Browns Ferry Meets Safety Standards

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 @ 03:10 PM gHale

For the first time in four years, all three reactors at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant near Athens, AL, are back in a normal inspection routine after federal regulators found the facility made needed safety and operational improvements.

At one point the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said if the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) addressed many of the regulator’s concerns, and if progress continued, increased inspections at the plant would scale back.

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“The Browns Ferry plant has made significant improvements in safety performance,” said NRC Region II Administrator Victor McCree. “Even though the plant’s three units are returning to normal oversight, we will continue to monitor and inspect the implementation of their improvement plan and the overall safety culture.”

“This is a significant accomplishment for the entire TVA nuclear fleet, and is absolutely essential for us to maintain the trust of those we serve in the Tennessee Valley,” said TVA Chief Executive Bill Johnson. “The continued safe and reliable operation of our nuclear generating units is key to our ability to provide low-cost, carbon-free electricity.”

TVA pointed out its team’s efforts directly showed in improved reliability at Browns Ferry. In 2013, all three units operated continuously for more than 223 consecutive days — a site record, TVA said.

Browns Ferry has been under intense federal scrutiny since 2011, after the fall 2010 discovery of a 600-pound valve blocking the primary emergency cooling line at Unit 1 at the plant. TVA cited poor manufacturing, but the NRC found it was TVA’s own inadequate testing, that let the blocked line sit undiscovered for years.

The NRC determined the broken valve would have prevented TVA from successfully implementing its shutdown procedure at the plant in the event of a fire.

Regulators raised concerns about various issues as a result of the intensive inspections required by the red finding. Those included concerns about TVA’s safety culture at Browns Ferry, its approach to maintenance and how problems ended up assessed and then addressed.

The NRC said it remained satisfied TVA has taken the necessary steps to close out its last inspection finding, an issue over insufficient staffing in the plant’s control room during an emergency.

“These results are a product of our focus on operational excellence at all of our nuclear units,” said TVA Chief Nuclear Officer Joe Grimes. “Our goal is to achieve and sustain top industry performance, operating in a manner that protects the health and safety of the public while ensuring high reliability.”

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