Duke was dragging feet on Oconee fire program, NRC says

A Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) subsidiary has been too slow in implementing a license condition on fire protection at the Oconee nuclear power plant in South Carolina, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said July 2.

NRC said in a statement that it had issued a notice of violation and confirmatory order to Duke Energy Carolinas at the Oconee complex located 30 miles outside of Greenville, S.C.

Oconee has three pressurized water reactors (PWRs) built in the 1970s that have a combined generating capacity of more than 2,500 MW.

Duke had committed through a license condition to complete installation and implementation of the protected service water system at Oconee by Jan. 1, 2013, as part of transitioning the plant’s fire protection program to the National Fire Protection Association Standard No. 805 under NRC rules.

When Duke notified the NRC that it would miss the deadline and requested an extension, the NRC denied the request.

In 2005 Duke agreed to be part of a pilot program to increase fire safety at nuclear plants, a Duke spokesperson told GeneratoinHub July 3. Duke recognizes that it failed to reach the initially agreed-upon timetable and will not fight the NRC finding, the company spokesperson said.

Duke has agreed to a revised timetable to get new equipment installed by 2016. There are six interim deadlines established along the way to 2016 and Duke is confident it can meet the schedule, the spokesperson said.

The capital expenditure required is “significant,” the representative said.

The NRC violation and order does not carry a civil penalty, although NRC will consider a penalty if Duke now fails to meet the revised schedule. The Duke spokesperson added that Oconee continues to operate safely.

Failure to complete the installation of the protected service water system is a significant regulatory concern to the NRC because proper installation would improve safety and reduce risk at the plant. Duke has increased compensatory fire protection measures that further ensure adequate safety at the plant while completing the upgrades.

The NRC staff determined that Duke’s violation of its NFPA 805 license conditions was a Severity Level III violation, the second-lowest of four severity levels in the NRC enforcement process.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.