Idled Plant Vogtle reactor readied for restart

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A Plant Vogtle nuclear power reactor idled after a valve malfunction Wednesday is being readied for restart.

“We are working through the process of getting the unit back online,” said Amoi Geter, a spokeswoman for Southern Nuclear, which operates the plant in Burke County, Ga.

The plant’s Unit 1 reactor automatically shut itself down Wednesday morning during maintenance work involving a valve that controls the flow of water into the unit’s steam generator.

Although the problem has been corrected and the unit is being readied for restart, company policy related to industry competition prohibits announcing a precise time the unit will return to power production, she said.

The plant’s Unit 2 reactor, meanwhile, remained in operation today at 97 percent of full power. Normally, the unit operates at 100 percent but it is being prepared for a scheduled refueling outage soon.

The shutdown Wednesday was characterized as a “non emergency,” according to an incident report Southern Nuclear filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“As a result of the reactor trip, all systems functioned as required and there was nothing unusual or not understood,” the report said.

Wednesday’s shutdown is the second such incident this year. The first one occurred April 21.

A continued pattern of unforeseen shutdowns can trigger additional levels of scrutiny by regulators, according to the NRC’s Web site.

If a unit reports three unplanned shutdowns during a 7,000-hour operating period (previous four quarters) it is placed in the “white” regulatory response category that could trigger more scrutiny.

If six outages occur in that time frame, the facility falls into a “yellow” category with a requirement for additional regulatory response. Twenty-five or more incidents earns a “red” classification denoting “unacceptable performance.”

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