WASHINGTON – Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors gave the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant an “acceptable” rating Friday following a two-week safety inspection, according to plant officials.
“The overall conclusion was that the aging management programs are acceptable,” said Barth Doroshuk, a principle engineer at the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. plant in Lusby, about 40 miles southeast of Washington.
The latest inspection results cap a week that held several NRC thumbs-up for Calvert Cliffs, and have BG&E officials hopeful they can beat a May 2000 target to win the first relicensing of a nuclear power plant in the nation.
Doroshuk said plant officials are encouraged and now believe relicensing “could be as early as late 1999.”
On Wednesday, the NRC reported that “overall performance at Calvert Cliffs was acceptable” from April 1998 to January of this year. That report was unrelated to the license renewal but part of the ongoing NRC inspections of the plant.
Thursday night, the NRC outlined results of the first safety inspection related to license renewal. It said the Lusby plant had effectively structured a maintenance and monitoring plan it had to submit as part of its renewal application.
Those maintenance and monitoring plans were spot-checked in the two-week NRC inspection that ended Friday. In addition to checking paperwork, NRC scientists accompanied plant employees to visually inspect concrete structures at the plant for degradation, Doroshuk said.
He said that inspectors found nine documentation errors during their review, but that they were all corrected on-site and the plant passed the inspection.
Christopher Grimes, the NRC’s director of licensing renewal, said Friday that he had not yet heard the results of the inspection, but called it “another building block towards a final (license renewal) decision.” He said the official report from latest inspection will be published in the next few months and presented to the public.
Last spring, Calvert Cliffs became the first nuclear plant in the country to apply for a 20-year extension of its license under newly streamlined NRC relicensing regulations.
Environmentalists have criticized the new relicensing regulations as a “rubber stamp” process, although the community appears to support relicensing of the plant, which accounts for 20 percent of Calvert County’s tax base.
The NRC has not scheduled any more safety inspections for Calvert Cliffs, although they reserve the right to conduct one additional safety inspection 60 to 90 days prior to the granting of a license renewal, Grimes said. “BG&E likes to be No. 1, but I’ve got a No. 2 to work with also,” he said, referring to the Oconee nuclear power plant that applied for a license renewal in July 1998.