Top NRC Sanctions

, director, Nuclear Safety Project | April 22, 2014, 6:00 am EDT
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 Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #28

On October 27, 1979, the NRC announced it was fining the owner of the Three Mile Island Unit 2 reactor $155,000 for violations of federal regulations that factored into the March 28, 1979, partial meltdown. The NRC also revised its regulations to enable it to levy harsher sanctions—that amount was widely viewed as scant penalty for a billion dollar accident. The NRC can now impose fines of over $100,000 for each violation and for each day that the violation lasted.

Here are the top fines imposed by the NRC:

 

$5,450,000 Davis-Besse (OH) In April 2005, the NRC fined the owner for restarting the reactor in spring 2000 and operating it until February 2002 with extensive degradation to the reactor vessel head.
$2,100,000 Millstone Units 1, 2, and 3 (CT) In December 1997, the NRC fined the owner for numerous violations that had been “longstanding and indicative of a deficient safety culture”.
$850,000 Salem (NJ) In September 1983, the NRC fined the owner for inadequate maintenance practices that caused the reactor trip breakers to fail to function.
$650,000 Indian Point Units 2 and 3 (NY) In January 2008, the NRC fined the owner for failing to implement upgrades to the emergency sirens and emergency notification system.
$650,000 Haddam Neck (CT) In May 1997, the NRC fined the owner for operating the plant for many years with an undersized pipe for an emergency coolant makeup system and for a recent incident where nitrogen got into the cooling system piping.
$650,000 LaSalle (IL) In January 1997, the NRC fined the owner for inadequate oversight of a contractor repairing concrete at the intake structure that allowed debris to clog inlet flow to the service water system.
$450,000 Clinton (IL) In June 1997, the NRC fined the owner for numerous violations and non-conservative decision-making.
$330,000 Quad Cities (IL) In March 1998, the NRC fined the owner for operating the reactor for over a year with a failed inner o-ring for the reactor vessel.
$330,000 Oconee (SC) In August 1997, the NRC fined the owner for cracks in the piping of an emergency makeup system.
$325,000 Point Beach Units 1 and 2 (WI) In December 1996, the NRC fined the owner for deficient dry storage of spent fuel that culminated in a hydrogen detonation and for service water system deficiencies.

 

In early 2000, the NRC revised its enforcement policy as part of broader changes to its oversight processes. While fines were retained in the revised policy (as reflected by the Davis-Besse and Indian Point fines listed above), sanctions for violations of reactor safety regulations shifted largely from monetary fines to color-coded findings. The NRC issues Green, White, Yellow, and Red findings in increasing order of severity for the majority of reactor safety violations.

To date, the NRC has issued six Red findings:

 

Point Beach (WI) In July 2012, the NRC issued a red finding for the plant having operated for several years with an impaired auxiliary feedwater (AFW) system. Under certain accident conditions, the AFW pumps could run for awhile without a flow path due to valves that would close when they needed to be open. Doing so could damage the pumps, preventing the AFW system from adequately cooling the reactor core.
Fort Calhoun (NE) In April 2012, the NRC issued a red finding for three violations involving inadequate fire protection of safety-related electrical breakers.
Browns Ferry Unit 1 (AL) In May 2011, the NRC issued a red finding for inadequate maintenance and testing of a valve used to cool the reactor core during accidents and during serious fires.
Davis-Besse (OH) In April 2005, the NRC issued a red finding for restarting the reactor in spring 2000 and operating it until February 2002 with extensive degradation to the reactor vessel head.
Point Beach (WI) In December 2003, the NRC issued a red finding for the plant having operated for several years with an impaired AFW system. A plan to modify the system developed in 1999 and implemented in 2002 unintentionally introduced ways for the AFW pumps to become damaged, preventing the AFW system from adequately cooling the reactor core.
Indian Point Unit 2 (NY) In November 2000, the NRC issued the first red finding under its new Reactor Oversight Process for inadequate inspections of steam generator tubes that factored into a leaking tube in February 2000.

 

Bottom Line

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won six Super Bowls (so far). Richard Petty won 200 races during his storied NASCAR career. Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth top the home run list.

One aspires to see their name at the top of these kinds of lists. Topping, or even near the top, of the NRC’s sanction list is neither enviable nor a valid entry on any one’s bucket list.

So, let’s halt the competition for the largest NRC fine and most recent red finding. Let these reactors bask in their glory forever.

 

The UCS Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit (NEAT) is a series of post intended to help citizens understand nuclear technology and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s processes for overseeing nuclear plant safety.

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  • Diane Screnci, the Senior Public Affairs Officer in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Region I offices, emailed me that my list of fines omitted some, including the 3rd largest – $1.2 million for the napping nuclear operators at Peach Bottom in 1987. Diane also pointed out $600,000 fines to Brunswick in 1982 for testing deficiencies and $600,000 to Salem in 1995 for inadequate corrective actions. She also said there had been five $500,000 fines. Diane did not point out another omission from my post – that the NRC does not receive a penny from the fines it imposes. The fines go to the US Treasury.

  • Kevin Muggleston

    Barry Bonds has topped the home run list since 2007.