NRC questions failure rate of new Vogtle reactor operators

Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 10:41 AM
Last updated Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012 4:51 AM
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The U.S. Nuclear Reg­ulatory Commission wants Southern Nuclear to explain why an unusually high number of reactor operators failed their initial licensing tests at Plant Vogtle last year.

“They are doing a root cause analysis, and we’re going through a lengthy investigation and analysis, too,” said Katherine Melvin, a spokeswoman at Southern Nuclear.

Ten new operators were tested last spring, but only three applicants passed both the operating test and the written examination and received licenses, according to NRC records.

In a letter dated Monday to Tom Tynan, Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle vice president, the NRC operator licensing branch chief, Bruno Caballero, said federal regulators will hold a public meeting March 21 “to provide an opportunity to discuss the high failure rate on the April 2011 initial operator license examination, including planned corrective actions.”

The licensing candidates were being trained for work at the Waynesboro plant’s existing Units 1 and 2 and had undergone a rigorous, two-year training program before taking the certification tests, Melvin said.

“They were candidates, going for NRC certification,” she said. “This doesn’t affect the running of the reactors. We are fully staffed with licensed operators, and those people go through constant training.”

Such a high failure rate is not unheard of, but it is unusual, said NRC spokesman Joey Ledford.

“Normally, you see a passing rate of 80 to 90 percent,” he said. “But even in the best circumstances, not everyone passes the initial operator license exam.”

The training and examination program used at Plant Vogtle is under scrutiny, along with the NRC’s oversight program to screen and approve such tests before they are given.

According to correspondence included with the meeting notice, the exams were developed by Vogtle training staff but modified after deficiencies were identified by the NRC, which later signed off on the exams.

The March 21 meeting in Atlanta will let Southern Nuclear officials present their findings and discuss corrective actions that could improve the reactor operator training programs and the passing rate on initial licensing exams.

MEETING SET

WHAT: Southern Nuclear officials and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will discuss why a high number of nuclear reactor operators at Plant Vogtle failed initial licensing tests.

WHEN: 1 p.m. March 21

WHERE: NRC Region II, 245 Peachtree Center Ave. NE, Suite 1200, Atlanta.

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Little Lamb
43434
Points
Little Lamb 01/24/12 - 12:46 pm
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Rob Pavey reported: The exams

Rob Pavey reported:

The exams were developed by Vogtle training staff but modified after deficiencies were identified by the NRC, which later signed off on the exams as sufficient.

Excuse me, but doesn't that statement already answer the question of why the failure rate went up?

1. Regulators find deficiencies in the old test.
2. Teachers write new tests.
3. Regulators find new tests more rigorous and sign off.
4. Teachers give new, more rigorous tests.
5. Failure rate is higher.
6. Duh.

There's my root cause analysis. Can I submit a bill to Southern Nuclear?

Semibored
0
Points
Semibored 01/24/12 - 01:14 pm
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0
Is this really a problem?

Is this really a problem? Seems you would want the best of the group running the reactor. They're not testing for a custodial assignment. Look at the bright side. For all who failed, there's always politics.

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 01/25/12 - 04:39 am
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But many applicants had

But many applicants had passed the Georgia High School Graduation Test?

Little Lamb
43434
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Little Lamb 01/25/12 - 08:50 am
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Yes, the dumbing down of

Yes, the dumbing down of America's public education system will lead to dumbing down in professions all across the spectrum. First, nuclear reactor operators; next airline pilots; then heart surgeons.

Clean Water
11
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Clean Water 01/25/12 - 11:03 am
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Why would you have a meeting

Why would you have a meeting about Plant Voglte in Atlanta? All meetings should be held in the community that that the facility is located in. All public meetings on Savannah River Site should be held in Allendale, Barnwell and Bamberg Counties, where the people have been effected. Water and Air. What do they have to hid?

itsanotherday1
39416
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itsanotherday1 01/25/12 - 11:44 am
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My son is in the first phase

My son is in the first phase of that training and he says it is not that challenging. He pretty much scores very high on all of his exams. He also says the place has way too many that are more adept at getting out of work than are at getting r done. It is a union shop if that tells you anything. He has already decided that he wants to climb the ladder to management and get out of that union atmosphere ASAP.

Little Lamb
43434
Points
Little Lamb 01/25/12 - 11:52 am
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@ Clean Water — the meeting

@ Clean Water — the meeting that is going to be held in Atlanta is about training, not about clean air and water.

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