The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will step up oversight of a Darlington County atomic power plant where fires and other operating problems have drawn scrutiny from the federal agency in the past year.
NRC investigators say the H.B. Robinson plant has had an "excessive" number of unplanned reactor shut downs since late 2009. Plant operator Progress Energy experienced two fires at the plant in March 2010. Progress also drew NRC scrutiny in 2010 as a result of emergency generator problems.
A Progress spokesman was not immediately available today, but officials say improvements have been made and the plant is safe. Progress Energy and Duke Energy, both utilities with headquarters in North Carolina, recently announced a merger, but the deal has not been finalized.
The NRCs main concern is how Progress reacted to the fires and generator problems, instead of concerns about equipment. The increased oversight means the federal agency will send a team of inspectors to the Robinson plant to make sure company officials are correcting deficiencies associated with the fires and generator concerns, NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said. The team will produce a report and hold a public meeting in several months, Hannah said.
During the past year, Progress Energys plant drew more scrutiny from the NRC than most nuclear plants in South Carolina, agency officials have said. The Progress plant, about 40 years old, is about 60 miles northeast of Columbia in South Carolinas Pee Dee region. The NRC oversees nuclear plants to make sure they are safe and do not expose the public to unsafe radiation. In a statement released Tuesday, the NRCs top regional official said the plant is safe, but Robinson officials need to improve operations.