published Thursday, June 20th, 2013

TVA faces $70,000 fine for Watts Bar violations

NRC fines against TVA

* $70,000 in June 2013 for failing to verify equipment standards at Watts Bar Unit 2

* $88,000 in October 2001 for retaliating against whistle blower who worked as maintenance specialist at Watts Bar Unit 1

* $110,000 in February 200 for retaliating against whistle blower at Sequoyah Nuclear Plant

Source: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

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  • Video: Watts Bar control room simulator
    Take a look back at a video produced in January 2007 inside the control room simulator, where technicians are trained to respond to emergency situations at the nuclear facility near Spring City, Tenn.

Federal regulators Wednesday slapped the Tennessee Valley Authority with a $70,000 fine for not adequately verifying the quality of safety equipment installed at its newest nuclear reactor.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission proposed the civil penalty against TVA for using equipment without proper nuclear safety certification in the Unit 2 reactor under construction at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City, Tenn. NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said regulators require certain components in a nuclear plant to meet strict nuclear quality assurance standards that go beyond commercial-grade quality.

But NRC inspections in late 2012 and early 2013 identified at least three instances in which TVA was unable to prove that the equipment had been tested and certified for the higher reliability standard.

TVA will not contest the penalty, but spokesman Mike Bradley said the utility has made "significant progress" in verifying the quality of the equipment and procedures for future installations.

No problems were ultimately detected with the equipment under suspicion, but an NRC administrator overseeing the Watts Bar construction project, Fred Brown, said the penalty "emphasizes the importance of an effective quality assurance program during construction as well as prompt identification and reporting of any related breakdowns."

The latest fine will bring TVA's penalties paid to the NRC under the current enforcement system to $268,000 following previous fines for violations at the Sequoyah and Watts Bar plants.

Bradley said 98 percent of the items in question at Watts Bar 2 have been reviewed or tested and the remaining testing of six items should be completed by the end of June.

"Prompt and comprehensive corrective actions taken at Watts Bar 2 over the past two years include having independent industry experts review all 536 Commercial Grade Dedication packages, aligning the process with industry standards, and updating or revising packages that did not meet standards," Bradley said.

Bradley said the equipment verification should not affect the cost or schedule of the completion for Watts Bar Unit 2, which is scheduled to begin power generation in 2015.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 757-6340

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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