NRC Authorizes Northeast Utilities to Begin Restart of Millstone Unit 2

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No. 99-88
April 29, 1999


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has authorized Northeast Utilities to begin restart activities at the Millstone Unit 2 nuclear power plant at Waterford, Connecticut.

Dr. William Travers, Executive Director for Operations of the NRC, informed the utility of the Commission's decision. He also noted that Northeast Utilities has satisfied the terms of an August 1996 order that required an Independent Corrective Action Verification Program (ICAVP). The NRC staff made its restart recommendation to the Commission in a public meeting April 14.

The NRC has performed extensive inspections since the plant shut down in February 1996, to evaluate the company's progress in resolving performance issues. These included oversight and inspection of the ICAVP and employee concerns areas, augmented resident inspector staff and specialist inspections, inspections of 55 technical and programmatic restart items, and several multi-disciplined team inspections.

Although the NRC action gives Northeast Utilities federal permission to restart Millstone Unit 2, the plant's immediate resumption of operations has been blocked by a temporary restraining order issued Tuesday by a Connecticut Superior Court judge acting on a petition filed by Fish Unlimited. The environmental organization contends the plant's restart would endanger the population of winter flounder in Niantic Bay.

Once restart begins, the NRC will closely monitor the restart and power ascension of Unit 2, including round-the-clock site coverage by inspectors during key phases of the process. Northeast's plan for restart and power ascension operations, which NRC has reviewed, is designed to proceed in a gradual, deliberate manner.

This plan calls for Northeast to discuss with the NRC its successive evaluations at "hold points" of approximately 30, 50, 75 and 90 percent power. The NRC has acknowledged Northeast's written commitment to discuss the results of its assessments at each hold point.

At each stage, the NRC will independently assess the plant's readiness, and Northeast Utilities will address any NRC concerns before the facility can proceed to the next stage. The NRC will also review the company's 100-percent power level assessment before concurring that the restart and power ascension process has been successfully completed.

In reaching its decision on Millstone Unit 2, the NRC carefully considered information presented in more than 100 letters, two petitions and a videotape from members of the public regarding emergency planning and restart issues. The agency will respond to these in the near future. A final decision also is expected soon on a 1995 petition filed by We the People, Inc.

In concurring with the staff's conclusion that Northeast Utilities has complied with NRC requirements for restart, the Commission designated Dr. Travers, the NRC's chief staff executive, as the senior manager responsible for verifying that open items had been resolved and that resumption of operations was appropriate.

The Commission also directed the staff to ensure that improvements in the licensee's corrective action program and safety conscious work environment program are maintained. It directed the staff to monitor closely Northeast Utilities' performance in these areas so that any possible decline is detected in its early stages.

The Commission also directed the staff to work with New York State officials in disseminating information to the public and applying to Millstone lessons learned from an emergency preparedness exercise to be held at the Indian Point nuclear plant next month. The ingestion pathway for both plants includes Long Island, N.Y.

Last June, the NRC granted Northeast Utilities permission to restart Millstone Unit 3.

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