The Browns Ferry nuclear plant near Athens, AL, had a fire in one of its control rooms in January, but the public didn’t hear about it until this week.
The roughly 10-minute fire in the Unit 3 control room was the result of a 34-year-old electrical component, some four times older than its recommended shelf life, according to a TVA incident report.
TVA’s report on the Jan. 26 fire went to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) March 26. An NRC spokesman said Friday he had no explanation why the report didn’t see the light of day until July 9.
The fire was the result of a failed power supply in a panel. It burned out some plant alarms and warning lights. TVA determined the fire did not affect safety systems and did not last long enough to warrant immediate reporting to the NRC.
An NRC inspector at the plant responded to the control room shortly after the fire but there were conflicting versions of what occurred, said NRC spokesman Joey Ledford.
“He was told there was no fire, no damage to any adjacent equipment,” Ledford said. “He asked all the typical questions and determined it had been a minor problem.”
Then TVA issued the report in March, Ledford said, which was the first time the NRC “heard there was an actual fire.”
Ledford said the NRC is still reviewing the incident, but a “disposition” will be ready by late August. He said there has been no inspection finding issued.
Ray Golden, a TVA spokesman said control room operators smelled burning insulation and acted quickly on the day of the fire. Golden said no plant operation suffered from the fire, as “redundant” systems provided the same function as the burned out panel.
The fire caused the utility to develop a maintenance program for the capacitors, which do not deal directly with safety systems.
The TVA report indicates there were three previous incidents involving power supply problems and “annunciator modules” that occurred in 2008 and 2009.
TVA reported the Unit 3 capacitors all dated back to the original construction of the unit, 34 years ago.