While the world anxiously follows developments at Japan’s earthquake-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant, a team of Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspectors has been sent to investigate a recent nuclear “event” in the U.S.
The Special Inspection Team from the NRC is looking into what it calls a failure on the part of a licensee “to maintain required process control over a small quantity of enriched uranium” at a nuclear fuel manufacturing facility in Wilmington, N.C. The facility is operated by Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas, LLC. The company, which is a subsidiary of General Electric, had its power boiler and heat exchanger manufacturing plant recertified as a Star Site by the North Carolina Department of Labor in 2008.
The event, reported to the NRC on March 2, occurred in a grinding station in one of the facility’s process lines. A quantity of uranium dioxide beyond prescribed limits was found to have accumulated in a filter in the grinding station.
Upon discovery of the condition, all of the facility’s grinding stations were shut down to assess their conditions. No other examples of powder accumulation were discovered. Other process controls and systems ensured that event posed no danger to plant employees or the public.
The three-member NRC special inspection team, which is expected to begin its work at the facility today, will determine the safety implications of the event and the adequacy of the licensee’s corrective actions.
The NRC will issue a publicly available inspection report documenting the findings within 30 days after the inspection is completed.