The NRC Makes Sure Employees at Perry Are Focused on Worker Radiation Safety

Viktoria Mitlyng
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region III
 

magnifyingglassSeven NRC inspectors started an in-depth inspection at the Perry nuclear station in Ohio last week to make sure the plant has fixed long-standing problems with implementation of its program for protecting workers from unnecessary radiation.

Over the past two years the NRC has identified multiple, significant weaknesses in Perry’s implementation of its occupational radiation safety program. The issues identified relate only to protection of workers inside the facility, not protection of the public. There have been no overexposures to workers as a result of these issues, and there are no problems with the plant’s program to protect the public from radiation. Discovery of these violations resulted in a steep increase in NRC oversight.

Since then, NRC inspectors have been a consistent presence at Perry. The initial inspection conducted between August and November 2012 to determine if the plant has resolved deficiencies in the worker radiation safety area could not be completed because our inspectors continued to see mistakes before and during the inspection. Recognizing that the company’s corrective actions had not been effective, we directed the plant to make additional improvements. After taking additional steps, the plant told the NRC they were ready to show they had addressed the problems.

perrWe have conducted two extensive inspections at Perry within the last year involving multiple NRC specialists in various areas and from different parts of the agency. As we reported in a previous blog, we sent four additional inspectors to monitor radiation safety practices during a recent refueling outage, when the plant has the highest number of workers accessing high radiation areas. Our inspectors’ observations provided valuable input for the current inspection.

This high level of engagement from the NRC reflects the measure of our commitment to making sure workers at the plant are protected from unnecessary radiation exposure.

Our specialists are now independently evaluating if Perry’s efforts were sufficient to resolve worker radiation safety concerns. Specifically, their goals are to verify that the company:

• thoroughly understands the causes of the problem;

• has made sufficient improvements to prevent recurrence; and

• has properly assessed if similar problems exist in other areas.

We are also evaluating the overall safety culture of workers outside of the radiation safety group to determine if all workers are taking a personal responsibility for worker radiation safety at the plant. To that end, NRC inspectors will interview around 100 plant employees and contractors.

If our inspection team determines that Perry has not been able to resolve the weaknesses in its implementation of radiation safety practices, the company will start to receive the highest level of NRC oversight for an operating plant.

NRC Sends Additional Inspectors to Oversee Perry’s Refueling Outage

Viktoria Mitlying
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region III
 

perrA 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.