Fires break out at three U.S. nuclear plants over the weekend


Cross-posted from Facing South. Written by Sue Sturgis.

Emergencies were declared at two Progress Energy nuclear power plants in the Carolinas over the weekend due to fires. There was also a fire at a nuclear power plant in Ohio on Sunday that sent two firefighters to the hospital.

The blazes were put out and disaster averted, but the incidents underscore concerns about U.S. nuclear plants' failure to comply with fire safety regulations.

The first incident happened on Friday night at the Brunswick plant near Wilmington, N.C.  At about 10:45 p.m., a fire broke out in the turbine building on the plant's non-nuclear side, burning for more than 15 minutes. Plant personnel determined that the fire was caused by electric blankets used for post-weld heat treatments, fueled by tape used to hold the blankets together.

There were no injuries or damage to plant equipment, according to an official report filed by the company with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Another pair of fires was reported at Progress Energy's Robinson nuclear power plant near Hartsville, S.C. on Sunday evening on the plant's non-nuclear side.

The first blaze there reportedly broke out shortly before 7 p.m. in an electrical breaker, causing the reactor and turbine to shut down. That fire was extinguished, but a subsequent blaze in another electrical breaker near the first one resulted in the declaration of an alert due to safety systems being affected. That fire was extinguished shortly after 11 p.m., according to the company's report to the NRC.

"There was no explosion or steam line break," the company stated. The plant remains closed today.

Also on Sunday, fire broke out at Ohio-based FirstEnergy's Perry plant near Cleveland around 6 p.m. and burned for four hours, fed by oil in a water pump's lubrication system. Two members of the plant's fire brigade were hospitalized for heat stress, the Associated Press reports.

The emergencies "are a reminder that virtually all U.S. nuclear power plants remain in noncompliance with fire protection regulations," says Jim Warren, executive director of the N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, an energy watchdog group.

Fire represents the leading risk factor for a U.S. nuclear plant meltdown.

In 1975, a fire broke out at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama in an area that housed electrical cables used to power critical safety equipment. The fire was sparked by personnel using candles to search for air leaks and caused significant damage to the plant -- but fortunately no release of radiation.

In response to the near-disaster at Browns Ferry, the NRC adopted fire-safety regulations designed to prevent similar incidents. However, most of the nation's commercial nuclear power plants still not have come into compliance with those regulations, according to reports by the NRC Inspector General and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

(Photo of Progress Energy's Brunswick nuclear plant from Wikimedia Commons.)


Fearmongering now with nuclear plants

Every industry in the U.S. has fires. So, when a nuclear facility has a fire, that automatically can be seen as something that will ultimately cause a "nuclear disaster".

Get real. Many people know that nuclear facilities are extremely safe and secure. If there was a fire at a hydroelectic plant or a windmil caught on fire and caused acres to be destroyed and so forth, what would be the media coverage?

This is ridiculous.

Yes, there would be media coverage

if a fire broke out at a hydroelectric plant powering a few million households.

But if that plant melted down, it would be no big loss. If the nuclear plant melted down, your grandchildren would be born without legs and arms.

I see you are against nuclear

Well, maybe that would happen in as big a way as if it happened in a nuclear plant but maybe not. Hard to say. Depends on your point of view and where your leanings lie, doesn't it?

I will be all over wind and solar and everything else "green" when it proves itself to be viable and affordable. I see a lot of talk about how that is coming to us in the future with those "green" energy sources, but to date, they truly have not proven themselves out. Nuclear is here. It is now. It is viable. It is safer than ever before. It is not a silver bullet, but it is a part of what we need to rid ourselves of the menace of coal and oil energy. I do not have a problem with "green". I do have a problem with some of what the "green" people say about how it is a "NOW" thing. It isn't. Nuclear is.

You are wrong

Again. I am not against nuclear energy.

You have a hard habit of letting your stereotypes get in the way of your brain.

Thank you for your kind remarks

You have a hard habit of letting your stereotypes get in the way of your brain.

Appreciate it.


I remember reading some very discouraging words from you on here with regard to nuclear. I do not know how to "recover" them, so can not PROVE it, but suffice to say, it is something I think you might want to admit.

Here's the thing

I can and have had discouraging words about nuclear. Plenty of them. I think it's a horrid technology with the potential to create enormous damage, damage we can't even imagine. But that doesn't mean I'm against it. I have said that nuclear makes some sense as part of an overall mix - a small part of the mix - as we attempt to move from our oil and carbon based model.

That may be a difference between us, I think. I know I'm not right about anything, and you seem to think you're right about everything.

The problem is, few things are black and white.

For example, tea baggers think people like me want to eliminate private enterprise. That's nonsense. I am a capitalist and a successful entrepreneur. I've started five companies, including BlueNC (my least profitable venture). I understand the role of business in our economy, and am a booster from way back. But I also see a role for government.

Tea baggers want to crush government and create a Libertarian la-la land that they can't even comprehend, even as they insist that the mean old government keep its hands off their Medicare. That's just plain nuts.


Sorry about that wise crack earlier. It wasn't being nice and I apologize.

If you're truly wanting to be "all over" green technology ....

There are significant federal and state tax credits available and a $1000 rebate opportunity from Progress Energy for installing Solar water heating. I installed last week. It's working like a champ. Payback time? Don't know for sure...but I figured it would never get any cheaper. I'm also a "peak oil" believer and think many of the problems we face today will pale in comparison to the realities of ever diminishing petroleum supplies. Nothing...pound for pound...currently available...delivers the energy of a gallon of gasoline.

Re nuclear: There's got to be a better way...without the immense safety risk and the disposal problems of radioactive by-products with half-lives that would still make you glow 5000 years from now.

Stan Bozarth

And, what about this "wise crack"?

you seem to think you're right about everything.

If I said that to you, you would most certainly take offense to it.

Is this what this blog is all about?

I don't understand your question

You've been here for awhile and are perfectly capable of knowing what this blog is about.

In all honesty, you do come across with an air of certainty about political positions that I don't happen to share. If I'm wrong about that, forgive me. I don't like it when people make assumptions about what I think ... and you probably feel the same way.

I wouldn't take offense

because I know it isn't true.

If you search the blog, you'll see a frequent refrain of mine called ... "What if I'm wrong?" It is one of the questions I ask myself every day.

Okay, I will let that one slide

I will let "others" post now. :)

Thank you, dear.


Go Carolina

Very funny, J

Carolina v R.I. (NIT) ~9.00pm

Not the Big Dance, but worth the watch. Politics has to wait.

Ever wonder what Chernobyl looks like now?

In the zone of alienation in northern Ukraine, Kiev Oblast, near the border with Belarus. Its population had been around 50,000 prior to the accident. Today, the only residents are deer and wolves along with a solitary guard.

A creepy story told in pictures

Ah, c'mon, loftT (UNC 30/RI 30 halftime)

What is your reason for posting that? It appears to be a "fear factor" kind of thing. Nuclear is safe..very safe. Hey, I live close enough to the "oil farm" (as we called it when I worked near there years ago) in Guilford county that if it was to catch fire and explode, me and a few hundred thousand others would be toast.

If you do not like nuclear, do not dislike it out of fear.

Again, I do not consider it a "silver bullet" on energy needs. I do see it as being part of the mix.