The Nuclear Regulatory Commission offered an overall reassuring message last week regarding the performance of the nation’s commercial reactors in 2021.
“The work of the nuclear power plant operators for almost every reactor fully meets our stringent safety and security performance objectives,” said Andrea Veil, director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. “Yet even those high-performing units will undergo thousands of inspection hours this year under our normal ‘baseline’ inspection program.”
Of the 93 U.S. power reactors currently in operation, 91 are in the top performance category of the NRC’s five-category action matrix, Licensee Response. Two reactors—Ameren Missouri’s Callaway and Energy Harbor’s Davis-Besse—are in the second category, Regulatory Response. For reactors in that category, NRC oversight includes additional inspections and follow-up of corrective actions.
Underperformers: The NRC informed Ameren early in 2021 that Callaway—a 1,194-MWe pressurized water reactor in Fulton, Mo.—had been moved to Regulatory Response as a result of having three unplanned scrams during the second through fourth quarters of 2020, combined with having lower than normal hours of critical operation for the year.
Davis-Besse—a 908-MWe PWR located in Oak Harbor, Ohio—was moved to the Regulatory Response category last year due to a greater-than-green finding (meaning a finding of more than very low safety significance) identified by NRC personnel during a scheduled cybersecurity inspection. In addition, more recently, the NRC issued Energy Harbor a violation notice involving the failure to select a suitable replacement part for Davis-Besse’s emergency diesel generator speed switch. The speed switch design was not compatible with the station’s 125/250 volt direct current battery system, according to the agency.