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Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant  (Source: svsnowgoose.com)
A valve on its residual heat removal system was stuck shut, which prompted in-depth inspections by the NRC

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.

Despite 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

No matter 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. 

The 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.  

According 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 inspections.

"The 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." 

Had there 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 plant. 

"The results of this inspection will aid the NRC in deciding whether additional regulatory actions are necessary to assure public health and safety," said McCree.  

For the 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.



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RE: TVA
By phantom505 on 5/12/2011 7:13:26 PM , Rating: 3
I was a government contractor. I quite because of what I viewed was even more ridiculous prior to "contract reform". I was working for the Air Force ultimately. However, this is the pay chain: Air Force paid the Navy to pay the "prime contractor" to pay the "subcontractor" to pay me.

They would have hired me directly and saved money. Instead I ended up quitting because the nasty little company I worked for refused to pay for health care benefits (which a union later made them).

So much for "efficiency".


RE: TVA
By JediJeb on 5/13/2011 2:31:14 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I was working for the Air Force ultimately. However, this is the pay chain: Air Force paid the Navy to pay the "prime contractor" to pay the "subcontractor" to pay me.


That's where the expense is created. If the government would simply add in a "no sub contract" clause and require anyone getting a contract to be capable of providing the work themselves, then they could eliminate much of the waste. The state of Kentucky has began issuing such contracts. The lab I work for has had to forgo bidding on some of them because there are tests listed in them that we do not currently do.


RE: TVA
By 0ldman on 5/13/2011 5:02:57 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe limits to subcontracting, but it would be near impossible to do away with it.

Just build an office building. You have the general contractor that does the foundation, building, walls, weatherproofing.

Generally a licensed plumber, electrician, etc, is required. If the job is big enough the plumber might sub out to another group.

Happens all the time. The bigger the business/project/gov't/etc, the bigger the cost/waste. Once it gets complicated, no one person can overview the entire job and stuff gets wasted.


RE: TVA
By sorry dog on 5/14/2011 10:20:32 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe a well intentioned idea, but I think it would cause more trouble than savings. For instance, when I used to manage building treatment plants, I might be the prime and the cost of some of the equipment and associated specialty installation needed might be more than my part of contract pouring concrete structures. However, labor is the biggest risk, so I had more risk than the equipment vendor. And I didn't have the sources or the knowledge to put in said specialty equipment, just like the equipment vendor would not have the ability to bid concrete work. So you gotta sub some stuff...unless you make individual contracts, which would be a real coordination headache with additional project management overhead.

I've been apart of a Navy contract or two as a sub...and the BIGGEST reason why they paid too much for the work is they had an invitation only bidding process. Only 3 outfits were able to bid on the work that we did. My company did 95% of the work, and the prime basically made some free money by being an invited bidder. They COULD have done the work without us, but they likely would have upped the bid a few hundred thousand.

I still don't exactly know how one gets invited, and it may have changed since that was 8 years ago. But it seems to me the best way to get lower bids is make the bidding process more transparent with more open qualifications.


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