August 09. 2012 1:04AM

NRC to keep closer eye on Seabrook after inspection

By GRETYL MACALASTER
Union Leader Correspondent

SEABROOK — Increased oversight will be provided by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after a finding of “low to moderate safety significance” during a recent inspection of the Seabrook power plant.

NextEra Energy Seabrook LLC, the company that owns and operates the plant, is not contesting the finding.

The NRC found that NextEra personnel did not communicate conditions effectively during an emergency exercise in April, and failed to address the deficiency during a post-drill critique.

The “white” finding means it is of low to moderate safety significance, Neal Sheehan, NRC public affairs officer for Region 1, said.

NRC staff did note that NextEra did correct deficiencies as the exercise progressed.

“They did get the word out, but they didn’t get it out when they should have,” Sheehan said.

Al Griffith, spokesman for NextEra Energy, said the oversight was resolved within a minute, and the NRC’s real issue is with the failure of staff to notice the error during the critique.

“Because in the real world, time is of the essence so you would want to get that information out to the states and the counties and the towns so the proper response activities could take place: evacuations if necessary, shuttering, distribution of potassium iodide,” Sheehan said.

He said there are a number of ways NextEra could remedy the problem, including changing the training for emergency responders and revising procedures to make sure participants are more sensitive to changes in conditions.

As a result of the finding, Griffith said there will be changes in training, and every member of the emergency response team will receive information about the experience.

“There is going to be added attention on this,” Griffith said.

Sheehan said prior to the finalization of the inspection finding, NextEra was offered the opportunity to take part in a regulatory conference to present the NRC with additional information related to the finding, but declined.

However, the company did submit a written response in June in which it did not contest the finding, but instead provided results of a root cause analysis of the issue.

The NRC will perform a supplemental inspection at Seabrook to evaluate the company’s root-cause evaluation and its corrective actions. NextEra will notify the agency once it is ready for that review. Neither Sheehan nor Griffith had a timeline for when that might occur.

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Gretyl Macalaster may be reached at gmacalaster@newstote.com.