Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Oyster Creek plant to stay at 92% power until April

January 3, 2008

The Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey is running at 92 percent capacity and may have to do so until April because of a problem with its turbine control valves, according to plant and federal spokespersons.

There are "no issues operating at 92 safely and reliably," said Leslie Cifelli, an Oyster Creek spokeswoman.

The valve issue began after the plant restarted following its unplanned Dec. 19 shutdown.

The shutdown killed 5,304 fish — all but three of them bluefish — when warm water from the plant suddenly stopped flowing into its discharge canal, said Cifelli, an e-mail from U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil A. Sheehan and an e-mailed Dec. 22 plant statement.

The plant has been operating at 92 percent power — reducing revenues by 8 percent — since it came back on line on Dec. 21, according to Cifelli.

Oyster Creek operator AmerGen Energy Co. is seeking NRC approval for a 20-year license renewal to keep the plant open until 2029. Its current operating license expires in April 2009.

When the plant restarted last month, "there were oscillations involving the turbine control valves," which regulate the amount of steam flowing from the reactor into its turbine, and therefore power output, according to Sheehan's e-mail Wednesday. The four control valves "could not achieve a steady state at 100 percent power," and operators were able to achieve a steady state at 92 percent, the e-mail says.

AmerGen would like to shut down the plant and fix the valves, but a shutdown cannot be done this time of year without killing fish in the canal, according to the e-mail.

So, AmerGen intends — at this point, at least — to keep the plant running at 92 percent power until late March, when a shutdown could take place without a fish kill, the e-mail says.

Cifelli said the intent is to keep the plant running at 92 percent capacity "until the environmental conditions allow us" to shut down — usually sometime in early April — or until "we find a different alternative to fix it on line."

More on Oyster Creek:

Exelon N.J. Oyster Creek reactor exits outrage
EDITORIAL: Battle to shut Oyster Creek has just begun
EDITORIAL:The Devil you know.Keeping Oyster Creek on line
Oyster Creek Trims Output to Valve Problem
Oyster Creek plant to stay at 92% power until April
Oyster Creek Generating Station clears last major hurdle in bid for 20-year license renewal

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