U.S. NRC Blog

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The NRC Makes Sure Employees at Perry Are Focused on Worker Radiation Safety

Viktoria Mitlyng
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region III
 

magnifyingglassSeven NRC inspectors started an in-depth inspection at the Perry nuclear station in Ohio last week to make sure the plant has fixed long-standing problems with implementation of its program for protecting workers from unnecessary radiation.

Over the past two years the NRC has identified multiple, significant weaknesses in Perry’s implementation of its occupational radiation safety program. The issues identified relate only to protection of workers inside the facility, not protection of the public. There have been no overexposures to workers as a result of these issues, and there are no problems with the plant’s program to protect the public from radiation. Discovery of these violations resulted in a steep increase in NRC oversight.

Since then, NRC inspectors have been a consistent presence at Perry. The initial inspection conducted between August and November 2012 to determine if the plant has resolved deficiencies in the worker radiation safety area could not be completed because our inspectors continued to see mistakes before and during the inspection. Recognizing that the company’s corrective actions had not been effective, we directed the plant to make additional improvements. After taking additional steps, the plant told the NRC they were ready to show they had addressed the problems.

perrWe have conducted two extensive inspections at Perry within the last year involving multiple NRC specialists in various areas and from different parts of the agency. As we reported in a previous blog, we sent four additional inspectors to monitor radiation safety practices during a recent refueling outage, when the plant has the highest number of workers accessing high radiation areas. Our inspectors’ observations provided valuable input for the current inspection.

This high level of engagement from the NRC reflects the measure of our commitment to making sure workers at the plant are protected from unnecessary radiation exposure.

Our specialists are now independently evaluating if Perry’s efforts were sufficient to resolve worker radiation safety concerns. Specifically, their goals are to verify that the company:

• thoroughly understands the causes of the problem;

• has made sufficient improvements to prevent recurrence; and

• has properly assessed if similar problems exist in other areas.

We are also evaluating the overall safety culture of workers outside of the radiation safety group to determine if all workers are taking a personal responsibility for worker radiation safety at the plant. To that end, NRC inspectors will interview around 100 plant employees and contractors.

If our inspection team determines that Perry has not been able to resolve the weaknesses in its implementation of radiation safety practices, the company will start to receive the highest level of NRC oversight for an operating plant.

4 responses to “The NRC Makes Sure Employees at Perry Are Focused on Worker Radiation Safety

  1. Prof Mpiya July 2, 2013 at 5:42 am

    these guys should go over and help japan with their nuclear problems coz they are having problems managing their nuclear arsenal

  2. Jamie Irwin June 28, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Sorry, no sale here. This approach of “we-don’t-have-a-problem-now-but-think-there-might-be-sometime-later” can be used to justify any level of regulatory ratcheting, no matter how egregious. What we need now is less regulatory ratcheting and more productive work, like having license renewals take less than five or six years, approving new reactor designs, and constituting ASLBs that will not slow-walk operating approvals so much that plants end up shutting down for no good reason.

  3. Moderator June 28, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    The NRC’s oversight over nuclear power plants is focused on identifying safety issues before they can challenge the safety of the plants, plant workers or the public. Our oversight of the Perry plant is a case in point. Nuclear power plants are responsible for making sure all necessary steps are taken to manage potential radiation exposure to workers so that overexposure do not occur. For over two years, the NRC has identified weaknesses in the plant’s ability to effectively manage the radiation worker safety program. The weaknesses in procedures in workers briefings, training and other aspects of the occupational radiation safety program – if not corrected – could lead to actual overexposures. One violation that resulted in an increase in NRC’s inspections had a significant potential overexposure to plant workers. As multiple issues documented in NRC’s inspection reports and available on our website were identified, the NRC increased its oversight as required by agency rules. The NRC’s 2012 annual assessment letter for Perry offers a summary of these issues.

    Viktoria Mitlyng

  4. Jamie Irwin June 27, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    So, I don’t understand, you say there were no overexposures, but there were “violations”. So you have to ratchet up “inspections” but there were no overexposures. What is there in the public record that is a basis for ratcheting up the regulatory activity? Is there a real problem here or not? Are we really trying to address a problem or just head hunting for another trophy on the wall? Sounds we’re a little inspection-happy. Ratcheting for the sake of ratcheting is not a good use of (very) expensive personnel.

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