Operators of Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant got a glimpse Tuesday of how the plant will be affected by increased oversight measures over the next several months.

The in-depth inspections, known as a 95003 by the NRC, stem from a “red” finding at the plant in May that was confirmed by an independent investigation earlier this month.

The red finding was issued when a low-pressure coolant injection valve failed to open last October. The finding also placed the plant in a “multiple/repetitive degraded cornerstone” category.

At a public meeting in Atlanta, officials with the NRC said the increased oversight at the plant would begin next month and consist of three phases.

The first phase will begin Sept. 12 and last about two weeks. It will focus on testing programs specific to valves and examine the plant’s testing requirements and programs. The NRC will release the findings of the first phase at an Oct. 18 meeting in Washington.

Part 2 of the inspections process will span from October through December and focus on maintenance activities at the plant. Inspectors will examine the cycle of maintenance, initiation of work and the planning, scheduling and performing maintenance. It will also focus on putting components back into service and maintenance equipment.

Officials said the intent of Part 2 is to assess “identified concerns” related to Browns Ferry’s maintenance program and to identify the root causes of program changes. The second phase is focusing on maintenance, officials said, because of historical concerns with equipment, with the valve failure being just one example.

Part 3 of the inspection is what NRC refers to as the “formal part” of the 95003 inspection. The outcome will be to improve equipment reliability, strategic area focus and safety and mitigation systems.

The inspectors will be looking at five program review areas, including maintenance operations, engineering, corrective action programs, management oversight and decision-making. Part 3 will also include a graded assessment of the plant’s safety culture.

NRC officials said the 95003 inspections would take up to 3,000 inspection hours. TVA spokesman Ray Golden said the utility would be responsible for up to 90 percent of those costs, including travel and related expenses.

NRC Region II Administrator Victor McCree did not have information regarding a dollar amount per inspection hour, but Golden said the inspections would cost TVA “tens of millions.”

In a previous report, he said those expenses would be passed along to local utility companies, which in turn, would then pass expenses to customers.

Golden said Tuesday’s meeting did not yield many new details about the inspections for TVA, but said it did provide a timeline and focus of inspections. He said the meeting also provided the utility the chance to tell NRC officials about some of the work already being conducted at the plant in regard to safety measures.

Golden said the valve failure did not pose a threat to the general public. He said the red finding had more to do with a commitment made by the plant to its fire protection systems.

In case of a major fire at Browns Ferry, a fire protection train would be taken out of service. However, the plant relies on a redundancy system that relies on a back-up protection train, which contained the stuck valve.

“One loop wasn’t available because of our commitment and the other one wasn’t available because of a stuck valve,” Golden said. “In a real-world space, we believe this valve would have unstuck itself and we know our operators would have taken other actions.”

Thomas Saprito, a senior consulting associate for nuclear watchdog group Saprodani Associates, claimed Tuesday the valve was out of operation for 18 months. He said if NRC inspections are held at the plant every three months, inspectors had six opportunities to find the stuck valve prior to the Oct. 23 discovery.

“Your review won’t cut it in this case,” he told NRC officials. “I would suggest the (NRC) administrator might want to have the inspector general inspect NRC’s oversight in this case.”

Golden said Saprito is entitled to his own opinion, and noted Browns Ferry operators verified the valve was working 18 months prior to its failure.

“When it stopped working is unknown. You have to assume that it was working the last time we tested it,” he said. “The important point … is at no point was it an immediate safety concern.”

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