NRC notes MOX construction issues

 

ATLANTA — The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atlanta-based inspectors noted three issues in the construction of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at Savannah River Site.

Construction Projects Branch Chief Deborah Seymour itemized them in a recently released April 29 letter to the president of the consortium doing the construction, David Del Vecchio. They are the results of inspections during the first three months of the year.

Most of the categories of activity had no issues cited and inspectors wrote in them that “construction activities were performed in a safe and quality-related manner.”

The three with technical violations were listed as the lowest level of severity, IV, and because the consortium agreed to fix them, the NRC essentially considers them no big deal.

“Based on the results of this inspection, the enclosed report documents findings which were determined to involve violations of NRC requirements,” Seymour wrote. “However, because these findings were Severity Level (SL) IV violations and were entered into your corrective-action program, the NRC is treating them as a non-cited violations (NCVs) consistent with Section 2.3.2 of the NRC Enforcement Policy.”

The issues had to do with the fabrication of steel doors, welding on some components and the way some ductwork was bolted.

In all three, Seymour reported that the consortium made no objection to the inspectors’ conclusions.

There was no response to a reporter’s request for a comment from Gentry Brann, director of corporate communications for CB&I, the lead builder in the consortium.

However, a spokesman for a pro-nuclear group based in Aiken said it’s not uncommon for large construction projects to have instances where builders occasionally make small deviations from the blueprints.

“The process here is that the contractor enters the findings in their own Corrective Action System; then NRC monitors the correction of the findings,” said Mike Johnson, executive director of the Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness. “I believe that the contractor took appropriate action for these violations based on the NRC letter.”

One critic of the MOX program said that while these violations were minor, they are significant because the NRC has made few citations of the project in the past.

“It’s a big step for the NRC to take, and we expect inspections to get more serious given the continued rumors of design and construction problems,” said Tom Clements, director of the SRS Watch advocacy group.

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