TVA Will Pay $140,000 NRC Fine for Browns Ferry Nuke

The Tennessee Valley Authority this week said it will pay a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) proposed $140,000 fine for security violations at its Browns Ferry nuclear station near Athens, Ala.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Steve Bono, Browns Ferry site director, said that the giant regional power agency “accepts full responsibility” for the violations and will pay the fine.

The NRC proposed the fine Tuesday after investigations found that in May 2015 “five of TVA’s contract fire watch workers deliberately failed to conduct roving fire watch patrols as required by NRC regulations.” There were no safety consequences as no fires occurred during the time the patrols were to have taken place, the NRC said.

Cathy Haney, administrator of NRC’s Region II office in Atlanta, said, “Missed fire watches greatly concern us. Even though plants have other fire protection features, fire watches are an integral part of the plant’s overall fire protection strategy, especially when other equipment is temporarily unavailable.”

TVA’s Bono said the workers involved were fired and TVA has upgraded fire safety training and record keeping for the three-reactor site. “In this instance,” he said, “we did not meet our own standards and we have implemented corrective actions to ensure that this does not happen again.”

Browns Ferry suffered one of the worst fires at a U.S. nuclear plant in 1975, when a worker using a candle in a cable spreading room to search for air leaks set a cable seal on fire, which spread to the reactor side of the room and badly damaged reactor control cabling. The fire forced TVA to shut the reactor for a year as it repaired the damage.

The three Browns Ferry units are all General Electric boiling water reactors. Unit 1 went into service in 1973, Unit 2 in 1974, and Unit 3 in 1976. In 2006, the NRC extended the licenses for all three units by 20 years, to 2033 for Unit 1, 2034 for Unit 2 and 2036 for Unit 3.

Kennedy Maize is a long-time energy journalist and frequent contributor to POWER.