NRC: Oyster Creek Passes Supplemental Safety Inspection

Oct 25, 2017

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission ended its increased oversight at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station following a team inspection last month, which concluded station staff had appropriately addressed areas of concern over flawed maintenance work on a safety-related valve. The inspection was in response to the station’s white finding, a low-level safety significance issued after a problem with one of the plant’s electromatic relief valves, which are used to depressurize the reactor during a pipe break. There are five of this type of valve at the plant.

“Specifically, Exelon personnel failed to follow procedures when reassembling an EMRV by failing to use lock washers on the valve’s cut-out switch lever. This caused excessive friction between the solenoid frame and the lever, which in turn led to the valve not being able to perform its safety function,” Neil Sheehan, public information officer for the NRC Region 1, explained. “Also, Oyster Creek’s technical specifications require that all of its EMRVs must remain operable whenever the plant is online. If one of the valves is inoperable for more than three days, the reactor must be shut down and reactor pressure must be reduced to 110 psig (pounds per square inch gauge) or less within 24 hours. However, the incorrect reassembly of the valve led to it being inoperable between Oct. 11, 2014, and Sept. 19, 2016.”

Exelon Corp., the Illinois-based utility company that owns and operates the Lacey Township-based power generating station, let the NRC know in August it was ready for the supplemental inspection, which was to provide assurance that: the root causes and the contributing causes of significant performance issues were understood; the extent of condition and extent of cause of significant performance issues were identified; corrective actions taken to address and preclude repetition of significant performance issues were prompt and effective; and corrective plans direct prompt actions to effectively address and preclude repetition of significant performance issues.

“The inspection consisted of examination of activities conducted under your license as they related to safety, compliance with the Commission’s rules and regulations, and the conditions of your operating license,” Silas Kennedy, chief of Reactor Projects Branch 6 Division of Reactor Projects, said in a letter to Byron Hanson, site vice president. “Based on the results of this inspection, the NRC concluded that, overall, the supplemental inspection objectives were met and no significant weaknesses were identified. Additionally, no findings were identified.”

The deficiency was discovered during a 2016 NRC inspection at the nuclear plant. In March, Exelon met with the NRC’s Regional Office to discuss the issue. At that time, the company confirmed proper assembly of the valves after the fall 2016 refueling and maintenance outage at the plant.

The facility is a single-unit boiling water reactor, located on 800 acres neighboring Oyster Creek. It first came online in December 1969. It is licensed to operate through April 9, 2029, but is slated to come offline permanently Dec. 31, 2019.

Oyster Creek is one of four nuclear power plants licensed to operate in New Jersey. Salem Nuclear Power Plant has two units; the fourth unit is at Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Station. —G.G.S.

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