Storm Keeps Reactor Shut Down

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 @ 10:11 AM gHale

One reactor unit at the D.C. Cook Nuclear Plant in Bridgman, MI, will remain shut down, and the other will operate at half power until a storm hitting Lake Michigan passes, a plant spokesperson said.

Bill Schalk, spokesperson for Indiana Michigan Power’s Cook plant, said reactor No. 2 at the plant has been down since 2 a.m. Nov. 1, when both reactors ended up manually taken offline due to rough conditions on Lake Michigan.

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The storm system sweeping across the Great Lakes was not going to reach the same intensity as the previous incident, officials said. Meteorologists are projecting waves to hit 17 feet mid-lake, with winds reaching 40 miles per hour.

“We’re in stable condition and have completed cleaning, so we’re in good shape for the storm tonight,” said Schalk.

Cook plant workers kept the No. 2 unit down this week to perform maintenance unrelated to the Halloween storm, he said. Reactor No. 1 went back online Monday, Nov. 3 just before noon.

Reactor No. 1 remained at 50 percent power since the Friday, Oct. 31 storm kicked up 27.1 foot waves on the lake, propelled by 60-mph winds.

The Halloween storm surge clogged screens on intake tunnels the nuclear plant uses to pull water out of the lake for reactor cooling. The intake screens ended up clogged with dune grass scraped off the beaches by the storm, Schalk said.

The plant has 14 multi-disc fine-mesh screens that revolve down 48-feet into the water intake bay, fed by three 16-foot intake tunnels. Debris captured by the screens usually ends up washed off with water spray and collected in large baskets.

Schalk said the last time both Cook plant reactors manually went offline was in April 2003, when an intrusion of alewife fish swarmed the intakes looking for warm water in which to spawn, he said.

Schalk, who has worked for the Cook plant since 1995, said he’s never heard of the reactors, built in 1974 and 1978, respectively, being taken offline due to weather conditions on the lake before.

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