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NRC sets public meeting to discuss safety issues at Westinghouse facility

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has scheduled a public meeting for Tuesday with the management of Westinghouse to discuss the agency’s recent inspection of the company’s nuclear fuel fabrication plant in Columbia that turned up a “significant safety issue,” according to a news release.

Regulatory staff assessed performance at the Westinghouse facility from Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, in the categories of safety operations, radiological controls, facility support and other areas, the federal agency’s release said.

NRC staff members found one area needing improvement, involving an unsafe accumulation of uranium-bearing material in a scrubber system discovered in May 2016, the release said.

The scrubber system is designed to clean the ventilation system. There were no actual consequences because of the accumulation, however the lack of safety controls is of “significant regulatory concern,” the release said.

The NRC launched a special inspection to review the circumstances of the event, and that part of the facility remained shut down until Westinghouse addressed the issue. The NRC review also identified weaknesses in management measures used and assumptions made by the facility in safety evaluations.

As a result of the deficiency, the Columbia facility will be subject to more frequent inspections and its next performance review will be completed at the end of this year instead of on the NRC's normal 24-month review schedule.

The meeting Tuesday, which is open to the public, will begin at 6 p.m. in the Gervais Street Room of the S.C. State Museum, 301 Gervais St. It will include presentations by the nuclear agency and the company, focusing on the agency’s review.

Federal officials will be available to answer questions or provide additional information.

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