CT Nuke gets Fed Oversight

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 @ 02:08 PM gHale

Millstone Power Station in Waterford, CT.

Millstone Power Station in Waterford, CT.

The Millstone nuclear plant in Connecticut failed in numerous ways, including an operator who pressed the wrong button numerous times, while testing turbine control valves last February that caused a power surge.

As a result, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will impose more oversight at the Millstone Power Station in Waterford, CT. The plant, on Connecticut’s southeast coast, is the only nuclear power plant in the state. Officials said at the time that the Feb. 12 surge posed no public danger.

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An operator noticed an increase in pressure at the plant owned by the Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Resources Inc. and incorrectly pressed an “increase” button instead of a “decrease” button, NRC officials said. When the pressure did not fall the operator pressed the “increase” button three more times and then pressed the “decrease” button twice.

Those actions resulted in a rapid, unintended rise in reactor power, regulators said. A senior operator added to the problem by failing to notice reactor power was rising and withdrew control rods, the NRC said

Plant safety was not an issues because of the incident, but regulators hold control room operators to the highest standards, said Bill Dean, region administrator at NRC.

“This inspection finding signals the need for plant personnel to step back and learn from this event in order to prevent it from occurring again,” he said.

Plant officials have disciplined six workers and corrected the problems, said Ken Holt, a spokesman for Millstone.

“We remain extremely disappointed with our performance during this event because safety is our top priority,” he said. “We have learned from this event and taken actions to ensure we do not repeat it.”

Millstone conducted a thorough investigation, bringing in experts from Dominion and industry peers to help, Holt said.

Millstone violated regulations including failures to correctly put in place written procedures for the plant’s safe operation and shutdown and developing written procedures for the reactor protection system and power operation, the NRC said.

Regulators did say Dominion’s “root cause analysis” was thorough and identified corrective actions that appear to address the underlying causes of the incident.

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