NextEra balks at SACE request to delay restart of St. Lucie 2

NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE) subsidiary Florida Power & Light (FPL) says there is no need for it to delay the restart of the St. Lucie 2 nuclear unit, a move that has been sought by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) advocacy group.

SACE had filed a motion with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on March 10 seeking to postpone restart of St. Lucie 2 pending further investigation of the unit’s replacement steam generators, made by AREVA and installed in 2007.

St. Lucie 2 in Florida is currently offline for a refueling maintenance. SACE has sought a de facto amendment of the St. Lucie license, according to FPL.

FPL answered the motion March 20 saying there is no open case that serves as a platform for SACE to be granted the stay, nor does SACE have procedural right to request a stay.

FPL says that after installing the replacement steam generators it obtained a license amendment to operate St. Lucie 2 with the new equipment at an extended power uprate. “SACE did not seek to intervene and request a hearing in that license amendment proceeding, although it had the opportunity to do so,” FPL said in its filing.

Furthermore, the uprate was approved “after the unique tube-to-tube wear was observed” at the San Onofre 3 nuclear unit in Southern California. Edison International (NYSE:EIX) would eventually decide to announce the permanent closure of San Onofre 2 and 3 in June 2013. The San Onofre units had already been idled in January 2012 when problems were discovered in tubes in the relatively new steam generators at the station.

The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) looked at the San Onofre 3 situation and concluded the forms of degradation reported at San Onofre “are less likely to occur at St. Lucie 2.” The NRC panel also said that FPL’s plan will adequately address concerns about steam generator tube integrity.

In November 2009, following the first cycle of operation of the new steam generators at St. Lucie 2, an inspection identified a number of tube-anti-vibration bar, or AVB, wear indications.

Contrary to the SACE argument, neither replacement of the steam generators nor NRC approvals, have resulted in a de facto license amendment, the utility said.

An FPL spokesperson called any similarity between San Onofre and St. Lucie a stretch.

The steam generators have different designs as well as different manufacturers and the St. Lucie units are run at lower power levels than San Onofre. The spokesperson also said that FPL inspects the steam generator tubes during refueling.

 

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.