US regulators step up oversight at Millstone nuclear plant following safety violation

EnergyAssociated Press

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is stepping up oversight at Connecticut's nuclear plant following a safety violation, the federal agency said Tuesday.

The Millstone Power Station in Waterford was cited for failure to address repetitive problems with a pump that is part of a backup safety system. The pump, which could be used to help cool the reactor in the event of an emergency shutdown, was found to have been operated improperly from May 2013 through February of this year.

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"What concerns the NRC is that despite repeated efforts to repair this important component, the problems persisted and called into the question the pump's past reliability," said David Lew, the NRC's acting regional administrator.

In response to the violation, the NRC will perform a team inspection at the plant, agency spokesman Neil Sheehan said.

Millstone spokesman Ken Holt said the plant traced the problem to a pump bearing that did not meet specifications even though it came from the manufacturer with the correct part and model numbers. He said the pump has been operating properly since the bearing was replaced.

Millstone, which is owned by Richmond, Virginia-based Dominion Resources Inc., supplies half of all power in Connecticut and 12 percent of New England's.

NRC issued a "white" inspection finding for the issue with the pump on Unit 3, meaning an issue of low to moderate safety significance.

Holt said the last time the NRC cited Millstone for a violation of the same severity was for an incident in February 2011 when the power level on a reactor increased when it should not have as operators tested control valves.