Strange trip at Susquehanna nuclear power plant

Attached are pages from the Susquehanna Unit 2 technical specifications, two of the single-line electrical drawings, and Chapter 13 of the FSAR. I could not find drawing E-9 Sheet 71 which has the breakers within Motor Control Center 2B246. But drawing E-9 Sheet 20 is attached which shows the breakers for MCC 1B246. Assuming that Unit 1 is configured similar to Unit 2 in this regard, the components in that MCC should be identical or close. The event notification stated that the fault on MCC 2B246 disabled a drywell unit cooler, causing drywell pressure to increase. MCC 1B246 powers drywell unit coolers on Unit 1.

The attached pages address some of the questions posed:

1) Shift Technical Advisors are required to be on-shift to provide advise to the operators. I worked several years as an STA at Browns Ferry and the STAs at Grand Gulf reported to me when I was the Reactor Engineering Supervisor. The STAs worked 24/7, but they did not have to be in the control room at all times. Basically, STAs have to be summonable by the operators. That's typically defined as being available within 10 minutes of being called. The STAs don't have to be in the control room. But the STAs are not supposed to become "hands on." They are supposed to remain detached so as to be free to look around, gather dots, and connect them. If the STA was out in the plant trying to restore power or take steps to cope with the loss of power, the STA erred by straying from assigned responsibilities.

2) The tech specs say that the drywell pressure causes an automatic trip when pressure rises to 1.88 psig or less. The event report says that operators manually tripped the reactor as pressure neared 1.3 psig on the rise. I suspect that this is not the signal that any one bypassed because it's wicked hard to bypass this one.

3) The event report states that operators turned HPCI off after it had automatically initiated. The TMI operators turned off an automatically stated makeup system, which contributed much to that meltdown. NRC may be irked with the haste at which HPCI was turned off, but turning if off would be standard BWR procedure for such a situation.

4) Bad deed to avoid increased NRC oversight doesn't make sense. The unplanned scrams performance indicator shows some margin for another scram or two:

The NRC recently sent a Chilled Work Environment letter to TVA due to about half the operators feeling that management would retaliate against them for raising safety concerns. Seems that in November 2015, TVA sanctioned several operators. TVA contends that the sanctions were for misdeeds occurring about five weeks earlier. The operators contend the sanctions were in response to concerns the operators raised a day or two before the sanctions were levied. Since the NRC issued its CWE letter in March 2016 after asking around, it seems that NRC believed the operators' story instead of managements.


I relay this history because it may apply to the morale of the work force at Susquehanna. If the work force believes that the 10 terminations were for the wrong reason, it won't matter if they were for the right reason.


Besides 10 seems like way too many managers to mess up a single event. With 10 people you can play 5 on 5 basketball. It typically only takes 1 to 3 managers to mess up an event. They may have been wanting to trim 10 positions and found 7-9 draftees to complement the 1-3 volunteers.

NIRS TELEBRIEFING July 13: Drinking Radioactive Water--EPA proposes massive radioactive contamination levels

July 1, 2016

Dear Friends,

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has quietly proposed to raise the allowable levels of radioactivity in drinking water a nuclear incident to hundreds of times their current limits. If this guidance goes through, EPA's action will allow people to drink water with concentrations of radioactivity at vastly higher levels.

Look no further than the current water crisis in Flint, Michigan to understand concern that the EPA will not act to protect public health in an emergency. In this case, the EPA is attempting to ensure that it would not have to act decisively to protect public health!

But there is still time to act.

Call in to the July 13 telebriefing to find out more.

You are invited to join us on WEDNESDAY JULY 13 for a national telebriefing: Dangerous Drinking Water, with presentations by leading experts and activists:

    Diane D’Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director, Nuclear Information and Resource Service
    Daniel Hirsch, Director, Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy, University of California Santa Cruz
    Emily Wurth, Water Program Director, Food and Water Watch
    Moderated by NIRS Executive Director, Tim Judson

The open and free event will be on the phone, starting at 8 pm eastern, 7 pm central, 6 pm mountain and 5 pm pacific. We will reserve the second half of the program for questions and discussion.

Register to attend the July 13 telebriefing.

The program will focus on EPA Guidance that massively increases the permitted levels of radioactivity in drinking water for years after any nuclear incident that requires consideration of “protective action,” ranging from a spill, leak or transport accident to a dirty bomb or nuclear meltdown—a nuclear  accident of any kind, big or small. Allowable concentrations of radioactive elements allowed to come out of your tap would rise hundreds or even thousands of times above the current Maximum Concentration Levels allowed under the Safe Drinking Water Act regulations. Click here to review EPA’s proposal.

Nuclear Energy is Dirty in many dimensions, but first, and foremost because of its dangerous ionizing radiation. The EPA guidance, allowing us to drink highly radioactive water is a clever effort to bypass existing limits, which the law prevents from being weakened. It is yet another way to shift liability and cleanup costs to the public from industry and government in case of a “nuclear event.” For instance, for most radionuclides the Safe Drinking Water levels are based on no more than 4 millirems a year exposure from drinking water; the proposed water PAGs would allow 500 millirems a year with no notice, and no action to limit exposure to adults. This difference protects the government and industry from any liability from massively increased health consequences.

Although EPA for the first time ever admits that those under 15 years of age are at greater risk than adults the draft PAG only pays lip-service to considering a lower level which is still enormously higher than current water limits. This is in addition to rest of EPA PAGs, which allow even more exposure from air and food.

Call in to learn more about this federal guidance and how to help stop it.

Thanks for all you do,

Mary Olson, Southeast Office Director

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Three Mile Island: NRC Investigation Report No. 1-2015-010

NRC Investigation Report No. 1-2015-010

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NRC Publishes Annual Report to Congress on Nuclear Security Inspections

Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Press Release
No: 16-038 June 30, 2016
Contact: Maureen Conley, 301-415-8200

NRC Publishes Annual Report to Congress on Nuclear Security Inspections

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has made available to the public an unclassified version of its annual report to Congress detailing the previous year’s security inspection program. The report is required under the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

The report covers the NRC’s security inspection program, including force-on-force exercises, for commercial nuclear power reactors and Category I fuel cycle facilities for calendar year 2015.

“The report provides information regarding the overall security and safeguards performance of the commercial nuclear power industry and Category I fuel cycle facilities to keep Congress informed of the NRC’s efforts to oversee the protection of the nation’s civilian nuclear power infrastructure and strategic special nuclear material against terrorist attacks,” NRC Chairman Stephen G. Burns said.

In 2015, the NRC conducted 242 security inspections at commercial nuclear power plants and Category I fuel cycle facilities. Those included 22 force-on-force inspections, involving simulated attacks on the facilities to test the effectiveness of a licensee’s security. The NRC’s security program and publicly available results of the inspections are discussed in the report.

Whenever NRC inspectors identify a security finding during an inspection, they ensure the licensee implements appropriate compensatory measures to correct the situation. Details of security findings are considered sensitive and not released to the public.

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NRC Amends Licensing, Inspection and Annual Fees for Fiscal Year 2016

Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Press Release
No: 16-037 June 27, 2016
Contact: David McIntyre, 301-415-8200

NRC Amends Licensing, Inspection and Annual Fees for Fiscal Year 2016
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has amended its regulations to reflect the licensing, inspection, special project, and annual fees it will charge applicants and licensees for fiscal year (FY) 2016. The amended regulations reduce annual fees for most licensees primarily due to a decrease in the NRC’s budget.

The final fee rule, published June 24 in the Federal Register, includes fees required by law to recover approximately 90 percent of the agency’s budget. A proposed rule was published for public comment on March 23, 2016.

For FY 2016, the NRC’s required fee recovery amount, after billing and collection adjustments, is $882.9 million. Approximately 38 percent, or $332.7 million, of the fees would recover the cost of specific services to applicants and licensees under 10 CFR Part 170. The remaining 62 percent, or
$550.7 million, would be billed as annual fees to licensees under 10 CFR Part 171.

Annual fees for FY 2016 decrease by 3.1 percent over last year for operating reactors, 6 percent for fuel facilities, 2.4 percent for research and test reactors, and 11.7 percent for spent fuel storage/reactor decommissioning licensees. Fees increase by 7.6 percent for most uranium recovery licensees and decrease by 18.2 percent for Department of Energy activities related to the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978.

The final rule includes several changes from the FY 2015 rule. For instance, the NRC has lowered the hourly rate of staff review time from $268 to $265 for FY 2016, and fees charged under 10 CFR Part 170 have been updated accordingly.

Another change is that the NRC will now recover the agency’s costs in responding to significant requests for information, records, or NRC employee testimony in lawsuits where the NRC is not a named party; these are commonly referred to as “Touhy requests.” The final rule will assess hourly rate fees on all Touhy requests that require over 50 NRC staff hours.

The NRC estimates the FY 2016 annual fees will be paid by licensees of 100 operating commercial power reactors, four research and test reactors, 122 spent nuclear fuel storage and decommissioning reactor facilities, nine fuel cycle facilities, 10 uranium recovery facilities and approximately 3,000 nuclear materials licensees.

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Unanimous Vote Confirms Ft. Calhoun Nuclear Plant Is Definitely Closing: Beyond Nuclear, June 16, 2016

Beyond Nuclear, June 16, 2016

The Board of the Omaha Public Power District has confirmed the promised closure of its Ft. Calhoun nuclear plant in a unanimous vote.  Ft. Calhoun will close by the end of the year. OPPD President and Chief Executive, Tim Burke, articulated what is becoming rapidly more apparent industry-wide: the costly nuclear plant cannot compete with cheaper sources of electricity.  These days, that source is rapidly becoming wind power.  "This is simply an economic decision. The economics have been going so fast the other way that we can’t seem to justify this anymore,” said 30-year board member John Green. But the financial headaches are far from over.  Once shuttered, the plant must be decommissioned, a process that it is estimated will take 35 years and cost at least $1 billion.

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**CORRECTED** Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station - Evaluated Emergency Preparedness Exercise Inspection Report 05000277/2016502 and 05000278/2016502

**CORRECTED** Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station - Evaluated Emergency Preparedness Exercise Inspection Report 05000277/2016502 and 05000278/2016502

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TMI Siren Test on Thursday at 12:15 p.m.


Sirens to sound for three minutes at 12:15 p.m.

LONDONDERRY TWP, PA (May 31, 2016) — Exelon Generation will conduct its semi-annual, full volume test of the emergency warning sirens surrounding Three Mile Island Generating Station on Thursday, June 2 at approximately 12:15 p.m. This is one of two semi-annual tests performed each year.

The TMI emergency warning siren system consists of 96 sirens located in parts of Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties that are located within a 10-mile radius of TMI.  The purpose of the sirens is to alert residents to tune to an Emergency Alert Broadcast Station for information from Pennsylvania state officials.   During the test the Emergency Alert Broadcast System will not be activated.  

Three Mile Island Generating Station is located approximately 12 miles south of Harrisburg.  The plant generates enough carbon-free electricity for 800,000 homes.

Important to Safety

NRC seeks to define the term “important to safety”

The regulations in 10 CFR Part 50 on reactor safety designate some structures systems, and components as safety related.

Outside of this group, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission routinely refers to some non-safety-related items as “important to safety.” The NRC has received a petition for rulemaking requesting that the agency amend its regulations to define the term “important to safety,” and the NRC has docketed the petition and opened it to public comment.

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PJM Capacity Auction Results

Attached is a news release from Exelon announcing the results of the 2019/20 PJM Capacity Auction. 

Three Mile Island did not “clear” the 2019-2020 PJM Base Residual Capacity Auction.  Last year TMI did not clear the 2018-2019 capacity auction.   That means the plant will not receive capacity payments for those periods.  While PJM capacity payments are only one source of the plant’s operating revenue, they are an important source.  While this outcome is disappointing, there are no current plans to close TMI, but the plant remains financially challenged.

There are a number of factors that play into a retirement decision, and the results of this auction are only piece of that decision-making process.  Some of the other pieces include operating costs, total revenue, long-term commitments, and the potential for federal/state regulatory or legislative environmental policies that adequately compensate the plant’s around the clock zero-emission energy production.  As long as state and federal energy policies fail to adequately compensate nuclear energy’s many environmental and economic benefits, we will continue to experience challenges to the profitability of many of the nation’s nuclear facilities, including TMI.  We remain hopeful that power markets will recover, but if we do not see a long-term path to sustainable profitability, we must consider all options, including shutdown.
Ralph DeSantis


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