Federal regulators have launched a special inspection of a malfunction that forced a shutdown last week of two nuclear reactors at Progress Energy's Brunswick power plant near Wilmington.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission estimates that three inspectors will spend at least a week at the Brunswick site assessing the causes that disabled a backup emergency diesel generator. The inspection team will also review safety procedures at the plant.
NRC safety rules require that each nuclear reactor be backed up by two emergency diesel generators as sources of power to run emergency equipment in the event of a blackout. The agency's rules permit a nuclear power plant with two reactors to operate with three diesel generators for as long as a week, but Raleigh-based Progress was forced to shut down both Brunswick generators Sept. 20 after one of its generators was inoperable for an entire week.
A special inspection is the lowest level of safety inspection; it's conducted for an unusual event and typically requires specialized expertise beyond the knowledge of on-site NRC inspectors at the plant. The NRC began the special inspection Friday and will issue a report within 45 days of completing the inspection.