NRC increases oversight at two Oswego County nuclear plants
Out of the 104 nuclear reactors in the United State, 20 are getting an extra look from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That includes two in Oswego County. YNN's Candace Hopkins has more on why those plants need the closer monitoring, and what comes next.
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OSWEGO COUNTY, N.Y. -- Officials at Nine Mile Point's Unit One and FitzPatrick have learned the NRC will be keeping a closer eye on both plants, after too many unplanned shutdowns and power reductions. Both plants have been placed in the lowest category of the NRC's increased monitoring levels.
"It's not that common for plants to trip these performance indicators, and that's why when they do, we believe they should receive some additional scrutiny from us," said NRC Public Affairs Officer, Neil Sheehan.
The issues happened during the past 7,000 hours of operating time. A calendar year is about 8,000 hours. At Unit One, several unplanned shutdowns were to blame. They spanned from July 17th until November 3rd, including one during Superstorm Sandy. Lightning damaged equipment at Nine Mile, causing Unit One to go offline. Only one day after the reactor was back online, it shut down again on November 3rd.
"None of the shutdowns last year, individually, they didn't result in a safety concern in ongoing operations; but from our perspective, we need to learn from each of those events. And, learn from them collectively, so that we can prevent that from happening in the future," said Constellation Energy Nuclear Group Spokesperson, Jill Lyon.
The NRC agrees that the public's safety was never in jeopardy, at either Unit One or FitzPatrick. Fitzpatrick made the list for having seven unplanned power reductions. That's when the power put out by the reactor drops by more than 20 percent without 72 hours notice. FitzPatrick officials said the reductions were necessary to make repairs.
"The downed powers that were recorded in the indicator in 2012 included a repair we made in April to one of our reactor water circulation pumps, and then downed powers performed for condenser tube plugging," said Entergy spokesperson, Tammy Holden.
The NRC said additional inspections will be done at each of the plants in the coming months. Because they each remain in the lowest possible increased monitoring categories, no additional sanctions are expected, and there is very little cause for concern.
The Syracuse-based Alliance for a Green Economy opposes nuclear power. They have issued a statement in response to the new measures at the plants.
They said in part, "It's clear from the recent spate of equipment and reliability failures at Nine Mile Point One and FitzPatrick that these reactors are seeing an abnormally high number of safety problems. We are very concerned about the potential safety threat posed."
The NRC maintains that both plants continue to operate safety despite the recent issues.