State News

Train Carrying Spent Nuclear Fuel Derails at Wake Plant

Posted October 26, 2007

— Two cars on a train carrying spent radioactive nuclear fuel jumped the tracks at the Shearon Harris nuclear plant about 25 miles southwest of Raleigh, Progress Energy said Friday.

The utility said it was barred by federal law from giving the time or day of the accident. The state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety was notified of the incident at 7:23 p.m. Thursday, shortly after it occurred, but spokeswoman Patty McQuillan also declined to release the specific time it happened.

The utility blamed the accident on human error in preparing the tracks for the train's arrival.

"It was a miscommunication about whether or not the preparations on the actual track had been made in order to move the train," Hans said.

The full train remained upright after a caboose and an empty flatbed car, used as a buffer, jumped the tracks, the company said. The train was moving at about 4 mph to 5 mph.

The train, including the derailed cars, had been cleared off the tracks as of Friday morning, Hans said.

The Shearon Harris plant accepts overflow waste from one facility, Progress Energy's Brunswick nuclear plant south of Wilmington.

Hans declined to say whether any plant employee faces disciplinary action as a consequence of the error that led to the derailment.

"We are carefully reviewing the cause to make sure it doesn't happen again," Hans said.



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  • Oct 27, 2007

    Why won't they say the time and date when the News and Observer have in today's paper (and on their home page yesterday)?

  • Timbo Oct 27, 2007

    Cool video, RKBA. It was the same video I saw on cable. I'd like to drive that jet engine train...

  • WRALwontdeletemyaccount Oct 27, 2007

    I lived in Albuquerque when these were done at Sandia Labs

  • whatelseisnew Oct 26, 2007

    Hey stop picking on the jackrabbits; they are people 2.

  • areadriver Oct 26, 2007

    This stuff is much safer transported by rail than by truck. Obviously the caboose and flat car did its job as the car carrying the cask did not derail. Actually the fact that there was a caboose, a flat car, and the cask tells you that it was being backed in, as trains cannot turn around. When traveling foward the caboose and flat car are used as a cushion in case the train is rear ended. Weight on the flat car would not have kept in on the track, rather, it may have led to the cask derailing also.
    To those worried about what the contents of trains are, a train car carries what about 5 trucks can carry. If you multiply every train car you see, by 5, that's how many trucks it would take to carry the same amount. That's increasing the amount of traffic on the highways, and increasing the liklihood of a car/truck accident involving some really nasty stuff. Those materials are safer on the rails than riding down the road next to you and me.

  • weasleyes Oct 26, 2007

    I am a former president of the Raleigh Engineers Club. We had a speaker who is a PHD in Nuclear Engineering, a registered Professional Engineer, former professor at NCSU,and a consultant who advises people all across the world on the affects of earthquakes and nuclear power plants. He told our club that, if an earthquake threatened Wake County, or anywhere near it, and if he had time ... he and his family would be pounding on the door to Harris Plant, begging to be let in. As to storage of low-level wastes, it is a political problem, not a technical problem. Yucca Mountain! There is nothing within a hundred miles of there, except Joshua trees, sidewinders, and a few big jackrabbits!

  • elcid89 Oct 26, 2007

    "For those that are SO concerned about all that terrible nuclear waste in those thin, flimsy 75 ton concrete casks, I suggest that you set at a railroad crossing and read the contents of some of the tanker cars that go by. Then take a quick look at a chemistry book. Or perhaps a book on energetic materials ...."

    And also take a look at which cars are proximate to which other cars. I see tankers cars going by all the time which say "sulfuric acid" then "acetic anhydride" then "molten sulfur."

    It's enough to make one worry.

  • Timbo Oct 26, 2007

    I tied rebar down at the Plant when they built it. Basically, they built it so that it could be turned upside down and not fall apart.

    However, I'm not at all knowledgeable about the storage facilities for the nuclear waste. But, if trends hold, I would bet it's safe.

    BTW, there was a show on cable, Discovery I think (could be wrong) that detailed this exact scenario and talked about the containers. I think they're doing a good job.

  • WRALwontdeletemyaccount Oct 26, 2007

    A FOUR mile an hour event gets headline news "Accident at Nuclear Plant"?

    What next.... someone drops a stapler, or the hallway water cooler leaking over there spawns another "disaster" story?

  • loudnoises Oct 26, 2007

    djofraliegh:"Why Wake Co has to house the spent material from other states I don't know?

    The buffer car should be weighted to keep from being squeezed off the rails."

    That's why it's used as a buffer car. It's supposed to derail if such forces are applied to it. If it was weighted, it would in effect become a battering ram.

    And from those panicking about the lack of time/date info: Let's try this from a terrorist POV: I know that hazardous material is being moved. I know the time and date. I can simply derail a car, or multiple ones and cause a toxic spill. If it's radiological, even better. I can clear out whole towns for years to come.

    A situation like this has already happened with various other chemical laden cars. People with some sort of grudge or evil intent just need to pop out a few rail spikes and it collapses when the first cars run over it. It doesn't bother me one bit that such news wasn't published.