H.B. Robinson Nuclear Plant Changes Leadership

- Edited By Chris Reed -

According to news reports, Progress Energy has announced a leadership change at its H.B. Robinson Nuclear Plant near Hartsville, which has had a series of system problems this year.

Robert J. "Bob" Duncan II will return to Robinson from his current role as vice president-nuclear operations. He replaces Eric McCartney, who has served as Robinson's site vice president since 2008.

"In our industry, changes in plant leadership are not uncommon," said Progress Energy spokesman Mike Hughes. "We review plant performance continuously and work to ensure we have the leadership skills that drive the performance necessary to deliver safe, reliable power for our customers."

The Robinson plant remains offline. The 719-megawatt plant was the first commercial nuclear reactor in the Southeast and has been producing electricity since 1971. The plant shut down early Oct. 8 because of an electrical problem in one of the reactor coolant pump motors. Inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission returned to the plant Oct. 12. NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said in an earlier report that a team of inspectors is examining the operation of the pumps that supply water to the steam generators.

Robinson shut down in September after a control problem with one of the plant's turbines, about three months after the plant re-opened.

Two electrical system fires led to a nearly four-month shutdown of the plant, which re-opened in July.

Those fires and a reactor shutdown March 28 did not adversely affect public health or safety, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in June. Conditions did not rise to a level that threatened plant safety during the fires, and no measurable radiation was released from the plant's reactor.

NRC inspectors did find some shortcomings in equipment, training, operator response and performance and some other areas agency officials said would require additional NRC review. The plant's reactor remained shut down until the NRC completed most of its additional reviews, officials said.

The initial fire resulted from a malfunction in a cable and circuit breaker, NRC's Region II Branch Chief Robert Haag said. The NRC originally dispatched a three-person special inspection team to the Robinson plant in response to the fires, but further review pointed to the need for additional inspection, the agency said.

An Augmented Inspection Team (AIT) is formed by the NRC to review particularly significant events or issues at NRC-licensed facilities, and the Robinson AIT included members of the original inspection team as well as five additional inspectors.

Haag led the Robinson AIT and said the response was adequate and the fire protection system responded as it was designed.

Duncan, the plant's new leader, has been with Progress Energy and predecessor Carolina Power & Light since 1980. He served in positions of increasing responsibility at the company's Harris (N.C.) and Robinson nuclear plants before assuming his current role at the company's headquarters in Raleigh in 2008.

"Bob has a track record of effective leadership and solid results," Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer Jim Scarola was quoted as saying in a Progress Energy press release. "His background and skills, as well as his strong credibility within our company and industry, will help him and our capable and dedicated work force at Robinson to return the plant to the excellent operations for which it's been known for 40 years. We are committed to doing what needs to be done to ensure all our plants continue to be safe, reliable, efficient and environmentally sound resources for our customers."

Duncan has a bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Florida, and a master's degree in business administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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