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    Monday, March 04, 2024

    Nuclear Regulatory Commission finds 3 violations at Millstone, 2 considered for enforcement

    Waterford — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has identified three apparent violations from 2011 at Unit 2 of the Millstone Power Station, two of which are being considered for escalated enforcement.

    In response to the announcement, state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commission Rob Klee on Friday sent a letter to the NRC requesting a "government to government" meeting in Hartford to brief staff of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and DEEP staff "in order to address our serious concerns related to the continued safe operation of Millstone." Malloy also issued a statement Friday.

    Klee noted that the three apparent violations, following three mid-level safety violations in 2014 and a fourth last month, have "potential significant public health and safety implications."

    The NRC said Friday one of its new findings involved a “willful violation” for changes made to a safety report that left out information so that it was “not complete and accurate.” The report was submitted as part of a license amendment request made by Millstone owner Dominion Resources.

    NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said NRC staff identified the concerns "as part of our review of the license amendment request."

    After an investigation, the NRC concluded in January 2014 that an engineer at the plant had made the unauthorized change. The other finding considered for escalated enforcement is a “non-willful apparent violation” involving the company’s failure to provide complete and accurate information in the documents pertaining to the charging pumps.

    The charging pumps are part of the plant’s chemical volume and control system, and are used to inject coolant into the reactor coolant system, the NRC said. The pumps are also needed for emergency cooling in the event of an accident, the agency said.

    The charging pumps are "a very important part of the plant's line of defense" in an accident, Sheehan said. The changes made removed the pumps from rigorous technical safety testing required to maintain its function for severe accident systems.

    The third apparent violation, which is not being considered for escalated enforcement, pertains to changes made to the same safety report that decreased the required amount of decay time for irradiated nuclear fuel without getting prior NRC approval. The fuel was not damaged or overheated, however, the NRC said.

    Ken Holt, spokesman for Millstone, said the apparent violations "are historical in nature, and do not reflect our current performance."

    The nuclear power plant, he said, "continues to be operated in its previously approved configuration until the NRC's questions are addressed."

    Changes to technical specifications made at the plant were approved by the NRC, Holt said, but not executed.

    The NRC said it is asking Dominion to take part in either a Predecisional Enforcement Conference or Alternate Dispute Resolution regarding the issues before making a decision on enforcement. Holt said Dominion has not decided which avenue it will pursue.

    In a letter to Dominion, the NRC said it is “interested in understanding (Dominion’s) plans for restoring compliance with its licensing basis in light of the changes … apparently made through improper implementation … (change) process.”

    In his statement, Malloy said Dominion "needs to fully cooperate with federal regulators in this probe."

    "My team will work closely with the federal government and with the NRC to ensure this site remains compliant with all laws and regulations," Malloy said. "Any deviation from that — anything that puts residents at risk — is simply unacceptable to me and unacceptable for the State of Connecticut."

    Sheehan said none of the three alleged violations had any "real world consequences" but pertained to the issue of Millstone workers making changes without getting prior NRC approval.

    The new violations follow three “white” violations at Millstone in 2014, all prompting special inspections by the NRC. “White” is the second-lowest level of the NRC’s four-tiered color-coded system for ranking the severity of safety violations. “Green” is the lowest level.

    Last month, the NRC issued a “greater than green” finding for a security-related issue, but declined to specify the severity because it related to security.


    Twitter: @BensonJudy

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