NRC investigation reveals document falsification at Georgia’s Plant Vogtle 1&2

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has proposed a $145,000 civil penalty against Southern Nuclear company in the wake of violations related to plant inspections at Vogtle 1 and 2 .

In a statement published Wednesday, the commission said 13 system operators failed to complete required rounds of inspection between August to October 2016, but entered data into an electronic log indicating they had.

The system operators falsified data related to equipment status, general area inspections and housekeeping conditions of several areas within the plant.

“It is very troubling that safety inspections were not completed and that the failure to complete may have been intentionally covered up. I’m concerned generally about oversight at the facility, including the construction of Vogtle 3 & 4,” said Liz Coyle, Executive Director at Georgia Watch in response to the revelations.

Georgia Power through spokesperson Jacob Hawkins could not specify whether the individuals in question had been fired as a result of the violations, or what specific corrective action had been taken, saying those were personnel matters.

Coyle says the violations might not have been known to the public had the penalty not been published.

In reports obtained from the commission, Southern Nuclear acknowledged the integrity issues and inadequate supervisory oversight leading up to the violations.

“We do not tolerate acts of willful misconduct and Southern Nuclear has a personal accountability training program in place that fully outlines expectations of trust and integrity at our company,” said Hawkins in an email.

According to the NRC, the falsified information did not lead to any actual safety consequences or equipment issues.

“The fact that SNC management was unaware that multiple (system operators) engaged in deliberate misconduct over at least several months is of significant concern to the NRC,” the commission report read in part.

The falsification of documents is related to the currently operational reactors and not Vogtle 3 and 4, which are under construction.

Newly elected PSC chairman Lauren McDonald says the reactors have been running smoothly over the years, adding that proper corrective action, including firing of those involved with the falsifications, was taken by Southern Nuclear.

McDonald says he is confident in Southern Nuclear’s management of Vogtle 3 and 4.

According to the report, the violations were brought to the attention of Southern nuclear following NRC inspections that were completed last August.

“There is nothing wrong with having two different eyes looking at the situation,” said the commission chair, who added that that was the purpose of inspections.

To Sara Barczak, the Regional Advocacy Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy this a systemic lack of oversight  on the project and a cause for concern.

“This does not instill confidence that the construction project is going smoothly either because it shows a lack of project management for the existing two reactors,” said Barczak.

The amount of the fine, according to Barczak, also magnifies the seriousness of the violations.

Units 1 and 2, located in Waynesboro have been operational since the late 80’s. Construction of the reactors was overseen by Southern Nuclear which is currently in charge of the expansion of Vogtle.

Project progress and the management capabilities of Southern Nuclear were some of the causes for concern during the latest Vogtle construction hearings at the PSC, with advocacy groups, including Georgia Watch questioning the qualifications of Southern Nuclear in managing the project.

Southern Nuclear took over the construction of the twin units at Vogtle last year after the March bankruptcy filing of Westinghouse Electric Company, which was also the project manager for the cancelled VC Summer nuclear project in South Carolina.

The company has 30 days to pay the fine or protest.

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