14 "near misses" cited at US nuke plants in 2010

Arkansas Nuclear One in Russellville, Arkansas Feb. 2010.
Arkansas Nuclear One
Arkansas Nuclear One in Russellville, Ark., Feb. 2010. wikipedia.org

A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission investigated 14 "near misses" at US nuclear plants in 2010 that the report describes as "troubling events, safety equipment problems, and security shortcomings."

The report says the problems occurred at the plants because plant managers "tolerated safety problems."

Read the report

"It's ridiculously overstated, ridiculously," says Steve Kerekes from Nuclear Energy Institute which represents the nuclear industry in Washington.

Kerekes points to where the UCS report concedes that the "chances of disaster at a nuclear plant are low" and he says their plants work to correct any problems, "that doesn't mean that you jeopardize safety."

The report, released in the wake of the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan, says the near misses did not result in harm to plant employees or the public.

Special report: Disaster in Japan

The report's author David Lochbaum, the director of UCS's Nuclear Safety Program, says the most serious safety incident occurred at the Progress Energy's HB Robinson plant near Florence South Carolina.

Expert: U.S. nuclear plants pose same risks as Japan's

Four of the incidents happened at plants owned by Progress Energy which owns five plants across the United States. Progress Energy announced earlier this year it was merging with Duke Energy.

Two incidents were related to security at the following plants: Arkansas Nuclear One in Russellville, Arkansas and Catawba nuclear plant in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The NRC does not release details on these incidents post 9/11.

According to the report, one of the incidents in Crystal River, Florida resulted in workers badly damaging "thick concrete reactor containment walls" resulting in a $500 million repair.

Meanwhile, Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told a White House briefing Thursday that the radiation leaking from the crippled Japanese nuclear complex does not present a danger to the western United States or its Pacific territories at this time. Asked could be done to make sure that radiation from the world's worst nuclear emergency in a quarter century would not harm the United States, Jaczko said: "We are really focused on making sure first and foremost that the plants in this country are safe."