Shearon Harris reactor coming back to life
Posted June 4, 2013
Updated June 7, 2013
New Hill, N.C. — The nuclear reactor at Shearon Harris was operating at about 7 percent power Friday morning, about a week after a quarter-inch flaw in a reactor sensor was repaired.
Duke Energy Progress had to take the plant in southwest Wake County offline on May 15 because of the flaw, which if left unchecked, could have led to a crack. No radioactive material leaked from the plant, and public health and safety was never in danger, company officials said.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission cleared the utility Tuesday to power the reactor back up.
According to information Duke filed with the NRC, ultrasonic tests of the reactor were taken a year ago when Shearon Harris was taken offline for refueling. A secondary review of those tests last month revealed the potential for corrosion on a temperature sensor near where cooling rods attach to the reactor head.
Unlike the non-emergency flaw that was a detected, a crack would be a much more serious concern. Over years, an unrepaired crack could widen and allow water that keeps the reactor cool to escape, putting the plant at risk of a meltdown and possible release of radiation.
The NRC dispatched two specialized inspectors from its Atlanta regional office to work with the plant’s resident inspectors in assessing the discovery of the flaw. They also examined previous ultrasonic test records and evaluated the company’s repair of the problem.
"We have verified that the condition has been corrected and the plant can be operated safely,” Victor McCree, NRC regional administrator, said in a statement. “Although there was no threat to people living near the plant, we felt it was important to conduct a follow-up meeting to answer questions residents might have.”
The agency has scheduled a public meeting for 6 p.m. June 13 at the Holly Springs Cultural Center, when officials will discuss the preliminary findings of the inspection team. A final report won't be available until July.
Shearon Harris provides power to about 550,000 customers.