NRC Report on NJ Nuke

Thursday, November 3, 2011 @ 06:11 PM gHale

Two incidents at the Palisades nuclear power plant merited an investigation, but the end result is neither incident resulted in a shutdown, and it showed the company did not adhere to proper procedures.

One incident in May involved a piece of improperly maintained emergency equipment and another, in October 2010, occurred when the manager of the facility’s control room left his station without following proper protocols, an incident that no one reported within 24 hours.

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“Neither situation had an immediate consequence, neither resulted in the plant shutting down,” said Viktoria Mitlyng, Region III spokeswoman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). “Operating a nuclear power plant has very specific requirements and responsibilities.”

The reports come after two special inspections this year that looked into separate previous failings at the 40-year-old, 430-acre plant. One was a coupling failure in August. The other was an electrical failure in September that closed the plant for a week.

“There is a lot of attention focused on the plant in the past year,” said Mitlyng. “It’s not common to have two special inspections on the heels of one another as we had at Palisades.”

The first letter offering the preliminary findings went out to the plant owner Entergy Corp. It details what happened on May 10, 2011. While inspectors were routinely testing the plant’s auxiliary feed water system, a turbine-driven pump tripped. Investigators found a greased component of the pump that should not have been.

The system works in an emergency situation if the external power to the plant shuts off, Mitlyng said.

The investigation found that while maintenance was occurring on that part of the plant, a worker greased a part of the machine that did not need greasing. Mitlyng said the procedure was not clear enough for the worker, who accidentally greased the machine.

The preliminary findings have classified the situation with a low to moderate safety significance. Louisiana-based Entergy Corp. has 10 days to respond to the report. It can provide addition information to refute the findings.

Spokesman Mark Savage said the company is still reviewing the document. Since the incident, he said the company has refined some of its procedures.

“We have action plans going forward to improve performance at the plant,” Savage said.

The second letter details an incident where a control room operator left the control room because he was upset and did not notify a shift manager, which was against regulation, Mitlyng said. According to regulation, the employee would have to notify a shift manager in order to have a qualified operator take his or her place.

In addition, no one reported the incident to management in the required 24-hour window in which it occurred. A nuclear power plant is responsible for the action of all its employees, Mitlyng said.

The deliberate nature of the action is the cause of the concern, Mitlyng said. As with the first letter, Entergy has 10 days to respond.

For that violation, Entergy faces a fine, and other violations if investigators find the company did not correct the problem.

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