N.C.:Brunswick reactor loses power during maintenance job

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Brunswick reactor loses power during maintenance job

Source: Morning Star - Wilmington, N.C.

Publication date: Mar 04, 2000

& While doing maintenance to a portion of the Brunswick Nuclear Plant on Friday, workers accidentally cut power to the equipment that monitors and operates one of the plant's two nuclear reactors.

[Carolina Power & Light Co.] said diesel generators provided ample back-up power to Unit 1 while technicians assessed the power failure, which occurred at about 9:50 a.m. Before power was accidentally cut, the reactor had been shut down for regularly scheduled refueling, said plant spokesman Ann Mary Carley.

The incident affected power flowing into the plant from the CP&L system and was classified as an "unusual event," the lowest rating on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's emergency system.

"Apparently, the workers inadvertently miss-positioned a switch and cut power to Unit 1," Ms. Carley said. "Our back-up systems kicked in."

One of a bank of diesel generators also failed, but the remaining generators provided adequate power, Ms. Carley said and the NRC confirmed.

The plant is off N.C. 87, about 15 miles southwest of Wilmington.

The control rooms and equipment of nuclear power plants are not powered by the electricity they generate and must be connected to the power grid like any home or business, said Ken Clark of the NRC's regional office in Atlanta.

"The plant is stable and in the process of trying to restore off- site power," he said. "There is no immediate safety problem with the reactor or reactor vessel."

Also, the power failure did not affect a pool where radioactive spent fuel is kept, he said. Power is needed there to run cooling equipment.

As a precaution, utility officials decided to power down the plant's other reactor, Unit 2, which had been operating normally and was fully powered.

With the two reactors shut down, the plant is off-line, Mr. Clark said. Ms. Carley said it was unknown how long the shutdown would last. Mr. Clark said the NRC believed the problems may be resolved today. Electricity generated from other CP&L plants is more than enough to power the region, Ms. Carley said. Cecil Logan, emergency management director for Brunswick County, said he was notified of the problem soon after it happened on Friday and was updated by CP&L all day.

The incident came a week after a visit by NRC Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield, who praised the results of the $225 million spent between 1992 and 1995. The effort, which included physical improvements and better worker training, eased the Brunswick Plant off NRC's list of worst-run plants.

Publication date: Mar 04, 2000 ) 2000, NewsReal, Inc.


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