Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, a power plant west of Phoenix, AZ, was placed in Column 4 of the NRC’s Regulatory Oversight Process, significantly increasing regulatory oversight. Engineering Programs were isolated and disjointed, and numerous violations and programmatic issues unfolded.
GSE Engineering, Programs and Performance (formerly True North Consulting) partnered with Palo Verde Programs personnel to identify and isolate the problems by evaluating program effectiveness and equipment reliability. GSE utilized a systematic process enabling Palo Verde to return to a Column 1 status. GSE then mentored and trained Palo Verde personnel on the new processes, enabling them to identify better and solve future issues.
The NRC’s Regulatory Oversight Process Column 4 resulted from repetitive degraded cornerstones, multiple degraded cornerstones, multiple YELLOW inputs and one RED input, which indicate longstanding issues or significant reduction in safety margin. Continued degradation of the plant’s programs affected their ability to ensure regulatory compliance and could have resulted in being placed in Column 5: Unacceptable Performance.
Performance deterioration of programs results in increased site manpower demands, program update costs, additional training, and possible regulatory fines. Failure of Engineering Programs results in the decreased ability to protect the health and safety of the general public and, ultimately, the station’s ability to generate electricity and revenue.
GSE was contracted to perform a series of Benchmark Gap Analyses and Program Assessments for 21 of the affected Engineering Programs.
GSE’s Engineering Program experience, expertise and proven assessment processes were used to determine the areas that required improvement. This determination was based on technical content, program structure, implementation process and periodic maintenance activities—additionally, GSE trained and mentored station personnel on the new program updates and processes.
As a result of GSE consulting’s efforts, Palo Verde is now in Column 1 (or minimum) Regulatory Oversight. Palo Verde’s Director of Engineering stated that this improvement was due to the efforts of GSE. Palo Verde values the experience and expertise of GSE to evaluate Engineering Programs with an objective view while providing solid solutions.
GSE supports Palo Verde and is committed to improving its Engineering Programs effectively and fully compliantly, reducing the need for further regulatory oversight and fines.