Nuclear Regulatory Commission gives Monticello plant yellow rating for flood preparedness

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today officially notified the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant that it preliminarily has assigned a “yellow” finding regarding the plant’s preparedness from February 2012 through January 2013 for “probable maximum flood.”

The NRC uses a color-coded system to classify its findings, which range from green, for an issue of very low safety significance, to red, for an issue of high safety significance.

A yellow finding indicates an issue with substantial safety significance, which would lead to additional NRC inspections and potentially other NRC action. Tim O’Connor, chief nuclear officer for Xcel Energy, provided the following statement in an email sent by Mary Sandok, Xcel Energy’s media relations manager:

“Safety and security at our nuclear generating plants are top priorities for Xcel Energy, and at no time was the public in any danger,” O’Connor stated in an email. “In response to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, Xcel Energy and the NRC have reassessed the safety of our plants resulting in an even higher level of safety expectations. Plant officials annually assess the potential for flooding, including monitoring river water levels and snow cover, and they extensively plan for potential floods based on those predictions. Flood berm wall construction procedures for the “worst case” flood scenario were in place, and the site had contracts with local suppliers for materials should those have been needed to protect the Monticello plant. The plant now has procured those flood berm materials and has placed them on site for improved readiness for this worst case scenario. Because the materials are on site the potential safety concern has been resolved.”

Sandok said the utility is reviewing the NRC’s preliminary finding and has 10 days to respond.