davisbesse


Nuclear Safety Performance at Pilgrim

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a public meeting on Tuesday, January 31, 2017, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. A large crowd of over 300 individuals (perhaps thousands more by White House math) attended, including me. Elected officials in Massachusetts—the attorney general, the governor, the entire US Congressional delegation, and state senators and representatives—had requested the meeting. Many of these officials, or their representatives, attended the meeting.

The elected officials asked the NRC to conduct a public meeting to discuss the contents of an email from the leader of an NRC inspection team at Pilgrim to others within the agency regarding the results from the first week’s efforts. An NRC staffer forwarded this email to others within the agency, and inadvertently to Diane Turco of the Cape Downwinders, a local organization. The contents of the leaked email generated considerable attention.

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Setting the Nuclear Safety Bar

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #53

Safety by Intent

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #52, last week’s commentary, described the timely and effective response by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to the unexpected discovery of cracked control rod drive mechanism (CRDM) nozzles at the Oconee nuclear plant in South Carolina. Soon after being surprised, the NRC determined who needed to do what when in order to properly resolve the safety problem. When the phased actions were taken, the results confirmed that the NRC’s triage was appropriate.

This commentary expands upon a theme implied in last week’s commentary—namely, that the NRC does a good job setting the nuclear safety bar at the Goldilocks height: not too low to expose workers and the public to undue risk, not too high to impose undue costs on plant owners, but just right. Read more >

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Rapid Regulator Response

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #52

Safety by Intent

The discovery of significant corrosion to the reactor vessel head at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ohio gave the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) a figurative black eye. On the same day in April 2002 that the NRC announced it rated Davis-Besse one of the top performing nuclear plants in the country, the agency reported that the corrosion spanning several years at the plant had compromised safety margins more than any event since the Three Mile Island accident in March 1979.

The well-deserved black eye overshadowed what had been stellar performance by a regulator with eyes wide open seeing a safety problem and swiftly acting to effectively resolve it in a timely manner. Prior commentaries have chronicled the NRC’s shortcomings. This commentary covers the history before the NRC snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Read more >

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You Might be Operating an Unsafe Reactor If…

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #43

Disaster by Design

There are currently two empty positions on the five-member Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). If comedian Jeff Foxworthy were nominated and confirmed to become a Commissioner, you wonder how he would finish the nuclear safety equivalent of his “redneck” routine?

You might be operating an unsafe reactor if …

This Ending Intentionally Blank Read more >

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Nuclear Plant Containment Failure: Potpourri

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #33

Disaster by Design

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #30 discussed how containment structures can be adversely affected by high internal pressure experienced during an accident. Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #31 discussed how containments can be adversely affected by damage/degradation that existed even before an accident started. Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #32 covered times when isolation devices (e.g. doors, valves, dampers) failures created potential pathways for radioactivity to escape containment. This commentary follows that theme, describing a hodge-podge of ways containment performance capability was impaired. Read more >

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