FL Nuke Shuts Down; No Safety Issue

Friday, October 21, 2011 @ 02:10 PM gHale

There is no safety issue in one of the two nuclear reactors on Hutchinson Island because a cooling system water pump was failing early Wednesday, Florida Power and Light Co. (FPL) officials said.

FPL isn’t saying how long the unit will be down, but the outage — in the unit that produces 839 megawatts of power — isn’t affecting power supplies to Treasure Coast customers, said spokesman Doug Andrews.

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Operators shut down Unit 1 around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday because the malfunctioning part caused pressure to rise in a cooling system outside the reactor and nuclear containment building, he said.

“It is a non-nuclear, non-safety-related component,” Andrews said. The company reported the shutdown to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The commission’s online report states the power plant is stable (and is) at normal operating temperature and pressure.”

“All systems (at the plant) worked properly during shutdown … We had no indications that the issue would cause us to launch additional inspections,” said NRC spokesman Roger Hannah.

NRC inspectors regularly work at the plant. Hannah said “it is not terribly unusual” to have a shutdown at a nuclear power plant to fix equipment problems.

Unit 1 dates to 1976 and is the oldest reactor at FPL’s St. Lucie Nuclear Plant on Hutchinson Island. FPL has five nuclear reactors that produce 19 percent of all the power the company generates.

The pressure buildup at Unit 1 was in a condenser that converts steam to water. The nuclear reactors create heat to convert water to steam to run electrical generators.

“The cause of the rising condenser back-pressure was an unplanned trip (of) the circulating water Pump 1A1, which degraded the circulating water system performance,” according to the NRC.

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