Contractors at Entergy’s Waterford 3 nuclear power plant in Killona, LA, on the west bank of St. Charles Parish failed to conduct required hourly fire inspections and falsified records for 10 months to show the inspections occurred, federal officials said.
In a Dec. 14 letter notifying Entergy of its findings, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) staff also said an Entergy Operations Inc. supervisor “deliberately failed to identify and take corrective actions upon being provided with information of suspected wrongdoing by contract fire watch individuals.” The NRC conducted a 15-month investigation.
NRC officials found a manager for the contracting firm providing the fire inspection workers “deliberately provided incomplete and inaccurate information to an access authorization reviewing official regarding the trustworthiness and reliability of a contract fire watch individual.” Entergy identified the company that provided the fire watch workers as GCA Contractors.
The NRC has given Entergy the opportunity of requesting a “pre-decisional enforcement conference.” Or the company may request “alternative dispute resolution,” before the commission decides on enforcement penalties.
The hourly fire watch tours are a requirement to assure no fires break out in parts of the huge nuclear power plant building which houses sensitive equipment, including wiring and piping involved in operating the nuclear reactor during accidents or emergencies. Workers skipped the inspections and the records ended up falsified between July 2013 and April 2014.
“Entergy does not tolerate this form of behavior among employees or contractors in any way, and we have robust systems and processes in place to prevent and uncover inaccuracies, whether intentional or not, in documentation,” said Mike Bowling, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, the Entergy Corp. subsidy that operates the plant. “Trust, honesty and integrity are among the key platforms to which all our employees must commit and adhere to.
“Although we cannot discuss specific measures taken with individuals beyond the NRC’s release, we can say that all involved have faced disciplinary action,” Bowling said. “Also, it is important to note that Entergy first identified these issues, notified regulators, fully investigated the issue, and took the appropriate corrective actions.”
According to a summary of the investigation provided to Entergy by the NRC, the commission first received information there was an issue related to fire watch tours on Jan. 21, 2014.
“Additional information also was received that a Waterford Steam Electric Station security officer questioned fire watch personnel about the absence of a door alarm that is usually received on a security door when rounds are conducted,” the summary said. “The security officer’s concern led to the licensee reviewing card reader information for the rounds which identified numerous instances of the fire watch tours not being conducted; although the surveillance records indicated that the tours had been completed.”
The summary said three individuals who conducted fire watch tours admitted to falsifying records. Three others denied doing so, but records for the door alarms confirmed numerous instances of missed inspections accompanied by signed records saying the inspections ended up conducted, the summary said.
During the investigation, an Entergy supervisor “admitted that the condition was not properly documented and addressed when the concern was brought to his attention,” the summary said.
And the investigation also found that a manager for the contracting firm “failed to provide complete and accurate information” when questioned during an investigation involving the potential reinstatement of one of the fire watch employees.
He also didn’t admit providing incomplete and inaccurate information to Waterford staff overseeing the authorization of access to interior parts of the power plant, according to the summary. That authorization is a requirement of the fire watch inspectors.