NRC Chairman Tours TVA’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Site

Recently the NRC put Unit 1 at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry complex of three reactors in north Alabama west of Huntsville into its most stringent category of regulatory oversight.

Chairman Gregory Jaczko Friday, accompanied by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., visited the plant, talked with plant executives, rank-and-file plant employees and consulted with the four reactor expert inspectors the NRC has assigned full time to the sprawling complex flanked on the approach road by cotton and soybeans nearing harvest and the Tennessee River to the west.

The tour included a look at the pump that was at the heart of the NRC’s concerns, and a briefing from TVA executives about the program they have in place to remedy the shortcomings cited by the NRC inspectors.

In his conversation with plant employees, Jaczko noted that among the reasons he came was the plant’s heightened oversight by NRC and the fact the reactors are similar in design to those at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami.

He was complimentary of the TVA employees who earlier this year kept the plant operating for a week on diesel generators after a tornado ripped away the transmission lines that brought electricity into the plant to run plant systems. The plant’s operators “managed that situation very well,” he said.

Jaczko also told the staffers that “safety comes down to all of you. It’s not someone else’s responsibility.” He noted the NRC has found “performance challenges” at Browns Ferry and “part of that is because we are very conservative in what we do.”

Later Jaczko and Alexander talked by conference call with Tennessee and north Alabama reporters.

Jaczko also toured the TVA’s Bellefonte site in eastern Alabama where the TVA is seeking to complete one of two unfinished reactors at the location.

Eliot Brenner
Director, NRC Office of Public Affairs