COLUMBIA, S.C. — Federal regulators say they’ve found there was a “substantial potential” for an accident that could have injured workers at the Westinghouse nuclear fuel plant near Columbia.
Media outlets report the preliminary results of an investigation into a uranium built up at the plant were discussed Tuesday night.
Westinghouse does not dispute the information and says it’s working to resolve problems at the 47-year-old plant.
“We have had significant performance lapses at the Columbia site,” said Michele DeWitt, Westinghouse’s interim senior vice president for nuclear fuel and components manufacturing.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says Westinghouse was unable to keep uranium from accumulating in plant equipment.
“Potential safety consequences to workers were high,” according to a power point presentation from the initial investigation.
The NRC says there was no accident at the plant and people in Richland County were in no danger. But the agency says there was the potential for problems. They say uranium built up in air pollution control devices known as scrubbers.
The most recent uranium accumulation was found this past summer in a rooftop scrubber. The scrubber contained amounts of uranium three times higher than the federal safety standard. Other equipment has also been discovered with uranium accumulation during the summer.
NRC regional administrator Catherine Haney on Tuesday night called the problems serious.
“We rely on certain measures to be put in place that would prevent (an accident) from occurring. Those measures were not available,” Haney said.
The plant is one of three in the United States that makes uranium fuel for use commercial power plants.
Westinghouse promises to upgrade equipment, conduct more frequent inspections and add personnel.