NRC nuclear plant inspections find some flaws

Inspections of the 104 U.S. commercial nuclear reactors found some emergency equipment that “would not start when tested,” was being used for other purposes or was stored in “potentially vulnerable areas,” according to Bloomberg.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the flaws would not prevent the safe handling of an emergency, such as flooding and earthquakes. The results were part of the commission’s 90-day safety review of the U.S.’s nuclear fleet which was established after the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. An NRC spokesman said flaws were found at fewer than one-third of reactors.

“All the reactors would be kept safe even in the event their regular safety systems were affected by these events, although a few plants have to do a better job maintaining the necessary resources and procedures,” Eric Leeds, NRC director of reactor regulation, was quoted as saying in a statement.

The NRC released some of its inspection reports on its website, including:

PG&E Corp.’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in California may have problems simultaneously pumping emergency cooling water to both its reactors under extreme conditions, according to the inspection report. Some of the plant’s firefighting systems may not survive a powerful earthquake and the company needs to study whether “high radiation fields” could keep workers from parts of the plant during a major disaster.

A PG&E spokesman was quoted as saying the problems the NRC identified at Diablo Canyon “have all been addressed” and “our safety performance is highly regulated.”

Inspections at Entergy Corp’s Indian Point plant near New York City found “equipment was functional to support execution of all strategies” during a major disaster, the report said. Entergy is looking into whether it needs additional equipment to keep fuel rods cool after a disaster at the plant, the report said.

The NRC wasn’t able to complete reviews of internal flooding barriers at Scana Corp.’s Summer nuclear station because the evaluations weren’t finished, but Scana had documented results showing several doors weren’t watertight and some equipment may not withstand an earthquake.

At the San Onofre plant in California, Edison International found some manholes weren’t sealed properly, which could lead to flooding in one of the plant’s electric cable tunnels.

The NRC is still trying to identify lessons from the Fukushima disaster, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko was quoted as saying. He said it’s likely “we’ll be changing the way we do business and the way the industry does business in this country” because of the nuclear crisis, Jaczko said.

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