Security Lapse at Prairie Island Nuke

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 05:02 PM gHale

There was a security lapse at the Prairie Island nuclear station near Red Wing, MN, and Xcel Energy will feel the wrath of federal regulators.

Xcel received a letter from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) about the violation discovered in an October inspection. Details of the incident ended up redacted from the letter.

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The public’s safety was not an issue with the security problem, said NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyn. But no details, including its level of significance, will end up released so the plant can avoid publicizing a security vulnerability, she said.

It is the first time “in the recent past” the NRC cited Xcel for a security-related problem at its two nuclear stations in Minnesota.

The NRC ranks violations on a four-color scale, with red the highest — representing an unacceptable safety loss — and green the lowest significance. The NRC only said the Prairie Island violation was “greater than green.”

In a preliminary letter to Xcel in December, the NRC offered a hint the problem related to “human performance.” The letter said Xcel “failed to conduct an effectiveness review of safety significant decisions to verify the validity of the underlying assumptions, and identify possible unintended consequences.”

The Minneapolis-based utility must correct the root cause of the problem, and will be subject to a follow-up inspection. It also has 30 days to appeal the finding.

In a statement, Xcel said it hadn’t decided whether to appeal but that “Security and safety at our nuclear plants are our highest priorities.”

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