PA Nuke Updates Procedure, Training

Friday, June 26, 2015 @ 05:06 PM gHale

Susquehanna Nuclear plant, owned by Allentown, PA-based Talen Energy Corp., received a federal notice of violation for its timetable to declare an emergency in the event of one particular kind of failure in the reactor coolant system.

The coolant system at the Susquehanna plant did not fail, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said the potential was there for an incident where “the public could have been placed at a greater risk.”

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Talen said it already addressed the issue, which related to procedure and training, company spokesman Todd Martin said.

“There was no actual loss of reactor coolant,” said commission spokesman Neil Sheehan. “Susquehanna will be subjected to an NRC team inspection to review the company’s root cause evaluation and any corrective actions.”

The notice of violation follows a preliminary finding issued by the NRC on May 15 of low-to-moderate safety significance, or white on the commission’s ranking system.

“When the preliminary white finding was issued, we immediately took action to address procedure and training,” Martin said. “The public wellbeing, the public safety was not impacted. This is a potential scenario and we recognize the importance of this.”

At issue was Susquehanna Nuclear’s interpretation of NRC regulations for its dual-reactor Susquehanna Steam Electric Station in Salem Township, Luzerne County, about seven miles north of Berwick, Pennsylvania, and about 50 miles northwest of Allentown.

Commission rules require “the capability to assess, classify and declare an emergency condition” within 15 minutes of learning “that an emergency action level has been exceeded.”

“The preliminary finding relates to one specific accident type – a primary coolant system leak outside primary containment, and inside the secondary containment,” NRC records said. “The performance deficiency was not noted in any other accident scenario.”

Susquehanna Nuclear had been interpreting the rule to start that 15-minute clock “when operator actions were, or expected to be, unsuccessful in isolating” the leak, records said.

“They are relating this to a potential scenario and in actuality this has not taken place in the operating history of the Susquehanna station,” Martin said, adding later: “Safety is the No. 1 priority for every single employee at the Susquehanna station.”

The Susquehanna plant’s Unit 1 and Unit 2 reactors began commercial operation in 1983 and 1985, respectively, and have licenses to operate into 2042 and 2044, respectively. They are General Electric Co. boiling water reactors generating a combined maximum 2,600 megawatts of electricity.