The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has agreed that concerns raised in an emergency preparedness inspection of the nuclear power plant near Richland have a low safety significance; and Energy Northwest will not be cited.
In May, the NRC had issued a preliminary finding of “white” on its color scale that grades safety significance of violations. White violations — the second-lowest on the NRC scale — have low to moderate safety significance and may result in additional NRC inspections.
But after a June regulatory conference requested by Energy Northwest, which owns and operates the Columbia Generating Station, the NRC issued a final determination that the finding should be “green.” Green findings are the lowest on its color scale, indicating a low safety significance.
The violation will be treated as a noncited violation, the NRC said in a letter to Energy Northwest released Monday.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
The NRC had questioned whether emergency procedures revised in June 2014 met all safety requirements.
The changes removed the option of recommending that residents within two to five miles of the nuclear power plant shelter in place if there was a brief release of airborne radioactive material during an emergency. Energy Northwest said that would be a highly unlikely event.
Some Energy Northwest officials misunderstood regulations to conclude that scenario, called a “puff release,” called for an evacuation recommendation.
Energy Northwest officials would make the recommendation to county officials, who would then issue any order for an evacuation or to shelter in place for the approximately 55 people living within two to five miles of the nuclear reactor.
“They provided information that led us to conclude that emergency planning personnel had sufficient experience that if shelter in place was appropriate, they would make that recommendation,” said Victor Dricks, NRC spokesman.
Columbia Generating Station continues to operate at 65 percent power since it reconnected to the grid in late June after a 50-day refueling outage.
Work continues to free a stuck valve. It controls one of the feed water pumps and is only needed during refueling outages.
The valve is basically a wedge that is inserted into a pipe, but the coupling needed to pull the wedge out broke.
Work is being done now in a small space to drill holes into the pipe, which is pressurized at 1,400 pounds per square inch, to allow the wedge to be pushed out. A full repair will be done at the next refueling outage.
The NRC previously had scheduled an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. July 21 at the Richland Public Library, 955 Northgate Drive, to discuss plant operations in 2014 and planned oversight this year. No formal presentation is planned, but the public may meet staff and ask questions.