Browns Ferry Nuke gets Green Rating

Monday, April 25, 2016 @ 04:04 PM gHale


Because of the improvements the facility made during last year, Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, AL, will be under less strict scrutiny for the remainder of the year, federal officials said.

“(Browns Ferry) was effective at identifying problems and entering them into the corrective action program (CAP) or resolution, as evidenced by the relatively few number of deficiencies identified by external organizations that had not been previously identified by (Browns Ferry) during the review period,” said authors of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) annual safety report.

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If there were any problems at the plant, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) officials took appropriate actions to correct them and report them to the NRC, said Dave Dumbacher, senior NRC resident at Browns Ferry. Because there was simply not that much to report, the NRC held more of an open forum to answer questions about the plant instead of presenting their findings and taking questions afterward.

Safety and regulatory concerns are graded by color, with a ‘green’ finding being of the least concern, ‘white’ findings that require more intervention and oversight from the NRC to yellow, red and so on. One question at the public meeting centered around a white finding stating concern over a control room job position not sufficiently staffed over a period of six years. Dumbacher said there were plenty of people at the plant who could do the job, but not one specific person ended up designated for the position. When the NRC asked TVA about it, Dumbacher said the issue ended up corrected “immediately” resulting in one person getting that specific position.

In addition, the facility will start an initiative in May to upgrade and replace electric cables and other equipment in a manner designed to prevent fires. TVA brought in dozens of out-of-state contract workers to help with the transition and Dumbacher said the NRC views the whole plan favorably.

Another issue that came up during the public meeting was a Nov. 7 incident where a fire protection water line burst at the facility. Tom Stephen, another NRC resident at Browns Ferry, said his office and TVA officials are still investigating the incident, but said initial investigations suggest the underground pipe was weakened by heavy traffic rolling over it during a building demolition. When a smoke alarm in an employee kitchen activated the fire system, the pipe suffered a major malfunction and burst, but the problem was corrected within an hour, Stephen said. Following the incident, Browns Ferry staff have evaluated the sturdiness of other underground pipes and are taking measures to present another failure, he added.

Another question arose about an incident of high radiation at the plant April 6.

Dumbacher said this public meeting was to answer questions about plant safety in 2015, but that officials were investigating the incident. At no time was the public or environment in any danger from radiation, because it never leaked outside the plant, he said