- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

PALO, Iowa (AP) - Federal regulators are imposing tougher oversight on Iowa’s only nuclear power plant after finding two problems with backup equipment there in the past year.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Wednesday that the Duane Arnold Energy Center near Palo will face more scrutiny and inspections now.

The NRC and the plant’s majority owner, NextEra Energy Resources, say public safety never was threatened by the concerns at the plant about 8 miles from Cedar Rapids.

NextEra Energy spokeswoman Renee Nelson said both problems were discovered by plant employees conducting inspections and fixed promptly.

In one case, a diesel generator had an oil leak in March 2013. The other violation discovered last fall related to a backup reactor cooling system that wouldn’t start automatically but could be operated manually.

In both instances, other backup systems were available at the plant, Nelson and the NRC said.

The additional inspections regulators plan to conduct at the plant will investigate the causes of the equipment problems and make sure the steps NextEra took to address them are adequate, said regional NRC administrator Cynthia Pederson.

“The additional oversight by the NRC is warranted because we expect plants to properly assess the availability and reliability of safety equipment to ensure the plant’s ability to respond to an event,” Pederson said.

Duane Arnold employs more than 500 people and generates enough power for more than 600,000 homes a year.

NextEra Energy owns 70 percent of the Duane Arnold plant.

The Iowa plant also is owned by Central Iowa Power Cooperative and Corn Belt Power Cooperative.