Union of Concerned Scientists
indian POint Unit 3 (bUChanan, n , febrUary 1993 tO JUly 1995)
The New York Power Authority shut down Indian Point Unit 3 in February 1993 to fix problems identified in a backup safety system. Less than six weeks later, the NRC invoked its right to over- see the restart of a troubled plant following an extended outage. This seemingly prompt regula- tory response, however, needs to be seen in the proper context.
The New York Power Authority also owned and operated the FitzPatrick reactor in Scriba, NY. FitzPatrick had been shut down from November 1991 until January 1993 to resolve a litany of programmatic problems—the same litany spelled out on the NRC’s April 1993 restart list for Indian Point Unit 3. The NRC considered these prob- lems serious enough at FitzPatrick that it did not allow that reactor to be restarted until all of the problems were fixed; yet the agency know- ingly allowed Indian Point Unit 3 to operate with the same problems until FitzPatrick had been restarted.
The NRC clearly put the New York Power Authority’s generating capacity ahead of safety at Indian Point. To properly protect public health, the NRC must require plant owners to correct safety problems when they are identified, not when it becomes more convenient and less unprofitable to do so.
millStOne UnitS 2 and 3 (WaterfOrd, Ct, febrUary 1996 tO may 1999 and marCh 1996 tO JUly 1998)
Millstone and Ohio’s Davis-Besse competed for the third worst NRC regulatory performance in connection with year-plus outages. It was a tough call—the NRC knew about many long- standing safety problems at Millstone but did nothing about them, and was clueless about the equal number of longstanding safety problems at Davis-Besse.
We decided the NRC’s oversight of Millstone was worse because the agency knew that performance levels were low and heading lower, but did very little about this disturbing trend until plant engineer George Galatis and the nonprofit organization We The People brought public attention to the plant’s unsafe practices. The NRC’s inspector general ultimately validated Galatis’s concerns, and ime magazine depicted the agency as an impotent regulator. The NRC had begun seeing warning signs at Millstone as early as the 1980s, but tolerated—and possibly enabled—its sustained inadequate performance until 1996.
Fortunately, the regulatory miscues described above do not tell the whole story. The following year-plus outages demonstrated admirable regula- tory prowess by the NRC:
nine mile POint Unit 1 (lyCOming, n , marCh 1982 tO JUly 1983)
The NRC’s performance prior to and during this outage was nothing less than outstanding. As Nine Mile Point was preparing to restart its Unit 1 reac- tor following a brief maintenance outage, it was an NRC inspector rather than a plant worker who discovered water leaking from a small crack in a pipe connected to the reactor vessel. Had the reac- tor been restarted before this problem was found, the crack could have triggered a serious accident.
The NRC’s response to the discovery was equally commendable: the agency promptly required other plant owners to look for similar cracks. As inspection results came in from these plants, the NRC adjusted its requirements— more stringent in some areas, less burdensome in others—as appropriate. The agency thus ensured this problem was corrected not only at Nine Mile Point but also at all other reactors.