HOMESTEAD — The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which regulates commercial nuclear power plants, has levied a $150,000 civil penalty against Florida Power & Light for three violations stemming from two separate incidences in 2019 of staff falsifying records and concealing work errors at the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station.
The independent agency concluded that the violations did not cause any threats to public safety, but that the potential consequences of the three violations were significant and concerning to the NRC, according to a released statement.
All three violations involved deliberate misconduct involving integrity issues on the part of multiple individuals, according to the statement.
“We confirmed these violations during two independent investigations, which the NRC completed in 2020,” said NRC Public Affairs Officer Dave Gasperson. “The penalty is for three violations over two separate incidents. It is not itemized a specific amount for each of the violations individually.”
The first violation at Turkey Point happened on Jan. 23, 2019, when three mechanics falsified information in a work order associated with the inspection and maintenance of a safety-related check valve.
FPL staff recorded inaccurate information in the work order, according to the NRC, which therefore determined staff’s actions were deliberate and caused FPL to be in violation of “completeness and accuracy of information.”
The second and third violations occurred July 10, 2019, when two technicians performed maintenance on the incorrect pressure switch on the wrong reactor, which caused the operating charging pump to cease functioning.
Two former long-term FPL technicians were assigned to work on a nuclear generating Unit 4C charging pump oil pressure switch but instead worked on its twin Westinghouse Three-Loop Unit 3C charging pump oil pressure switch, which ultimately caused the Unit 3C charging pump to trip.
“The technicians, a supervisor and department head willfully failed to inform control room staff that maintenance had been performed on the wrong unit’s CVCS charging pump. A supervisor and a department head influenced others within the department to conceal this maintenance error,” Gasperson said.
When the 3C pump tripped on low oil pressure at 10:09 a.m., the technicians reviewed a work order and recognized they were working on Unit 3 and not Unit 4.
Rather than immediately calling the Unit 3 main control room, as required by plant procedure, the technicians restored the oil low pressure switch to its normal alignment, exited the room and informed the supervisor and department head of the error by phone, the NRC found.
FPL spokesman Peter Robbins said Turkey Point does not compromise when it comes to safety.
“As soon as we became aware of these situations ... we conducted a thorough investigation and the individuals involved no longer work for Florida Power & Light,” he said. “While we are disappointed that this occurred, it is important to remember that our detailed review found that at no time was the safety of the plant or public comprised.”
Robbins said FPL accepts the NRC’s findings and will not contest the civil penalty.
In late 2019, the NRC permitted subsequent license renewals to FPL Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station units 3 and 4. The decision to extend the operation of the reactors from 60 to 80 years — until 2052 and 2053, respectively — will make them the oldest functioning units in the country.
Those two units generate about 1,600 million watts of electricity, which is enough power to supply the annual needs of more than 900,000 homes.