VT: Officials say blown fuse, light bulb change caused Yankee nuclear plant shutdown

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VT: Officials say blown fuse, light bulb change caused Yankee nuclear plant shutdown

By Associated Press, 9/15/2000 18:13

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) A burned-out bulb being replaced in the control room of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant led to blown valves in another area of the plant and the hot shutdown of the plant Wednesday, plant officials said.

The malfunction occurred in the condenser the cooling system responsible for pumping water into the reactor and maintaining a safe temperature. Although the condenser in a part of the plant that is not actively exposed to the reactor core, it is an essential part of the cooling system that keeps core temperature at a safe level.

Yankee employees decided to shut down the reactor within minutes of discovering rising pressure in the condenser, Yankee spokesman Rob Williams said. The condenser, which cools steam from the reactor and passes it back into the core as water, is supposed to maintain a vacuum.

''They were in the process of changing an indicator light (bulb) on the main control board,'' Williams said. ''There was a short-circuit and that led to the blowing of a fuse, which resulted in the closing of two valves in the plant.

Those valves were associated with the system that maintains a vacuum in the condenser.''

Richard Barkley, a senior engineer with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the agency is satisfied with Yankee's handling of the event and said public safety was not threatened.

''The plant responded as expected,'' Barkley said. ''At least the early indications are that they followed the procedure and stabilized the plant quickly. We don't see a big safety risk really any safety risk posed by this.''

Barkley said Yankee should have an economic incentive to alter the design so that a single light bulb being changed and a single fuse blowout would not cause the plant to shut down. Yankee last had an unplanned shutdown in October 1998.

Williams said the average nuclear power plant has an unplanned shutdown rate of under one per year.


-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), September 15, 2000


I can't help it!

How many agencies and utilities does it take to change a light bulb?

I wonder what happens if the toilets overflow?

-- K (infosurf@yahoo.com), September 15, 2000.

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