The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it would send team to the San Onore Nuclear Generatng Station to review an incident that came to light on August 13, after a spent fuel storage canister became stuck while being lowered into an underground storage vault.
According to an onsite worker named David Fritch, the canister came to rest on the lip of an inner-ring that is meant to serve as a guide when lowering a canister so it will be placed properly. However, the bottom of the canister caught the lip of the ring and ended up wedged or resting awkwardly on the guidance ring.
The canister could have fallen 18 feet, according to Fritch, the San Celemente Patch reported after Fritch disclosed the incident during a public meeting.
The SONGS facility stopped generating electricity in 2013, the NRC noted. South California Edison, which owns the plant, said it had stopped moving fuel into the dry storage facility until the NRC team completes its inspection. The NRC said its team would spent about a week on site “evaluating the licensee’s cause analysis and the adequate corrective actions.”
While Fritch said he was concerned about being fired for serving as the whistle blower concerning the incident, the Patch quoted Tom Palmisano, vice president of decommissioning and chief nuclear officer at the plant as explaining it was unlikely the canister could have completed the 18 foot drop, but noted “it doesn't excuse” the incident. “So a serious, near miss, if you will, in terms of a rigging issue,” Palmisano said.
Palisano also said he would “makes sure with whoever he works for that he's protected. He has a right to voice his concerns and that's important. I credit him for bringing up an issue.”
The NRC said a public report on its findings would be published within 45 days of completion of the SONGS inspection.
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