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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

TVA Watts Bar Nuclear Plant - A Chilled Work Environment - Failed Safety Culture or NRC Lip Service? UPDATE - November 10, 2016 Falsification and Destruction of Fire Watch Records at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant - NRC Says Low Severity? Retaliation??

TVA, Tennessee Valley Authority, has boasted about the first new nuke plant in many a year. Actually it isn't new and it cost about 7 billion dollars to complete over 43 years. There are other costs, a "chilled work environment," contributing factor, STRESS to get the plant on line. The question - has safety been compromised? Photo by TVA - Fair Use for non-profit news reporting and commentary.

ADAMS Accession No. ML16315A344 (It will take a few days for this document to be posted on the NRC's info library.) ADAMS Reference link: http://adams.nrc.gov/wba/  or http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/
Document Date: November 10, 2016
This report released today after the "Chilled Effects" meeting last Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016 regarding the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant. Low significance?? Notice of Violation for willfully falsifying Fire Watch Records and destroying said records.  There may have been retaliation by a contractor involved in this incident regarding an employee refusing to sign a falsified report.

Quote: "Severity Level IV. The NRC identified a Severity Level IV violation of 10 CFR 50.9 "Completeness and Accuracy of Information," for the failure to maintain continuous compensatory fire watch information that was complete and accurate in all material respects. The licensee’s actions of creating falsified fire watch completion records...(from page 6 under Findings) "According to the testimony received by the NRC OI, on the morning of April 28, 2015, the licensee contract fire watch foreman attempted to persuade four fire watch laborers to sign fire watch records indicating that they performed the missed fire watch from the day before. Three of the individuals each signed the fire watch turnover records. However, one fire watch laborer refused to sign the fire watch turnover records. A meeting was held with the contract fire watch foreman, the contract fire protection specialist, and the TVA fire protection foreman. When it became clear that one individual would not sign the fire watch turnover record, the contract fire watch foreman disposed of the paperwork. The missed fire watch was reported to management, prompting investigations about the root causes of the missed fire watch. The licensee initiated condition report 1019953. The falsified fire watch record was never recovered." 

The NRC fined TVA $70K for falsifying Fire Watch Records at the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, op-ed from Pam Sohn back in April of this year.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC, March 23, 2016
As discussed during the public meeting held on March 22, 2016 in the RII office(ML16083A403), we initiated a review in late 2015 at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant into the environment for raising and addressing safety issues. We began this review in light of information received through our inspection and allegations process associated with the Safety Conscious Work Environment (SCWE) within the Operations Department and its influence onthe safe operation of the plant. Our review includes information received through allegations, inspections, and interviews of your staff over the past few months. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC, has concluded that a Chilled Work Environment exists in the Operations Department because of a perception that operators are not free to raise safety concerns using all available avenues without fear of retaliation. We have not identified any serious safety violations or instances involving significant plant safety issues, but the information gathered has led to concerns about the impact the work environment is having on plant operations raises
questions about your commitment to emphasize safety over competing goals to ensure protection of people and the environment. We want to ensure that TVA has a clear understanding of the scope of our concerns and to communicate specific requests and expectations for your response.

The Safety Culture Policy Statement (76 FR 34773; June 14, 2011) sets forth the Commission's expectation that licensees establish and maintain a positive safety culture commensurate with the safety and security significance of their activities and the nature and complexity of their organizations and functions. The NRC defines nuclear safety culture as the core values and behaviors resulting from a collective commitment by leaders and individuals to emphasize safety over competing goals to ensure protection of people and the environment. A safety conscious work environment is defined by the NRC as an environment in which “employees feel free to raise safety concerns, both to their management and to the NRC, without fear of retaliation” and is one trait of a strong safety culture. NRC Regulatory Issue Summary 05-018, “Guidance for Establishing and Maintaining a Safety Conscious Work Environment,” dated August 25, 2005, further describes the NRC’s expectations in this area. More on this letter: http://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1608/ML16083A479.pdf

News Links and Reports
2) April 2016  "Watts Bar received more safety complaints from employees this year than any other U.S. plant" http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2016/apr/06/watts-bar-faced-more-safety-complaints-employees-2015-any-other-us-plant/359170/
3) May 2016  "TVA vows to thaw chilled atmosphere, better handle employee safety concerns" http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2016/may/25/tvtries-thaw-chilled-atmosphere-employee-conc/367469/ 
4) September 2016  "TVA OIG Report on Work Environment for Nuclear Oversight"  The bottom line of the OIG report regarding nuclear oversight -  Employees should "feel free to raise concerns without fear of retalliation." http://oig.tva.gov/reports/16rpts/2016-15398.pdf
5) Public Meeting Scheduled in Athens, Tn. regarding the Chilled Work Environment at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant on November 3, 2016, videos listed below.

The Problem With The Regulator, NRC, and the Nuclear Industry
Failures of nuclear safety culture are not enforceable actions. Comprehensive report on Safety Culture: 
"Nuclear professionals, members of the public, Congress, Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), and concerned non-industry stakeholders agree on one issue: nuclear plant safety is paramount and must be the number one priority. However, the actions, and inactions, of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), and nuclear plant owners, have led to financial considerations taking priority over nuclear safety. The current focus on nuclear safety via what the industry and its regulator call “safety culture,” unless redefined and clarified, is a dead end. To truly achieve nuclear safety, “regulatory compliance and enforcement ” must be the frame used to gauge Nuclear Safety Culture." Paul Blanch (PE) Energy Consultant, author of the linked report.

Part 1 Selected Citizen Comments - The NRC would not disclose any retaliation events or occurrences. An employee states she has witnessed retaliation in the work place and discriminatory activity. Ann Harris, Retired TVA Employees who worked at Watts Barr for many years, describes her experiences in this video.  

Part 2 All Worker and Citizen Comments

Part 3 NRC Opening and Comments

Part 4, TVA Comments

Part 5 NRC Closing

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