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Federal regulators and Duke Energy haven’t reached a consensus on the severity of a spring incident at Catawba Nuclear Station on Lake Wylie.
Company leaders met Sept. 11 in Atlanta with Nuclear Regulatory Commission decision-makers to present their case for downgrading a power loss at Catawba, which could help the company avoid additional inspection or oversight measures.
“Catawba Nuclear has an excellent safety record – more than 25 years,” said Mary Kathryn Green, spokeswoman for the plant. “At no time during the event was there a danger to employees or the public.”
An April outage shut down one of two units at the plant, and the other unit automatically followed suit. Emergency diesel generators started and powered plant safety systems. Employees returned offsite power a few hours later. The event was reported as an “unusual event,” the least severe in a four-tier classification system.
The NRC then formed a special inspection team.
“While there were no immediate safety implications, the loss of offsite power at a nuclear plant is always significant,” Victor McCree, NRC regional administrator, said after the incident.
The commission color codes the four levels of safety significance, from green at the low end to white, yellow and red as the most severe. A preliminary evaluation found the April event at Catawba could be as high as yellow, meaning there may have been “substantial safety significance,” according to the commission. A final ruling has not been made.
Duke Energy presented technical arguments Sept. 11 that the violations didn’t have “a high safety significance,” said Joey Ledford, spokesman for the Atlanta commission office. There wasn’t a timeframe for when a final decision will be reached, he said, though it could be “several weeks.”
“Depending upon the decision, the plant could face additional NRC inspections and increased oversight,” Ledford said.
The company provided new information to the regulatory group since the preliminary decision in July that Duke officials say could impact a final ruling. Since the event, corrective measures have been taken.
“We understand the importance of the event,” Green said. “We spent a considerable amount of time determining the root cause and putting corrective actions in place to ensure it won’t happen again.”
Green said the hearing in Atlanta provided an opportunity “to ensure we are all on a common ground and are using the same risk assumptions and assessment criteria.”