Safety, Security Woes at TVA Nukes

Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 08:03 AM gHale

One of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s six nuclear reactors got a serious red rating while another got a white over safety concerns by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The NRC has given red ratings only five times in the past, and the commission gave the Browns Ferry Unit 1 reactor in Athens, AL, a red rating for the most serious category of safety issues.

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The Sequoyah Unit 1 reactor received a white rating, meaning the plant needs to resolve one or two items of low safety significance.

In December, a third TVA reactor, Watts Bar Unit 1, near Spring City, received a white rating for security issues the NRC declined to make public.

Of the nation’s 104 operating commercial reactors, the NRC found 88 fully met all safety objectives.

“As a fleet they (the TVA reactors) have some issues they need to work to correct,” NRC spokesman Joey Ledford said. “We believe they are working to correct these issues, and the additional oversight that these plants are receiving should help.”

TVA spokesman Ray Golden said the utility’s goal is to have all six reactors rated as top-performing plants but admitted there is still significant work ahead.

Browns Ferry’s red rating stems from a reactor-core cooling valve failure that occurred in October.

NRC officials found the valve may have been inoperable for 18 months and said TVA would have detected the problem much sooner with better testing and maintenance.

The white rating at the Sequoyah plant, in Soddy Daisy, comes because the reactor had five unplanned shutdowns in less than a year.

All nuclear plants undergo a daily inspection by the NRC, but the annual assessment gives the public a regular report card on the facilities.

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