March 28. 2013 10:06PM

Inspectors satisfied with Seabrook safety procedures

Union Leader Correspondent

HAMPTON - On Wednesday night, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission held an open house to discuss their annual review of safety performance at the Seabrook nuclear power plant, but hardly anyone showed up.

About a dozen members of the NRC were on hand to talk one-on-one with attendees about the annual review, the plant's renewal application, and ongoing issues related to Alkali-Silica Reaction, or ASR, a chemical reaction that is causing concrete degradation in localized areas of the plant.

About an hour into the two-hour open house, a couple from Massachusetts were the only two members of the public to show up at the Best Western conference center where the open house was held.

A meeting specific to the ASR issue is expected to take place in the next few months. In December, an ASR meeting drew a crowd of nearly 100 residents from New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Overall, resident inspectors at the plant said they are comfortable with the plant's safety and operability.

During 2012 they corrected an inspection finding related to emergency preparedness that resulted in a "white" finding, meaning it had low to moderate safety significance. Seabrook received increased oversight from the NRC as a result of the August 2012 finding and the NRC closed the finding in mid-March after concluding that NextEra had appropriately addressed the performance issue.

The plant is expected to return to the normal level of oversight as of April 1.

Any other concerns fell in the "green" category of very low risk.

In 2012, the NRC devoted about 8,900 hours of inspection to the Seabrook plant, including inspections devoted to the ASR issue.

The NRC will continue increased inspections at Seabrook as testing related to the ASR issue continues.

Al Griffith, spokesman for NextEra, said they are pleased the NRC once again determined the plant is operating safely.

"These annual assessments are critical in nature, as they should be, and provide opportunities for us to improve our performance," Griffith said.