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Waterford 3 fined $110,000 for safety violations by NRC

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / June 24, 1998

TAFT – The Waterford 3 nuclear power plant was hit Wednesday with a $110,000 fine for safety-standard violations detected in December by inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In a press statement issued Thursday, the NRC said the fine was for violation of requirements concerning cooling water flow in the high pressure safety injection system.

Vice President of Operations Chuck Dugger said Thursday the charges were essentially correct, but some further talks are planned regarding the language of the charges.

“That doesn’t necessarily say we disagree,” he pointed out. “We are stillevaluating where we are on these issues. Sometimes, a little wordingmakes a lot of difference.”Dugger emphasized that at no time did Waterford compromise either on system operations or the safety of the plant, “and the NRC agrees with that.”Entergy engineers identified the problem on Dec. 5 as a result of questionsraised by NRC inspectors that their design analysis did not demonstrate that the flow of cooling water in the system would be enough to cool the nuclear core during certain accidents.

Entergy engineers had not adequately accounted for uncertainties in test instrumentation used to measure the coolant flow rate when the system was tested last summer.

Also, Entergy didn’t notify NRC of the problem until Dec. 18. By regulation,any potential failure to meet the requirements for emergency core cooling capability must be reported within one hour of discovery. Instead, it tookEntergy 13 days and then only after being specifically asked by the NRC inspection team.

A formal report followed on Dec. 19, the NRC said.However, the problem dated back earlier than that, Dugger admitted. Lastsummer, during systems testing, the problem was identified but placed in a backlog of issues to be addressed.

Dugger said Entergy was chided for not giving this a higher priority and more prompt attention.

NRC classified this incident as a Severity Level III problem, which carries a baseline civil penalty of $55,000. However, because the reporting wasnot prompt and because Waterford was fined previously within the past two years ($55,000 in May 1997), the fine for this incident was doubled.

The NRC uses a four-stage scale to rate the severity of violations, with Level I being the worst. Entergy now has 30 days to respond in writing anddetail specific actions taken to prevent another incident.

During that 30-day period, Entergy may pay the fine or file a protest.

Dugger pointed out the incident was factored in during the past NRC evaluation, in which the plant’s engineering score improved from a 3 to a 2.

“We’re always embarrassed by the fact that we’ve received civil penalties,” Dugger commented. “I hope we don’t find any more.”

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