NRC puts Entergy’s Arkansas Nuclear One under microscope

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said Jan. 25 that it has begun a comprehensive inspection to assess the “depth and breadth of the problems affecting performance” at the Entergy (NYSE:ETR) Arkansas Nuclear One plant, which is receiving the highest level of NRC scrutiny.

In June 2014, the NRC issued “yellow” findings to Arkansas Nuclear One in in Russellville, Arkansas. The move followed a fatal 2013 heavy equipment handling incident at the plant.

In January 2015, the NRC issued yellow findings associated with flood protection at the plant. The cumulative effect of these violations moved the plant into Column 4. Arkansas Nuclear One is receiving the highest level of NRC oversight of operating plants.

A team of 25 inspectors will devote about 3,600 hours of effort to independently assess and document the adequacy of Entergy programs and processes used to identify, evaluate and correct performance issues; provide insights into the causes of performance deficiencies; and evaluate the adequacy of a third-party safety culture assessment conducted at the site.

Any deficiencies identified by the team will be discussed with Entergy officials at a public meeting and documented in a written report that will be made publicly available this spring. The NRC will then issue a Confirmatory Action Letter that documents commitments made by the licensee to address any identified deficiencies.

“This inspection is a very important element of our increased regulatory oversight of Arkansas Nuclear One as it provides for an independent evaluation of the extent of the performance problems at the site,” NRC Region IV Administrator Marc Dapas said in a news release.

“It also includes an assessment of how thorough the licensee has been in identifying the extent of its problems and whether we think the planned corrective actions are of sufficient scope and depth to maintain performance improvement,” Dapas said.

The NRC uses color-coded inspection findings and performance indicators to assess nuclear plant performance. The colors start with green and then increase to white, yellow, or red, commensurate with the safety significance of the issues involved.

Performance indicators are statistical measurements of plant and equipment performance. The NRC’s action matrix reflects overall plant performance and agency response. There are five columns in the matrix with Column 1 requiring a baseline level of inspections; plants in Column 5 are not permitted to operate. The NRC increases the level of oversight and inspection in a graded manner as plant performance declines.        

ANO is a nuclear station that includes two pressurized water reactors (PWRs). Together Units 1 and 2 can generate more than 1,800 MW.

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.