Federal regulators to discuss safety lapses at Shearon Harris

jmurawski@newsobserver.comMay 14, 2013 

jll08089

Progress Energy's Shearon Harris nuclear facility near Raleigh is one of 3 nuclear plants it operates.

NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s upcoming public presentation on the performance of the Shearon Harris nuclear plant will feature something unusual: safety lapses that downgraded the power plant’s safety ranking last year.

The NRC makes an annual public presentation on each nuclear plant in the country, typically holding the Shearon Harris meeting in nearby Holly Springs. The Wake County presentation, reviewing the Shearon Harris plant’s safety record during the past year, is usually uneventful and attracts one or two dozen retirees.

Last year, however, the Shearon Harris plant, located less than 25 miles from downtown Raleigh, was put under increased NRC oversight. The federal agency concluded that plant officials failed to properly maintain emergency facilities and equipment that would be needed in the event of a nuclear accident.

The problem, which has since been fixed, represented a rare lapse for the Shearon Harris plant. The single-reactor facility, which has been generating electricity since 1987, is owned and operated by Raleigh-based Duke Energy Progress, a subsidiary of Charlotte-based Duke Energy.

The NRC said that Progress narrowly escaped having to pay a financial penalty for failing to report the violations. The problem involved a malfunctioning ventilation system in an emergency personnel bunker that’s located two miles from the nuclear plant.

The ventilators failed between April 2009 and November 2011 and would have resulted in the emergency operations facility heating up to 87 degrees and accumulating carbon dioxide.

The NRC concluded that under those conditions, at least one key emergency nuclear worker would have been impaired and unable to perform emergency response duties.

The NRC’s public overview of Shearon Harris will be held Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Holly Springs Cultural Center, 300 West Ballentine Street. NRC staff will make a presentation and answer questions from members of the public in attendance.

The meeting will be preceded by an “open house,” beginning at 5 p.m., during which the public can learn about the NRC oversight process.

Murawski: 919-829-8932

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