Power Outage Knocks Nuke Offline

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 @ 08:07 PM gHale

A nuclear plant needs electricity to run, so it can produce more electricity, but when there was a power outage to 22,000 Ocean County residents, the Oyster Creek Generating Station in Forked River, NJ, had to go offline.

An unusual event, the lowest of four Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) emergency classifications, started Monday at 3:41 a.m. and terminated at 5:38 a.m. after Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) crews corrected the issue, officials said.

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JCP&L confirmed the power outage impacted thousands of Ocean County residents in parts of Lacey, Waretown, Barnegat and Berkeley Township, spokesman Stan Prater said. All power ended up restored by 6 a.m., and the root cause is still under investigation.

The unusual event occurred because there was a loss of off-site power for greater than 15 minutes, NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said. The loss of power was the result of an electrical fault with the 230-kilovolt line that provides power to the plant.

While the reactor was offline, two diesel-powered generators supplied electrical power to key plant components, officials said.

“All safety systems functioned as designed,” Sheehan said. “The plant is being taken to cold shutdown, which means the reactor and associated systems will be cooled down and depressurized.”

The nuclear plant will remain offline until everything completely cools down, plant spokesperson Suzanne D’Ambrosio said.

“It’s a slow process to put the plant back online. It’s a preferred method to wait until we’re in complete cold shutdown and then slowly and deliberately do all our checks and tests and then go back online,” she said.

While the plant is offline, staff will take advantage and perform maintenance tasks they otherwise could not do when the reactor is functioning, she said. It could be a few days before the plant goes back online.

“We’re taking the safe and practical approach,” D’Ambrosio said.

NRC’s two resident inspectors assigned to Oyster Creek reported to the plant after hearing about the unusual event.

“After observing activities in the control room, talking to plant staff and reviewing logs, they are satisfied the operators responded appropriately to the event,” D’Ambrosio said. “We will be following up on the company’s root cause evaluation of what happened and any corrective actions.”

Exelon Corp. owns the Oyster Creek Generating Station. The generating station is the oldest operating nuclear power plant in the country.

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