Share This Page

NRC audit of Beaver nuclear plant set

| Saturday, June 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Officials at the Beaver Valley nuclear power plant found dozens of minor problems officially called “potentially adverse seismic conditions” last year when they conducted an assessment of how well the plant could withstand an earthquake, according to federal regulators.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sending a team of inspectors to audit the plant owner's findings and methods from July 23 to 25, spokesman Neil Sheehan said on Friday. The Shippingport plant is one of eight nationally to get this type of audit, he said.

A spokeswoman at FirstEnergy Corp. in Akron, Ohio, which owns the plant, said the internal assessment showed “that Beaver Valley Units 1 and 2 are well maintained with a robust seismic design.”

Spokeswoman Jennifer Young said no seismic challenges to the plant's design were identified in the “seismic walkdowns,” which are a close look at critical components.

“Reviews and analysis of a handful of minor, potentially adverse conditions identified that none of the conditions present a challenge to seismic safety at the plant,” she said in a statement.

A review of sections of reports from FirstEnergy to the NRC by the Tribune-Review showed the conditions ranged from unprotected fluorescent light tubes, missing nuts on equipment, and fire extinguishers and other equipment without wall straps, to rust on valves and piping that at first appeared to lack flexibility to withstand a seismic event that, upon reinspection, was found to be acceptable.

“We welcome the opportunity to review the conduct and results of the walkdowns with the NRC during the upcoming audit,” Young said.

The NRC audit is to determine if FirstEnergy's assessment to identify and address degraded, non-conforming, or unanalyzed conditions was conducted and verified in accordance with NRC guidance, the agency said.

In March 2011, the Beaver Valley 1 reactor in Shippingport ranked fifth-most at risk in the nation, with a 1 in 20,833 chance of its suffering reactor core damage during an earthquake, according to NRC data analyzed by msnbc.com. That is not the only measure of earthquake vulnerability, Sheehan said, adding that the commission does not rank plants that way.

Young said Beaver Valley is in the process of completing a thorough and extensive seismic evaluation to reanalyze the site's overall seismic risk.

“We expect to have the results of this analysis completed in 2014 and will take additional measures, if required, to further enhance our safety,” she said.

Every nuclear power plant in the United States recently completed “walkdowns” to review its existing flood and earthquake protection features, the NRC stated on its website. This work is part of the NRC's efforts to learn from the March 2011 nuclear accident in northern Japan, when a powerful tsunami caused by an earthquake wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.

Timothy Puko and John D. Oravecz are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Puko can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com. Oravecz can be reached at 412-320-7882 or joravecz@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.