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Oconee Nuclear Station fire safety upgrades may not be ready until November 2016, Duke Energy officials said last week.

The upgrades, which were due for completion at the end of 2012, are still not done and Duke executives had to meet with Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff Tuesday to explain why. Temporary measures such as portable water pumps for firefighting, enhanced training for employees and mutual-aid agreements with Oconee County’s emergency management office are now in place. The facility is on Lake Keowee near Seneca, SC.

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Regis Repko, the Duke vice president in charge of the Oconee station, said the temporary measures are little comfort.

“Incremental risk management cannot excuse the fact we missed the date,” Repko said.

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Repko and his colleagues blamed “quality issues with vendors” and waiting too long to assess the root causes of the delays.

“We did not understand the full breadth and scope of the project,” Repko said.

Duke asked in July 2012 for an extension until 2014 to finish the project, but the commission rebuffed the utility. When pressed Tuesday for an estimate of when the work would be complete, Repko and his colleagues said it would probably be November 2016 — four years past the deadline and two years later than they estimated last summer.

They said many of the corrective actions have only come since the beginning of this year, after the NRC denied the extension request.

“It sounds like a lot of this was in response to the (enforcement) letter sent earlier this year,” said NRC staffer John Monninger, referring to the NRC notice sent to Duke in January for missing the original deadline.

Monninger wrapped up the proceedings by saying that no action, civil or otherwise, has been determined. No date has been set for the NRC to announce what, if any, sanctions Duke will face.

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