published Friday, May 2nd, 2014

NRC cites Browns Ferry for inadequate staffing in emergency plan

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

Federal regulators cited the Tennessee Valley Authority on Thursday for an emergency plan that failed to adequately staff the control room at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a white inspection finding against TVA for a license violation in the plant's radiological emergency plan. NRC staff said the violations had "low to moderate safety significance" and issued an order confirming that TVA corrected the inappropriate changes in the Browns Ferry emergency plan.

A white finding is the lowest in the NRC's four-color enforcement action plan. Since Browns Ferry is already under heightened regulatory review because of other safety violations in the past, the latest finding will not change the way the NRC supervises the three-reactor plant near Athens, Ala.

There was no fine involved in the NRC citation.

TVA modified its emergency staffing from 2010 through 2013 but did not get the required license amendment and regulatory approval, NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said.

"While no actual events occurred, it is important that appropriate staffing is maintained and the NRC approves any changes to staffing levels in a plant's license," NRC Atlanta Regional Administrator Victor McCree said in a statement. "We believe the steps TVA has agreed to take appropriately address the issues and minimize the likelihood that similar issues will arise in the future."

TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said Browns Ferry employees discovered last October that changes in its emergency plans did not fully comply with federal safety regulations and revised the plans to comply with NRC requirements.

"It's certainly an unfortunate situation, but it is an error that TVA accepts responsibility for and we've already made the necessary changes to correct that error," Hopson said.

The white finding at Browns Ferry comes three months after the NRC lifted its most severe enforcement action against TVA at Browns Ferry, the biggest and oldest of TVA's three nuclear power plants.

In January, the NRC removed its red finding against TVA that stemmed from a 2011 failure to detect a faulty valve on a key safety system at the oldest reactor at Browns Ferry. The plant has remained under intensified NRC oversight, however, because McCree said "there is still room for improvement" in TVA's performance.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfree 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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