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Mothballed Nuclear Plant Provides Fresh Training Perspective

Joey Ledford
Public Affairs Officer
Region II

Few are aware that Nuclear Regulatory Commission instructors regularly teach basic reactor concepts while conducting tours at a mothballed nuclear plant site in Hollywood.

The Bellefonte site

The Bellefonte site

That’s Hollywood, Ala., by the way, and there’s no show biz connection.

Instructors at the NRC’s Technical Training Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., realized a few years ago that the two-unit, never-completed Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Hollywood, just 65 miles away, would be a perfect classroom. Even though many of the major components were either taken out or cut apart and then sold by the plant’s owners, the Tennessee Valley Authority, enough of the framework remains to allow students to get an extremely realistic idea of what a plant is like and how it works. TVA and the NRC signed a memorandum of understanding to allow the training to take place.

Since Bellefonte never had a fuel load, even containment and the empty spent fuel pools are open for official visitors.

“You can even eat inside containment,” Doug Simpkins, a TTC instructor, quipped to a unique class last week.

Instructors Simpkins and Mark Speck, both former resident inspectors in Region II, regularly teach a five-day course at Bellefonte, called Practical Applications of Reactor Technology as well as a separate Site Tour of Bellefonte course. They expanded the curriculum last month when John Pelchat, Region II’s government liaison officer, approached them with the idea of a customized course for personnel from the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. That agency’s newly appointed head, Art Faulkner, wanted his people to learn how a nuclear plant works but preferred a shorter class.

Since Alabama has five operating commercial units, three at Browns Ferry near Huntsville and two at Farley near Dothan, preparation for a possible event is essential.

Representatives from the Alabama Emergency Management Agency listen to an NRC instructor at Bellefonte.

Representatives from the Alabama Emergency Management Agency listen to an NRC instructor at Bellefonte.

“Now they are going to have a mental picture,” said Faulkner during the two-day course that saw him and 19 of his lieutenants trooping through the sprawling plant with Simpkins and Speck. “During an event or an exercise, they are going to have a better idea of what’s going on at a plant.”

Brett Howard, the AEMA’s director of field operations, offered a graphic example of the value of the NRC training.

“We had an alert declared at Plant Farley due to a [malfunctioning] muffler coming off a diesel generator,” he said. “You think of a generator as being pretty small. Now we can see from these generators here that a muffler is as big as a sewer pipe. No wonder it took all day. It puts it in perspective.”

Faulkner was very pleased with the experience and urged his colleagues from other states to consider booking time with the NRC instructors, who also provide a look at how NRC inspectors do their jobs.

“Bar none, this is the most informative and best training we’ve done,” he said. “I believe it will enable us to better operate in the unlikely event we have an incident.”

5 responses to “Mothballed Nuclear Plant Provides Fresh Training Perspective

  1. Nick December 30, 2015 at 2:54 am

    This looks like an excellent training site for one to be in to. I wonder why bellefonte was never completed?

  2. CaptD December 17, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    Too bad the NRC and the ASLB do not make use of San Onofre NPP in California to determine the the Root Cause of the thousands of damaged tubes in both San Onofre Units 3 and Unit 2 RSG’s which was termed by NRC as a “very serious” safety issue. As a result of the operators (SCE) design and operational errors, the almost-new San Onofre RSG’s had more damaged and/or plugged tubes than the rest of the US power plants combined, which is unprecedented in the history of the U.S. Operating Nuclear Fleet.* Although the NRC officially still does not consider multiple SG tube leaks possible (a serious safety implications for the rest of the U. S. Fleet) San Onofre proved that more than one SG tube can fail at a time.

    http://sanonofresafety.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/steamgeneratortubesplugged1.pdf

    *Credit: SanOnofreSafety.org

  3. Public Pit Bull December 17, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Glad you quickly posted another blog NRC. The sooner the last one is put in the dead letter file the better. Glad to hear you are getting some good out of mothballed nuclear plants. I am grateful that there will be more of them in the future.

  4. John Coupal December 17, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Sounds like an excellent training site for reactor operators and regulatory personnel from throughout the US. What is the reason that Bellefonte was “never-completed” and “mothballed”?

    • NRC December 17, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      TVA made a business decision not to complete the two units. Published reports indicated the decision was based on economics and power demand.

      Joey Ledford, NRC Region II

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