The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has recommended fining Northeast Utilities $2.1 million for safety violations at the Millstone nuclear power plant, Dow Jones reports. The fine would represent the agency's largest civil penalty.
Northeast expected a large fine and will not contest the penalty. The company closed the three reactors at Millstone for safety improvements and is working with the NRC to gain clearance for them.
The NRC has also issued a 33 page letter in which it is highly critical of Northeast. It cites an arrogant management style, discrimination against employees reporting safety lapses and a repeated failure to correct clearly identified problems, including cooling pools overloaded with fuel rods.
Northeast said that the violations, which were found in 1995 and 1996, reflect old standards. The fines, a spokesman said, are a way of putting the past behind the utility. The Connecticut utility has also changed its top management, cancelled its dividend and renegotiated debt to cope with the Millstone closure. As a result of the closure, Northeast has spent over $1 billion to buy replacement power.
Northeast expected to have the largest and newest of the three reactors operating by the end of March, and the other two in service by the end of 1998. However the governor of Connecticut has indicated that the NRC demands will lead to a further delay at Millstone, postponing the probable restart for the first reactor to the summer.
Before the proposed Millstone fine, the NRC's largest penalty was a fine of $1.25 million imposed on Philadelphia Electric Co. for the 1979 Three Mile Island accident.