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Group criticizes Progress Energy's nuclear operations

Posted March 17, 2011

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— Progress Energy's nuclear generating plants experienced the most near-mishaps last year of any utility in the U.S., according to a report released Thursday.

The report from the Union of Concerned Scientists comes as Japanese officials try to stabilize nuclear reactors damaged last week by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

The UCS, an environmental advocacy and watchdog group, said that Progress Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission need to exercise more oversight to improve the performance of the Raleigh-based utility's plants.

"While the company may simply have had an unlucky year, corporate-wide approaches to safety may have contributed to this poor performance," the report said. "When conditions trigger special inspections at more than one plant with the same owner, the NRC should formally evaluate whether corporate policies and practices contributed to the shortcomings."

Progress Energy spokesman Mike Hughes defended the company's safety record.

"(Nuclear plants) have been demonstrated as safe for more than 40 years. We've been operating plants since 1971 in the Carolinas, and those plants have been very, very safe," Hughes said.

He did acknowledge, however, that the company's nuclear plants had their share of problems last year.

"2010 was clearly not a banner year in those terms, and we certainly didn't perform to the level we know our regulators expect (and) that we expect of ourselves," he said.

The UCS noted Progress Energy plants in Southport and in South Carolina and Florida accounted for four of 14 incidents nationwide that led to special inspections by the NRC.

Two of the incidents occurred at the H.B. Robinson plant in Florence, S.C., last March and October. The UCS compared the incidents, an electrical fire and an equipment failure, to those that led to the near-meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979.

Union of Concerned Scientists report Group criticizes Progress Energy's nuclear operations

At the Brunswick plant in Southport, workers couldn't respond quickly to an alarm last June, the report state. At the Crystal River plant in Crystal River, Fla., workers caused $500 million in damage to a reactor's concrete containment building when installing a new generator, according to the report.

"(Inspectors) provided input into what we needed to respond to, what we needed to address, what we needed to improve on," Hughes said. "We've taken steps and continue to take steps to address all of them."

The Shearon Harris nuclear plant in southwest Wake County was the only Progress Energy plant not named in the UCS report.

Charlotte-based Duke Energy, which is in the process of acquiring Progress Energy, was cited in the report for a security problem at its Catawba plant in Rock Hill, S.C.

UCS noted that none of last year's safety problems caused harm to plant employees or the public, but they expressed concern that regulators appeared to tolerate unresolved safety issues in several cases.

61 Comments

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  • Karmageddon Mar 18, 2011

    There will always be a bunch of "chicken littles" running around thinking the sky is falling .... mostly they just like the attention

  • John Sawtooth Mar 18, 2011

    The disaster at Fuukushima Dai-ichi illustrates how we graduallky start to overlook things that are risks after we become accustomed to them.

    Like overloaded fuel storage, held stable with borates. We then start ignoring the risk of the overloading - without realizing we have added a point of failure.

    An objective look at Progress's nuclear operations is worthwhile. It's not hard to miss some risks because you're standing too close to see. I'd like to see teams of Navy reactor officers do an 'inspector general' tour in the US.

  • LocalYokel Mar 18, 2011

    Rules of Corporatons:

    1) profit comes first.

    2) Safety should not interfere with profits.

  • They call me CATMAN Mar 18, 2011

    If these Liberal special interest groups like UCS had there way we would be like Gilligan's Island Peddling Bicycles to make power. All these whiny special interest groups live for things like this.

  • IBleedRedandWhite Mar 17, 2011

    Also, the reactors in Japan were not affected directly from the earthquake or tsunami. The earthquake that hit Japan was 1000 times stronger than the one that hit Haiti and yet these reactors were unphased. The tsunami knocked out electricity which controls the pumps for cooling and the generators did not have the right outfit to hook into the plant's power system. Those generators are also about 5th in line in redundancy. When designing reactors, you really don't ever think that you will get to the 4th or 5th stage of redundancy. However, the USA can learn to extend redundancy to the 5th or even 6th stage to prevent this from happening in the event of a major catastrophe.

    If I remember correctly, there is also a barium override that can be injected into the reactor to stop the fission process. They have already trashed the reactor with salt water, did the barium override get knocked out with the electricity as well?

  • IBleedRedandWhite Mar 17, 2011

    "You know they got parts from the suspended Unit 2 reactor at ThreeMile Island and installed them in Shearon Harris. Just saying, google it you will see it. They installed a refurbed electircal generator from ThreeMile Island Unit 2 in November 2010." -robcpuman

    Did you also know that this generator was never used, not contaminated and considerably cheaper than a new one? Guess who gets the cost of a new one passed along to them? The consumer. These generators are several million dollars as well. AND if people would turn off a light every now and then instead of leaving them on all night, maybe they wouldn't need an extra generator to keep up with demand.

    Nuclear is safe, efficient, and has little waste compared to the amount of electricity they generate. KNOW YOUR FACTS BEFORE WIGGING OUT ON SOMETHING THAT IS NOT AN ISSUE!

  • flyingcheetah92 Mar 17, 2011

    "You know they got parts from the suspended Unit 2 reactor at ThreeMile Island and installed them in Shearon Harris. Just saying, google it you will see it. They installed a refurbed electircal generator from ThreeMile Island Unit 2 in November 2010."-robcpuman

    While what you said is factually true, it is also an attempt to stir up unwarranted anxiety. In no way did the generators contribute to the problems that they had a TMI, and there is no reason to fear that they would not work if they were needed, as they have no history of not working.

  • Alex25 Mar 17, 2011

    We NEED Nuke Power, and oil, coal and nat gas....and the alternatives...and more....

  • SpaceRokr Mar 17, 2011

    Boiling Water Reactors are an intrinsically inferior design compared to Pressurized Water Reactors. BWRs are intrinsically cheaper amd more efficient than PWRs. F-kushima has BWRs. Progress Energy's Brunswick Plant is a BWR. With BWRs, the reactor coolant passes through the turbines that spin the generators; in PWRs there is another coolant loop that isolates the reactor from the turbines. In BWRs, the control rods come up from the bottom, relying on machinery for insertion; in PWRs the rods fall due to gravity. In BWRs, the last emergency coolant insertion is into a smaller containment, resulting in higher heat transfer rates, and thus less margin for bulk cooling; in PWRs, the much larger containment building allows the for the opposite.

    Let's do the math on that "cheaper" comparison now.

    Also, BWR operators should pay extremely close attention to how an earthquake OR a tsunami became an earthquake AND a tsunami, due to the element of timing.

  • pennyhawkins1966 Mar 17, 2011

    Now you know why I don't watch tv anymore. Throw away your TELL_LIE_VISION!!!

    Don't watch TV and believe everything you're told. People, you need to learn to seriously think for yourselves. Or are you afraid to? lol!

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