Local News

NRC Releases Findings In Shearon Harris Probe

Posted March 22, 2006

— The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has released the findings of its investigation into Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant after nuclear watchdog groups raised questions about the safety of the nuclear reactor and the ability of intruders to access it.

According to the report, released Wednesday, investigators looked into 19 specific issues, but said most were of minimal concern or couldn't be substantiated. Three, however, remain under investigation.

The investigation was based on interviews with 91 contract security officers at the plant and a review of documents associated with 16 of the concerns. Of that 16, seven were substantiated, but the safety and security significance of the concerns was very low and did not represent "a degradation of plant security," the report said. The NRC was unable to "establish the validity" of the other nine concerns.

Those still under investigation include claims of cheating on security certification tests; alleged reprisals against security officers who file injury reports; and another involving alleged retaliation for raising security concerns.

Progress Energy chairman and CEO Bob McGehee said in a written statement Wednesday afternoon that the company, which owns and operates Shearon Harris, will take extra steps to address any security issues.

"We take every concern seriously," McGehee said. "The fact that any of these incidents occurred, regardless of the significance, requires action. We have taken corrective measures on every one and are taking additional steps to make sure these issues do not occur again."

McGehee also said Progress Energy was taking a number of steps to improve allegations that the NRC is investigating, including retesting every security guard at the plant.

"We will take all the appropriate action necessary based on further information we receive from the NRC," McGehee said.

The investigation -- in response to security concerns raised by the North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network -- stemmed from a number of reported security lapses.

A guard reported hearing a gunshot while on patrol during last summer; and doors at the facility were found unsecured for an unknown amount of time. In November, someone trespassed onto the plant's property and hung a black flag on a communications tower 75 feet in the air.

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