Entergy’s Fitzpatrick nuclear plant knocked offline during weekend

It was not a particularly good weekend for the Entergy (NYSE:ETR) Fitzpatrick nuclear power plant in Upstate New York as the reactor unit went offline unexpectedly and an oil leak from plant equipment was also reported.

A breaker tripped shortly after noon EDT on Friday June 24 and power was lost to non-vital power to the reactor building ventilation, according to an event report filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). A recirculation pump also tripped and the plant was subsequently taken offline.

Fitzpatrick was still listed at zero power early on Monday, June 27.

On Sunday June 26, the “United States Coast Guard reported an oil sheen in the vicinity of the station’s circulating water system effluent. Investigation by station personnel has not determined the source. The circulating water pumps were secured to mitigate the potential source,” according to an NRC event report.

The source of the oil sheen was later identified as main turbine lubricating oil. The leak “has been stopped and cleanup efforts are underway,” according to an updated NRC report. Various government agencies were notified of the spill.

The water source for the plant is Lake Ontario. Fitzpatrick is an 882-MW boiling water reactor (BWR) located in Oswego County, New York.

Entergy has announced plans to retire Fitzpatrick by late 2016 or early 2017. Some local pro-business groups are looking for ways to keep Fitzpatrick as well as some endangered Exelon (NYSE:EXC) nuclear units open in Upstate New York.

Entergy reacts to spill

While this oil contains no PCBs, is non-radioactive, non-hazardous and has low potential health effects, any unintended release to Lake Ontario is not in accordance with Entergy’s standards, the company said in a news release.

A preliminary investigation has determined a tank that stores lubrication oil overfilled due to an apparent equipment failure. A pipe that acts as an air vent from the tank exits onto a building roof. Excess oil flowed through the vent pipe and pooled on the roof, then apparently migrated to a roof drain and eventually into Lake Ontario.

Equipment that discharges water to the lake has been turned off, and there is no apparent ongoing release of oil, Entergy said.

“We are taking appropriate actions to mitigate the environmental consequence from this event and working closely with appropriate local, state and federal agencies,” said Brian Sullivan, FitzPatrick’s site vice president and Entergy’s top official at the site. “We have identified the source of the oil, stopped the leak and put protective absorbent material and barriers in place to help mitigate additional oil from reaching the lake. Environmental protection is a hallmark of our operations, and we are taking all appropriate actions.”

Site personnel and environmental contractors are cleaning up the lubricating oil from the building and working within the discharge canal to absorb and contain any oil that reached the canal, which flows to Lake Ontario.

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.