NRC issues confirmatory order to Xcel Energy Monticello nuclear plant

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a confirmatory order to the Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) Monticello nuclear power plant in Minnesota.

The company has agreed to a series of actions related to an event where specialized examinations were not performed properly on six spent fuel canisters. Monticello is operated by Xcel Energy utility subsidiary Northern States Power Co.-Minnesota, and is located in Monticello, Minn., approximately 30 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

Monticello is a boiling water reactor (BWR) unit with a nameplate capacity of roughly 685 MW.

The confirmatory order is a result of the NRC’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process, which was requested by the company to address three apparent violations related to the improper testing of the canisters in 2013.

The NRC senior resident inspector identified the issue when he observed two contractors fail to properly perform liquid penetrant examinations on the welds of the canisters. The NRC conducted a follow-up investigation, which determined that the testing examinations were falsely recorded and the plant failed to have effective quality controls in place to monitor the contractor work.

The investigation also found the deliberate actions of the contractors caused the plant to be in violation of NRC requirements regarding the welds, NRC said.

The NRC has found no immediate safety concerns with the canisters. However, as a result of the ADR meeting the company has agreed to take a number of actions to regain compliance with agency rules.

Some of the commitments for the company include: ensuring the canisters are brought into compliance; submitting a plan to return to compliance and provide updates on progress; ensuring procedures require direct oversight of the testing performed by contractors; and making a presentation on the facts and lessons learned at an industry forum so that others may receive the information.

The company has agreed to address these issues according to the timelines established in the order and to send the NRC a letter documenting completion of the actions when they are done.

The ADR process involves mediation facilitated by a neutral third party with no decision-making authority who assists the NRC and a licensee in reaching an agreement when there are differences regarding an enforcement action.

Xcel Energy operates the Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear plants in Minnesota. During the past year, the company went through a difficult prudence case before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission regarding upgrade work at the Monticello nuclear plant.

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.