"Nuclear regulators probe two recent incidents at Peach Bottom plant”
Nuclear regulators flagged two recent incidents at York County's Peach Bottom nuclear power plant that didn't pose an immediate danger to residents but nonetheless raised concerns from government regulators and a local watchdog group.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission initially issued a white level issue — meaning an event of "moderate concern," according to NRC spokesperson Neil Sheehan — over a May power-loss incident that resulted in an emergency reactor shutdown at the plant located in Peach Bottom Township.
A less severe green issue was raised after inspectors found in August that a discharge valve connected to water pipes in Unit 2 was not automatically closing as it was designed to do.
Both issues are still going through the NRC's regulatory process, Sheehan said. They could result in increased scrutiny at the plant.
Sheehan said the May incident occurred during a construction project on an electrical grid the plant is connected to. Unexpected issues caused the breakers in the plant's switchyard to disconnect some of the power flowing to the reactor in Unit 2, he said.
When an electrical disruption is sensed, he said, the plant’s power system will respond with a partial reactor shut down and insert several control rods into the core to slow down nuclear fission. During the May incident, however, a plant operator caused a full shut down when they cut the remaining flow of power to the reactor. That halted all nuclear fission.
When a spokesperson for Constellation Energy, the company that owns and operates Peach Bottom, was asked about the power loss incident, they issued a statement saying they are reviewing the NRC's inspection report and that there was no risk to public safety during the incident.
Once Constellation responds to the report, Sheehan said the NRC will finalize its inquiry into the event.
Eric Epstein, a longtime local nuclear energy watchdog, said his organization — Three Mile Island Alert — is satisfied with how the NRC is handling the rector shut down issue, they think there is inconsistency in how the NRC handles issues when it comes to the discharge valve problem.
Specifically, Epstein said a malfunctioning water valve should be more cause for concern than the current green-level issue advisory.
"Green is like getting a detention," he said. "White is pretty serious; that's like being called down to the principal's office."
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