'Flaw' forces shutdown of Harris nuclear plant - WNCT

'Flaw' forces shutdown of Harris nuclear plant

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According to Duke Energy, the company owns seven nuclear power plants in three states. According to Duke Energy, the company owns seven nuclear power plants in three states.
A diagram of a typical pressurized-water reactor from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A diagram of a typical pressurized-water reactor from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
NEW HILL, N.C. -

Small marks of corrosion and cracking in one of the reactors at the Harris nuclear plant forced Duke Energy Progress to shut the reactor down.

Read the full incident report

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the health and safety of employees or the public are not affected.

NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said Thursday the quarter-inch flaw found at the Harris plant did not penetrate the retaining wall and there is no evidence of radiation leakage.

Hannah said the problem was discovered after Duke Energy Progress workers looked again at ultrasound tests performed in the spring of 2012.

The incident report states "uncontrolled radiation release" as a possible outcome of the flaws.

"It's premature for the company to assure the public that there was no safety hazard at this point. This is a reactor vessel that has very high pressures pushing outward," said NC WARN's Jim Warren.

Kim Crawford, spokeswoman for Duke Energy, said customers will not be impacted by the plant being shutdown.

"We have no problem meeting customer's demands for electricity during this time period," Crawford said.

"We want people to know that we shut down safely. There's no impact to public safety and we are going to make the repair to bring the plant back online safely," Crawford said. She also said no leakage was detected from flaw.

Warren said the plant being shut down could cost Duke Energy $1 million a day. Warren believes Duke Energy will put the bill on its customers.

"Whether it's fair, now that's another question," Warren said.

Harris nuclear plant is located 20 miles southwest of Raleigh in New Hill. The plant was given its operating license in October 1986, according to the NRC's website. Its license was renewed in 2008 until 2046.

The plant began commercial operation in 1987, and generates enough electricity to power more than 550,000 homes.

According to Duke Energy Progress, the company owns seven nuclear power plants in three states.

Progress Energy was cited last year for two safety violations considered to be of low to moderate significance, which Hannah said have since been corrected. Regulators found problems with ventilation systems that would be needed if there were a nuclear emergency.
    
Since the two North Carolina utilities merged to make Duke Energy Progress the country's largest electric company, the Charlotte-based company has cut back on plans for Progress Energy nuclear plants.
    
Duke said earlier this month that it will not build two new reactors at Harris, reversing plans put in place by Progress Energy executives.
    
In February, Duke Energy Progress said it will permanently close the Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida after botched repairs while it was operated by Progress Energy Florida. Estimates for repairing the nuclear plant shut down since 2009 were between $1.3 billion and $3.4 billion.

WNCN meteorologist Wes Hohenstein got a behind the scenes look at Harris plant in 2011.

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