Luzerne County facility under more NRC scrutiny in wake of December’s unplanned shutdowns

Last updated: September 05. 2013 11:41PM - 1839 Views
By - rdupuis@timesleader.com

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SALEM TWP. — Unit 2 at PPL’s Susquehanna nuclear power plant will be subject to a supplemental inspection by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission later this month as the facility remains under enhanced NRC oversight in the wake of two unplanned shutdowns in late 2012.

Additional scrutiny will continue “until the NRC is satisfied the relevant issues have been properly evaluated and satisfactory corrective actions have been developed and implemented,” NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said in a statement released Thursday.

During a Dec. 19 shutdown, the reactor was operating at 18 percent power as it was returning to service from an automatic shutdown on Dec. 16. The NRC reported that all feed-water flow was temporarily lost when a valve failed to open as expected during plant startup.

On Nov. 9, Unit 2 operators manually shut down the reactor due to a failure of the integrated control system, which controls the reactor feed and reactor recirculation systems, according to the NRC.

“There were no health and safety consequences for the public or plant employees as a result,” Sheehan said in an email to The Times Leader. “The reactor was safely shut down in both cases and safety systems performed as designed.”

On Aug. 13, the NRC completed its mid-year assessment for the plant, finding that Unit 1 met all health and safety requirements and remained subject to the normal level of oversight. The issues at Unit 2 are described by the NRC as being of “low to moderate safety significance.”

Sheehan has previously said corrective actions can take a number of forms, including changes to operator training, revisions to plant procedures and equipment repairs or modifications.

In January, NRC Region I Administrator Bill Dean said the shutdowns “raise questions regarding operator performance, equipment reliability and, in the most recent event, decision-making.”

PPL spokesman Joe Scopelliti said Thursday the utility company has been working with the NRC to implement required changes, which he said are primarily related to policies and procedures, as opposed to mechanical issues. The upcoming inspection will assess the changes that have been made, and what further action, if any, needs to be taken, Scopelliti explained.

“Some of them are in progress, some of them have been completed,” Scopelliti said.

The plant, which generates enough electricity to power between 1 million and 2 million homes, is comprised of units 1 and 2, which entered service in 1983 and 1985, respectively. During normal operations, about 1,100 full-time employees are assigned to the 2,100-acre site, according to PPL.

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