Inspectors at Millstone look for flaws in component linked to Creusot Forge facility

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UPDATE: An inspection at the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant Monday had favorable results. Millstone was checking for cracks on a pressurizer in the Unit 2 Reactor. The inspection came after news that the French company that built the pressurizer may have been forging documents about the quality of their products.

(WTNH) — On Monday, third-party contractors were inspecting Millstone Power Station’s Unit 2 pressurizer because of potential flaws in its manufacturing at the Creusot Forge facility in Le Creusot, France.

The Creusot Forge, a part of the French nuclear group Areva, has been under investigation by French authorities since December for allegedly falsifying documents relating to quality control.

Millstone is one of 17 U.S. nuclear reactors with parts made at the Creusot Forge facility, according to a list released by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in January. However, they are the only nuclear plant so far to do an inspection of their potentially compromised component.

“The state of Connecticut came to us with questions, we had some discussions with them, and ultimately we decided to do some testing,” said Ken Holt, spokesperson for Dominion’s Millstone Power Station, of the company’s decision to do today’s voluntary inspection of the pressurizer. “While we are sure the pressurizer is fully operational and will remain so, we wanted to give ourselves additional assurance.”

That additional assurance is the right approach, says David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Dominion has a reputation of not waiting for the NRC to push them to check for safety but voluntarily ensure that their plants are safe.”

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Radiation Division Director Jeff Semancik said that the state also wanted to see some action. “From our state perspective we thought that it was important to get some data and verification that puts it beyond a shadow of a doubt that we’re not going to have some concern.”

Despite the initiative of Dominion and the state’s environmental agency, the NRC, the federal regulators of the nuclear industry, are not requiring these inspections of the other 16 facilities at this time. “We are satisfied this is safe and has been looked at over the years. Nothing has happened to change our opinion on that,” NRC Spokesperson Neil Sheehan said.

Sheehan said that inspections were done when these parts were installed. In Millstone’s case, a variety of inspections were done from June to November 2006. Yet state official Semancik said that those tests that the NRC conducted at the time of installation do not cover the range of conditions that may be of concern.

Activists from across the country disagree with the NRC’s decision not to require inspections of each part manufactured at Creusot Forge. In late January, anti-nuclear activist group Beyond Nuclear sent a petition to the NRC requesting that they initiate federal emergency enforcement actions including suspending operations at each of these plants pending inspection.

Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone Director Nancy Burton is a co-petitioner.

“It’s not a class one emergency, or a two or three or four or five, but it is a crisis,” Burton said. “Because anytime you have a key safety component in a nuclear power plant that may have defective parts that render it more susceptible to embrittlement, cracking, and fracturing, and all of that, that’s a problem and it can’t be tolerated.”

As for the results of the inspection, both Semancik and Holt agree that they expect a positive outcome. News 8 will be tracking results of this inspection and report them when they are available.

Industry watchdog Lochbaum said that the fact that they’re inspecting it at all is a good sign.

“The good news is the problem has been discovered and there are efforts underway to see if this risk is higher than anticipated. If it is, steps will be taken to address that hazard.”

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