Static Electricity Caused Nuke’s Shutdown

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 @ 11:05 PM gHale

After an investigation, FirstEnergy, operators of the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station in Shippingport, PA, said last week they found the cause of a January transformer issue that led to an unexpected shutdown of the Unit 1 reactor was from static electricity.

The company said procedures at the time did not provide proper guidance for operating oil pumps at low temperatures, and the procedures are now updated to ensure the issues does not occur again.

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The problem all started when the main unit transformer shut down on a cold Monday afternoon in January.

FirstEnergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said the unplanned, non-emergency shutdown of the 911-megawatt nuclear reactor occurred at 4:59 p.m.

The transformer converts power generated by the plant to voltage for use in the region’s electric distribution system. Its relay tripped, a function designed to protect the transformer during a malfunction.

The reactor shutdown was “uneventful,” said Neil Sheehan, an NRC spokesman.

“All safety systems operated as expected and the plant was shut down safely,” FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young said at the time. “There were no impacts on the health and safety of plant workers or the public as a result of the issue. Beaver Valley Unit One is currently stable at zero percent reactor power.”

The shutdown triggered the automatic activation of a fire-suppression system that doused the transformer with water, which immediately froze, according to the NRC.

Sheehan said at the time power plant personnel either had to find a way to melt the ice or wait for temperatures to climb above freezing to conduct an inspection of the transformer.

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