Wolf Creek nuclear plant back at lowest oversight

Wolf Creek's nuclear reactor is back in good standing with the federal government after passing a follow-up inspection.

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 putting the plant on its increased oversight list in early March. That also resulted in an additional inspection.

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

Wolf Creek 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, the issues were identified and corrective action was taken.

Before the inspection results were available, 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 a regular inspection routine: twice annually by NRC inspectors not on site and daily checks by Wolf Creek's two resident NRC inspectors.

Meanwhile, Wolf Creek is expected to return full operation by the end of June after being off-line since March 19 while undergoing its most significant maintenance work since it was built in 1985, plant spokeswoman Jenny Hageman said.

All four turbine rotors are being replaced during one of the planned shutdowns that occurs every 18 months.

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