White Finding for WA Nuke

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 @ 08:10 AM gHale

Columbia Generating Station in Richland, WA, is seeing white after two inspection findings on the plant’s emergency preparedness program found a low to moderate safety significance.

The first white finding involved Energy Northwest’s failure to maintain a plan to appropriately characterize emergency action levels which could have delayed recognition of some radiological emergency conditions.

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The second white finding involved the Energy Northwest’s failure to maintain adequate methods for assessing and monitoring actual or potential offsite radiation releases from the plant during emergencies. This adversely affected the licensee’s ability to assess the consequences of a radiological release and had the potential to impact protective action recommendations necessary to protect public health and safety.

These conditions existed between 2000 and 2011 when they ended up identified and corrected by the licensee. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) evaluated the violations during an inspection conducted between Oct. 18, 2011 and June 27, 2012.

There is also a violation because regulations require the licensee make prompt notification to the NRC of any event that results in a major loss of emergency assessment capability. The NRC identified these issues during its inspection but the licensee did not report them to the NRC in a timely manner, as required.

After the NRC staff issued preliminary findings, there was a conference Sept. 20 during which Energy Northwest, which operates the plant, presented their perspective on the root cause of the findings and violations and corrective actions. After consideration, the NRC staff determined the inspections are “white.”

The NRC evaluates regulatory performance at commercial nuclear power plants with a color coded process which classifies findings as green, white, yellow or red in order of increasing safety significance.

The two white findings will move the Columbia Generating Station into the “degraded cornerstone” column of the NRC’s action matrix, resulting in a higher level of NRC scrutiny. This is the third highest level of NRC oversight and Columbia joins seven other nuclear plants in that category.

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