Waterford gets a thumbs-up

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 30, 2004

By VICKIE JAMBON, Staff Reporter

HAHNVILLE – While representatives from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave the Waterford 3 Nuclear Plant’s 2003 safety performance a thumbs-up, they said an incident surrounding a white code alert wasn’t included in their evaluation. The safety infraction will be in the Commission’s 2004 report scheduled for release next year.

Representatives from the Entergy Operations Inc. and the NRC came together to discuss Waterford’s performance at an annual assessment meeting held in the St. Charles Parish Courthouse.

NRC Senior Resident Inspector Michael Hay said Waterford’s 2003 performance was very good. He said NRC and licensee identified inspections revealed all Waterford 3 performance indicators measured green.

Green performance indicators represent situations of very low safety significance while white performance indicators represent situations of low to moderate safety significance.

However, Hay said one crosscutting issue that occured this year at Waterford issue measured white.

He said the episode, involving the failure of a diesel generator, will be placed in next year’s report because it took place this year.

Hay further explained the problem had already been identified and resolved.

After the meeting, Waterford Site Vice President Joe Venable said, “Our engineer found out why the part failed and invented a new part. They replaced the whole configuration remedying why it failed in the first place. We analyzed the problem, fixed it and retested the system.”

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Victor Dricks said after Waterford repaired the bushing, the NRC made the plant start the repair process over.

“They failed to provide a step-by-step format for their procedure,” said Dricks.

Dricks said the proper paperwork was later submitted by Waterford to the NRC and the nuclear plant then replaced the generator’s fitting.

Hahnville resident Thomas Tamplain spoke up at the meeting.

After telling the representatives that he lived in a three-mile radius of the nuclear facility, Tamplain asked the panel to explain Waterford’s emergency evacuation plan.

He asked for the name of the individual who is responsible for executing emergency evacuation procedures.

Dricks answered Tamplain by saying federal regulators require the nuclear plant to have a tested evacuation plan. He said there were detailed maps of roads with the number of people living within three, five and ten mile radiuses of Waterford.

“On television, you see these mushroom explosions that erupt within minutes. In reality, it ( a nuclear plant explosion) does not happen this way. It takes a long time for problems to develop,” said Dricks.

Venable said residents are evacuated before a problem develops. He said, “We start communications with the NRC and with the public at low levels of danger. We don’t wait until high levels.”

Dricks explained that once the NRC is notified, they contact the governor. “The governor gives the order to evacuate. It all happens within minutes,” said Dricks.

Paul Oncale, the Director of Emergency Preparedness for St. John the Baptist Parish, told the crowd that a drill had been performed with FEMA in May 2003.

“Everyone met all the objectives.” said Oncale.

Prosanta Chowdhury, an environmental scientist with the State Department of Environmental Quality, said the NRC is very, very aggressive in their inspections.

“We all work together. The state and local departments work together. We have a common plan in place. The NRC has corrected the white code incident. If the NRC is comfortable with it, then I am comfortable with it. They are very, very thorough,” said Chowdhury.

Towards the end of the meeting, a woman sitting in the back of the room asked if the plant would be decommissioned after 20 years.

Dricks responded to the question by saying the plant was given a 40-year operating license which began in 1985 and that once the license expired it could be extended for an additional 20 years.

He said, “Money is set aside to decommission the plant if that is what’s decided.”