Security incident at Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant brings extra plant oversight

Security incident at Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant brings extra plant oversight

May 30th, 2018 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant is seen on the Tennessee River near Soddy-Daisy.

Photo by Dave Flessner /Times Free Press.

The Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant met all federal safety standards last year, but the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will continue additional oversight of the TVA plant for at least the next six months due to a security violation last fall.

In its annual assessment of the twin-reactor nuclear plant in Soddy-Daisy, the commission gave Sequoyah top "green" ratings in 17 major safety categories. But the plant got a "white" rating for security after an undisclosed violation last year. As a result, the plant overall is still in a category 2 rating by the commission.

Document: NRC's Sequoyah report

Read the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's annual assessment of Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant.

NRC spokesman Joey Ledford said regulators don't discuss security problems at nuclear power plants to help protect against terrorism or other attacks.

But after discovering deficiencies, regulators monitor plant performance for the next 12 months after corrective actions are taken.

"As a result of one security-related finding in the third quarter of 2017, both units (at Sequoyah) are being subjected to additional oversight in addition to NRC's normal levels, which entail thousands of hours of inspections each year," Ledford said.

Although a majority of the nation's 99 nuclear reactors are in the top Category 1 rating for safety by the NRC, the two Tennessee nuclear power plants at Sequoyah and Watts Bar are in the category 2 rating.

The NRC has placed some nuclear plants in its lowest safety rating, category 5, which requires the plant operator to make major improvements before the plant may resume operations. Fort Calhoun in Nebraska was the most recent reactor given a category 5 grade. Fort Calhoun remained shut down from April 2011 to December 2013 until the NRC was convinced sufficient safety repairs had been completed to allow the reactor to resume operating.

The NRC identified no such major faults at Sequoyah. In a letter to TVA, the NRC's director of reactor projects, Joel Munday, said the NRC "concluded that overall performance at your facility preserved public health and safety."

TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said the utility is continuing to work to ensure the safety of its nuclear power program under NRC regulation.

"While their assessment of our performance in 2017 validates the hard work and commitment of the entire Sequoyah team, we know we must continuously strive for operational excellence while safely producing low-cost, carbon-free electricity to serve the people of the Tennessee Valley," he said.

Nuclear watchdog agencies have supported the NRC's reactor oversight process for identifying problems early on and monitoring how utilities perform across an array of safety criteria. Dave Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists said the process provides "the public's best nuclear safety net, protecting them from safety declines caused by ineffective management, inadequate budgets, aging components or any other safety and security threat."

Regulators announced Tuesday they will discuss their findings about the safety of Sequoyah at an open house at the Sequoyah Training Center, 2600 Igou Ferry Road in Soddy-Daisy, from 5-6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 6.

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


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