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Tennessee Valley Authority’s Nuclear Safety Culture Déjà vu

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a Confirmatory Order to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on July 27, 2017.  An NRC team inspecting the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in fall 2016 determined that TVA failed to comply with elements of another Confirmatory Order that NRC had issued to TVA on December 22, 2009. Specifically, the 2009 Confirmatory Action required TVA to implement measures at all its nuclear plant sites (i.e., Watts Bar and Sequoyah in Tennessee and Browns Ferry in Alabama) to ensure that adverse employment actions against workers conformed to the NRC’s employee protection regulations and whether the actions could negatively impact the safety conscious work environment. The NRC inspection team determined that TVA was not implementing several of the ordered measures at Watts Bar. Read more >

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Turkey Point: Fire and Explosion at the Nuclear Plant

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

The Florida Power & Light Company’s Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station about 20 miles south of Miami has two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors that began operating in the early 1970s. Built next to two fossil-fired generating units, Units 3 and 4 each add about 875 megawatts of nuclear-generated electricity to the power grid.

Both reactors hummed along at full power on the morning of Saturday, March 18, 2017, when problems arose. Read more >

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TVA’s Nuclear Allegators

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) receives reports about potential safety problems from plant workers, the public, members of the news media, and elected officials. The NRC calls these potential safety problems allegations, making the sources allegators. In the five years between 2012 and 2016, the NRC received 450 to 600 allegations each year. The majority of the allegations involve the nuclear power reactors licensed by the NRC. Read more >

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Ad Hoc Fire Protection at Nuclear Plants Not Good Enough

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

A fire at a nuclear reactor is serious business. There are many ways to trigger a nuclear accident leading to damage of the reactor core, which can result in the release of radiation. But according to a senior manager at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), for a typical nuclear reactor, roughly half the risk that the reactor core will be damaged is due to the risk of fire. In other words, the odds that a fire will cause an accident leading to core damage equals that from all other causes combined. And that risk estimate assumes the fire protection regulations are being met. Read more >

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Nuclear Bathtub Safety

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #49

Safety by Intent

In recent years, Japan’s health ministry initiated a study in response to an estimate that nearly 14,000 people die annually in bathtubs, almost three times the number of people killed each year in traffic accidents in the country.

More recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning because over a dozen people have died since 2000 working on bathtubs—due to exposure to methylene chloride, a solvent used to clean tubs being refinished.

This commentary addresses figurative rather than literal bathtub safety. Read more >

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