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OIG finds missed audits at TVA's nuclear plant

KNOXVILLE — A report by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s inspector general says the federal utility missed quality assurance audits at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel the Office of Inspector General said no audits were done on commercial-grade materials being used to build Unit 2 at the power plant in Spring City for four years.

“This breakdown resulted in no audits, surveillances, or assessments of the commercial-grade dedication program being performed for (Watts Bar Unit 2) since 2008,” according to the OIG report.

The report, completed in June, also noted TVA has taken steps to prevent a repeat of the lapse and has hired independent evaluators to review the materials in question.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission cited TVA for the breakdown in auditing that allowed thousands of parts bought for the reactor project to bypass being documented as nuclear grade. Regulators have recommended a $70,000 fine on three violations found, which TVA paid last week.

The OIG report said the mistake that allowed the audits to be missed occurred by letting builder Bechtel Corp. skip doing its own quality assurance review on work that had already been done under TVA.

The dedication program is aimed at assuring that materials and parts purchased from commercial suppliers meet the higher standard the NRC demands for construction of nuclear power plants. TVA said in a statement that all components have now been tested and found acceptable.

“Significant progress has been made at Watts Bar 2 since 2011 when these issues were identified,” TVA spokesman Duncan Mansfield said in a statement. Mansfield said the utility has taken prompt and comprehensive corrective action over the past two years.

TVA is adding a second reactor to the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant. It is now scheduled for completion in December 2015.

The project was initially projected to cost about $2.5 billion and be ready in 2012. The utility announced last year Unit 2 was three years behind schedule and will cost $2 billion more than was planned.

Watts Bar 2 will generate about 1,100 megawatts, enough electricity to supply about 650,000 homes.

TVA is the nation’s largest public utility, serving 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states.

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