Westinghouse has begun restarting nuclear conversion operations at its Bluff Road facility after getting the greenlight Thursday from federal regulators to move forward, the company said.
Those operations had been shut down since July when a uranium buildup was verified in conversion area process equipment and an air scrubber system, resulting in 170 workers being temporarily laid off.
No injuries resulted from the event, and there was no impact to public or employee health or the environment, Westinghouse said.
In granting permission for the restart, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has oversight of all nuclear facilities in the United States, said it completed an inspection Thursday of four critical actions Westinghouse had to complete to ensure that the causes of the problems had been adequately evaluated.
Westinghouse also had to assure the NRC that the company had completed the appropriate corrective actions and carry out commitments to keep the federal agency informed about future inspections and cleanouts of the air scrubber.
“Based on the results of those NRC inspections and the additional commitments referenced in (Westinghouse’s) request to restart letter, the NRC has no concerns with your plans to restart” the equipment, the NRC said in its go-ahead letter to Westinghouse.
Westinghouse said the restart process would be done “in a safe and orderly manner,” and that the return of the 170 laid-off employees had begun over the past several weeks.
The NRC and Westinghouse conducted separate investigations of the nuclear event at the plant, uncovering multiple procedural and management problems. They included an inadequate safety culture regarding nuclear material, Westinghouse said.
Westinghouse discovered 192 pounds of uranium lodged in materials associated with the contaminated S-1030 air scrubber, top plant officials said.
Buildups of atomic material are of concern because they can lead to nuclear accidents, although that did not occur in this case.
Several barriers that were in place to prevent such spillages at the plant failed, Westinghouse officials said, along with errors in human calculations.
Federal inspections will continue at the plant until all issues associated with the uranium incident are resolved, the NRC said.
Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398