Several nuclear units go offline during the weekend

Data from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) shows that three commercial power reactors went offline between the mornings of Friday, Feb. 6, and Monday, Feb. 9, for one reason or another.

One nuclear unit that had been forced offline due to a winter storm in late January has also returned to service, meaning that seven of the nation’s 99 active nuclear units are currently not producing power. (At least some of the seven are offline for regularly-scheduled outages).

**A Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) spokesperson confirmed that McGuire Unit 1 facility in Mecklenburg County, N.C. started a maintenance outage early on Saturday, Feb. 7.

Companies typically don’t reveal how long they expect maintenance outages to last. McGuire 1 is a roughly 1,100-MW pressurized water reactor (PWR). Its sister facility, McGuire Unit 2, continues to operate.

** Entergy (NYSE:ETR) confirmed Feb. 9 that its Grand Gulf nuclear facility in Claiborne County, Miss., went offline late Feb. 7.

“At 6:56 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, Grand Gulf Nuclear Station commenced an automatic safe shutdown,” an Entergy spokesperson said. “Nuclear plants are designed to shut down automatically when off-normal conditions, often non-nuclear in nature, are detected. Grand Gulf’s automatic shutdown resulted from a non-nuclear issue.”

Grand Gulf is a boiling water reactor (BWR) with an operating capacity of roughly 1,250 MW.

“Currently, the investigation is centering on relaying issues impacting the main power transformer,” the Entergy nuclear spokesperson said.

** The Southern (NYSE:SO) Hatch 2 facility was taken offline Feb. 9 for a planned refueling and maintenance outage. Plant Hatch Unit 2 achieved its longest continuous run of 504 days, a record in the site’s history.

The last refueling outage for Unit 2 was completed in the spring of 2013. Each unit at Plant Hatch requires new fuel every 24 months. Employees from across the Southern Nuclear fleet are assisting Plant Hatch’s staff of more than 900 in the refueling effort. More than 800 additional workers from General Electric, Williams and other partners are on site performing specialized tasks, Southern said.

Hatch 1 was still operating at full power. Hatch Units 1 and 2 are BWRs located in Appling County, Ga. They each have an operating capacity of roughly 870 MW.

One commercial power reactor did come back online during the weekend. That was Entergy’s Pilgrim plant in Massachusetts.

“Pilgrim was reconnected to the grid and began generating electricity on Saturday, February 7th, 2015 at 2:40 p.m.,” said an Entergy spokesperson. “Pilgrim is continuing its investigation into storm Juno and is cooperating fully with the NRC in its review,” the spokesperson added.

Pilgrim is a roughly 670-MW boiling water reactor (BWR) located about 40 miles south of Boston. Pilgrim shut down due to Winter Storm Juno and some power line issues on Jan. 27.

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.