Nuclear power plant operations scrutinized by NRC in review

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in an ongoing assessment of nuclear power plants prompted by the Fukushima Daiichi crisis in Japan that a majority of U.S. nuclear power plants continue to operate safely.

Letters were also sent to both the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Unit 2 site in Tennessee and Southern Co’s (NYSE: SO) Plant Vogtle Unit 3 and 4 site in Georgia reviewing activities associated with early site permit and limited work authorized by the NRC.

In the assessment period that ended June 30, 99 of the 104 existing plants were in the two highest performance categories with 91 performing at the highest level. Eight plants were performing at the next highest level and needed to resolve one or two items of low safety significance. These plants also will require additional inspection and attention. The plants are: Brunswick units 1 and 2 in North Carolina; Byron Unit 2 in Illinois; Cooper in Nebraska; Ginna in New York; Millstone Unit 2 in Connecticut; Prairie Island Unit 1 in Minnesota and Turkey Point Unit 4 in Florida. Units at Brunswick and Turkey Point reportedly had resolved their issues and transitioned to the highest performing level.

Three nuclear reactors were at the third level of performance with one degraded safety “cornerstone” measure and will require more NRC inspections, senior management attention and oversight focused on the cause of the degraded performance. These plants are: H. B. Robinson Unit 2 in South Carolina; Perry Unit 1 in Ohio and Susquehanna Unit 1 in Pennsylvania. The Robinson plant reportedly resolved its issues as well and transitioned to the highest performing level.

Two plants, Browns Ferry Unit 1 in Alabama and Fort Calhoun in Nebraska, require the NRC’s highest level of attention, including additional inspections. The Browns Ferry Unit 1 restarted May 23 after tornadoes caused it to shut down. Fort Calhoun returned to service August 29 after flooding shut it down.

Lessons being learned from events at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station prompted an NRC review of regulations and practices. The NRC will apply the recommendations from this review, as appropriate, for any changes deemed necessary to improve the safety of operating plants.

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