Recent Violations Renew Call For Peach Bottom Shutdown

Protest Set For This Afternoon At York County Plant

March 29, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

When demonstrators gather at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant this afternoon, they will be sounding a familiar chant: Shut it down.

The demonstrators, including members of the local Peach Bottom Alliance, say recent safety violations found by federal inspectors at theYork County, Pa., plant are another example of poor management by the operator, Philadelphia Electric Co.

"We are asking Philadelphia Electric to shut that plant down, since they don't know how to run it," said Jean Ewing, spokeswoman for the alliance, a watchdog group that monitors the nuclear plant.

"Wesupport their right to demonstrate," said Bill Jones, a PhiladelphiaElectric spokesman. "But we're not going to shut down the plant."

The demonstration, to start at 2 p.m. outside the plant, commem

orates the fourth anniversary of the facility's temporary shutdown by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

About 50 members of thealliance, the Safe Environment Coalition and Greenpeace are expectedto participate in the demonstration near the plant, located on the Susquehanna River about 15 miles northeast of Bel Air.

The NRC fined Philadelphia Electric $285,000 in February after insulation was found to have been improperly installed around valves used in the operation of a reactor safety system.

The valves are used as a backup system to lower the pressure of steam in the reactor system to allow emergency cooling systems to pump water into the reactor, NRC spokesmanKarl Abraham said.

NRC officials say the insulation problem degraded the electrical components of the valves to a degree that the safety system could have been undermined during an accident.

To Ewing,the violations are another example of "sloppy management" at the 17-year-old plant.

Philadelphia Electric spokesman Jones disputed Ewing's contention. He said operations at Peach Bottom are on an "upwardspiral" and cited recent NRC studies supporting that trend.

"We think the insulation problem was an unfortunate experience. It's a learning experience. It's behind us," he said. "The plant continues to improve."

The utility has paid the NRC fines and corrected the insulation problem, Jones said.

The NRC inspected Peach Bottom betweenNov. 5 and Dec. 13, 1991, after the company reported the insulation problem in one of the plant's two units, Abraham said. The insulationwas on backward, creating gaps around the valves.

During the inspection, NRC representatives found a similar problem at the plant's second unit, Abraham said. This problem had not been reported by operators.

The insulation was installed in September 1991, Abraham said.

Philadelphia Electric was fined $160,000 for the insulation problem in both units and another $125,000 for failing to identify the problem in the second unit.

A NRC report issued last October said that Philadelphia Electric has been operating the facility "safely and conservatively," but noted improvements are not coming quickly enough.

The study is among those monitoring the plant since the NRC ordered Peach Bottom shut down in March 1987 after operators were found sleeping on the job and plant security was labeled extremely lax. The NRC allowed Peach Bottom to start back up in April 1989.

In 1990, Peach Bottom was named the third worst nuclear facility in the United States by Public Citizen, a nuclear industry watchdog group.

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