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Harris Nuclear Plant Fined for Security Violations – News Release by NC WARN

NEWS RELEASE                                                                               Contact:  Jim Warren
August 30, 2007                                                                                                  919-416-5077

Penalty closes two-year scandal after 9 charges were confirmed

Statement by NC WARN Executive Director Jim Warren:

Federal investigators today levied a $65,000 penalty against Progress Energy, owner of the Shearon Harris nuclear plant, ending a wide-ranging security scandal that began in December 2005.  It is apparently the first fine for security violations at aUS nuclear plant since 9/11.

In May, investigators confirmed the second set of charges made by whistle-blowing guards concerned about security breaches at Harris, located near Raleigh, NC.   A special unit of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission reported that three security supervisors admitted giving answer keys or coaching guards during two different types of annual recertification exams over an undetermined period of time.

In the first phase of its report released in March 2006, the NRC confirmed seven charges, including one that at least 14 doors to vital areas were left inoperable, possibly for years.  Both sets of charges were aired by NC WARN and the Union of Concerned Scientists in December 2005 based on reports from Harris guards frustrated that their complaints to the NRC were ignored.

Today’s penalty points to the fact that qualification tests are essential to the defense of nuclear power plants.  After first denying all the charges, in early 2006 the Raleigh-based utility said it was fixing the broken security equipment.  Progress also said all guards were retested early last year.  It was later revealed that several security supervisors were fired.  A high-ranking corporate security official for Progress was terminated last year, but we cannot confirm that it was related to the Harris case.

A ninth charge, which the NRC said it could not confirm, was validated last year when the state labor department ordered several guards reinstated after being fired for reporting injuries.  Then, last October a State licensing board cited security contractor Securitas, Inc. for various violations involving state-licensing requirements of security guards.

Due to industry-wide cost-cutting pressure, Harris guards say the force is not large enough to defend against a realistic level of attack.  And Harris operated for an extended period with broken equipment and a number of guards not having proven their ability to perform their duties – a problem created by Securitas and Progress – not the guards.

Harris guards insist Progress and NRC knew about the broken equipment, forced cheating and other

problems, but took no action until it became a public scandal.  As a senior NRC official admitted when the March 2006 interim report was released, “It was pretty clear that the licensee should have taken action long ago.”

 

See the full set of security charges and related documents:  http://www.ncwarn.org/Programs/PlantSecurity/

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