NRC to inspect Shearon Harris after equipment failure

Posted May 7, 2012

The Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant in southwestern Wake County
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— The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday that it is conducting a special inspection at the Shearon Harris nuclear power plant to determine why the plant's two main steam isolation valves failed last month.

The Progress Energy plant, located about 20 miles southwest of Raleigh, had shut down and was in the process of cooling down for refueling on April 21 when two main steam isolation values failed to close, NRC officials said. Following additional operator actions, one of the two valves was closed a little more than half an hour later, but the second valve took three hours to close, they said.

Main steam isolation valves play an important role in limiting the release of steam in a nuclear plant during certain accident scenarios, NRC officials said. There were no safety implications during the April 21 event, but there was a potential safety risk had an accident occurred while the valves were stuck open, they said..

“There was no immediate threat to public safety, but this event does raise important questions that need to be addressed,” Victor McCree, regional administrator for the NRC, said in a statement.

The agency's resident inspectors at Shearon Harris immediately began assessing the incident and are continuing to monitor Progress Energy’s activities. A four-member Special Inspection Team from the NRC’s regional offices in Atlanta and headquarters in Rockville, Md., will develop a timeline, review the utility's actions leading up to the event, examine the performance history of the valves and evaluate the company’s response.

Progress Energy is conducting its own review of the incident and will make any necessary repairs, spokesman Mike Hughes said. The repairs will be completed before the plant is restarted from its current refueling and maintenance outage, he said.

The NRC inspection will take several days, and a report documenting the results is expected to be issued within 45 days, officials said.


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  • mgratk May 14, 2012

    I live less than 10 miles from the power plant, and I feel perfectly safe. There are lots more likely ways for us to get taken out-- its senseless to worry about nuclear power.

  • mfarmer1 May 8, 2012

    I guess with the increase of our electric bills they can now replace those two valves.

  • Offshore May 8, 2012

    hereandnow99: agreed, but with companies like Solundra (or whatever) it makes it rather difficult to feel "fuzzy & warm" about investing in big solar...

  • albegadeep May 8, 2012

    I work in a manufacturing plant. From personal experience, I can tell you that steam valves fail. (Everything does, eventually.) It happens. Two at once, apparently on the same line, is a bit unusual, but about all you can do is test them occasionally to make sure they're working.

    Even though this DID NOT cause a problem, look at how much attention the plant is giving it. Rather reassuring, actually. They'll probably put in a regular check of the valves (if they didn't already have one), and maybe another pair of valves as a redundant backup.

    Not a big deal.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU May 8, 2012

    @Buck, when you understand why we give Billions of Tax Payer Dollars to oil & gas companies every year, you will understand why Solar wants them instead. Every dollar you spend (we spend) a vote. ...a vote FOR whatever you are buying.

    Finite resources are not infinitely available. Eventually, we will HAVE to use alternatives. We can start now or we can be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the future and force our children to make the smart decisions.

    I think we should start working as hard as we can NOW to get off of finite & dirty & dangerous fuels. YMMV

    How much more progress would solar technology make if we took the $8 Billion dollars that we give oil and gave it to solar? Do you think it might help shift priorities and hire scientists to get us out of this dead-end future?

  • JenniWest May 8, 2012

    I'm really proud of how hard the Shearin-Harris team works toward maintaining the safe operation of the plant. It's a big machine and parts of big machines fail. That is a given. There will be, of course, people who manipulate these events to create fear and distrust but the nuclear industry has an exceptional history of safety, despite drama in the news. If you want a good book on the overall workings of the nuclear industry that is not tainted by politicians, NIMBYS and activists with agendas (and not so much in the way of actual knowledge), read The Power to Save the World, by Gwyneth Cravens. It may be the most important book you ever read.

  • zonk May 8, 2012

    My company is a vendor to the nuclear plant. The security is not lax at all. In fact it is somewhat invasive. Maybe it was in 2003 or 1999 dates that were mentioned in the story but not now. There is always a possibility of an airplane failing out of the sky. Does not mean it is going to happen. Stop being alarmists

  • lilloan May 7, 2012

    For any interested, do a google search for 'pools of fire'. There's a great excerpt from a book about the possibility of a nuclear disaster and the litany of violations at Shearon Harris. Frankly, it's alarming.

  • notodukpgnmerger May 7, 2012

    Another reason the Duke merger should be rejected!!! Progress has spent too much time on this ill conceived merger with Duke and no longer can manage the basics. Once it is rejected by FERC the employees can resume their focus on things like ensuring nuclear is done right.

    Very sad that a once top company in Raleigh has been sold out by their Executives to become part of Mr.Rogers neighborhood. I hear it has become a depressing and demoralized place to work.

    No to the Merger!
    Yes to Executive Accountability!
    Yes to Customer Choice!
    No to a bigger Monopoly!

  • monkeyboy May 7, 2012

    "Congratulations, you are the first to lead the way in introducing pointless political rhetoric into a subject where it is not needed." - mobilegeek

    ah, but you'll notice that every comment since my pre-emptive ridicule of those who post political carp on every story has been cogent and on-topic...

    you're welcome.