PILGRIM STATION: Operator health questions added to list of nuclear plant issues

By Frank Mand
Posted Jun 03, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

PLYMOUTH —

What do you get when you take seven nuclear power plant control room operator procedural errors, mix in three “apparent violations” of operator licensing regulations and let stand for two years?

Not much, so far.

Local residents gather in May 2011, just after the Fukushima disaster, for the rare chance to hear Entergy officials publicly reassure them about the safety of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.

That reassurance turned out to be a PowerPoint presentation. No questions were allowed from the audience.

Unbeknownst to the audience, however, as Entergy, the NRC and town officials sat on the stage, back at the plant they were dealing with the immediate aftermath of a reactor scram that had occurred that same morning.

It was an event the NRC would later determine was due to the failure of Pilgrim’s control room operators to follow appropriate standards and procedures on reactivity control during a start-up of the reactor.

The NRC identified seven procedural errors that occurred that morning. And it was eventually designated as a “white” (low to moderate safety significance) event, NRC regulations required additional oversight and inspections.

“When it comes to the job of controlling the reactor, unyielding adherence to standards and procedures is essential,” NRC Region I Administrator Bill Dean said at the time. “The NRC fully expects plant personnel to learn from this experience and take steps to ensure there is not a recurrence.”

Just seven months after the seven procedural errors – as part of its biennial Licensed Operator Re-qualification Training (LORT) program inspections – NRC inspectors reviewed a sample of the medical records of Pilgrim’s licensed operators. The report found “three apparent violations of NRC requirements,” all related to medical testing of operators – violations that appear to have been in effect for several years.

 

Medical Examinations: Specifically, at various times over a period of almost four years, 10 operators did not meet certain medical requirements (for stamina and/or blood pressure) for performing NRC-licensed operator activities, and the operators continued to perform NRC-licensed activities. Additionally, Entergy did not perform complete medical testing of its licensed operators, in that five of those licensed operators had not been administered stamina tests for more than two years and, therefore, did not complete their NRC-required biennial medical exam

 

Accuracy of Information: Specifically, Entergy did not provide information to the NRC that was complete and accurate in all material respects, in that Entergy submitted two NRC licensed operator renewal applications which certified that the applicants met the medical requirements for license renewal when in fact they did not complete the required stamina tests.

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