Originally reported by David Smith in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
RUSSELLVILLE – A crane lifting a 525-ton generator stator – a large stationary enclosure where electricity is generated – collapsed March 31, leading to the death of a worker and shutting down Arkansas Nuclear One for four weeks, a team of federal officials reported Thursday.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s “augmented inspection team” has studied the accident for weeks but has not issued a final report about the accident and the response to it by Entergy Arkansas, which owns the state’s only nuclear facility.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration also is conducting an investigation and has yet to release a final report, said Geoffrey Miller, a commission branch chief in Arlington, Texas.
The plant’s Unit 2 nuclear reactor returned to service April 28, but Unit 1 has been offline since March 24, when a scheduled refueling shutdown began.
Miller spoke to a crowd of about 90 people Thurs- day afternoon at a training center near the plant.
The accident killed Wade Walters, 24, an employee with a contracting firm helping to move the generator stator, and injured eight other workers.
Nine members of Walters’ family attended Thursday’s meeting, along with two attorneys from the Bailey & Oliver Law Firm of Rogers, which is representing the family.
The family is still in “complete shock,” said Sach Oliver, the lead attorney representing the Walters family.
“And they don’t even know it,” Oliver said. “It’s almost like Wade is on another job and hasn’t come home yet, it hasn’t hit them yet.”
Walters “lived life to the fullest” and enjoyed the outdoors, said his mother, Susan Allen, in an interview after the meeting. A graduate of Pottsville High School, Walters had worked as an ironworker for the contractor and enjoyed his work, Allen said.
Workers were moving the stator with the crane at 7:49 a.m. on Easter Sunday when the crane “physically collapsed” and the stator fell to the floor in a nonnuclear area of the plant, Miller said in an interview after the meeting.
“It was over within seconds,” said Miller, who said the commission is unsure why the crane failed. It should have been able to handle the weight, he said.
Immediately, workers at the plant called ambulances and other emergency vehicles, Miller said.
With the collapse, offsite power was stopped and Unit 2 was shut down, he said.
Damage caused by the stator’s fall allowed water to get into an electric breaker box, causing a small explosion at 9:23 a.m., Miller said.
The explosion caused workers at the plant to report an “unusual event,” the lowest level of danger, at 10:33 a.m.
But at all times, the commission’s inspectors determined, Arkansas Nuclear One’s plant safety systems responded as designed after the accident and Entergy Arkansas workers responded as they should have, Miller said.
Questions about what caused the crane’s collapse, whether the accident could have been prevented and the chronology of events are still being considered by the two federal agencies, Miller said.
The agencies will release more reports on the accident at later dates, Miller said.
There are at least 10 items the commission will address in further inspections, Miller said. The commission was required to issue a written report of the inspection in 30 days.