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UPDATED: NRC tells Millstone about gaps in flood risk assessment

By Judy Benson

Publication: theday.com

Published February 20. 2014 3:00PM   Updated February 20. 2014 4:08PM

Waterford — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has identified five areas that Millstone Power Station staff need to examine further as part of flood risk assessments required at all the nation's nuclear power plants.

The flood risk assessments were ordered by the NRC in response to the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in Japan in 2011, when three reactor cores melted down and large amounts of radiation were released after an earthquake and tsunami. Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC, said that after plant staff completed inspections, NRC inspectors visited plants to verify that they were done correctly and completely.

"This is part of a broader effort to ensure that plants are protected from severe flooding," he said today. The results of the inspections will determine the kinds of upgrades plants will be required to do to prevent flood damage, he said.

In a report released Wednesday, the NRC directed Millstone to check for additional areas where water could penetrate. It also said that metal siding and caulking on the turbine and enclosure buildings was not sufficiently assessed for effects from storm surges; that flood response procedures were only partially tested; that methods of identifying missing or degraded flood protection seals in areas of the plant that are difficult to access should be developed; and that a discrepancy in the flood heights defined for particular pieces of flood protection equipment should be resolved.

Sheehan said none of the five areas identified constitute violations by Millstone, but are "observations" that will guide the operators as they complete the required flood hazard work for the NRC.

Rick Zuercher, spokesman for Millstone owner Dominion, said the entire nuclear industry and the NRC are learning about a variety of issues from the Fukushima accident.

“The NRC issued orders requiring all nuclear companies to evaluate their units against floods and other natural phenomenon that may exceed the units' design and provide a report to the agency on their findings and actions,” he said in a statement. “We did this analysis for Millstone Power Station and the NRC sent an audit team to inspect the units based on our report. The federal auditors provided Dominion with their conclusions, and identified several issues. We will address those issues. Dominion and the NRC have a common objective of protecting the public health and safety of our employees, the communities in which we operate, and the environment.”

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