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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

FirstEnergy's Perry Nuclear Power Plant had an Emergency Shutdown Saturday, Still Not in Operation

Posted By on Wed, Jul 31, 2019 at 1:17 PM

Towers of power: In addition to nuclear energy, Perry's plant fuels the local economy. - WALTER  NOVAK
  • Walter Novak
  • Towers of power: In addition to nuclear energy, Perry's plant fuels the local economy.

The nuclear power plant in Perry, Ohio, operated by the FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC), had an emergency shutdown Saturday evening.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) event log shows that at 7:29 p.m. on July 27, the reactor automatically shut down after a "main turbine trip." 

Via the event log's summary, the trip was "not complex," but its cause is still unknown and is being investigated by FENOC.

The PR firm handling FirstEnergy's media inquiries told Scene Tuesday that that plant was still shut down. FENOC was "making preparations" for restarting the reactor after the outage, which they say occurred during routine weekly testing.

"FirstEnergy Solutions will continue to make the safety of our communities and employees our top priority," read a prepared statement.

When Scene inquired how long it would be before the reactor was up and running — hours? days? — a spokeswoman said that because the Perry plant operates in the "competitive market," they do not disclose expected outage lengths.

Prema Chandrathil, a spokeswoman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told Scene that the turbine which automatically triggered the shutdown was located outside the nuclear containment structure, and that there was no nuclear threat.

click to enlarge COURTESY: NRC
  • Courtesy: NRC

"Our resident inspectors have determined that there is no nuclear safety concern," she said, "and we will be following the license-holder as they investigate the cause of the trip."

(The "license-holder" refers to FENOC. All commercial nuclear plants in the United States must be licensed by the NRC and have at least two NRC inspectors on site.)

Chandrathil said she was unable to speculate on the length of the outage or on the cause of the equipment malfunction, but said that in general, American nuclear facilities are designed to protect themselves so that if there is any minor issue, they automatically shut down. Plants are also required to do periodic testing, which was when the Perry facility's turbine issue emerged.

"From our perspective, the reactor responded as designed," she said.

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