The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Thursday that long work hours in cramped, noisy conditions likely contributed to an oversight that shut down the Harris nuclear plant in Wake County two months ago.
After a year-old problem came to light at the Harris plant in May, the federal agency conducted a special inspection. The agency issued its conclusions Thursday, explaining how the mistake was made and how to prevent it in the future.
One clue: The nuclear specialists who failed to detect the tiny scar that led to the shutdown of a nuclear plant had each worked more than two weeks straight without a day off.
The report suggests that the nuclear industry’s tolerance of punishing work schedules creates conditions in which overworked technicians can miss clues that point to potential problems.
The NRC said the mishap, which idled the Harris plant for three weeks, did not pose a threat to public safety. The agency also credited Duke Energy Progress, which owns and operates the nuclear plant less than 25 miles from downtown Raleigh, for taking appropriate corrective measures, including restricting work hours and providing a better work environment for its contractors.
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