The Shearon Harris nuclear power plant in New Hill, North Carolina is shifting to a new model of fire safety, replacing teams of human fire patrols with an automated fire-detection system, the Raleigh News and Observer reported December 29. The nuclear complex owned by Raleigh-based Progress Energy is close to finishing the change approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Duke Energy three-reactor Oconee nuclear plant in South Carolina is expected to make the same switch over the next 2 years, according to the news report. They were really pilot projects so the NRC and the industry could see how this works, a NRC spokesman said December 29. They will be followed by 50 of the 104 nuclear reactors that will adopt the new approach to fire safety. The change involves plant operators meeting different safety standards based on varying risk levels throughout the plant. The current system requires meeting a uniform fire safety standard throughout the facility. That means fire watchmen patrolling the maze of walkways in the Harris nuclear complex in round-the-clock shifts, sniffing for smoke, and looking for items that can catch fire.