WASHINGTON, Feb 10 (Reuters) – Counterfeit parts have been discovered in U.S. nuclear plants, potentially increasing the risk of a safety failure, the inspector general of the federal nuclear industry regulator said in a report released on Thursday.
The report is a blow to a U.S nuclear industry that has shrunk in recent years due to competition from renewable power and plants that burn natural gas and lingering public concerns following high-profile mishaps including a 2011 tsunami at Japan’s Fukushima plant.
In addition, it said a “well placed NRC principal” told the inspector general about two component failures at plants in the U.S. Northeast that plant operators determined involved fake parts. And a recent inspector general audit report revealed that the parts are present at nuclear operating plants, it said without further details.
U.S. Department of Energy staff had identified more than 100 incidents involving counterfeit, fraudulent or suspect items (CFSI) in agency reactors in fiscal year 2021 alone, the report said.
The Department of Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
An advocacy group said the report shows the NRC needs to work harder to counter the problem.
“This troubling report shows that the NRC needs to do much more to ensure that counterfeit or fraudulent parts with potentially dangerous defects are kept out of US nuclear power plants — including strengthening requirements for plant owners to report and correct such problems as soon as they are discovered,” said Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, nonprofit group.
The administration of President Joe Biden has said it believes nuclear reactors will play an important role in decarbonizing the nation’s economy to fight climate change, because they do not emit significant amount of greenhouse gases.