The owners of the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Scriba, NY, need to take corrective actions to address violations involving the radiation protection program at the plant.
The violations, which resulted in the termination of four employees of the facility, including one convicted of violating federal law, stem from Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) investigations conducted at the plant in 2009 and 2010 involving radiation protection technicians not properly executing their duties.
Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc., owner of the FitzPatrick plant, agreed to implement company and industrywide corrective actions as a result of the commission’s discovery.
“They have already done numerous things to try to address these problems,” said Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the commission. “But now they are going to have to do even more. That includes not only dealing with the FitzPatrick plant, but Entergy’s entire nuclear fleet and the industry as well.”
According to a report released by the commission, the violations include a failure by technicians to perform required respirator fit testing on multiple occasions from 2006-09; a failure to maintain accurate docutests during the same period; a failure to perform and/or accurately document independent verification of certain valve positions after the valves were manipulated between September 2007 and December 2009; a failure to document a personal contamination event on at least one occasion; a failure to perform a contamination survey or check prior to the removal of an item from the plant’s radiologically controlled area; and a failure to carry out daily radiological surveys of a reactor building airlock on multiple occasions from 2006-09.
The commission’s investigation led to criminal charges filed against Michael McCarrick, 56, who was a former radiation protection technician at the plant. McCarrick deliberately falsified documentation, claiming he had performed the proper tests to ensure workers going into high-radiation areas of the plant were wearing properly fitted breathing apparatuses, Sheehan said.
Found guilty of the charges, McCarrick got a sentence of one year of probation and a $1,000 fine.
Despite the violations discovered, Sheehan said there were no health or safety impacts identified at the plant.
“We looked at that very closely,” Sheehan said. “Even though, for instance, they didn’t do the checks that they were supposed to do in areas of the plant … there is enough checks and balances in place to ensure that there were not any safety impacts.”
Sheehan said workers must carry tools that measures the amount of radiation exposure, and workers entering “high-dose areas” must have work permits limiting the amount of time they are in those areas.
There were no monetary penalties associated with the violations, but Entergy will have to spend money to implement the changes and orders mandated by the commission.
“We will be following up to make sure that they carry out all of these corrective actions,” Sheehan said. He added there are deadlines in place for the various actions necessitated by the commission, and the failure to comply could lead to further penalties.
The company agrees with the commission’s orders and that at no time did the violations put workers or the public at any kind of risk, Entergy said in a statement.
“We are confident the corrective actions taken in response to the conduct identified in the 2009 investigation were thorough and comprehensive and provide assurance that the contributing causes of the performance issues associated with this event will prevent recurrence,” the statement said. “The additional actions requested by the NRC are being added to our corrective actions program and will be acted upon.