COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Federal officials announced Monday they are going to be doing more oversight at a South Carolina nuclear power plant that has tallied a number of incidents in recent years.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is going to keep a closer eye on Duke Energy's H.B. Robinson plant near Hartsville, where a diesel generator automatically shut down in October when radiator fan belts failed.
No workers or nearby residents were in danger, and the diesel generator wasn't actually needed. But officials said the belts were so degraded and poorly maintained that the generator couldn't have been used properly if necessary, such as during a power loss or fire.
"Overall, the Robinson plant continues to be operated safely," NRC Region II Administrator Victor McCree said in a news release. "However, the additional oversight and inspection by the NRC is warranted because we expect plants to ensure that all important equipment is properly inspected and maintained."
The action is a follow-up to an August meeting, in which NRC officials discussed Duke's apparent failure to perform adequate preventive maintenance at Robinson. The agency said the October 2012 issues were low-level but still said officials would take a closer look in the hopes of preventing future problems.
Robinson is actually undergoing a scheduled shutdown this week for refueling the reactor and other maintenance. A third of the fuel inside the single-unit, 750-megawatt pressurized water reactor needs to be replaced every 18 months. Officials have estimated that the planned outage, which will take several days, will cost about $60 million.
The NRC stepped up scrutiny at Robinson after incidents in 2010 that included fires, a faulty emergency generator breaker and inadequate worker training. In 2011, a false alarm sounded in a reactor containment building while the unit was being brought back on line after a faulty relay shut it down three days earlier.
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