Westinghouse Tells NRC Misplaced Reactor Fuel Rods Found at Temelin Nuclear Power Plant in Czech Republic
U. S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
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April 18, 1997
Contact: Ken Clark (404) 331-5503)
Roger Hannah (404) 331-7878
WESTINGHOUSE TELLS NRC MISPLACED REACTOR FUEL RODS
FOUND AT TEMELIN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT IN CZECH REPUBLIC
Officials At Westinghouse Electric Corporation's Commercial Nuclear Fuel Division plant in Columbia, South Carolina, have reported to the U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that two unirradiated reactor fuel rods, found missing on March 20, have been located at the Temelin nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic, about 90 miles south of Prague.
The rods, containing small amounts of low enriched uranium, were located in a "replica" fuel rod assembly which normally contains pellets made of nonradioactive lead. Westinghouse had fabricated the replica assembly at the South Carolina plant and shipped it to the Temelin plant for use by workers in training and calibration of equipment.
Each rod contained 57 grams of uranium-235 at an enrichment of 3.8 percent. Westinghouse reported that they cannot be converted for weapons use because a minimum of 1900 grams of uranium-235 at this low level of enrichment would be required for a critical mass.
Westinghouse officials said a preliminary investigation points to human error and a weakness in the system for producing non-uranium replica fuel assemblies. The plant has stopped producing such assemblies and will not reinstitute their production until a new procedure and system for tracking replica assemblies and rods has been established and tested.
NRC officials said Westinghouse reported that the plant became aware the two rods were missing on March 20 during a routine accountability check. The plant's license allows 30 days to report such events, and the company notified the NRC on April 15. The first fuel rod was located April 17 and the second April 18, both in the same replica fuel assembly.
The NRC is establishing a special inspection team which will visit the plant later this month to review circumstances associated with the event.