By the OGJ Online Staff
HOUSTON, Jan. 8, 2002 – The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Tuesday said it will release its evaluation of an investigation into the loss of two spent fuel rods at the Millstone Unit 1 nuclear power plant in Waterford, Conn.
The results will be presented at an open meeting Jan. 15 in Waterford. The NRC sent a special inspection team to the plant in October 2001 to evaluate an investigation conducted by the plant’s previous owner, Northeast Utilities (NU), into the possible whereabouts of the rods and the circumstances surrounding their loss.
NU, West Springfield, Mass., first reported to the NRC the spent fuel rods were missing Dec. 15, 2000. Company records indicated the rods were last verified to be in the Millstone 1 spent fuel pool in 1980, but there was no documentation of their presence in the Millstone 1 pool after that.
The four-member NRC team spent several weeks on site and, among other things, reviewed the company’s analysis. The results of NU’s investigation were provided to the NRC in early October 2001 by Dominion Nuclear, a unit of Dominion Resources Inc., Richmond, Va., the company that currently owns and operates Millstone. The three nuclear units at Millstone station were sold, and the operating license transferred to, Dominion Nuclear last spring.
Millstone Unit 1 is permanently shut down, but Units 2 and 3 remain in operation. In its report, NU concluded the exact location of the rods couldn’t be determined. But it said likely candidates include one or more of four sites: two low-level radioactive waste disposal sites – one in Barnwell, SC, the other in Hanford, Wash. – and two spent fuel pools – the Millstone 1 spent fuel pool and one at a General Electric Co. facility in Vallecitos, Calif.
Ever since NU reported the spent fuel was missing, the NRC said it has closely followed the company’s efforts to find the rods. In addition, the agency has stayed in contact with the appropriate states.
The NRC, the agency responsible for overseeing the US nuclear power program, continues to insist that neither it nor the companies believe the material was stolen. Citing “significant radiological security controls” at nuclear power plants such as Millstone, the NRC said such a theft would be “dangerous, difficult and highly unlikely.”
Furthermore, the agency said the rods don’t pose any risk of being used for nuclear weapons due to their low uranium and plutonium content.