A refueling outage is a time when the number of workers at the plant soars from 700 to about 2,000 — with most working in highly radioactive areas of the plant not accessible during normal plant operation.
The NRC has sent four additional inspectors – in addition to the two Resident Inspectors – to the Perry Nuclear Plant in Ohio to watch and evaluate how the plant is ensuring the safety of these workers.
Sending these extra inspectors to monitor outage activities reflects the measure of our concern with Perry’s occupational radiation safety program – which is supposed to make sure workers don’t get exposed to unnecessary levels of radiation. The plant is under increased NRC oversight because of deficiencies in this program. Even though these issues have not resulted in any overexposures to workers, we want to make sure the plant fixes the weaknesses in this vital area.
To be clear, there are no problems with the plant’s program to protect the public from radiation.
In June, we will conduct a thorough inspection to determine if plant owner FENOC has understood the extent of the weaknesses in occupational radiation safety at Perry and has taken what we call “sufficient and sustainable actions” to fix the problems and prevent them from happening again.
This refueling outage is a great opportunity for our inspectors to see with their own eyes how the plant is handling the most hectic time for the site with the largest number of people working in most highly radioactive places in the plant.
Specifically, our inspectors are looking at whether the plant’s radiation protection department is accurately assessing the radiological conditions in high radiation areas and adequately preparing the workers for these conditions. They are evaluating the quality of the plant’s radiation safety procedures; the effectiveness of workers’ radiation safety training and the workers’ adherence to procedures.
Inspectors are also assessing if plant workers across the board, not just radiation protection personnel, are adhering to radiation safety practices.
Our observations and assessments from the current refueling outage plus the follow-up inspection in June will help us determine if the plant has resolved the deficiencies in occupational radiation safety. If not, the plant will start receiving the highest level of NRC oversight for an operating plant.