Southern gives nod to NRC on violation at Vogtle

May 13, 2020, 10:20AMNuclear News

Southern Nuclear has accepted a “white” finding (one of low to moderate safety significance) and an associated violation notice from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a problem at the company’s Vogtle nuclear plant, near Waynesboro, Ga. Earlier this year, Southern had contested the severity of the finding, arguing to no avail that the finding be more appropriately characterized as “green” (very low safety significance).

Details: According to the NRC’s March 31 final significance determination letter to Southern, the finding, identified during an agency inspection in 2019, involved a “failure to adequately calibrate containment high range area radiation monitors so that they responded within the required range and accuracy to known inputs.” The letter goes on to explain, “This resulted in main control room indications that were biased high and would have resulted in overly conservative Emergency Action Level declarations during the course of certain accident scenarios.”

In its April 30 acceptance of the finding and violation, Southern listed corrective actions already taken to address the issue, such as the implementation of a new calibration methodology, as well as future actions. The company added that Vogtle-1 monitors were restored to full compliance with the completion of this year’s spring refueling outage and that Vogtle-2 monitors will achieve full compliance no later than October 3, with the completion of that unit’s fall outage.

Upshot: As a result of the white finding, both Vogtle units have been moved from Licensee Response, the first column in the NRC’s Reactor Oversight Process Action Matrix, to Regulatory Response, the second column in the matrix. (As reactors move to higher-numbered columns in the five-column matrix, they require additional oversight.) Currently, only the two Vogtle units and the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry units reside in the Regulatory Response column. All other reactors in the U.S. commercial fleet are under the standard oversight of column one.

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