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NRC OKs Restart of Nuclear Plant

June 2, 1998

ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) _ The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s staff recommended Tuesday that one of three nuclear reactors at Connecticut’s Millstone plant be allowed to start producing electricity again.

That clears the way for a vote by the four commissioners on restarting Northeast Utilities’ Millstone Unit 3, possibly this week. Each commissioner votes privately, and then the votes are tallied. There is one vacancy on the five-member panel.

Critics maintain that the plant _ shut down more than two years ago for licensing violations _ is still run poorly, possibly compromising safety. Northeast Utilities is New England’s largest utility, with 1.7 million customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

But NRC inspectors said the utility, hit with a record $2.1 million fine in December, has made adequate improvements, including putting together a plan to correct technical problems.

The utility ``has taken appropriate corrective actions to support restart of Millstone Unit 3,″ wrote L. Joseph Callan, the agency’s executive director for operations.

The NRC staff recommended restarting even though some outstanding work needs to be done at Unit 3, including improving the valve alignment system and the performances of operators during the plant’s early heating-up.

If the restart is approved, staff members would have to verify that the improvements have been made before the plant starts generating power again.

NRC staffers last month also approved NU’s creation of a program to handle workers’ safety concerns. The utility had a history of punishing whistleblowers.

The utility, which will lose the right to charge Connecticut ratepayers for Unit 3 if it is not running by July 1, tried to reassure anxious residents near Waterford, Conn., where the complex is located.

``We will resume operations with conservatism and diligence,″ said Bruce Kenyon, president of the utility’s nuclear operations. If the NRC approves restart, it could take up to six weeks to get the plant running at full capacity.

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