Three Mile Island Shut Down

Monday, August 27, 2012 @ 01:08 PM gHale

Any kind of action at Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear plant brings on fear and trepidation not only with the local residents, but across the country as quite a few still remember the worst nuclear incident in the U.S.’s history.

Last Wednesday at 6 a.m., TMI officials started to manually shut down Unit 1 after they discovered issues with a heater element on the plant’s pressurizer tank, said Ralph DeSantis, a spokesman for the plant.

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The element creates additional steam that helps control pressure in the plant, he said. The reactor must be offline for workers to repair the element.

Electric customers did not suffer because of the plant shutdown.

“We are always closely monitoring plant systems and equipment as part of our daily operations,” said Rick Libra, TMI’s site vice president. “This maintenance work will help ensure that Three Mile Island operates safely and reliably for the long-term.”

Two hours into the manual shut down, pumps on the non-nuclear side of the plant stopped working, triggering an automatic shutdown of Unit 1, DeSantis said.

Backup pumps did come online, as designed, he said.

“The plant is designed to shut down when it reaches certain conditions,” said Diane Screnci, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). “While they were manually shutting down, the plant tripped and shut itself down. The plant responded as designed and is in a stable condition.”

There is no threat to the public health and safety by either the issue with the heater element or the plant’s shutdown, Screnci said.

TMI officials will conduct an investigation to find out the reason behind the automatic shutdown, DeSantis said.

The plant will return to service after the repairs, inspections and testing on the heater element are complete.

“We have resident inspectors at the site,” Screnci said. “They are following up on the repair and the automatic shutdown.”

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