The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission visited the H. B. Robinson Nuclear Plant last week to address the agency’s recent operations concerns. The NRC has been reviewing the Hartsville plant , giving it a “degraded” performance level, based on various technical and management problems.
The NRC dispatched a special inspection team to the Robinson power plant more than a year ago to review the circumstances surrounding a fire and a reactor shutdown in an electrical panel at the plant which occurred Sunday, March 28, 2010.
Another team was sent to review the company’s actions in response to the incident. They met with NRC chief Gregory Jaczko, who says Progress Energy’s nuclear plant must satisfy the agency that new practices and appropriate changes are being put into place to correct problems identified by the other inspectors.
There have already been changes as a result of the things that we found. So, what the inspection really is doing is to inspect, or trying to determine whether those changes are appropriate, and whether they satisfy and address what really are the ultimate underlying problems or issues.
Jaczko says the nuclear power plant has been under a higher level of scrutiny by the NRC:
We had seen some performance problems, some equipment problems related to a diesel generator. As we pulled the string on that, that ultimately turned out to be some challenges with the way Robinson went about identifying problems and analyzing those problems.
Jaczko says the Robinson plant is one of four plants in the nation receiving increased level of inspections.
We have one plant, a TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) plant that is really getting the highest level of inspections that we have. Then we have three other plants which includes Robinson which are kind of at that next lowest level of increase inspection. So right now, there are four plants that are in a way that are the most concern to us right now.
Jaczko explained that new plant operators are taking charge:.
To some extent you have plants that operate in a very different way in many cases than they operated decades ago. So, the experiences of the operators are very different now and we want to make sure that they are continuing to get the right kind of training and ultimately kind respond in an appropriate way whenever there’s any abnormal type of operation.
Jaczko says the latest NRC inspection team is looking at these and a wide variety of issues and will have a report this summer.
The Robinson nuclear plant in Hartsville is the oldest in the South. South Carolina has five nuclear power facilities and two more nearby in neighboring states
NRC officials say the public was never in danger, and these issues are being addressed to make sure the plant remains safe.