Brown's Ferry unit 1 is operating safely after inspections associated with a serious pump malfunction in 2010, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Thursday, although the plant will still face intense scrutiny from the agency.

NRC officials quoted by the Huntsville Times following a press conference said the plant's operations had improved. At the same time, the unit remains in the Multiple/Repetitive Degraded Cornerstone Column of the NRC's regulatory action matrix because of issues the NRC said it uncovered in the plant's broader safety culture. Further NRC inspections will be conducted quarterly at the unit near Athens, Ala., and the paper quoted a Tennessee Valley Authority executive as saying the federal utility has budgeted $130 million for related improvements.

The NRC's inspections stem from an incident in October of 2010 when a pump in the residual heat removal system seized, according to a TVA inspector general's report, and the NRC later concluded it had been inoperable since late 2007. The RHR system is considered a subsystem of the emergency core cooling system, and the NRC assigned its most severe level of safety significance to its inspection finding. NRC documents from a 2011 inspection also noted that a bearing in a high pressure coolant injection booster pump had been installed incorrectly.