NRC looks at apparent violation at Palisades regarding assessment of radiation during outage

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has scheduled a regulatory conference with Entergy (NYSE:ETR) on Jan. 13 to discuss company efforts to  measure the radiation dose certain workers were exposed to during a refueling outage at the Palisades nuclear plant in Covert, Mich.

NRC has issued a preliminary finding relating to occupational dose limits for workers. The regulatory conference will concern the significance of the inspection finding connected to an activity performed during the February-March 2014 refueling outage.

The finding involves a failure to ensure an accurate assessment of the dose received by personnel working in a high radiation area. The incident did not result in any of the workers exceeding the occupational annual dose limit of five rem and had no negative impact on the plant or the public.

The NRC evaluates regulatory performance at commercial nuclear power plants with a color-coded system. The NRC’s preliminary evaluation determined that the violation at Palisades was ‘white,’ or of low to moderate safety significance.

The meeting is scheduled for 1-3 p.m. in the NRC’s Region III office, located at 2443 Warrenville Road, in Lisle, Ill. The public is invited to observe and NRC officials will be available to answer questions. Members of the public who are not able to attend the meeting can participate by dialing 888-810-3950 with passcode 5477675 or by submitting questions directly related to the regulatory conference by email to Patricia.Lougheed@nrc.gov with “Reg Conference” in the subject line.

No decisions on the final safety significance or other NRC actions will be made at the meeting. The NRC will issue the final determination on the safety significance of the issue after a thorough review of all the information related to the incident, including the input provided by Entergy during the regulatory conference.

The NRC completed its inspection at Palisades in late October and issued a report on the matter in December. The report documents the NRC review of the methodology for monitoring external dose and the subsequent dose assessments performed by the licensee when the licensee replaced numerous (44) control rod drive (CRD) housings between February 6 and March 8, 2014.

“The licensee concurrently implemented the use of tungsten shield vests to reduce exposure to the workers,” NRC said in the report. “However, the use of tungsten shield vests created new dose gradients to the workers that were not adequately assessed by the licensee to ensure that the dosimeters were appropriately placed in the highest exposed portion of the compartment,” NRC said in the report.

Palisades is a roughly 800-MW pressurized water reactor (PWR) that was commissioned in the 1970s. It had a capacity factor of almost 73% in 2012.

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.