ATHENS, AL. (Times Free Press) -- TVA's Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant vice president told the Nuclear Regulatory Agency on Thursday that the plant still is not ready for a third and final special inspection to clear a reactor's "red" safety rating.

"We agree that [the red finding] is where we should be right now," said Keith Polson. "We want to reduce the risk at the plant and improve our performance, but that has to be sustainable. This is an exercise to improve our process."

NRC placed Browns Ferry in a red rating last year after it was determined in October 2010 that a valve intended to help cool the Unit 1 reactor in emergencies had not been functional in the previous 18 months. The red rating is issued when NRC believes an entire plant has issues of "high safety significance."

NRC already has made two sets of follow-up inspections on its schedule, but under NRC policy, TVA will set the final inspection schedule. TVA spokesman Ray Golden said the utility hopes to be ready to invite NRC to inspect its progress in late 2012 or early 2013.

Read more on the story from our news partners at the Chattanooga Times Free Press.