Nuclear power has received a lot of criticism
lately due to the 9.0-magnitude
earthquake that rocked Japan on March 11. U.S. Senators urged
the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to repeat the inspection of nuclear
power in the United States after it was already deemed safe, and French
President Nicolas Sarkozy called for a global
nuclear review after visiting Japan.
all of these negative reviews, there
are also many advocates who see the benefits of cheap, clean and
reliable nuclear power as an alternative energy source. U.S. President Barack
Obama even embraced
nuclear energy in last year's State of the Union address.
which side you're on, many can agree that safety comes first, and now, federal
regulators are concerned about the safety of an Alabama nuclear plant after its
emergency cooling system failed.
Browns Ferry nuclear power plant is located near Athens, Alabama and is run by
the Tennessee Valley Authority. A valve on its residual heat removal system was
stuck shut, which prompted in-depth inspections by the NRC.
to reports, there have been previous problems
with the valve. Originally, the valve failed sometime after March 2009, but
wasn't identified until October 2010 when the plant was being refueled. The
valve was fixed at that time, and was labeled as a manufacturer's defect.
Despite the plant's effort to fix the valve and inspect all others like it, the
NRC criticized the plant for not finding the valve issue sooner through routine
valve was repaired prior to returning the unit to service and Browns Ferry
continued to operate safely," said Victor McCree, the NRC's Region ll
administrator. "However, significant problems involving key safety systems
warrant more extensive NRC inspection and oversight."
been an emergency, the NRC worries that the faulty valve could have prevented
the emergency cooling systems from working correctly. For this reason, the NRC
will continue to review the safety culture, organization and performance of the
results of this inspection will aid the NRC in deciding whether additional
regulatory actions are necessary to assure public health and safety," said
time being, the NRC has issued a red finding against the Brown Ferry nuclear
plant, which is the most
severe ranking given to a plant for inspection. Only five red findings
have been issued in the U.S. in the past decade. It is unknown whether the
Tennessee Valley Authority will appeal the finding from the NRC at this time.