Energy Northwest pays fine over Richland nuclear security

Energy Northwest has paid a fine after security incidents at the Columbia Generating Station near Richland.
Energy Northwest has paid a fine after security incidents at the Columbia Generating Station near Richland. Tri-City Herald

Energy Northwest has paid a fine of $35,000 to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over security incidents that occurred more than once between 2012 and 2014, according to an NRC document made public Tuesday.

Two security officers at the Columbia Generating Station were found to be inattentive at their post because of behavior they were engaged in, according to Energy Northwest.

A third party who did not work at the nuclear power plant near Richland reported the officers’ behavior to Energy Northwest and the NRC in 2014. The agencies investigated immediately, and at the end of the investigation, neither was employed at the plant, said Energy Northwest spokesman Michael Paoli.

The NRC and Energy Northwest did not release specifics of the security issue.

(Incidents) an inaccurate reflection of a very professional team.

Michael Paoli, Energy Northwest spokesman

Energy Northwest has a highly trained security force and such incidents are “an inaccurate reflection of a very professional team,” Paoli said, adding that the incidents do not represent Energy Northwest’s standards.

“No amount of inattentiveness is good, but we have security measures that provide defense in depth,” he said.

Energy Northwest actions to ensure strong security in light of the incidents were worked out in a dispute resolution mediation session with the NRC in August, and a consent and hearing waiver form was signed in September.

“Although not complete with the required actions, Columbia Generating Station has made progress toward the implementation of these actions,” said a letter sent Dec. 28 from Energy Northwest to the NRC.

Energy Northwest will install wide-angle cameras in bullet-resistant enclosures in towers to monitor the availability of nuclear security officers there. Certain monitoring methods used elsewhere at the plant did not cover the towers at the time of the incidents.

Cameras to be installed to monitor areas where security incidents occurred.

Until the cameras are installed, supervisors are conducting checks.

Energy Northwest is revising its annual ethics and compliance training to put a greater focus on deliberate misconduct and its consequences. Nuclear security officers will be required to sign a statement saying they understand the importance of compliance.

Energy Northwest has completed an evaluation of the incidents and will present information from the evaluation to its nuclear security department. It also will prepare a presentation on the significance of the incidents and the significant responsibilities of security officers to deliver at an industry forum.

A nuclear safety culture assessment has been conducted by an outside legal firm and an assessment is being finalized.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews