The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved a request by a PPL (NYSE: PPL) subsidiary to delay a portion of its onsite emergency drill at the Susquehanna nuclear plant in Pennsylvania from October 2012 until February 2013.
The NRC authorized the exemption in a Dec. 21 Federal Register filing. Susquehanna is a two-unit boiling water reactor in Salem Township in Luzerne County, Pa. The two reactors together have a generating capacity of more than 2,500 MW.
The NRC agreed that Susquehanna faced special circumstances that justified postponement because of an unplanned outage at Unit 1 that resulted from “fatigue cracking” experienced on the Unit 1 turbine blades.
On Oct. 3, Susquehanna’s low pressure turbine supplier recommended that the plant remove the Unit 1 main turbine from service in order to conduct certain inspections.
The licensee removed Unit 1 from service on Oct. 20, 2012. According to the licensee, the Unit 1 shutdown affected the availability of a significant number of employees. The group of affected employees included some key managers who would have been needed for the emergency drill.
When the licensee submitted its letter dated November 16, 2012, Unit 1 had been restored to service and the licensee had determined, based on the results of the Unit 1 turbine blade outage, that it would also shut down Unit 2 for the same inspection.
Federal rules require that commercial nuclear plants hold an exercise to test their onsite emergency plans every two years. The last such biennial exercise at Susquehanna occurred in October 2010.
Since then, Susquehanna experienced a real-life drill when an East Coast earthquake in August 2011 caused PPL to activate the plant’s technical support center.
PPL has also indicated that other measures have been taken to gauge the emergency preparedness at Susquehanna and only the onsite portion of the biennial drill is lacking.
The NRC said the requested exemption is authorized by law, will not present an undue risk to public health or safety. Susquehanna is currently expected to do the onsite portion of its emergency exercise by Feb. 16, 2013.