MOX site contractor won't be punished for violations

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Com­­mission has found that two reported violations at the mixed-oxide fuel fabrication project at Savannah River Site did occur but are not subject to a civil penalty.

 

In a Sept. 28 letter to CB&I Areva MOX Services, the plant’s contractor, the NRC said that ledger assemblies used to support floor panels were faulty and that CB&I Areva failed to conduct adequate audits of contractor Specialty Maintenance and Con­struction Inc.

In a response dated Aug. 17, CB&I Areva outlined the measures it had taken to correct the violations, including full repairs on the ledger assemblies, physical inspection of all welded material in the MOX plant and implementation of other safety procedures.

“The above completed and planned corrective actions will restore compliance with the licensing design basis, further improve MOX Ser­­vices vendor oversight, and enhance the receipt inspection process to minimize the potential of a recurrence of a similar issue,” CB&I Areva President David Del Vecchio wrote in his response.

The NRC could have levied a base civil penalty of $35,000 for the violations but did not. It wrote that “significant violations in the future could result in a civil penalty.” The NRC also recognized that there were no “actual consequences to the workers or the public,” but it still considers the potential consequences to be significant.

Tom Clements, the director of nuclear watchdog group SRS Watch, said in a statement that “other significant problems may lurk undetected.”

“The NRC must now review all the welds in the MOX plant along with documentation associated with them and not accept self-inspection by MOX Services as we have seen that approach has failed,” Clements said. “Given the critical safety aspects of welds, the NRC must demonstrate that it has a comprehensive inspection program in place and inspect all welds and not just a small sample of them.”

The MOX project came out of an agreement between the U.S. and Russia to dispose of 68 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium. The material would be enough to create about 17,000 nuclear weapons. Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended the agreement earlier this month. The Obama administration wants to terminate the MOX project.

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