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NRC Faults Nuke Plant in Death

Thursday, June 26, 2014

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Nuclear regulators have found two lapses “of substantial safety significance” in a 2013 plant accident that killed one young worker and injured eight others in Arkansas.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission categorized the inspection findings at the Arkansas Nuclear One facility as yellow, the second-highest of four levels of safety significance. The agency announced its findings Tuesday (June 24).

Million-Pound Component

Workers were moving a 525-ton component out of the Russellville plant's turbine building to replace it on March 31, 2013, when a temporary lifting assembly collapsed and caused the component to fall.

The accident killed Wade Walters, 24, an iron worker for Precision Surveillance Corp., of East Chicago, IN. Eight other workers were injured; four, seriously.

Wade Walters; Precision Surveillance
Family photo via River Valley Leader (left); Precision Surveillance Corp. (right)

Wade Walters (left) worked for Precision Surveillance Corp. (right), a provider of heavy lift and equipment transport services. Walters was killed and eight other workers were injured by a falling million-pound component.

The incident caused a "small explosion" inside some electrical cabinets, knocking out power to key systems at both units of the plant.

Plant operator Entergy Operations Inc. declared a "Notice of Unusual Event," the lowest of four emergency classifications. There was no radiation release during the incident.

Health and Safety Citations

In September, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a total of 26 safety violations and $175,000 in fines against four employers at the scene:

  • Precision Surveillance Corp. was issued one citation and fined $6,300;
  • Entergy was issued seven citations and fined $49,000;
  • Bigge Crane and Rigging Co., of San Leandro, CA; was issued nine citations and fined $56,700; and
  • Siemens Power Generation Inc. (aka Siemens Energy), of Orlando, FL, was issued nine citations and fined $63,000.

According to a check of OSHA records Wednesday (June 25), all four employers are contesting the citations in the case.

Failure to Inspect, Test

NRC inspectors responded to the site on the day of the incident. They completed their inspection May 9, 2013, and held a public meeting that day in Russellville to discuss their findings.

Arkansas Nuclear One
Wikimedia Commons / Edibobb

Operator Entergy Operations responded appropriately after the accident at Arkansas Nuclear One, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded.

One week later, the agency issued an 87-page report that included five findings: one deemed red (high safety significance); one deemed yellow (substantial safety significance);and three deemed green (very low safety significance).

Agency inspectors determined that the assembly collapse had "resulted from the licensee’s failure to adequately review the assembly design and ensure an appropriate load test in accordance with its procedures or approved standards."

After meeting May 1 with Entergy officials, the NRC reduced the red finding to yellow.

What's Next

Entergy has 30 days to respond to the NRC's findings . After that, the NRC will "determine the appropriate level of agency oversight and notify Entergy officials of the decision in a separate letter," the agency said in a statement.

Entergy will not face monetary penalties in the case, an NRC spokesman said Wednesday.


Tagged categories: Health and safety; Maintenance programs; Nuclear Power Plants; Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); OSHA

Comment from robert turner, (6/26/2014, 8:29 AM)

In Navy nuclear work, we design to 1/5 of Ultimate strength or the 1/3 of Yield of the material, whichever is more limiting. additionally, we apply a minimum 150% load test for these types of handling devices. And the load test is never waved. Lifting devices get different tests.

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