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Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant  (Source:
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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By konacustom on 5/13/2011 5:10:47 PM , Rating: 2
I worked as a 'Nuke' MM on a fast boat in the US Navy and recently hired on in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard as a nuclear engineer. I can tell you with absolute certainty that the malfeasance mentioned above with TVA is absolutely the case at NNSY! I cannot understate this! It is a culture of cronyism and nepotism at the shipyard and involves no merrit whatsoever. Its so bad that I am not staying and am praying against all that one of these new idiots they hired (they didn't even know who Rickover was/is nor Isenhower for that matter! or how to apply concepts of pressure vs force in the classroom!!!)don't cause some sort of accident. The main reason why there isn't another nuclear accident in the U.S. is because of a select few individuals that actually remember something from their training and 'wipe the asses' of those who don't. One day they will get tired and they will faulter....I hope not but it is a statistical certainty.

By konacustom on 5/13/2011 5:17:14 PM , Rating: 2

I remember many times there would be systems that needed new components and the solution was to go to another boat and 'chop and swap' their component with ours which meant ultimately that when their system got put back together it would be improperly documented what exactly happened. Its not the Navy operators (i.e. the enlisted guys) one should be afraid of...its the corporate culture that the naval shipyards have adopted to run things. They run it like its a corporation which in nuclear is *not* a good thing at all. Scary...even for a nuke!

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