I received your fax containing the questions from your Dec. 5 story "Risky Business." In the future, I would suggest that you contact us before you write a story about our facilities so we can provide information.
At CP&L, safety is our top priority. Since the terrorist attacks, all of our plants have been at our highest state of security readiness. Nuclear facilities have always considered a terrorist threat in emergency planning, which is why they have always been guarded 24 hours a day by heavily armed, well-trained security personnel. All of Progress Energy's nuclear plants, including the Harris Nuclear Plant, have performed very well on the government's mock terrorist drills.
Nuclear plants are designed with multiple layers of safety systems and structures. There is the outer containment structure, built of reinforced concrete (4 to 6 feet of concrete with a steel liner), and the reactor vessel itself, made of steel that ranges from 9 inches to one foot in thickness. Nuclear plants also have multiple safety and plant shutdown systems, all of which have backup systems that are physically separated to provide even more security and reliability.
Many additional security measures have been taken at our nuclear facilities since Sept. 11. While we are committed to providing as much information as possible to reassure the public and to answer your questions, under strict federal regulations, details about nuclear plant security are confidential.
As for your questions about our spent fuel storage plan, there are literally thousands of pages of publicly available testimony and scientific data that have been submitted throughout the intensive two-and-a-half year review process. The safety of our storage plan has been confirmed by both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the independent Atomic Safety & Licensing Board (ASLB).
The federal government closely regulates the shipment of spent fuel. Information about shipments is, by law, confidential. This includes information about shipping schedules, as well as specific measures that are in place to protect these shipments. Since Sept. 11, we have worked with the NRC and the state of North Carolina to further enhance the security of these shipments.
The fuel is shipped by rail in specially designed, fortified shipping casks and security is coordinated with state and local law enforcement. Once the fuel arrives at Harris, it is stored in concrete, steel-lined pools within a reinforced, secure and protected facility. Spent fuel storage facilities are also small enough that they would present a very difficult target for an aircraft assault. As for the risks of spent fuel pool drainage, the NRC released a study earlier this year that took into account potential acts of sabotage and concluded "the risk is low," largely because there would be adequate time to begin alternate cooling procedures even after an extremely severe event that drains the pool.
Our industry is working with the NRC on a thorough top to bottom review of security rules and procedures at nuclear facilities and we will quickly implement any additional measures deemed appropriate to enhance security at our plants. CP&L and our partners at the local, state and Federal level will continue to take every possible step to keep our nuclear facilities and their surrounding communities safe.
--KEITH POSTON, CP&L SPOKESMAN, RALEIGH
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