Feds Find Security Issues at CT Nuke

Monday, January 19, 2015 @ 01:01 PM gHale

Millstone Power Station nuclear plant faces possible enforcement action after a Nov. 24 inspection uncovered two findings related to security requirements, one preliminarily determined to be “very low” safety significance, and the other of “greater than very low” significance, federal regulators said.

Because the issues pertain to security systems and procedures protected from public disclosure, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) did not describe the nature of the problems at the Waterford, CT, facility. NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan and Ken Holt, spokesman for Millstone, said the issues ended up corrected immediately.

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The new findings are the latest in a series of safety and security deficiencies the NRC has found at the nuclear power plant over the past year. Bill Sheehan, head of the citizens’ panel that oversees safety-related issues at Millstone, said the latest findings are further evidence there may be a systemic problem at the plant.

The NRC’s Sheehan said the agency asked Millstone owner Dominion Resources to participate in a conference to discuss the new findings. It plans to issue a final determination on the findings within 90 days.

In a letter to David Heacock, president and chief nuclear officer of Dominion, the NRC said “one or more of the findings are also apparent violations of NRC requirements and are being considered for escalated enforcement action.” The NRC may determine additional inspections, regulatory actions and oversight of the plant are necessary, the letter said.

The company agreed to participate in the conference with the NRC, Holt said. He declined to comment further.

Millstone is already under increased NRC oversight until June 30 due to a “white” finding of “low to moderate” safety significance for failure to promptly identify and correct repeated problems with a feedwater pump that is part of reactor safety systems. In addition, in May the plant underwent a special NRC inspection because of an unplanned shutdown of both operating plants at the power station. There were also two special inspections of the feedwater pump last year. The May inspection resulted in the NRC issuing a “severity level 3” violation for the plant’s power line outage detection system, after inspectors determined Millstone staff could have taken steps to avoid the sequence of events that led to both units going offline.

Last fall, the citizens advisory panel queried Millstone officials about the recent special inspections and findings, questioning whether there has been slippage in attention to safety, training, expertise or other areas.

In a response to the concerns raised by the panel, Stephen Scace, site vice president of Millstone, said station management looked for a “root cause” among the various events and did not find one. Scace responded in a Nov. 10 letter included in the advisory panel’s 2014 annual report, posted Dec. 11 on the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s website.

Scace said staff also evaluated “safety culture implications” of the events and concluded “there were no aspects of safety conscious work environment that we found lacking.”

He added, however, two areas ended up identified for improvements to Millstone’s safety culture.

“Specifically, there is room to improve in the area of problem identification and evaluation; and establishing clarity around decision making. As a result, we have implemented performance improvement actions to address these areas,” he said.

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