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NRC returns NFS to 'normal' level of oversight

Since 2004, Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS) has operated under a level of increased oversight by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), including the addition of a second resident NRC inspector at the facility.
The NRC announced last week that because of improved performance by NFS in recent years the company is returning to “normal” levels of NRC oversight and inspection similar to other facilities of its type.
According to a press release issued on March 5 by the NRC, “… sustained improvement over the past several years, verified by NRC inspections, led to the conclusion that a return to the normal or core oversight level is warranted.”
The NRC notified NFS of the oversight change in a letter addressed to NFS President Joel Duling and signed by NRC Regional Administrator Victor M. McCree.
The letter, dated March 5, includes information about the NRC’s decision to increase the level of oversight at NFS more than a decade ago.
“During the 2004 Licensee Performance Review (LPR) for NFS for the period January 20, 2003 and ending on January 24, 2004, the NRC concluded that NFS’ performance and ongoing facility changes warranted increased oversight and inspection effort, including the addition of a second resident inspector,” the letter states.
Roger Hannah, senior public affairs officer with the NRC, told the Johnson City Press last week that different factors led to the NRC’s increased oversight beginning in 2004.
“There were several incidents,” Hannah said to the Johnson City Press. “There was the feeling, based on review by the inspectors, that they may not have been doing as good a job as they should in meeting the regulations and having the proper focus on safety. And they were also making some changes at the facility. They were changing some equipment, they were doing some different kinds of activities, so all those things kind of led us to make the decision to increase the oversight.”
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During a review of NFS, which took place from January 2013 to December 2014, the NRC inspected several areas of operation at the Erwin facility, the letter states.
“Overall, the staff determined that NFS has continued to conduct activities safely and securely, and in a manner that protects public health and the environment,” the letter continues. “Based on our review of activities, no area needing improvement was identified for the areas of Safety Operations, Radiological Controls, Facility Support and Other Areas.”
Also contributing to the NRC’s decision was the completion of a Safety Culture Confirmatory Order last month at NFS, according to the NRC.
“Our most recent review of NFS found no areas needing improvement and we believe the management and staff of the facility now have the appropriate focus on safety and environmental protection required by the NRC,” McCree said.
McCree’s letter to Duling also states that as of April 4, only one NRC resident inspector will be working at NFS.
“Your facility will continue to have a Senior Resident Inspector who will provide the requisite oversight,” McCree adds.
The NRC’s decision to change the level of oversight at NFS will be the topic of a public meeting set for April 23. The time and location of this meeting have not yet been announced.