NRC increases oversight at New York's Nine Mile, FitzPatrick nuclear units

Tue Feb 19, 2013 5:53pm EST

Feb 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it will increase oversight activity at two New York nuclear reactors due to declining performance trends seen last year, the agency said on Tuesday.

The Nine Mile Point Unit 1, owned by Constellation Energy Nuclear Group LLC, and the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear power plant, owned by Entergy Corp, both located in Scriba, New York, were cited for different reasons.

Nine Mile Point 1 was cited because of the frequency of unplanned scrams, or shutdowns, per 7,000 hours, or roughly 10 months of operation. Constellation is a joint venture between Exelon and EDF Group of France.

If a plant has more than three unplanned scrams in that period, the NRC's performance indicator goes from "green," the least serious level, to "white," which subjects the plant to additional NRC scrutiny, the agency said.

At the end of 2012, the Nine Mile Point 1 rolling average of unplanned shutdowns stood at 3.5, the NRC said.

At FitzPatrick, the NRC is concerned about the number of unplanned power changes per 7,000 hours of operation, the agency said.

If the number exceeds six during the period, the indicator moves from "green" to "white" and the NRC steps up oversight. FitzPatrick's rolling average was tallied at 6.5 at the end of the fourth quarter of 2012.

"Performance indicators are designed to signal when there are trends at nuclear power plants in need of additional oversight by the NRC," Region I Administrator Bill Dean said in a statement.

Increased oversight will include a supplemental inspection at each site to provide assurance that operators understand the reasons for the indicator changes and that the issues have been addressed, the NRC said.

"We will follow our process and ensure that any of the underlying problems contributing to the Nine Mile Point 1 and FitzPatrick indicator changes receive the attention they deserve," Dean said.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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