* Nuclear agency pinpoints management issues at fuel plant
* Global Nuclear to strengthen training programs
By Jim Brumm
WILMINGTON, N.C. - An executive of Global Nuclear Fuel
agreed with regulatory criticism Thursday that a lack of
organization oversight contributed to problems discovered in
March at the company's Wilmington fuel assembly plant.
Global Nuclear Chief Operating Officer Nichole Holmes said
the GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy operation is strengthening its
training programs to address five performance issues the U.S.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission has labeled "apparent
violations," during an enforcement conference in Atlanta
The Wilmington facility, which assembles nuclear fuel for
use in 40 boiling water reactors in the United States and
Mexico, suspended fuel manufacturing operations this summer for
about three weeks due to failure of warning horns to operate as
Global Nuclear is owned 60 percent by General Electric
(GE.N) and 40 percent by Joint Fuel Co Ltd, a Hitachi-Toshiba
The recent organizational issues came to light during an
NRC inspection of Global Nuclear's fuel assembly operation
following a company report in March of a buildup of uranium
dioxide powder in a grinding station filter.
In a June 29 letter to Global Nuclear, the NRC said the
company's root cause analysis adequately identified the cause
of the buildup, "but did not explore the underlying latent
organizational issues that allowed this event occur."
The NRC determined there were two violations, called level
IV -- the least serious on the agency's ranking system --
resulting from problems of "management oversight,
accountability, and enforcement of expectations."
In its response in July, Global Nuclear Fuel admitted the
violations and outlined corrective actions taken, telling the
NRC, "full compliance has been achieved."
Describing the company's commitment to organization change,
Holmes said the company is interviewing for a training leader
and has hired a project manager to lead efforts in GE Hitachi's
process excellence program designed to enhance problem
identification and simplify the safety process.
In a follow-up inspection report in September, the NRC
described five new "unresolved" performance issues as "apparent
Scott Sparks, the NRC's acting Region II safety officer,
said Thursday's pre-decisional enforcement conference was
required for potential violations at a I, II or III severity
Such violations involve safety and have the potential of
civil penalties, NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said.
Such conferences are the last step in the NRC's
investigation of a potential violation.
(Editing by Eileen O'Grady and Richard Chang)