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MI Nuclear Plant to Be Inspected

Friday, August 2, 2019

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An area of degraded paint was recently found in a power plant in southeastern Michigan, prompting an investigation by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The plant is reportedly operating safely in the meantime.

The issue is located inside in the reactor containment structure of the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant, and the spot will be examined by a five-person crew.

Fermi Power Plant History

According to the National Energy Institute, construction of the Fermi 2 plant began in 1968, shortly after DTE Energy announced plans for the construction of a light water reactor power plant located along the shore of Lake Erie. Opening in January 1988, the plant was established to help provide additional power support for an increase in local demand for electricity, as well as adding to the diversity of power sources available.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

An area of degraded paint was recently found in a power plant in southeastern Michigan, prompting an investigation by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The plant is reportedly operating safely in the meantime.

Capable of producing enough power to supply a city of 1 million people, Fermi 2 has 300,000 cubic yards of concrete, 20,000 tons of steel, 1,200 miles of electric wire and 70 miles of conduit. The cooling system in place is “closed,” in order to prevent releasing pollution into Lake Erie, and the cooling water reservoir can hold roughly 30 million gallons.

The NEI also notes that the plant has 185 control rods and 764 zirconium alloy fuel assemblies containing 15 million uranium pellets. (A single pellet can produce what roughly translates to the same amount of electricity generated by four and a half barrels of oil or one ton of coal.)

DTE Energy is the sole owner of the Fermi plant. The two units belonging to the plant generate more than 1,100 MW at capacity.

Upcoming Inspection

Viktoria Mitlyng, of the NRC, noted that during a recent inspection, the agency found a “degradation in the paint that coats inside the torus,” which is a donut-shaped reacted component situated beneath the reactor vessel. When the torus is filled with water, the element absorbs energy from the reactor and can supply water to safety systems if there is an accident.

“Loose paint chips from the torus could potentially impede the flow of water to safety-related equipment,” said Mitlyng. The paint protects the metal torus from corrosion, Stephen Tait, DTE nuclear communications supervisor told The Monroe News.

Moving forward, the inspection team, which will determine the severity of the problem, will evaluate how the paint became degraded, look over present maintenance practices for the plant and evaluate the response since the issue was discovered.

A report is expected to be released 45 days after the inspection. Additional action will be taken if it is determined to be needed.

   

Tagged categories: Coating failure; Government; Inspection; NA; North America; Nuclear Power Plants; Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); Quality Control

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