CT Nuke Sees White

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 @ 03:09 PM gHale

Millstone Power Station in Waterford, CT, received notification about a preliminary finding of a safety violation involving Unit 3’s turbine-driving auxiliary feedwater pump.

In a letter dated Thursday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said it issued a preliminary finding of low-to-moderate safety significance after a special inspection completed on July 21. The NRC calls this a “white” finding, the second-lowest on the four-tier scale of safety violations.

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Millstone owner Dominion has 10 days to respond to the NRC about whether it will accept the finding or present additional information.

Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC, said if the finding ends up finalized, Millstone will face additional oversight for a year or more. In addition, a team of NRC inspectors will visit the plant to ensure the Millstone staff has successfully evaluated the root cause, made corrections and ensured no other plant systems have issues. The auxiliary pump is an important component of safety systems that cool the plant when officials shut it down.

If the finding ends up finalized, there will be no fines, Sheehan said, but Dominion would face the cost of the additional inspections by the NRC.

The special inspection of the pump was in response to three overspeed trips of the pump in November, December and January, the NRC said in its letter.

Millstone spokesman Ken Holt said the problem was because of an incorrect bearing in the pump since August 2013. The manufacturer mislabeled the bearing, Holt said, but plant staff did not identify the mistake until January. The part is key to reducing friction in the pump, he said.

Dominion officials have not yet decided on their response to the NRC, Holt said. Millstone last had a “white” finding in 2011.

In addition, the NRC also notified Millstone Thursday about a preliminary finding of a “severity level 3” violation involving its power line outage detection system. Both nuclear power plants at the site shut down for several days on May 25 due to loss of off-site power from Connecticut Light & Power.

Unit 3 did not produce power for 11 days after the shutdown, and Unit 2 restarted after four days. While the two power plants both produce electricity, both also receive power that runs play systems. It was the first time both plants had shut down simultaneously, and the NRC called it an “unusual event.”

Sheehan said the NRC concluded after a special inspection that Millstone staff “could have taken steps that would have avoided the cascade of issues that led to both units going off line.”

Holt said the company has not yet determined its response to the preliminary level 3 finding.

He added the company is working with CL&P on the power lines that service the power station “so that what happened on May 25 will not happen again.”

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