Two Duke Energy nuclear reactors were shut down this month, reducing the capacity of the second largest U.S. nuclear fleet 16.7% for five days.
Apparently North and South Carolina news operations – newspapers, radio, TV and online – agree with the utility that this was not news.
On November 12, the 938 megawatt Brunswick Nuclear Plant Unit One returned to service after a five day shutdown to repair a leaking recirculating pump seal and the 848 MW Oconee Nuclear Station Unit Two ended a 26 day refueling outage.
This was two of the 11 reactors that provided 52% of the electricity Duke produced in the Carolinas during the first nine months of the year; but the utility didn't believe it was news, so there was no news release.
Most of the news releases about Duke's six Carolina nuclear power plants are notices to local media about quarterly siren tests. Of the 174 news releases posted on the utility's website through November 22 this year, two were about the nuclear facilities – one about Brunswick Nuclear's 40th anniversary and one about a Catawba siren test.
Duke does report shutdowns to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the information is available daily on the NRC's Power Reactor Status Report, if news outlets assign reporters to look.
One trade paper did just that. After calling Duke for more information, Platts reported Oconee spokeswoman B.J. Gatten's email described the refueling and maintenance outage as the shortest ever for Unit Two, adding the average length of nuclear reactor refueling outages in the U.S. was 35.2 days in the first half of 2015, according to Platts data.
Also not worth a Duke news release was an NRC letter saying four of the utility's nuclear power plants were among the 21 nationwide required to complete an in-depth analyses of their earthquake risk earlier than originally planned.
Carolina news outlets made no use of the late October NRC statement saying the two Duke nuclear plants in eastern North Carolina – Brunswick and Harris – are among those the regulator concluded no longer need to submit an in-depth analysis.
The NRC said the deadline for in-depth earthquake risk analysis for the remaining six Duke Power plants has been accelerated three months to a year ahead of their original schedule. It is now three years away for Oconee, four years away for McGuire, and in between for Catawaba and Robinson.
The commission's release also noted that many U.S. reactors already comply with the NRC's March 2012 post-Fukushima modifications, which Duke expects to complete in one year – except for the installation of hardened containment vents at Brunswick, expected in 2019 – at a cost of $600 million.