Last updated: April 09. 2014 11:43PM - 1915 Views
By - smocarsky@timesleader.com

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SALEM TWP. — Management at the nuclear power plant near Berwick explained on Wednesday what’s being done to address problems with one of its reactors that led to increased scrutiny from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The NRC met with management of the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station to discuss the NRC’s annual review of safety performance at the twin-reactor facility, which is owned jointly by PPL Susquehanna LLC and Allegheny Electric Cooperative Inc. and is operated by PPL Susquehanna.

The public meeting at PPL’s Susquehanna Energy Information Center began with NRC officials explaining their oversight role, the commission’s safety and security performance goals for nuclear power plants and how well PPL Susquehanna’s two reactors met those goals in 2013.

NRC officials said the plant has been operating safely, and there have been no significant issues with Reactor No. 1. However, because of several unplanned shutdowns of Reactor No. 2, the plant has been receiving additional NRC scrutiny.

Jon A. Franke, senior vice president at PPL Susquehanna, said management took “a comprehensive look at the root causes” of the shutdowns and identified two areas that most contributed to those events. “One was in equipment reliability and the other was in the performance of our operation staff,” he said.

Plant general manager for operations Kevin Cimorell said staff significantly increased focus on equipment reliability through bench-marking — looking at best practices at other nuclear plants and bringing the best of those practices back to PPL.

Cimorelli said management “re-invigorated our Station Health Committee,” which identifies the health of all station systems; re-instituted a daily work prioritization meeting; and instituted a “long-term asset management program,” which will allow staff to proactively maintain equipment, “something … we weren’t doing to the extent we are now.”

Cimorelli said initiatives for refurbishment of chillers, large motors and valves are underway.

And to address cracking of some turbine blades, staff has installed “the most sophisticated monitoring equipment in the United States” to help find fixes to vibration problems. Staff also has reduced the corrective maintenance backlog by 20 percent, Cimorelli said.

Robert Franssen, general manager for operations, said five personnel focus areas have been identified for improvement. Leadership development opportunities will be offered in several areas, including one-on-one mentoring.

The plant has been holding plant operator classes to avoid problems when turnover of longtime staff occurs. Successful graduates have been hired at the plant. Lesson plans for operator training are being upgraded. And more than $7 million is being invested in a control room simulator upgrade.

Results of a supplemental inspection of PPL Susquehanna expected to take place this summer will determine whether or not the plant can progress out of the degraded cornerstone category and return to receiving normal NRC supervision.

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