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Walking a Nuclear Tightrope: Unlearned Lessons of Year-plus Reactor Outages

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) seems to be following the script of the movie Groundhog Day, reliving the same bad event again and again. This event—an outage at a nuclear power plant that lasts more than a year—has happened 51 times at 41 different reactors around the United States and shows no signs of stopping.

Each such occurrence results from a violation of federal regulations that require plant owners to find and fix safety problems in a timely, effective manner, coupled with the NRC's inability to detect those violations (allowing problems to multiply and worsen as a result). The accident at Three Mile Island might have been prevented had the NRC broken this cycle.

Since the nuclear power industry is unable to script Hollywood-style happy endings once events have begun to spin out of control, Congress must compel the NRC to be a more aggressive enforcer of federal safety regulations. Otherwise, declining safety performance could result in a nuclear disaster rather than a costly year-plus outage.

In Walking a Nuclear Tightrope: Unlearned Lessons of Year-plus Reactor Outages, the Union of Concerned Scientists identifies common themes among extended outages and steps the NRC must take to end these costly and avoidable threats to public health and the U.S. economy.

UCS prepared a case study for each year-plus reactor outage. To open a PDF of an individual case study, click on the reactor unit name listed below:

Reactor Unit                  State   Outage Began  Outage Ended

Browns Ferry Unit 1          AL       03/22/75         09/24/76

Browns Ferry Unit 1          AL       03/19/85         n/a

Browns Ferry Unit 2          AL       03/22/75         09/10/76

Browns Ferry Unit 2          AL       09/15/84         05/24/91

Browns Ferry Unit 3          AL       09/07/83         11/28/84

Browns Ferry Unit 3          AL       03/09/85         11/19/95

Brunswick Unit 1              NC       04/21/92         02/11/94

Brunswick Unit 2              NC       04/21/92         05/15/93

Calvert Cliffs Unit 1          MD       05/05/89         10/04/90

Calvert Cliffs Unit 2          MD       03/17/89         05/04/91

Clinton                           IL        09/05/96         05/27/99

Crystal River Unit 3           FL       09/02/96         02/06/98

D.C. Cook Unit 1              MI       09/09/97         12/21/00

D.C. Cook Unit 2              MI       09/09/97         06/25/00

Davis-Besse                   OH       06/09/85         12/24/86

Davis-Besse                   OH       02/16/02         03/16/04

Fermi Unit 1                   MI        10/05/66         07/18/70

Fermi Unit 2                   MI        12/25/93         01/18/95

FitzPatrick                     NY        11/27/91         01/23/93

Fort St. Vrain                CO         06/13/84         04/11/86

Indian Point Unit 3          NY         03/25/82         06/08/83

Indian Point Unit 3          NY         02/27/93         07/02/95

LaSalle Unit 1                IL          09/22/96         08/13/98

LaSalle Unit 2                IL          09/20/96         04/11/99

Maine Yankee                ME         01/14/95         01/18/96

Millstone Unit 2              CT         02/20/96         05/11/99

Millstone Unit 3              CT         03/30/96         07/01/98

Nine Mile Point Unit 1      NY         03/20/82         07/05/83

Nine Mile Point Unit 1      NY         12/19/87         08/12/90

Oyster Creek                 NJ         02/12/83         11/01/84

Palisades                      MI         08/11/73         10/01/74

Palo Verde Unit 1           AZ         03/05/89         07/05/90

Peach Bottom Unit 2       PA         04/28/84         07/13/85

Peach Bottom Unit 2       PA         03/31/87         05/22/89

Peach Bottom Unit 3       PA         03/31/87         12/11/89

Pilgrim                          MA        12/10/83         12/30/84

Pilgrim                          MA        04/11/86         06/15/89

Rancho Seco                 CA        12/26/85         04/11/88

Salem Unit 1                  NJ        05/16/95         04/20/98

Salem Unit 2                  NJ        06/07/95         08/30/97

San Onofre Unit 1          CA        02/26/82         11/28/84

Sequoyah Unit 1            TN        08/22/85         11/10/88

Sequoyah Unit 1            TN        03/02/93         04/20/94

Sequoyah Unit 2            TN        08/22/85         05/13/88

South Texas Project
      Unit 1                    TX        02/04/93         02/25/94

South Texas Project 
     Unit 2                     TX        02/03/93         05/22/94

St. Lucie Unit 1              FL        02/26/83         05/16/84

Surry Unit 2                  VA        02/04/79         08/19/80

Surry Unit 2                  VA        09/10/88         09/19/89

Three Mile Island 
     Unit 1                     PA        02/17/79         10/09/85

Turkey Point Unit 3        FL         02/11/81         04/11/82

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