NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

October 5, 2013

Govt. shutdown impacts plant

Meeting on concrete problems postponed; NRC to lay off employees

BY ANGELJEAN CHIARAMIDA
STAFF WRITER

---- — WASHINGTON, D.C. — The federal government shutdown just touched down in Seabrook, forcing the cancellations of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s upcoming Wednesday night meeting updating the ongoing investigation of problems with concrete within NextEra Energy Seabrook nuclear power plant.

According to the notice sent out on Friday morning by the NRC, the sessions will be rescheduled once normal government operations resume. Further information on the status of the open house and meeting will be posted on the NRC web site as it becomes available. More information about the NRC’s reviews of Seabrook concrete degradation can also be found on an agency web page devoted to that topic.

The concrete problems have been occurring in some of the lowest levels of the plant, roughly 40 feet below ground level. Water has seeped through protective barriers, causing a chemical reaction that has degraded sections of concrete in a secondary electrical tunnel. The NRC has said the plant is safe but it wants Seabrook to develop plans to manage the problem effectively.

As of Friday, the government shutdown hadn’t resulted in furloughs within the NRC as yet, according to Neil Sheehan, spokesman for Region 1 of the NRC. That could change should the shutdown continue beyond next week, resulting in many of the roughly 4,000-person agency being temporarily laid off.

“The NRC had about a week’s worth of carryover funding from fiscal year 2012-13, which ended Sept. 30,” Sheehan said. “That money is allowing the agency to remain in full operation for about an additional week. However, that funding is expected to run out as soon as the end of the workday next Tuesday or Wednesday. When that occurs, only about 290 of the NRC’s 3,900 employees would remain on the job.”

Sheehan said those who will continue on the job are staffers whose jobs are deemed necessary to perform “excepted functions.” Sheehan said among those who will remain on the job are the NRC’s resident inspectors who are assigned on a full-time basis to each operating nuclear power plant in the nation -- including Seabrook Station -- as well as staffers needed to initially respond to emergency situations at NRC-licensed facilities.

The Internet address for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s homepage is www.nrc.gov.