Browns Ferry fined $140,000 by regulatory commission, failed to conduct required ‘fire watches’

Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant

LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. – The Tennessee Valley Authority faces $140,000 in fines for violations at the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in Athens. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the civil penalty is for violations related to fire watches.

The NRC says there were numerous occasions in May of 2015 where five of TVA’s contract fire watch workers deliberately  failed to conduct roving fire watch patrols. Those patrols were required by NRC regulations because of equipment that was out of service at the time.

Jim Hopson, TVA public relations manager, said the workers were terminated from their jobs.

“It’s TVA’s responsibility to safely operate the plant, whether it’s contract personnel or our own employees,” he said. “So we willingly accept responsibility for this and we are working hard to insure this never happens again.”

The NRC says the actions didn’t result in any safety consequences as no fires occurred.

“Missed fire watches greatly concern us,” said NRC Region II Administrator Cathy Haney. “Even though plants have other fire protection features, fire watches are an integral part of the plant’s overall fire protection strategy, especially when other equipment is temporarily unavailable.”

The severity of the violation and the fact that multiple contract personnel engaged in the misconduct led the NRC to the fine amount of $140,000.  TVA has outlined a number of corrective actions, that have been taken to correct the problem.

Hopson said TVA is planning to pay the fine.

“At this point we are planning to accept the penalty as is, we take responsibility for this incident and we take responsibility for the consequences that are necessary to get us past it,” he said.

TVA has 30 days to pay the penalty or appeal.