Millstone meets guidelines for protecting reactor cores

Waterford - Millstone Power Station adheres to all but one of the voluntary federal guidelines for protecting the public from damaged reactor cores, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In documents released Monday, the NRC issued inspection results for all 104 operating reactors in the country regarding so-called "severe accident mitigation guidelines," which all reactor owners voluntarily adopted in the late 1990s.

They are not requirements but could soon carry more weight in the context of reactor cores damaged at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plants in Japan in March.

"They all did a good job of developing these guidelines and having them available, but in terms of keeping them updated and providing adequate training for operators, there's more work to be done," said Neil Sheehan, an NRC spokesman in Region 1, referring to reactors in the Northeast.

On-site inspectors conducted the inspections at the request of the NRC task force, examining the lessons to be learned from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the resulting damage, which included damage to some reactor cores and spent fuel pools at Fukushima.

Millstone owner Dominion, which operates two reactors and maintains one shuttered plant, maintains guidelines in three key places: a technical support center, emergency operation facilities and reactor control rooms.

By comparison, 97 percent of the country's reactors kept the guidelines in the technical support center, but only 89 percent kept them in control rooms and 71 percent in emergency operation facilities.

Millstone also includes guidelines in its periodic review or revision procedures. Only 42 percent of the nation's reactors do.

The only thing Millstone does not do is include the guidelines in drills. Sixty-one percent of the nation's reactors do so, the NRC said.

"While overall we believe plants are safe and all of the NRC's efforts aim to ensure the plants never need to use these guidelines, we are concerned that our inspectors found many of the plants have work to do in either training their staff on these procedures or ensuring the guidelines are appropriately updated," said Eric Leeds, director of the NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.

Sheehan said the task force will distill this information and come up with recommendations for all reactors by July. The process will then continue with a six-month review in which the NRC will look for more lessons learned from Japan, he said.

Dominion spokesmen Ken Holt said in an emailed statement: "We continue to take full advantage of this opportunity to learn and apply the lessons from the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident as part of our continuous learning process. We are currently evaluating those improvements we need to make to ensure the health and safety of the public is maintained."


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