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NRC audit of Beaver nuclear plant set

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By Tim Puko and John D. Oravecz

Published: 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.

 

 
 


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