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Nuke Plant Could Be Running Again By Friday

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NEW HILL, N.C. — The Shearon Harris nuclear reactor remained shut down Thursday, two days after an equipment malfunction forced Progress Energy to take the power plant offline.

A short circuit on the plant's generator forced the automatic shutdown at about 10 a.m. Tuesday, but a spokeswoman for the utility said it was not considered to be an emergency situation.

Crews finally located the cause of the problem late Wednesday. A faulty relay in the generator is expected to be replaced Thursday, and the plant will be restarted slowly, spokeswoman Julie Hans said.

The utility expects to reconnect the plant to the electrical grid by late Friday, Hans said. No safety problems or power outages have been reported because of the plant shutdown.

The last time Shearon Harris had an unexpected shutdown was in 2004.

Meanwhile, anti-nuclear advocacy groups have asked regulators to suspend the plant's operating license until fire safety problems are corrected.

The N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service filed the petition Wednesday with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Fire is a concern at nuclear power plants because a fire can interfere with controls to the nuclear reactor. Hans said the Shearon Harris plant complied with fire-safety rules.

"We are using compensatory measures, but those measures bring us into compliance," she said. "We have been addressing the problem."

Roger Hannah, an NRC spokesman, said the plant failed to follow some fire rules.

"There are some areas where they are not meeting the current regulations," Hannah said. "But they are meeting the safety standard that we expect them to adhere to."

Under an agreement with the NRC, the company has until 2015 to correct the fire-safety problems.

Jim Warren of N.C. WARN said Progress has known about the problems since 1992 and "obviously has made a business decision to not correct them."

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