NRC warns TVA of ‘chilled work environment’ at Watts Bar nuclear plant

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said March 24 that it has issued a letter to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) indicating that a “chilled work environment” exists within the operations staff at the Watts Bar nuclear power plant near Spring City, Tennessee.

An NRC review into the Watts Bar work environment found that some operations employees may have felt pressure to ignore safety concerns, and some licensed operators may have been unduly influenced and directed by sources external to the control room.

The NRC held a meeting with TVA officials on March 22 to discuss the agency’s concerns and TVA’s corrective actions.

TVA officials must respond to the letter within 30 days with a plan describing how the work environment concerns will be addressed.

“While we believe TVA management understands these issues, the chilling effect letter documents the NRC concerns and our expectations that TVA fully address them and ensure that all plant employees feel free to raise any safety problems,” said NRC Region II Administrator Cathy Haney.

The Watts Bar nuclear complex is home to one existing 1,150-MW pressurized water reactor (PWR) and a second one that has yet to go online although TVA recently received NRC operating authority and loaded fuel at the facility.

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.