Idaho’s New Nuclear Friend Areva Faces NRC Probe

French-controlled Areva NP, Inc., out of Lynchburg, Va., faces some tough questions from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comimission about a February shipment of equpment to the Watts Bar nuclear plant in Tennessee.

Areva, of course, is the company the Idaho Legislature tossed tax breaks at in hopes it would choose Idaho as the site for its environmentally risky uranium enrichment facility. Turns out Areva did pick the site between Idaho Falls and the Idaho National Laboratory, thanks to the tax goodies heaped on the company by Idaho lawmakers last winter.

The Snake River Alliance continues to oppose construction of Areva’s enrichment plant in Idaho or anywhere else, as the facility will not only further expansion of nuclear power in the United States, but will also leave Idaho with tons of dangerously radioactive waste. Despite claims by Areva that the waste will only temporarily be stored at the Idaho Falls site, the fact is it has no where to go and will stay in Idaho until such time as the Department of Energy has somewhere to put it.

Here’s a copy of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission release, issued May 16, and what the NRC had to say about Idaho’s newest corporate citizen:

No: II-08-033 May 16, 2008
CONTACT: Ken Clark (404)562-4416 E-mail: [email protected]
Roger Hannah (404)562-4417

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday, May 28 to discuss an apparent violation of NRC transportation regulations by AREVA NP, Inc. of Lynchburg, Va., associated with the shipment of equipment to the Watts Bar nuclear plant in Tennessee in early February.

The meeting, called a predecisional enforcement conference, is scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. in the NRC Region II Office on the 23rd floor of the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center, 61 Forsyth Street, SW, in Atlanta. It will be open to the public, and those in attendance will have an opportunity to ask questions of NRC staff before the end of the meeting.

On Feb. 3, 2008, fuel cleaning equipment was transported by truck to the Watts Bar nuclear plant for use by the AREVA NP Fuel Field Services Group during a refueling outage. On Feb. 4, as the shipment was being scanned for radiation upon entering the plant, Watts Bar radiation protection personnel recorded a measurement beyond regulatory limits on the bottom of one shipping container. In response, Watts Bar staff notified the onsite contact for AREVA and made an immediate notification to the NRC Operations Center.

Later in February, an NRC inspector concluded that the event did not result in a risk to the driver, the public or the environment during or after shipment. However, the inspector determined that AREVA’s procedures for decontaminating and packaging the equipment were not adequate to ensure external radiation would not exceed regulatory requirements. The inspector identified an apparent violation related to the company’s failure to properly prepare the shipment package so dose limits during transportation would not be exceeded.

The purpose of the May 28 conference is to discuss the apparent violation and provide the company an opportunity to respond and to provide details of its corrective actions and other information to enable the NRC to determine what, if any, enforcement action is warranted.
No enforcement decision will be made by the NRC staff at the conference. Agency managers will make a decision following a review of information from the enforcement conference and final evaluation of the apparent violation.