changes in the way procedures are implemented to provide the right checks and balances," NRC Regional Administrator Victor McCree said in a statement. "We will review those changes to make sure the underlying issues have been addressed in a comprehensive way."

The white finding is the second for the Unit 2 reactor at Browns Ferry. The Unit 1 reactor at Browns Ferry has both a white and a red finding against it, NRC spokesman Joey Ledford said. NRC officials still rank the Unit 1 reactor at Browns Ferry as one of the worst performing nuclear plants in the country.

Federal officials will rely on the results of future inspections and reviews to determine whether they upgrade the plant's rating, which affects the level of NRC scrutiny it receives.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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