Safety Woes at Browns Ferry Nuke

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 @ 05:07 PM gHale


Already under a “red” finding, Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant also got a “white” condition because federal officials feel operators were not familiar enough with fire safety requirements.

In a letter from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) dated June 22, officials noted a “systems approach to training was not properly implemented and the procedures could not be satisfactorily performed by plant operators and staff.”

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The letter also stated “the failure to adequately identify and perform required training for implementation of procedures for combating plant fire events affected the licensee’s ability to respond to a plant fire.”

The preliminary “white” finding is of low-to-moderate significance, the NRC said.

The finding stemmed from revisions to the Athens, AL, plant’s Safe Shutdown Instructions, approved in 2011, said TVA spokesman Ray Golden. The fire aspect of the instructions dealt specifically with what steps operators would take if a significant fire did occur at the plant.

The Safe Shutdown Instructions include customized actions taken by operators to ensure the plant remains safe if some of the equipment is unavailable or damaged by fire, Golden said. TVA revised some of these procedures and didn’t adequately train operators on the new guidelines, he said.

When the NRC “quizzed” operators about the procedures, inspectors felt the operators did not have a clear understanding, Golden said. The TVA immediately performed remedial training for operators on shift when the preliminary finding went out and other shifts have also received training.

“TVA’s top priority is the safe operation of its nuclear plants. We are upgrading our fire protection systems at Browns Ferry as part of an improved fire protection program,” said an official statement provided by the utility. “TVA promptly addressed the training issue and the causes related to the issue. We have an improvement plan for Browns Ferry’s overall performance and will submit an improved fire protection program to the NRC for review by March 2013.”

NRC Region II spokesman Joey Ledford said the preliminary finding came during the ongoing 95003 inspections implemented following a “red,” or significant, finding issued at the plant last year.

The red finding stemmed from a coolant injection valve that malfunctioned. The valve is part of the plant’s backup fire protection system.

Ledford said TVA has 30-day period to appeal the preliminary white finding. The utility can appeal in writing, he said, or it can request a regulatory conference and address the matter with NRC administrators.



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