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US nuclear regulator decides against citing Westinghouse for safety violations

14 August 2017

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will not issue a civil penalty or cite Westinghouse Electric Co. for safety violations discovered at the company’s nuclear fuel fabrication facility in Richland, Washington state. Westinghouse officials acknowledged that the violations occurred and had taken a number of corrective actions, the NRC said in a press release.

Richland plant - Image: KKC
Richland plant - Image: KKC

In May 2016, plant employees discovered an accumulation of uranium in a scrubber system, which is designed to remove unwanted material from many plant processes, the NRC said. After an analysis showed the amount of uranium exceeded safety limits, the NRC launched an inspection and later issued a confirmatory action letter, or CAL, which outlined a series of corrective actions.

Some of those actions have been completed and others have been incorporated into the new confirmatory order, the federal agency said.

The NRC conducted additional inspections last fall and identified several violations of NRC requirements. Westinghouse officials chose to participate in the NRC Alternative Dispute Resolution process, and the order is the result of a settlement under that process.

The NRC dispute process is facilitated by a neutral third party with no decision-making authority who assists the NRC and the licensee in reaching an agreement when there are differences regarding an enforcement action, the release said.

“A mediation session between the NRC staff and Westinghouse was held May 19 and discussions between the two parties continued until early August. The order captures the details of the settlement reached during those discussions,” the release said.

Under the order, Westinghouse has taken and agreed to take a number of corrective actions, including a survey of the safety culture among employees at the site, improvements and modifications to scrubbers and other systems to minimize the likelihood of a similar accumulation, and development of additional methods to provide early indications of abnormal accumulations, the release stated.

In addition, the company agreed to provide the NRC with a notification letter once it has completed the terms of the order and the basis for concluding that the order has been satisfied, according to the agency.

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