How Boots on the Ground Put Eyes on the Problem

Diane Screnci
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region I

The importance of paying close attention to what’s different day-to-day led to two recent inspection findings at nuclear power plants in Region I.

NRC Resident Inspector Douglas Dodson  is always looking closely at systems at the Ginna nuclear power plant.
NRC Resident Inspector Douglas Dodson is always looking closely at systems at the Ginna nuclear power plant.

Scaffolding is sometimes erected at nuclear plants to allow workers to reach areas or equipment they couldn’t reach otherwise, the same as at other facilities. While walking down the plant last August, the Ginna resident inspector noticed temporary scaffolding was preventing full operation of a sprinkler system. When looking into it further, the inspectors learned workers had not received prior approval by the on-site fire department to block the sprinkler, as required by plant procedures.

After being notified of the finding, the company took immediate action to correct the scaffolding and placed the issue in its corrective action program. However, this was the 13th issue related to scaffolding at Ginna since September 2012 and NRC inspectors documented this performance deficiency in their quarterly inspection report. The resident inspectors will continue to follow the company’s corrective actions to assure they’re effective and comprehensive.

The NRC resident inspectors at Peach Bottom also had an inspection finding related to scaffolding. During an August inspection to ensure that changes made for a Unit 3 refueling outage hadn’t led to any new radiological hazards that could impact the onsite workers, the inspectors found some temporary scaffolding made it possible to access a locked high radiation area.

It seems the scaffolding would have allowed someone to reach a permanent ladder that led to a high radiation area. There also were no signs to alert workers to the radiological conditions despite a requirement that such areas be posted and controlled to avoid unnecessary worker exposure.

Based on the inspectors’ feedback, the company posted workers in the area until it could take more permanent action to prevent access to the area. After more questions by the resident inspectors, the company performed a thorough review of both units (called an extent-of-condition review) and found twelve additional areas that required enhanced controls/postings. An NRC inspection report documented the finding.

These are two good examples of inspectors remaining aware of changing conditions and activities taking place in the plant. It also shows the inspectors asking the important question “have you considered the extent of condition?” This review may uncover a programmatic issue and/or increase the risk significance depending upon the condition of other similar systems, structures or components.

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

9 thoughts on “How Boots on the Ground Put Eyes on the Problem”

  1. Far be it from me to give the NRC credit where credit is not due. But in this case the NRC did identify a flood protection problem at Fort Calhoun in the fall of 2010. The flood occurred the following spring of 2011. While you are quite correct on the official closing of the finding in 2013 by the NRC, the licensee found additional flood protection deficiencies after the NRC found that flood protection problem in 2010. This was documented in an LER that was supplemented with not only the flood protection problems found but with the extensive corrective action taken to correct them. I do believe the NRC played a key role by identifying the inadequacy of using sandbags on top of flood gates in 2010. Without the NRC’s involvement at that time many deficiencies in the flood protection program at the plant would have been left uncorrected when the actual flooding occurred. This is something the NRC can legitimately take credit for in its inspection program.

  2. Fort Calhoun’s flood protection deficiencies were not corrected prior to the flood. The NRC was still issuing findings, which got wrapped up into the yellow finding, a year after the flood. The finding wasn’t closed until mid-2013.

  3. It is interesting to also note that the NRC failed to mention the elephant in the room when bragging about finding scaffolding problems at the Ginna plant. The NRC is finally getting around to thinking about hammering Ginna for not correcting in a timely manner a flood protection deficiency that is decades old. You would think that the nuke industry would learn from other plants experiences. Wasn’t that long ago that the Fort Calhoun Station was cited for flood protection deficiencies by the NRC. Luckily those deficiencies were corrected just prior to an actual flood at the plant. We should expect much better performance not only from Ginna management but from NRC management as well.

  4. This could have led to a serious hazard! Good that they found it before any bad could happen!


    The scaffolding problems identified by the NRC should never have happened, just like Denver’s infamous first offensive play in the Super Bowl. Scaffolding erection is not rocket science and is not unique to nuclear power plants. Scaffolding that blocks fire sprinkler heads is inexcusable and such a dumb and dangerous thing to do. In addition scaffolding that would allow access to high radiation areas is like fumbling a snap from the line of scrimmage. When such basic fundamental stuff is screwed up it makes you wonder what is going on with the more complicated stuff in the plant. Finding such obvious problems in a plant is nothing to brag about. It is a shameful thing and to think these were repetitive mistakes is abhorrent. Furthermore, all the performance indicators for each of these plants were in excellent shape even after all these readily apparent problems were identified. You would think there either needs to be better &/or more NRC boots on the ground or much better NRC “platoon” leaders. I think it is the latter and NRC management is to blame. The regulatory framework is seriously flawed when such pitiful performance is not appropriately reflected in the performance indicators for these plants.

  6. RE: “However, this was the 13th issue related to scaffolding at Ginna since September 2012”

    Guess the Ginna Operators did not get the message the first dozen times!

    Fines of $10,000 that get TRIPLED for each repeated failure to conform to Reg.’s would solve this issue quickly.

    As we have seen before, all too often, workers failing to follow safety rules can start fires or WORSE; now is the time for the NRC to fund a study by an outside non industry group to determine why the NRC is having so much trouble enforcing its own Regulations and who the biggest Industry offenders are so that their sites can be “flooded” with additional NRC inspectors from outside that Region, in order to bring the Utility up to compliance or SHUT THEM DOWN.

    It is obvious to me that the NRC has been far to lenient to the Operators of Ginna for far to long!

    The USA cannot afford even one Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster like Fukushima and it is up to the NRC to insure that never happens to US, so them treating the operators of nuclear power plants like spoiled children is not acceptable!

  7. this reminded me of Bob the Builder or Mr. Rogers explaining nuts and bolts of a really specific job no one ever really thinks about until we do. And, I got to ask, how is the issue of nuclear waste coming along? ty for all you do.

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