Congressman Price Seeks Review of Fire Enforcement of Nuclear Plants

Here is the press release that I sent out on behalf of the six local government delegates who participated in the recent meeting with Congressman Price on nuclear safety.

May 14, 2007

Congressman Price Seeks Review of Fire Enforcement of Nuclear Plants

Local officials applaud David Price, and reveal further delays at all Progress Energy plants

Officials from six local governments in North Carolina thanked Congressman David Price today for seeking an investigation into the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's enforcement of fire safety regulations at nuclear power plants. The officials also revealed new information showing that Shearon Harris plant owner Progress Energy has again fallen years behind in its latest promise to correct longstanding fire safety violations – a prime risk factor for a nuclear meltdown – at Harris and at the company's other four reactors in the Southeast.

Rep. Price wrote the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Friday, asking for a review of fire safety standards and recent fire emergencies at nuclear power plants.

Citing widespread concern in his district, which includes the Harris plant, Price pointed to questions surrounding “the long term use of interim compensatory measures to meet fire safety requirements.”

Fire protection violations have been a contentious issue since the early 1990s at a number of plants including Harris. Public interest groups have long complained that the NRC has not enforced its own regulations regarding protection of vital electric cables required to safely shut down the reactor in case of an emergency. Shearon Harris has been a particular concern due to a years-long series of Progress Energy promises to comply with regulations that have repeatedly been broken.

Carrboro Alderman Dan Coleman explained that “when neither NRC or Progress showed up for a public meeting on fire safety back in March, a meeting that included State Senators Kinnaird, Cowell, and Atwater, we decided that a delegation of local officials should seek a meeting with Congressman Price to seek his participation.

“We met on April 27 and told Congressman Price of growing public concern about the fire safety issue and asked him to seek a GAO investigation. We greatly appreciate his prompt follow up to our concern.”

The six who met with Price were Mark Kleinschmidt, Chapel Hill Town Council,
Randy Voller, Mayor of Pittsboro, Mike Nelson, Orange County Commission, Tom Vanderbeck, Chatham County Commission, Mike Gering, Hillsborough Board of Commissioners, and Dan Coleman, Carrboro Board of Aldermen.

The GAO is a powerful agency that investigates the federal government's oversight of regulations.

Along with its thanks the group also passed on to Price a recently discovered letter from NRC to Progress Energy which highlights a three year time period that NRC gave Progress in 2005 to resolve the fire safety problems at Shearon Harris. Those three years conclude in June 2008. However, according to Progress Energy's public statements as reported in the local news media, the company now believes that NRC would allow an extension until 2015.

Coleman explained, “three years was an ample time period to correct those problems. To reward Progress' failure to do so with a seven year extension strikes us as highly irresponsible for a regulatory agency. We hope the GAO review will lead to a more expeditious schedule that gets the job done under the three year time frame.”



Here are links to supportive editorials from yesterday's News & Observer and
Chapel Hill Herald.

Thanks to all of you who are working hard to raise awareness about this important problem.


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