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TN Plant Authority Hit With $145K Fine

Thursday, December 5, 2019

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The Tennessee Valley Authority was recently fined $145,000 by federal regulators at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for allegedly submitting incomplete and inaccurate information about a backup system at its Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Spring City, Tennessee.

The TVA-owned nuclear power plant houses the two newest nuclear units in the nation, having gone into operation in 1996 and 2016.

What Happened

On Aug. 1, 2019, the NRC completed an inspection at Watts Bar, concluding that TVA had submitted incomplete and false information on multiple occasions regarding the capabilities of an offsite electric power system needed for proper licensing of Watts Bar Units 1 and 2.

Tom Brakefield / Getty Images

The Tennessee Valley Authority was recently fined $145,000 by federal regulators at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for allegedly submitting incomplete and inaccurate information about a backup system at its Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Spring City, Tennessee.

According to the NRC, from July 2010 to January 2015, TVA reported that two common service station transformers were deemed qualified sources of offsite power, should the nuclear power plant need them in a case of accident mitigation.

However, the NRC inspection team discovered during its assessment that the TVA-approved transformers lacked the amount of capacity needed if they were to be used to power safety-related equipment in various accident scenarios.

Last month, the NRC issued a proposed $145,000 fine to TVA in a letter.

“Had TVA provided complete and accurate information during the NRC inspection, and as part of approval of license amendments, the NRC would have conducted significant additional inspection and/or inquiry, or reached different regulatory conclusions,” the commission’s letter states.

Since the proposal, TVA has admitted to the Severity Level III violation—the lowest level for violations that result in penalties—which the Authority can contest through an alternative dispute resolution, with the option to involve an independent mediator.

Additionally, TVA spokesperson Jim Hopson also reported that the federal utility has since completed corrective actions to prevent future violations. The violation has not resulted in any negative consequences for TVA.

“This did not affect public safety, did not impact daily operations, and this plant alignment was never used,” Hopson said in a statement. “TVA has completed an updated safety analysis and is providing the accurate and complete documentation to the NRC.”

TVA In the News

Earlier this year, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration ordered TVA to reinstate employment for a former worker who had been put on paid administrative leave for raising concerns over nuclear safety. The TVA was also reportedly under additional regulatory oversight for a “chilled” workplace environment.

TVA President Jeff Lyash noted that he hopes to propel a better work culture at the federal utility, citing the desire to make “sure we have a safety-first culture.” TVA Nuclear Chief Tim Rausch went on to specify that complaints can be made through a number of channels, including the corrective action program and making complaints to the independent Inspector General.

Moving forward, the agency has ordered the TVA to pay the employee $123,460 in back wages and interest, along with $33,835 in compensatory damages. The TVA is also to pay the employee’s attorney’s fees, as well as clear the relevant file and refrain from retaliating against the employee. A notice of whistleblower protections must also be posted.

   

Tagged categories: Civil Penalty; Health and safety; Inspection; Laws and litigation; NA; North America; Nuclear Power Plants; Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); Program/Project Management; Project Management; Safety; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

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