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NRC talks NFS safety at meeting

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a public meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 30, to review the current status of safety at Nuclear Fuel Services and discussed an analysis of cancer risks in populations living near nuclear facilities.
The plant has had recent safety violations that were discussed. On June 17, an NFS supervisor observed an employee “improperly operating two valves that are identified as key safety devices,” according to the NRC. “The valves were propped open, which rendered them unable to perform their intended safety function.”
The valves are in place to be operated manually in order to prevent a hazardous chemical from spilling on the floor. The report says that the employee’s supervisor observed the incident and immediately took corrective action to ensure system safety.
Additionally, NFS failed to file a proper report within one hour of the incident. As a result of the entire situation, NFS was cited for two violations: failing to make a report within the required time frame and circumvention of safety related components.
The NRC also addressed the recent inspection as well as the current state of safety at NFS.
The NRC defines its mission as “licenses and regulates the Nation’s civilian use of radioactive materials to protect public health and safety, promote the common defense security and protect the environment.”
As a result of the violations, the NRC did indicate that NFS is being considered for “heightened supervision” however, NFS appears to be in good standing considering the situation.
“We’re seeing safety changes at the site that are encouraging,” said Tony Gody.
The NRC conducts approximately 2,000 hours of inspections at the plant every year. The NRC stated that while NFS’ safety performance has improved, enhanced oversight will continue until the agency is satisfied that NFS can maintain their level of adequate performance.
“It is our job to recognize unsafe behaviors and take action,” said Gody.
The NRC’s current review period began in January 2013 and will continue until the end of December.
The NRC employs a wide variety of tactics to help regulate nuclear industries. They employ experienced personnel from various backgrounds including engineering, radiological, nuclear and radiological expertise. A resident inspector stationed in each community serves as “the agency’s eyes and ears.” Those individuals conduct inspections, monitor major work projects and interact with plant workers and the public.
Among the pending NRC actions pertaining to NFS, an inspection team will be implemented to verify compliance with the NRC. Additionally, they independently assess the current safety culture using focus groups in select areas. The inspections are planned for completion in 2014 and, based on the results, the NRC will determine whether or not its demands have been met and whether or not to close the situation.
The group also discussed an upcoming study commissioned by the NRC.
The study will be done by the National Academy of Sciences and has been implemented to analyze and study the cancer risks of people living near nuclear facilities. The study is being conducted as an update to a similar study which was conducted in 1990, which indicated that there was no increased risk of cancer mortality due to living in close proximity to such facilities.
The study will encompass six nuclear power plants and one nuclear fuel facility, which is NFS. The results of the pilot planning phase of the study are expected to be available by early 2015.