published Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Audit finds inconsistent reporting on TVA plant maintenance

Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, Ala., is shown from above.
Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, Ala., is shown from above.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Two years after nuclear regulators red flagged the Tennessee Valley Authority for inadequate maintenance and review of key safety systems at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, an internal TVA review has found the utility still isn't adequately tracking its maintenance work in a consistent manner across its three nuclear plants.

In an audit of TVA's preventative maintenance program released Monday, TVA's inspector general said maintenance programs were not consistently documented and conflicting records were presented at each of TVA's three nuclear plants.

"During our review, we identified several concerns that raised questions about the validity of the reported performance maintenance metrics," TVA's inspector general said in a 17-page report. "This made it impossible to determine the actual maintenance performance and what should have been reported."

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission previously cited TVA for failing to detect and maintain a key valve in the safety systems at Browns Ferry four years ago, causing the failure of one safety value for at least 18 months before regulators discovered the problem. NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said that problem, and subsequent inspections at Browns Ferry, identified other maintenance problems for TVA.

The inspector general's report indicated some progress has been made, but differences remain among plants in how maintenance is tracked and delays are recorded.

"Unfortunately, these differences at the different plants limit the advantages that TVA could achieve having a fleet of nuclear plants.," said David Lochbaum, a senior nuclear analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

But Lochbaum discounted any major safety concerns from the new IG audit.

TVA spokesman Duncan Mansfield said TVA is taking steps "to address all of the recommendations" from the audit.

In another audit also released Monday, TVA inspectors said TVA was overbilled by nearly $2.2 million from a contractor hired to help with the cleanup of TVA's ash pond spill at the Kingston Fossil Plant from June 2009 to January 2011. The inspector general for TVA said that the $19.3 million bill to TVA for 19 months of loading and shipping coal ash by AMEC Environment and Infrastructure Inc., was too high for the work that was done and ordered a refund on TVA's payment.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfree press.com or at 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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