Shut Down Blues for Nuclear Plants

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 @ 02:11 PM gHale


One nuclear plant in Massachusetts will face more federal scrutiny, while another in Texas suffered through an unplanned trip that brought down one unit.

In Massachusetts, Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station has had a difficult time this past year with a series of unplanned shutdowns which is forcing federal officials to monitor the plant’s performance more closely.

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Pilgrim, owned by Entergy Nuclear and located in Plymouth, MA, had two shutdowns with complications so far this year, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) third quarter performance reports for the nation’s 100 nuclear power plants. Such shutdowns should be extremely rare, according to NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan. The maximum allowed by the NRC in a year is one.

Pilgrim will receive “an increased level of oversight,” Sheehan said. An NRC inspection team will visit the plant and scrutinize the root cause for recent problems.

Pilgrim is also walking a fine line for unplanned shutdowns in general. A company can have no more than three in a 7,000-hour period of operation. When the third quarter ended, the plant was at 2.9. That number did not include the Oct. 14 unplanned shutdown, which will be a part of the fourth quarter report.

Meanwhile, Unit 2 of the Comanche Peak nuclear plant in Texas went offline Friday after routine testing set off safety systems.

Workers at the Luminant plant near Fort Worth were using a blocking circuit to test a slave relay that can trip the unit’s main turbine and feed water pumps under certain abnormal conditions, according to a report filed with the NRC. The relay actuated unexpectedly and the reactor shut down from full power automatically after the turbine tripped, according to the NRC. All safety systems responded as designed.

Unit 1 continued to operate at full power, and unit 2 was back up to 45 percent power as of Monday, according to figures provided to the NRC. Both units are 1,150 megawatt Westinghouse four-loop pressurized water reactors first licensed in the early 1990s.



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