NRC takes Wolf Creek off increased oversight list

Wolf Creek's nuclear reactor has passed a follow-up inspection and been taken off the federal government's increased oversight list.

The plant near Burlington has "taken care of the issues" and will return to a regular inspection schedule, Lara Uselding, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said Monday.

Concerns about safety system function failures and unplanned plant shutdowns at Wolf Creek in 2010 had resulted in the NRC increasing the oversight level for the plant in early March.

Of the nation's 104 nuclear reactors, Wolf Creek's lone reactor was one of three to be placed on the NRC's third level of heightened oversight. The commission has five levels.

Wolf Creek, which opened in 1985, has been returned to level one.

Results of a supplemental inspection found that Wolf Creek is "operated in a manner that preserved the public's health and safety and fully met the (NRC's) cornerstone objectives," Geoffrey Miller, an NRC project chief, wrote to Wolf Creek officials in a letter dated May 20.

Those objectives included that the root causes of the problems were understood, that the issues were identified and corrective action was taken.

Before the inspection began, NRC officials said Wolf Creek was being operated in a safe manner and that the issues were of low safety significance.

Wolf Creek had six safety system function failures in 2010, one more than is allowed by the NRC. One of those was the discovery of gas accumulation in the cooling water system and residual heat removal system last summer.

Wolf Creek also had three unplanned plant shutdowns last year. Causes included replacing electrical power because of a blown fuse for a valve.

This was the first time Wolf Creek had been placed on the increased oversight list.

The plant will now return to the normal inspection routine: twice annually by NRC inspectors not on site and daily checks by Wolf Creek's two resident NRC inspectors.