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.

Retracing the Steps of Post-Fukushima “Walkdowns”

George Wilson
Team Lead
Japan Lessons-Learned Directorate

Walkdowns (3)Every U.S. nuclear power plant recently completed “walkdowns” to review its existing flood and earthquake protection features. This work is part of the NRC’s efforts to learn from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident. Now, NRC experts are checking up on how a few plants carried out this work, as part of our review of the walkdown reports.

We’ll do our audits over the next few weeks. For flooding walkdowns, we’ll visit Hope Creek/Salem and Oyster Creek in New Jersey; Vermont Yankee; Millstone in Connecticut; Brunswick in North Carolina; Quad Cities in Illinois; and Monticello in Minnesota. For earthquake walkdowns we’ll visit Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania; Seabrook in New Hampshire; Sequoyah in Tennessee; DC Cook in Michigan; Point Beach in Wisconsin; and Comanche Peak in Texas.

Why those plants? Well, the walkdown reports might be unclear in some regard or may have taken an unusual approach to meeting the NRC’s request to carry out the work. Other reasons could include the relative experience of the plant’s walkdown staff, or a plant completing its work faster than the industry average. The bottom line is that we want to ensure the plants did a thorough job.

For the audits, experts from NRC Headquarters will work with one of our resident inspectors at the site, spending several days at each plant. The team will examine documentation, discuss the walkdowns with the plant staff who performed them, and — if necessary — inspect plant structures described in the plant’s walkdown report.

The audit results will help the NRC staff better understand what additional questions we might need to ask as we continue reviewing all the walkdown reports. The plants we audit will have to resolve any issues that we identify, along with anything they noted during their walkdowns.

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