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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 jdparker520 on 5/13/2011 10:29:48 AM , Rating: 2
Given your comments, I have to assume that you do not live in or near the Tennessee Valley. I do, and I can tell you that everyone I have ever spoken to in the area is very pleased with TVA. They deliver some of the cheapest power in the nation and produce such a surplus that we are a major exporter of power. I am unable to comment regarding their safety culture, but I can conclude based on my experience as a customer that they are far from "inept".

Also, I'm surprised that no one has brought up the recent controlled emergency shut down that Browns Ferry went through as a result of the tornadoes that swept through the east US. The plant was forced through the same procedure as the Fukushima plant, except their backup generators were not damaged so they still had enough power to run the cooling system. So far it looks like the plant was in good enough shape to make it through this emergency procedure without incident. It is concerning that they didn't find out about this failure for so long, but that concern is tempered somewhat by the fact that the plant has been shown to perform well in an emergency.

FYI, I'm not a shill. I work for a designer of networking equipment in Huntsville, AL.


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