TVA's OIG spots “high” risks in Sequoyah chemistry program

July 14, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
Sequoyah nuclear power plant (Photo: Photorush/Wikimedia Commons)

In an evaluation report released last week on the Sequoyah nuclear plant’s chemistry/environmental program, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Office of the Inspector General identified certain risks, both behavioral and operational, that could impact organizational effectiveness. Program behavior was assessed from interviews and field work conducted from September 21 through November 3, 2020, with operations assessed in February of this year.

The Sequoyah program—termed SQN Chemistry in the report—is tasked with maintaining the chemical operating environment for all plant systems, avoiding adverse effects to nuclear fuel, and minimizing plant dose rates. SQN Chemistry comprises two departments: Technical Support and Programs, and Nuclear Chemistry.

Risk specifics: According to the July 8 report, SQN Chemistry’s behavioral risks are related to accountability, relationships within and outside the program, low morale, and ethics. Risks to operations are related to the physical work environment, monitoring effluents (liquid or gaseous waste containing radioactive material) and collecting required samples, and inaccurate sample documentation. The OIG assessed the level of risk in both areas as “high,” adding that they “suggest issues with four of the nine Nuclear Regulatory Commission safety culture traits.”

The official response: TVA released the following statement on the OIG report: “Safety is always TVA’s top priority, both for our own employees as well as the public we serve. Although the TVA Office of the Inspector General report on the organizational effectiveness of the Sequoyah Nuclear Chemistry and Environmental work group found no risk to the safety of our employees, plant equipment, or the public, we value its feedback as part of our efforts to continually improve and sustain a culture of healthy accountability in all of our operations.... Actions to fully address the OIG’s recommendations have either already been taken or are in development.”

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