Federal regulators discuss Duane Arnold's 'rapid decline in perf - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Federal regulators discuss Duane Arnold's 'rapid decline in performance'

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Increased oversight at the Duane Arnold Energy Center has some questioning just how safe plant is.

"If you don't catch your problems, that's where the safety issues come in," said Marion resident Pam Mackey-Taylor. "I think that's really important to the public."

In Tuesday's public meeting in Hiawatha, members of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) meet with representatives from Duane Arnold to discuss the plant's rapid decline in performance, resulting in some moderate safety concerns.

Duane Arnold's site vice president Richard Anderson says they've put in a corrective action process to ensure the levels of safety are improved.

"When we do find gaps like this, we put them into our correction action program and it's not unusual to have gaps at a power plant, but we want to minimize those," said Anderson. "Through the training of our operators the use of our procedures and the quality of the maintenance we do that we avoid even the low level problems with our safety equipment."

Federal regulators say it's quite unusual because Duane Arnold performed relatively well, for several years.

"We do continue to believe they're safely operating the facility, but they do have improvements that are necessary," said NRC's regional administrator, Cynthia Pederson. "We've seen here two issues involving safety equipment that were more significant, we look at these issues and look at how important that piece of equipment is to safety."

One finding reveals poor procedures and maintenance of the diesel generator, causing an oil leak. The other finding involved the failure to perform an "operability evaluation" to an unexpected reading on the reactor core isolation cooling turbine speed indicator.

Duane Arnold went from a licensee response on the NRC's action matrix concept, where the best performing plants are, to the downgraded cornerstone, where there's a low to moderate safety issue.

"Problem resolution on a long-term basis has to be a corrected action system, if it isn't working there's significant problems at the plant," said Mackey-Taylor.

Pederson says the plant continues to operate safely, however, Duane Arnold's reduced safety margin definitely causes concern.

"The plant continues to operate safely, if at anytime this plant or any other plant was not safe we would not allow it to operate," said Pederson.

Anderson says the issues at the plant were fixed within days and they plan to have the NRC reinspect the areas of concern again in the coming weeks.

The NRC says they will put in hundreds of extra hours to make sure the plant has met sustained performance.

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