Exelon to meet with NRC over security finding at Limerick nuke plant

The Excelon Nuclear Generating Station in Limerick. Creighton photo

LIMERICK — Exelon Nuclear will meet with Nuclear Regulatory Commission personnel next month, presumably to contest the NRC’s identification of a potential security problem at the plant.

After being notified of the finding, the company had a choice between accepting it or contesting it.

It appears the company has decided to contest it as a meeting between Exelon and the NRC has been set for next month, according to NRC documents.

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A notification of the meeting indicates that it “is security-sensitive in nature,” the specifics are not being disclosed and the meeting is “closed to public participation.”

The meeting is to “give the company a chance to present further information, if they want, to shed more light on the issue,” NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said last month.

“We promptly addressed the potential issue identified during the NRC inspection and at no time was the security of the facility at risk,” Exelon spokeswoman Dana Melia wrote in a statement issued last month in response to 21st Century Media queries about the finding.

“Exelon has a rigorous Corrective Action Program to ensure that all potential issues, including those with very low safety significance, are identified, addressed and shared across the fleet. We anticipate further discussion with the NRC to appropriately categorize the finding and ensure that it was addressed,” Melia wrote.

The problem — or potential problem — is not being public revealed by NRC because they are related to security.

Because the NRC does not want specific information about security problems at nuclear plants publicly disclosed where they might be seen by terrorists or those who want to infiltrate the plant, it has come up with an oblique way of notifying the public of a potential problem.

The NRC uses a color coding system to indicate the severity of a problem, green being the lowest, on to white, then yellow and then red.

But when identifying a security problem, the NRC will indicate to the public only that it is “greater than green.”

“The commission decided that we would let the public know if an inspection finds a security problem at a plant near them, but that we wouldn’t be specific other than to announce it as being above a very low level,” Sheehan explained to 21st Century Media last month.

According to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission letter issued to Exelon on July 29, the problem or problems were identified during a June 20 inspection of the nuclear plant.

“The finding is also an apparent violation of NRC requirements and is being considered for escalated enforcement action,” according to the letter from James Trapp, acting director of NRC’s division of reactor safety, to Michael Pacillio, senior vice president at Exelon and its chief nuclear officer.

After the Sept. 18 meeting, the NRC will issue a final determination in the matter which may involve increased oversight at the plant.

Sheehan said a public announcement on a final NRC determination about the matter should be issued later in September.