NRC drops hated ‘Watch List’

28 May 1999

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has announced it will no longer publish its high-profile ‘watch list’ which named US nuclear plants that posed the greatest safety concerns. The ‘watch list’, which the NRC first began publishing every six months in 1986, was hated by American utilities, as the negative publicity it triggered often led to declines in share value.

In recent years the safety of the 103 commercial US nuclear plants has risen dramatically. As a result, plants named in the ‘watch list’ were actually orders of magnitude safer than those which in an earlier period would never have made the list.

The NRC is to introduce a three-tier system which it says will tax agency resources less and also be more objective.

The rankings will be based on performance indicators and inspections. There will be three categories: • Plants that pose serious concerns and require oversight either from the NRC’s Executive Director of Operations or the five-member commission itself.

• Plants with less serious safety concerns but which need extra oversight by NRC regional administrators.

• All other nuclear plants requiring only ‘routine oversight’.

The NRC said only three plants fall into the first category: American Electric Power’s D C Cook Units 1 and 2 in Michigan and Northeast Utilities’ Millstone Unit 2 in Connecticut. The NRC recently granted approval for re-start of Millstone 2.

Only two plants require extra oversight by NRC regional officials: Northeast Utilities’ Millstone 3 and Illinova Corp’s Clinton plant in Illinois. The Clinton plant also recently started up after a lengthy shutdown.

Notably missing from the NRC list were any plants owned by Commonwealth Edison Co. The NRC gave a clean bill of health to Quad Cities 1 and 2, and LaSalle 1 and 2 , saying they had made sufficient progress to return to the ‘routine oversight’ category.

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