NRC inspects nuclear plant

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Special to the Citizen

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reports there were no findings of safety significance from a quarterly inspection of activities at the Crystal River Nuclear Plant, known as CR-3.

The announced inspection was conducted in June and covered a range of activities and procedures.

The process consisted of observations by NRC inspectors, interviews with Duke Energy personnel, reviews of procedures and records and walking through the plant.

The inspectors assessed management oversight of the site’s transition to decommissioning status. They reviewed the CR-3 organization, staffing levels and worker qualifications to ensure safe storage of radioactive materials is not adversely impacted.

The plant was evaluated for readiness in case of adverse weather, including flood and hurricane warnings.

Inspectors also reviewed programs for the safe wet storage of spent nuclear fuel and systems used to support fuel pool cooling. They also observed work activities associated with the processing, packaging, storage and shipment of radioactive waste.

The team noted that staffing at CR-3 continued to decrease and that Duke has a staffing plan in place that continues to the time when the plant will be in SAFSTOR status. Duke is continuously reviewing staffing levels.

SAFSTOR is the decommissioning process selected by Duke. Under SAFSTOR, often considered “deferred dismantling,” a nuclear facility is maintained and monitored in a condition that allows the radioactivity to decay in dry storage.

Afterward, the plant is dismantled and the property decontaminated.

“The inspector said that though CR-3 has been shut down for more than four years, rigor is still evident in our processes and administrative controls,” Duke spokeswoman Heather Danenhower said. “This feedback is important to us. We remain committed to decommissioning our plant safely and cost-effectively.”

She said the next NRC inspection is expected later this month. This inspection will focus on the system abandonment process and containment building weather-proofing activities.

“We plan to continue to perform quarterly inspections at Crystal River until the site gets into a SAFSTOR (mothballing) status and permanent shutdown technical specifications are in place,” said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan. “This should occur sometime in 2015.

“After that, we will transition to yearly on-site inspections, while at the same time maintaining ongoing communication with the plant,” he said. “Of course, if we become aware of any issues we can perform additional on-site reviews.

“We would plan to have an inspector on hand for any significant activities.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Pat Faherty at 352-564-2924 or pfaherty@chronicleonline.com.