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Safety issues impacting the
Columbia Generating Station (WPPSS Nuclear Plant 2)

Washington nuclear plant did not correctly check highly exposed workers for radiation Energy Northwest (WPPSS) was written up by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for inadequate checks of Columbia Generating Station workers who inhaled radioactive particles. Tri-City Herald, October 10, 2023

Newly discovered malware could sabotage energy plants U.S. officials announced the discovery of an alarmingly sophisticated and effective system for attacking industrial facilities that includes the ability to cause explosions in the energy industry. Private security experts who worked in parallel with government agencies to analyze the system said it was likely to be Russian, that its top target was probably liquefied natural gas production facilities, and that it would take months or years to develop strong defenses against it. The program manipulates equipment found in virtually all complex industrial plants rather than capitalizing on unknown flaws that can be easily fixed, so almost any plant could fall victim, investigators said. Washington Post, April 14, 2022

US nuclear power plants contain dangerous counterfeit parts, report finds At least some nuclear power plants in the US contain counterfeit parts that could pose significant risks, an investigation by the inspector general’s office of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has found. The investigation was conducted after unnamed individuals alleged that “most, if not all,” nuclear plants in the US have fake or faulty parts. The Verge, February 11, 2022
Follow-up by John LaForge, Nukewatch, February 19, 2022

"Critical gaps" in knowledge about how reactors age Questions remain about long-term wear, beyond the 60 years for which plants are licensed. A Nuclear Regulatory Commission draft report was scrubbed of all references to this concern. By Hal Bernton, Seattle Times, November 1, 2021

The computer infection of Kudankulam and its implications The October 2019 cyberattack on a computer system at the Kudankulam (India) nuclear power plant points to new pathways to severe accidents that can result in widespread radioactive fallout. Attempts to lower this risk would further increase the cost of nuclear power. By M.V. Ramana, University of British Columbia, and Lauren J. Borja, Standord University. The India Forum, January 10, 2020

Nuclear power regulation slips deeper into the shadows The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is proposing to cut back dramatically its regulatory oversight process, reducing the scope and frequency reactor safety inspections and  radiation safety inspections. This will leave even more safety management in the hands of operator "self-inspections." Some of the roles to be shed by the NRC may be taken over by the nuclear industry's secretive Institute for Nuclear Power Operations (INPO). The safety record and forthcomingness of Energy Northwest/WPPSS are shaky enough without the removal of another level of oversight. As reported by the Tokyo-based Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, August 2019

NRC's engineering inspections may be replaced by industry self-assessments WPPSS/Energy Northwest has consistently been trying to get around a direct NRC requirement for keeping the control room at a reasonable temperature in an accident (and seems to have succeeded in doing so for decades). CGS is a poster child for why nuclear power needs stronger regulation, not weaker self-regulation. Energy Northwest has tried, at times successfully, to dodge the NRC requirement that they keep the temperature in the control room at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, Energy Northwest gave itself permission to operate the control room at 105 degrees Fahrenheit in an accident, something that is unsafe for workers and equipment, and managed to hide this from the NRC for more than a decade. It challenged the NRC's insistence on following the original directive as late as 2015. The Union of Concerned Scientists believes this is a prime example why utilities must not be given additional leeway to regulate themselves. See pages 12-13 of the PDF (pp. 10-11 of the document). By David Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, October 23, 2017
Related documents:
Reactor Oversight Process - Engineering Inspections Review
Nuclear Energy Institute (a nuclear industry trade association), June 6, 2017
Approval of Charter for Improving the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Engineering Inspections Nuclear Regulatory Commission, August 7, 2017

Energy Northwest has Radioactive Waste Disposal Privileges Revoked by Washington State Again
On July 26, 2017, quietly and with no reporting to the media, the State of Washington’s Department of Health found that Energy Northwest vastly under-reported the radioactivity of a July 20, 2017 low-level radioactive waste shipment. As it had after a previous similar incident in November, the Department of Health indefinitely revoked the nuclear utility’s right to ship radioactive materials to the state’s licensed disposal site.
CGS shipments of rad-waste banned by state due to repeated violations
KING TV report, August 10, 2017
Notice suspending authorization for Energy Northwest shipments to the nuclear waste disposal site, Washington State Department of Health, July 26, 2017
Memo acknowledging non-compliance with state standards
Stop Work Order to cease all activities associated with the shipping of radioactive material/waste to offsite organizations or facilities. Energy Northwest, July 26, 2017

Columbia Generating Station: NRC's Special Inspection of Self-Inflicted Safety Woes By Dave Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists, April 13, 2017
Self-inflicted problems turned a fairly routine incident into a near-miss on December 18, 2016, when the plant stopped generating electricity and started generating problems. Luck stopped it from progressing further. The problem started offsite due to causes outside the control of the plant’s owner. Those uncontrollable causes resulted in the main generator output breakers opening as designed.
By procedure, the operators were supposed to trip the main generator. Failing to do so resulted in the unnecessary closure of the MSIVs and the loss of the normal makeup cooling flow to the reactor vessel.
By procedure, the operators were supposed to manually start the RCIC system to provide backup cooling water flow to the reactor vessel. But they failed to properly start the system and it immediately tripped. Procedures are like recipes—positive outcomes are achieved only when they are followed.
The operators resorted to using the HPCS system. It took about a minute for the HPCS system to recover the reactor vessel water level—the operators left it running in “idle” for the next three hours and 42 minutes during which time about 5 gallons per minute leaked into the reactor building. The leak was through eroded gasket material that had been identified as improper for this application nearly a decade earlier, but never replaced.
Defense-in-depth is a nuclear safety hallmark. That hallmark works best when operators don’t bypass barriers and when workers patch known holes in barriers. Luckily, other barriers remained effective to thwart this near-miss from becoming a disaster. But luck is a fickle factor that needs to be minimized whenever possible.


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