“No Meltdown Yet” is too high a threshold to
judge a nuclear power plant’s safety record
An NC WARN report on new and continuing problems at Shearon Harris
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent its annual Assessment Report to Harris officials on March 1, 2007. It listed only two “events” leading to “Non-cited Violations,” and ignored most of the serious problems shown below because the agency’s policy is to exclude from its annual assessment report any problems that are shared by other plants, regardless of their severity and longevity – and even when the agency has ongoing directives for owners to correct them.
Progress Energy has consistently declined requests to provide information clarifying problems at Harris their and plans for remedial actions. No wonder – the NRC helps them hide the existence and degree of serious safety, security and emergency planning failures from the public.
|Shearon Harris problems identified by NC WARN||Summary of each problem||Included in NRC
Reactor Oversight Process (ROP) annual report ?
|POTENTIAL STRESS-CORROSION CRACKS IN REACTOR COOLING SYSTEM(NRC reports)
|A near-miss at the VC Summer plant in SC in 2000 led the NRC to direct 40 plants in March 2007 to “resolve concerns regarding certain welds in the reactor coolant system.” NRC instructed Harris and others to perform interim measures – enhanced leakage monitoring – until full inspection, evaluation and correction of stress corrosion cracks during the next scheduled refueling outage. NRC says “The first incidence of these flaws occurred in a US reactor in 1993. Since 2000 [following the Summer near-miss], additional flaws have been detected.” Last October, the “size and nature” of flaws found at the Wolf Creek plant led NRC to instruct all plants to correct the problems by the end of 2007. NOTE: The NRC is notorious for allowing such “generic issues” to be delayed year after year.||Not cited in NRC’s ROP report. The ROP report card excludes “generic problems” that affect multiple plants.|
|EMERGENCY COOLING FLAW REMAINSUNCORRECTED FOR YEARS
(NRC Annual Reports, UCS study)
|The NRC realized years ago that various Loss of Coolant Accidents could lead to debris clogging the reactor sump needed to recirculate backup cooling water.
This design flaw has now been fixed at dozens of plants around the world and most in the U.S – but not Harris.
|Not cited by NRC as a safety issue (generic problem), but NRC’s report makes a vague reference to the problem, saying it will conduct non-ROP inspections into “the containment emergency recirculation sump blockage temporary instruction.”At the 5/23/06 NRC assessment meeting, Progress pledged to correct the sump deficiency by late 2007.
Progress Energy declined last week to verify whether it is on schedule to correct the multi-million dollar design flaw.
|EMERGENCY COOLING SERIOUSLY IMPAIRED FOR 8 DAYS IN MAY(NRC report)||One of the large chillers (air conditioners) used to protect safety equipment motors at Harris remained broken but undetected for at least eight days in May 2006. It was caused by a procedural error combined with a design flaw. NRC reported that in various accident scenarios the back-up cooling system might have been unable to prevent the reactor from overheating and causing a severe accident. NRC called a special meeting with Harris officials.||After Harris officials lobbied NRC, the agency changed the failure’s ROP ranking to one of “very low safety significance” but “greater than minor.”|
|FIRE SAFETY –WIDESPREAD VIOLATION SINCE 1992(NRC documents
and Price letter)
|Fire is a leading risk factor for a severe reactor accident, and fire protection is integral to the security of nuclear plants. NRC admits Harris is in noncompliance – the basis for an ongoing legal challenge – and that NRC is unable to inspect fire areas that are in noncompliance. In May 2006, Congressman David Price called for a GAO investigation into NRC’s lack of enforcement.||NRC does not include this in its ROP report because ongoing fire violations are a generic issue at many plants.|
|SUDDEN REACTOR SHUTDOWNS: WORST IN US
9/21/06 Automatic Reactor Trip
5/19/06 Forced shutdown
|Harris apparently remains the national leader in sudden reactor shutdowns. NC WARN counted SCRAMS at all plants using NRC data for 2002 and 2005, finding Harris the leader with nine. Progress Energy declined to provide information showing Harris has lost its top ranking.The reactor automatically scrammed due to a generator problem caused by an electrical relay malfunction.
A problem with the hydrogen cooler system caused on unplanned shutdown (non-scram) as the plant was coming back online following a refueling outage. Harris was back to full power in four days.
|Not included in ROP report, but recent shutdowns can be found inside the NRC’s Current Action MatrixNOTE: NRC labels SCRAMS as Initiating Events as “those events that upset plant stability and challenge critical safety functions, during shutdown as well as power operations. If not properly mitigated, and if multiple barriers are breached, a reactor accident could result which might compromise public health and safety.”|
|LEAK INSIDE CONTAINMENT BUILDING – September (NRC reports)||An NRC team identified a non-cited violation “for inadequate design control measures to assure the capability to identify and isolate a residual heat removal (RHR) system leak of 50 gpm [gallons/minute] in 30 minutes … Specifically, the Reactor Auxiliary Building (RAB) safeguards’ sump level instrumentation and area radiation monitors were not capable of assuring detection and control room indication of a 50 gpm RHR leak within 30 minutes of leak initiation.”||Cited by NRC ROP as being of “very low safety significance” but “greater than minor”|
|SECURITY SCANDAL: INOPERABLE DOORS, EQUIPMENT, FORCED CHEATING BY SUPERVISORS
|A special unit of the NRC confirmed two sets of charges made by whistle-blowing guards about a culture of cost-cutting that led to widespread security breaches at Harris. In an interim report released in March 2006, NRC confirmed seven charges, including one that at least 14 doors to vital areas were left inoperable, possibly for years. Last month NRC confirmed 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. The investigation remains open.||Although this case drew scores of news stories and a publicly available report, the ROP process pretends that all security-related items are secret, and “information will not be publicly available to ensure that potentially useful information is not provided to a possible adversary.”|
|SECURITY: INTRUDERS APPROACHED COOLING WATER INTAKE LATE AT NIGHT 1/30/06(Guards, news reports)||Local law officers were unable to capture or later find the pair, who were said to be hunters in a boat who had fired a weapon. The Harris guard force responded properly, but the force is not large enough. Had they intended harm, the intruders might have damaged the intake sufficiently to impede the flow of cooling water vital to the reactor core and waste pools.||Despite widespread news coverage, the ROP report pretends this incident is secret.|
|SECURITY: THREE UNIDENTIFIED VIOLATIONS 2/13/07
|Violations were found during a baseline inspection on security. The report is not available to the public due to security concerns. A 2-23-07 cover letter to Progress notes three violations but does not identify them.||ROP report says allsecurity-related items are secret.|
|NUCLEAR WASTE TRANSPORTS CONTINUE DESPITE PROGRESS’ PLEDGE TO STOP BY 2005(Progress Energy)||In 2003 Progress Energy announced it would phase out all “spent fuel” shipments to Harris by 2005. On 12/2/04 Progress told NC WARN: “The Brunswick [dry storage] project is still on paper. The engineering is planned for early next year with construction to follow next summer. We no longer ship from Robinson and plan to ship from Brunswick until September of 2005. This is an estimate, since the shipping schedules are subject to change, depending on Homeland Security alert levels.” Progress now says it expects the shipments to continue until 2010.||ROP process does not include risks of spent fuel management.|
|NUCLEAR WASTE: LARGEST U.S. STORAGE POOLS(NRC, UCS, National Academy of Scientists)||“Harris is storing spent fuel in the most dangerous way possible, high-density pools,” according to David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists. In 2005, the National Academy of Scientists agreed that dry, hardened storage “protected by earthen berms … make[s] it more difficult to attack a large amount of spent fuel at one time and also reduce[s] the consequences of such attacks” … i.e., a catastrophic waste pool fire.||ROP process does not include risks of spent fuel management.|
|21 SIRENS FAIL6/11/06
(NRC report, Progress Energy)
|LOSS OF 20% OF OFFSITE EMERGENCY SIRENS DUE TO SEVERE WEATHER: “… offsite emergency sirens were inoperable for greater than one hour due to loss of power caused by severe weather/thunderstorms passing through the area. At this time, the Harris Plant cannot estimate the time of siren recovery.” (NRC) …
“The state and local emergency response organizations [county fire departments] will implement compensatory measure of route alerting in the areas of the siren malfunction if needed during an emergency.”
|Not noted by NRC’s ROP assessment under “Emergency Preparedness.”|
|ALL SIRENS FAIL 10-30-07
|All 81 emergency sirens in the Harris 10-mile emergency zone were reported to NRC as inoperable for at least two hours. Progress Energy says the cause was failure of a device that signals the sirens via a communications tower, and that during an emergency, operators could manually override the device and activate the sirens.||Not noted by NRC’s ROP assessment under “Emergency Preparedness.”|
|ALL SIRENS FAIL AGAIN 10-31-06 (NRC report)||All sirens were inoperable for several hours due to the same equipment failure. This problem would not be corrected by replacing the sirens, which Progress says is finally underway. NOTE: The communications tower, located in the Owner Controlled Area, is one on which intruders hung a flag in November 2005.||Not noted by NRC’s ROP assessment under “Emergency Preparedness”|