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Refueling shipment to nuke plant exceeded radiation limit

Equipment at Salem Township plant arrived with emissions over feds’ standards.

SALEM TWP. – A shipment to the Susquehanna nuclear plant arrived on Friday emitting radioactivity beyond the limit allowed by the federal Department of Transportation, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on Tuesday.

“This did not impact the public,” NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said. “Nevertheless, DOT sets these limits so the public is protected.”

He said it is “premature” to discuss potential enforcement actions.

The plant is jointly owned by PPL Corp. and Allegheny Electric Cooperative Inc.

The shipment, containing equipment to be used during an upcoming refueling and maintenance outage, was surveyed for radioactivity and passed before leaving North Carolina. A similar survey upon arrival found the underside of a box containing equipment used on the refueling floor emitted 350 millirems per hour, above the 200-millirems-per-hour exposure limit.

“The spot was in a place that was inaccessible to anyone,” PPL spokeswoman Nancy Bishop said. “When it left North Carolina, the measurements were below the limit. When it arrived here, the measurements were above the limit. What probably happened is that the components shifted in transit.”

The box was put into an onsite facility “designed and licensed to hold radioactive material,” she said, where it will stay until it’s needed for refueling.

The equipment was being shipped by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, which PPL hired to execute the refueling. The equipment can become radioactive, Bishop said, because “it can come in contact with various radioactive components when it’s on the refuel floor … during maintenance.”

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