Nuclear agency reports 'apparent' violations at MOX plant

 

 

The mixed-oxide fuel fabrication project at Savannah River Site has received two “apparent violations” from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, according to a report released this week.

The violations were issued to CB&I Areva MOX Services, the plant’s contractor, in a letter dated July 25. They involve quality control related to ledger assemblies used to support floor panels in the part of the MOX facility that would be used to purify plutonium. Both violations involved the quality of components provided by the contractor Specialty Maintenance and Con­struction Inc. and audits of that company.

During an inspection July 6, according to the letter, MOX Services failed to verify certificates of conformance for the ledgers and that the purchased ledgers met the requirements.

The second violation involved MOX Services’ failure to conduct adequate audits of Specialty Main­tenance and Construction. Audit reports “did not document objective evidence of inspections or surveillances related to manual welding during their audits,” according to the letter.

The violations resulted in the installation of about 100 ledger assemblies with weld deficiencies.

“The two (apparent violations) appear to represent a breakdown in MOX Services’ Quality Assurance program for construction related to a single work activity,” according to the letter.

The letter noted that “no actual nuclear safety consequences resulted from the deficient ledger assembly welds.”

The com­mis­sion has given CB&I Areva MOX Services the chance to respond to the violations.

Tom Clements, the director of nuclear watchdog group SRS Watch, said in a statement that he hopes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducts in-depth investigations at MOX.

“I hope that the issuance of these violations is an indication that the NRC is properly performing its duties, but given the size of the task at hand it remains unclear if the NRC is up to the task at hand,” Clements said. “It is of highest concern that the NRC cited a breakdown in the Quality Assurance program of CB&I Areva MOX Services, a matter that must be immediately addressed and corrected.”

In another letter, dated July 26, the Nuclear Regulatory Commis­sion found no evidence to support an allegation concerning falsification of quality-control documents for ledger assemblies. The allegations concerned false documentation of welds by a quality-control inspector with Specialty Maintenance and Construction.

“The findings point to inadequate training, a vendor going through a learning curve for nuclear work, and vague work instruction packages,” the commission letter said. “Since this situation was identified, SMCI has made improvements and changes to their nuclear program to meet the higher specifications of nuclear work.”

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