by Lisa Sorg
A wimpy air-conditioner and a question over acceptable amounts of unfiltered air entering a building have prompted the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to issue two apparent violations against Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant, according to the NRC.
The NRC has scheduled an enforcement conference at the agency’s Region II office, 245 Peachtree Center Ave. NE, Ste. 1200, in Atlanta on Friday, Aug. 24, at 8 a.m. The conference is open to the public.
Duke Energy operates Shearon Harris, which is near New Hill, about 20 miles southwest of Raleigh.
The NRC outlined the violations, which were detected during an inspection, in a press release today. They include the company’s failure to maintain the ventilation systems at one of the plant’s Emergency Operations Facilities (EOF) and its Technical Support Center (TSC); the former ventilation problem happened for extended periods over two years.
Neither violation posed an immediate safety concern, the NRC said.
The NRC classified both violations as “white,” or a low-to-moderate safety signifcance in its color-coded system. From lowest to highest, the range is green, white, yellow and red.
Julia Milstead, Duke Energy spokesperson, said the air-conditioning system at an EOF wasn’t operating at full capacity. The facility in question is two miles from the plant and located at the visitors’ center. In case of an emergency, Harris employees, including technical workers, would be evacuated to one of five EOFs to coordinate emergency procedures.
“It’s like if the air-conditioning wasn’t working well in your house and instead of 69 degrees it would be 79 degrees,” Milstead said.
(That's pretty chilly. Duke Energy’s website recommends that residential thermostats be set at 76—78 degrees while you’re home.)
The second violation is related to changes in calculating the amount of unfiltered air that can enter the Technical Support Center. The NRC was concerned Duke Energy didn’t have adequate technical basis for its calculations, Milstead said.
The TSC has filtered air to prevent unacceptable levels of airborne radiation from entering the building, should such levels be present outside. When the plant was designed, engineers calculated how much “in leakage” of unfiltered air could flow into the building.
At the time, engineers calculated 60 cubic feet of unfiltered air per minute could enter the building.
Beer drinkers, think about it this way: If you were to fill 60 cubic feet with PBR, you would need 28.6 kegs.
(Math haters skip this paragraph: 1 cubic foot = 7.4 gallons. 60 cubic feet = 444 gallons. 1 keg = 15.5 gallons. 444/15.5= 28.6. If only the SAT had been this enjoyable.)
Milstead said recent tests and recalculations showed even less “unfiltered in-leakage” was entering the building than previously believed—15 cubic feet per minute. (Or seven kegs.)
“The NRC will determine if it meets the standard,” Milstead said. “We feel like we have adequate in-leakage rates.”
In addition, Duke Energy failed to inform the NRC about the ailing air conditioning system at the EOF, also a violation.
“We didn’t understand the reporting criteria for the EOF,” Milstead explained. “We’ve learned from it. If there is maintenance going on, our control operators will communicate it to the plant and the NRC.”