Nuclear Regulatory Commission gives Areva good marks

RICHLAND -- The Richland Areva NP plant conducted operations safely during the past two years, and no area for improvement was identified in a recent review, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

It's the second two-year review in a row that the NRC has found no improvements needed.

"We're proud we've been able to maintain that level of performance and are dedicated to continue that into the future," said Bob Link, manager of environmental health, safety and licensing for the Richland plant, which manufactures fuel assemblies for nuclear power reactors.

The review establishes the level of NRC oversight needed at the plant over the next one to two years.

The review assessed performance from mid-August 2008 to mid-August 2010. It looked at safety operations, radiological controls, facility support and safeguards.

The public can hear details of the review and the plant's performance at 1 p.m. Wednesday in conference rooms A and B of the Richland Public Library, 955 Northgate Drive.

The plant did identify some issues on its own and reported them to NRC during the past two years.

The NRC approved of the corrective measures Areva planned following specific incidents and will conduct followup inspections to determine the effectiveness of those measures.

One followup inspection will assess corrections for a 2009 incident in which an employee tampered with an electronic sensor that was part of a safety system.

The operator taped the wand to physically override its operation, but other safety systems were in place that could have prevented an accident, if needed, the NRC said earlier.

A followup inspection also will be done to assess improvements after an individual signed the name of an official to allow access to the site on five occasions.

The individual did not have authorization to use the official's name to approve access.

In addition, an NRC enforcement decision is pending on two apparent violations of transportation documents. An Areva employee in Lynchburg, Va., is accused of falsifying the date stamp on three documents to allow shipments of Richland uranium oxide pellets through the United Kingdom on their way to other foreign ports.

The same employee also is accused of not following procedures that require an independent party to sign off on criticality calculations for overseas shipping of uranium oxide pellets.