U.S. Nuclear plants get mid-year report cards from NRC

Most atomic power plants did well in their mid-year assessments by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) with 92 of the 102 nuclear units in the United States being ranked in the two highest performance categories.

NRC said Sept. 6 that it has issued mid-cycle assessment letters to all active units in the nation’s nuclear fleet.

The numbers were similar to the 2012 mid-cycle results when 96 of 104 operating commercial nuclear power plants were in the two highest performance categories.

“These periodic assessments are part of our efforts to ensure the appropriate regulatory oversight of nuclear power plants and to keep the public informed about our safety oversight activities,” said Ho Nieh, director of the Division of Inspection and Regional Support in the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.

Of the 92 highest-performing reactors, 75 fully met all safety and security performance objectives and were inspected by the NRC using the normal inspection program. Seventeen reactors were assessed as needing to resolve one or two items of low safety significance. For this performance level, regulatory oversight includes additional inspection and attention to follow up on corrective actions.

Only one reactor, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Browns Ferry 1 in Alabama was placed in the lowest category calling for increased oversight “because of a safety finding of high significance,” NRC said.

Eight more reactors were in the third performance category with a “degraded level of performance,” NRC said. The degraded performance category calls for more NRC inspections and senior management attention. The plants in the degraded category were TVA Browns Ferry 2 (Ala.); Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) Monticello (Minn.); FirstEnergy (NYSE:FE) Perry 1 (Ohio); NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE) Point Beach 1 (Wis.); TVA Sequoyah 1 and 2 (Tenn.); TVA Watts Bar 1 (Tenn.); and Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Wolf Creek (Kan.).

Perry 1 and Wolf Creek resolved all the outstanding issues and have since transitioned to the highest performance level.

Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD)’s Fort Calhoun plant in Nebraska is in an extended shutdown with significant performance issues and is currently under a special NRC oversight program distinct from the normal performance levels. Therefore, the plant will not receive a mid-cycle assessment letter.

The Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) Crystal River 3 and Dominion (NYSE:D) Kewaunee nuclear plants entered decommissioning during the first half of this year and are no longer considered operating reactors, so they did not receive mid-cycle assessments.

Near the end of this reporting period, Edison International (NYSE:EIX) subsidiary Southern California Edison (SCE) announced that it would decommission the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Units 1 and 2 in California. The plant began transitioning to the decommissioning process in July, so it did receive a mid-cycle assessment for the period ending June 30.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.