Nuclear regulators issue annual assessment on U.S. plants

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued its annual assessment on the status of operating U.S. nuclear power plants. As of Dec. 31, 2011, the NRC said 99 of 104 nuclear reactors were performing at a high level.

There are five levels of plant performance based on an assessment of performance indicators, such as safety system availability and reliability, and inspection findings. Levels range from “fully meeting all safety cornerstone objectives” to “unacceptable performance.”

All nuclear plants are inspected daily by the NRC, and if a plant’s performance declines, the NRC increases the level of inspection and oversight. The additional amount of inspection is commensurate with the level of plant performance.

The NRC said 88 nuclear reactors fully met all safety performance objectives and were inspected by NRC using the normal detailed level inspection program.

Eleven nuclear reactors were assessed as needing to resolve one or two items of low safety significance. For this performance level, regulatory oversight includes additional inspection and attention to follow up on corrective actions. These plants were: Brunswick 1 and 2 (N.C.); Byron 2 (Ill.); Cooper (Neb.); Crystal River 3 (Fla.); Limerick 2 (Pa.); Millstone 2 (Conn.); Pilgrim (Mass.); Prairie Island 1 (Minn.); Sequoyah 1 (Tenn.); and Waterford (La.). Byron 2 and Cooper have resolved their issues since the reporting period ended and have transitioned to the baseline inspection level.

Three nuclear reactors were at a degraded level of performance. For this performance level, regulatory oversight includes more NRC inspections, senior management attention and oversight focused on the cause of the degraded performance. These plants were: Palisades (Mich.); Perry 1 (Ohio); and Susquehanna 1 (Pa.).

One reactor, Browns Ferry 1 in Alabama, requires increased oversight due to a safety finding of high significance, which will include additional inspections to confirm the plant’s performance issues are being addressed.

The Fort Calhoun plant in Nebraska is in an extended shutdown with significant performance issues and is currently under a special NRC oversight program distinct from the normal performance levels. Therefore the plant will not receive an annual assessment letter.

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