History of Fire Problems at TMI

Three Mile Island Unit-2

February 1987 - The NRC issued Violations for two fires that occurred in the Unit 2 reactor building. "According to a GPU News release, "one fired occurred when sparks from a welder's torch ignited rags, a plastic bucket and a hose inside a room used for toll decontamination. The second occurred five days later when sparks from a welder's torch ignited a canvass curtain".

February, 1988 - GPU was cited by the NRC for failing to deploy a roving fire watch "when the Halon system for a the cable and transformer rooms became inoperable" (Patriot News, May 19, 1988).

May 19, 1988 - GPU was cited again for violating fire regulations by the NRC. the Commission noted four deficients in the Program, and added in a letter to the Company: "We are concerned that there has been a degradation in the overall control of your fire-protection program, Lee H. Bettenhauser, Chief, Reactor Division Projects

August 5, 1992 - GPU "declared an event of potential public interest when the Unit-2 west cooling tower caught fire." The fire lasted for ten minutes.

The Pennsylvania DER ordered GPU to remove the waffling from the TMI-2 cooling towers after the most recent fire.

August 11, 1993 - The NRC issued two Notice of Violations relating to emergency preparedness (EP.) One violation occurred during the EP exercise conducted from June 7-11, 1993 and involved adequacy of fire protection exit provisions. The other violation dates back to February 7, 1993, and is related to a delay in callout of the emergency response organization. (This violation is being "considered for escalated enforcement." (See February 7 and July 2, 1993 for more information) (IR 50-289/93-08.)

 


Three Mile Island Unit-1

Fire Protection:

Fires, explosions, "boiling," and weak fire protection: July 18, 1986; March 19, April 2 and July 27, 1987; March 6, 1988; June 12, July 15 and September 1 and 3, 1991; January 14, July 27, and November 23, 1992; and, January 28, August 11 and September 30, 1993; September 29, 1994; September 14, 16, 29 & 30 and October 29, 1998 & October 15, 1998; and January 22 and July 21 & 23, 1999. (Examples listed below).

September 30, 1993 - GPU declared an Event of Potential Public Interest" due a small fire in the ŒC' condensate pump.

August 11, 1993 - The NRC issued two Notice of Violations relating to emergency preparedness (EP.) One violation occurred during the EP exercise conducted from June 7-11, 1993 and involved adequacy of fire protection exit provisions. The other violation dates back to February 7, 1993, and is related to a delay in callout of the emergency response organization. (This violation is being "considered for escalated enforcement." (See February 7 and July 2, 1993 for more information.) (IR 50-289/93-08.

October 15, 1998 - GPUN completed an LER regarding failures to perform fire protection program surveillances in a timely fashion. Another LER related to this issue was filed on January 22, 1999. (See September 14, 1998, for precursor events.) (IR 50-289/99-02.)

September 29, 1994 - Thermal-Services-Inc. and its president Rubin Feldman, were indicted September 29 by a federal grand jury on seven criminal charges, including willful violations of the Atomic Energy Act, a decade-long conspiracy to defraud the US government, false statements and more. The charges are the culmination of a nearly two-year grand jury investigation of the company, which manufactures Thermo-Lag, the ineffective fire barrier material used in more than 70 nuclear reactors [including Three Mile Island]" The Nuclear Monitor, , October 17, 1994.) (For follow-up data, see October 1, 1996 and May 29 and October 23, 1998.)

May 29, 1998 - "In an order confirming GPU Nuclear Inc.'s commitment to replace Thermo-Lag fire barrier material, federal officials yesterday notified the utility that its efforts may not be enough to complete the work on time [December 31, 1999] and, therefore, may not meet regulatory requirements for licensing." (See also March 19, 1987; March 6, 1988; June 12 and September 1 and 3, 1991; July 27 and November 23, 1992; August 11 and September 30, 1993; and, September 29, 1994; October 1, 1996, and, February 18, July 17 & October 23, 1998.)

July 17, 1998 - Thermo-Lag fire barrier was found "incorrectly configured", i.e., outside of the approved joint design agreement. An LER was produced by the Company which resulted in the NRC issuing a Severity Level IV Non-Cited Violation. (50-289/99-02). (See January 29, 1994; and , February 18, May 29, and, October 23, 1998, for related incidents.)

August 25, 1998 - GPUN identified a Thermo-Lag fire barrier found outside of the approved joint arrangement. (See September 29, 1994; October 1, 1996; and, May 29, July 17, and October 23, 1998, for related events.)

August 25, 1998 - GPUN identified a Thermo-Lag fire barrier found outside of the approved joint arrangement. (See September 29, 1994; October 1, 1996; and, May 29, July 17, and October 23, 1998, for related events.)

- Transformers [lighting and ventilation] in the turbine building in the first floor in a separate cubicle . Employee heard a "pop" , and onsite fire-briagde responded within nine minutes....Offsite personnel called in...Manufacturer Squared D in. In 1993, as part of PDMS modifications [transformer repalced] made because of previous problems shouldn't break in ten years...10:40 am...

July 2, 2003 - 12:16 p.m. HARRISBURG, Pa., (AP) - A fire in an active transformer yard next to a decommissioned reactor was put out Tuesday at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, an Exelon Nuclear official said.

The official, David Simon, said crews were still trying to figure out the cause of the fire, but that there was no danger to the public and no interruption in the plant's operations. It was unclear how long the fire had burned, he said. There were no reports of injuries.

"At no point was there any danger to the public," said David Sanko, head of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. Fire crews went to the scene after Exelon requested help, Simon said.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been notified, he said.

The decommissioned reactor, known as Unit 2, is owned by First Energy Corp. and was the site of the nation's worst commercial nuclear accident in 1979, when a portion of the reactor's core melted.

Unit 1 is operated by Exelon and owned by a joint venture involving Exelon and British Energy.

 

Sept. 30, 2005 

Fire barrier systems inadequate in real fires, says NIRS 

 

At a public meeting, Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff "announced their recommendation to the Commission to drop a proposed rule making that would substitute controversial "manual actions" for federally required nuclear power station fire protection requirements on electrical cablling (physical fires, minimal cable separation with automated detection and suppression) vital to shutting down the reactor in the event of a significant fire," according to an industry newsletter. 

According to Nuclear Information & Resource Service (NIRS), "Since 1992, NIRS has identified widespread nuclear industry violations where fire barrier systems, .... have dramatically failed standardized industry fire tests and would likely fail to protect reactor safety systems in the event of a real fire." 

The NRC subsequently declared the fire barriers "inoperable" for protecting electrical power circuits, control and instrumentation cables used in the event of fire to remotely operate reactor shutdown. 

As a result, the NIRS explained in the Oct. 14, 2005 issue of Nuclear Monitor, "the majority of the U.S. nuclear power industry was found to be in violation of safety standards as prescribed under current Code of Federal Regulation." 

The report went on to say that "the federal agency (NRC) failed to take effective enforcement action and require that operators become compliant with the current fire protection law by installing qualified fire barriers or maintaining minimal separation requirements between electrical circuits for reactor safety-related equipment.