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Utilities Told to Repair Reactor Monitors, Quickly With PM-NRC-List

May 28, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government is ordering repairs of faulty measuring devices at 36 nuclear reactors around the country run by utility companies.

The devices are a system of pipes that measure the water level above nuclear reactor cores. In some cases, gas becomes trapped in the pipes, and they show higher water levels than actually exist, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman said Thursday.

NRC spokesman Frank Ingram said the safety significance of the problem is small. But industry critics say that incorrect water readings during an accident could show the reactor core covered with water when it isn’t - a mistake that could lead to a nuclear meltdown.

Utilities say other safety systems would prevent that. The industry wants at least another 18 months to make the repairs, but the NRC wants the problem fixed sooner, said Cynthia Tully, chairwoman of the Boiling Water Reactor Owners Group, an organization of 22 utilities.

″We don’t have a safety issue, but water-level measurement is a vital instrumentation, and our recommendation is that we should fix this,″ Tully said.

Ingram said the NRC is preparing an advisory that will set a deadline.

The industry identified the first inaccurate readings last year at Millstone Unit No. 1 near New London, Conn. This year, engineers spotted inaccurate readings at a Washington Public Power Supply System plant while the reactor was being shut for maintenance.

Millstone’s operator - Northeast Nuclear Energy Co. - has fixed the problem by adding pipes that ensure a constant flow of water around the measuring device, said company spokesman Steve Jackson.

The NRC initially included the Big Rock Point plant in Charlevoix, Mich., on the list, but NRC spokeswoman Sue Gagner said today that plant was exempt because the type of instruments it has are not susceptible to the problem.

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