Documents released Wednesday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission revealed details of its latest inspection of the Mixed Oxide Fuel fabrication facility at South Carolina’s Savannah River Site, including a citation for a safety violation.
MOX contractor CB&I AREVA MOX Services was cited for loose bolts found in the heating, ventilation and air condition, or HVAC, ductwork. Documents refer to the ductwork as “safety-related.” According to the NRC, this is the second time inspectors have encountered the same violation.
When a violation is discovered, the contractor must submit a corrective action plan to the NRC. An NRC spokesperson said an issue bigger than the violation itself is the fact that the company did not follow through with its plan and didn’t correct the issue.
The violation is at the lowest severity level. According to the NRC, the agency wrote the citation to ensure the contractor comes back into compliance with regulations.
“Although the original NRC-identified violation was entered into the corrective action program, the loose bolts on flanged connections for safety-related HVAC Supply Air ductwork were not brought into compliance and no objective evidence of plans to restore compliance was provided,” the NRC wrote in a letter to MOX Services President and COO David Del Vecchio.
The inspection report said, “The existence of nonconforming bolted connections had previously been identified by NRC inspectors as more than minor because it resulted in an adverse impact to the quality of the construction of safety-related components
The citation also caught the attention of outspoken MOX critic and nuclear activist Tom Clements, director of SRS Watch.
“We are extremely concerned that ductwork installation problems in the MOX plant are a major cause of cost overruns and construction delays and this violation is but an indication of those problems,” he said.
Clements also said that the issuance of a single violation isn’t enough to assure the public that the massive and complex project is getting proper oversight from the NRC. An NRC spokesman said the regulatory agency completes inspections to the best of its ability.
“We have limited resources and people,” he said. “It just isn’t possible to inspect every single wire and bolt in the facility.”
The structure is packed with intricate systems of tubing, wiring and monitoring equipment, and is billions over budget and years beyond deadline. Originally slated for completion in 2016, years of work remain. The U.S. Department of Energy said the facility won’t be complete until 2048 but a contractor estimate puts the completion date in 2029.
AREVA MOX Services has 30 days to respond to the NRC, including a plan for corrective action and expected date for compliance. A spokesperson at Areva said the company would wait until that response was submitted before answering questions from the media.
Thomas Gardiner can be reached at (706) 823-3339 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.