Nuclear plant off 'watch list' BG&E improves poor safety record at Calvert Cliffs.

February 06, 1992|By Carol Emert | Carol Emert,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said yesterday that it has removed the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant from its "watch list" of plants requiring extra regulatory oversight.

Calvert Cliffs, owned by Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., was put on the list in December 1988, largely because of a management philosophy that emphasized production over safety, according to NRC reports and agency officials.

The Southern Maryland plant has "continued to improve performance in all previously identified problem areas and has demonstrated a sustained period of safe operations," according to a letter from the NRC to BG&E Chairman George V. McGowan.

"While we welcome this news, we do not intend to slacken the pace of our continuous improvement programs at Calvert Cliffs," BG&E Vice Chairman Christian H. Poindexter said.

Mr. Poindexter's cautious response seemed designed to assure Maryland residents and the NRC that BG&E would not slip back into the complacent attitude that landed the plant on the list.

When it opened in the mid-1970s, Calvert Cliffs was known as one of the safest and most up-to-date nuclear power plants in the country.

But its safety record and physical condition began to decline because managers neglected to make the kinds of improvements that were being implemented at most nuclear power plants in the country, said Karl Neddenien, a plant spokesman.

An NRC official said yesterday that Calvert Cliffs officials were not solely to blame for the plant's problems.

During an open meeting at NRC headquarters in White Flint, Thomas T. Martin, the agency's regional administrator, assumed part of the blame, saying the plant's previous high reputation had "clouded [the] vision" of inspectors.

He and other NRC inspectors tended to ignore problems at the plant, allowing problems to get out of hand until Calvert Cliffs was put on the watch list, Mr. Martin said.

The NRC is instituting improved oversight procedures to prevent inspectors from being "blinded by the legacy of [a plant's] past performance," he said.

Steady improvement at Calvert Cliffs has been reported over the past three years in the areas of safety, technology and managerial oversight.

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