Skip to main content

Oyster Creek and NRC Inspection Findings

Jim Slider
The following guest post is by Jim Slider, NEI's Senior Project Manager, Safety-Focused Regulation.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently announced disposition of several regulatory issues from Oyster Creek Generating Station’s fourth quarter inspection report. Without context, one might be alarmed by multiple violations in one reporting period, however a thorough understanding of the NRC’s Reactor Oversight Process provides the right amount of perspective.

In the United States, the safety of commercial nuclear power plants is assured by several layers of protection. Beginning with robust designs and stringent procedures, plant owners like Exelon enforce high standards on the hundreds of professionals who contribute to the design, maintenance and operation of their plants. Those standards demand compliance with federal safety requirements and more. Constant scrutiny and continuous learning are important parts of those high, self-imposed expectations. When minor lapses in performance occur, it is quite common for the owner (“licensee” in NRC’s parlance) to uncover the problem first, and, as appropriate, report it to NRC and fix it.

Equally important is the assurance provided by a strong, independent regulator. In the United States, that is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC’s Reactor Oversight Process (ROP) is the agency’s program to inspect, measure, and assess the safety and security performance of operating commercial nuclear power plants, and to respond to any decline in their performance. The ROP includes specified continuous and periodic inspections and performance indicators that are reported to NRC quarterly. The inspection results (“findings”) and performance indicators are graded on a color-coded scale so NRC can more easily combine them to form a whole picture of the plant’s performance. The grading and color-coding also facilitate communicating the NRC’s perception of the plant’s performance to the public, the media, and other stakeholders.

An important premise of the ROP is the understanding that most of the time inspection results and performance indicators will show the desired “Green” grades. Lapses from this high level of performance are expected to be more or less random, and promptly addressed by the plant’s corrective action process. Sometimes, due to the timing of particular NRC inspections or publication of inspection reports, the NRC may seem to be releasing an apparent “cluster” of adverse performance results on a particular plant.
Oyster Creek Generating Station

This can give a misleading impression of a sudden decline in plant performance. To address this “lumpiness” of input data, the ROP framework specifies that the NRC’s comprehensive semiannual review of plant performance should encompass at least 12 months of performance data. In addition, the ROP provides for special inspections to dig deeper into the causes and corrections of individual lapses that are graded as more safety-significant than the random “Green” result. Thus, NRC will mount special inspections to follow up on the White and Yellow inspection findings, as well as the White performance indicator recorded in the third quarter of 2014.

Oyster Creek was judged to be operating at the highest levels of the ROP for most of the past five years. As Exelon responds to the current set of inspection findings and NRC follow-up, we have every reason to expect that Exelon’s response to the findings will underscore their commitment to improve performance in those areas.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

New Home for Our Blog: Join Us on NEI.org

On February 27, NEI launched the new NEI.org. We overhauled the public site, framing all of our content around the National Nuclear Energy Strategy.

So, what's changed?

Our top priority was to put you, the user, first. Now you can quickly get the information you need. You'll enjoy visiting the site with its intuitive navigation, social media integration and compelling and shareable visuals. We've added a feature called Nuclear Now, which showcases the latest industry news and resources like fact sheets and reports. It's one of the first sections you'll see on our home page and it can be accessed anywhere throughout the site by clicking on the atom symbol in the top right corner of the page.
Most importantly for you, our loyal NEI Nuclear Notes readers, is that we've migrated the blog to the new site. Moving forward, all blog posts will be published in the News section, along with our press releases, Nuclear Energy Overview stories and more. Just look for the &qu…

Hurricane Harvey Couldn't Stop the South Texas Project

As Hurricane Harvey battered southeast Texas over the past week, the devastation and loss of life in its wake have kept our attention and been a cause of grief.

Through the tragedy, many stories of heroics and sacrifice have emerged. Among those who have sacrificed are nearly 250 workers who have been hunkered down at the South Texas Project (STP) nuclear plant in Matagorda County, Texas.

STP’s priorities were always the safety of their employees and the communities they serve. We are proud that STP continued to operate at full power throughout the storm. It is a true testament to the reliability and resiliency of not only the operators but of our industry.

The world is starting to notice what a feat it is to have maintained operations through the catastrophic event. Forbes’ Rod Adams did an excellent job describing the contribution of these men and women:

“STP storm crew members deserve to be proud of the work that they are doing. Their families should take comfort in the fact that…