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Power Government

Uneven Enforcement Suspected At Nuclear Plants 93

Posted by Soulskill
from the bring-donuts-for-the-inspectors dept.
mdsolar sends this news from the Associated Press: "The number of safety violations at U.S. nuclear power plants varies dramatically from region to region, pointing to inconsistent enforcement in an industry now operating mostly beyond its original 40-year licenses, according to a congressional study awaiting release. Nuclear Regulatory Commission figures cited in the Government Accountability Office report show that while the West has the fewest reactors, it had the most lower-level violations from 2000 to 2012 — more than 2½ times the Southeast's rate per reactor. The Southeast, with the most reactors of the NRC's four regions, had the fewest such violations, according to the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. The striking variations do not appear to reflect real differences in reactor performance. Instead, the report says, the differences suggest that regulators interpret rules and guidelines differently among regions, perhaps because lower-level violations get limited review."
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Uneven Enforcement Suspected At Nuclear Plants

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  • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday October 16, 2013 @04:10PM (#45146551)

    This is what happens when you let companies oversee themselves without any real penalties.

    No, its not.

    the differences suggest that regulators interpret rules and guidelines differently

    The problem is more likely that the regulators are ill-trained, and ill-supervised. Anywhere away from the
    NRC's central office the oversight of its OWN STAFF is lax.

    Inspectors and regulators should rotate, like Baseball umpires, not always covering the same area, and thereby making the regulations more evenly applied and making it harder for these (in your opinion) evil plant operators to come to an agreement under the table.

    Also, without knowing the exact nature of these so called safety violations, you can't tell how many of them are for having too few "Remember your hard hat" signs and a fresh supply of toilet paper in each stall, as opposed to things that actually have serious implications. Anyone having dealt with any federal regulator knows that they nit pick stuff that allows them to write up infractions and make it look like they are doing their job, while overlooking big issues. I had an uncle that was a HUD building inspector that always ran around with a thermometer in his pocket protector to make sure the hot water wasn't too hot, and would write building managers up for two degrees over the limit. Of course he would totally overlook drug dealing out of apartments and broken elevators.

  • by Radworker (227548) on Wednesday October 16, 2013 @04:37PM (#45146759)

    Take a look at DC Cook or Indian Pt. for that matter. The NRC will shut down a plant. If you want to call a spade a spade, the pushing match over inspections vs profitability have a predictable swing with predictable consequences. Let the bean-counters convince you that they can run without inspections and pretty soon you will start having Davis Besse like events. Let the Nimbys win the safety at all cost argument and pretty soon you have 140+ day outages again like we saw as recently as the 90's that drive the price per KW/H way up. The NRC is just the poor bunch of engineers caught in the middle of this political infighting.

    Thats my opinion after working in the industry for 20 years anyways.

    YMMV

  • by Mr D from 63 (3395377) on Wednesday October 16, 2013 @05:02PM (#45146977)
    As a person who works in the nuclear power industry, I can explain some factors.

    First, plant inspectors are moved on a regular basis, and there is enough involvement from various other NRC reviewers and experts to keep a check.

    Second, the threshold for violations is so low that it is pretty much impossible to not have any. Only a small percentage of violations have safety significance, and most of those have low safety significant. Most violations are cited because they may be potential indicators of a drop in safety. By setting the threshold this low the NRC keeps operating performance within a conservatively safe margin.

    Third, a final citing for a violation depends a lot on the plant's response to the initial finding. If a plant shows deference to the finding, cannot adequately explain its occurrence, or shows that there was some known programmatic fault that enabled the condition, they are more likely to get cited with a violation in the end. Some plant owners can be a bit short when responding to what they may perceive as a petty finding.

    Fourth, plants that have a history of violation often get added scrutiny, therefore there is bit of a circular effect.

    The utilities that own plants in the southeast are, in my opinion, the best at both preventing conditions that are potential violations and also at responding to findings. Fleet owners often do a little bit better job than single unit owners (but there are exceptions). I can tell you with certainty, those plants that are falling off the mark get exposed by both the NRC as well as INPO, and nobody lets up until they get back to a state of operational excellence with and appropriate safety culture.

    If folks in other occupations got a comparable level of scrutiny as nuclear plant workers and operators do, they would probably start with tens of violations or more an hour. If car inspections were held at that same level of scrutiny, you would have to immediately park your car if air pressure dropped .001 psi in a tire, and could not use it again until you found the cause of the problem, repaired it, and put in place safeguards to ensure it was not likely to ever happen again. Then prepare a lengthy report, have it reviewed with great scrutiny and hopefully approved by the regulator. Then you would likely receive a fine because you did not discover it yourself.

    We, in the nuclear industry, welcome this level of scrutiny. It is part of our lives and culture.

    I am not an evil, fire breathing, money hungry fiend. I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina. A Sierra club member in my teens, I'd hike the trails and clean up other people's trash, carrying it out with me. I care as much as anyone about our environment. All sources of power have their pros and cons. Nuclear waste is a serious one for my industry, but if you compare on a true scale of impact and risk, it is hands down the best path forward for baseload generation.

    Sorry for that last preachy part, couldn't help myself. Cheers.
  • by Radworker (227548) on Wednesday October 16, 2013 @07:05PM (#45148067)

    It was a little bigger than a football actually. My arm is a little bigger than a football and it has been in that hole. I was on site for the first 5 months of that outage and was never so glad in my life to be away from some place.

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