Failure shuts down Davis-Besse

Systems worked, FirstEnergy says, as nuclear power plant goes offline.

Davis-Besse Nuclear Power plant is shut down after a motor in one of its four reactor coolant pumps failed.

Jennifer Young, spokeswoman for plant operator FirstEnergy, said emergency safety systems automatically shut down the plant about 9:20 Saturday evening. 

“The safety system responded as they should; there was no impact on the public or the employees,” Young said.

The plant was still offline Monday as the motor was being repaired and employees worked to determine what caused the failure.

Young was not sure when the plant would restart and said it could be a couple of days or a couple weeks.

When the safety systems automatically kicked in, pressure valves released steam from the generators. It is the steam that turns the turbines that spin the generators and creates electricity.

Young said it was non-radioactive steam released Saturday evening, but when it happens a loud popping sound occurs.

“People saw the steam and heard the pop, it caused concern there was an explosion,” Young said.

The last time a similar event occurred was in 2006, Young said.

David Lochbaum, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said Davis-Besse was running at full power when essentially a motor short circuited.

He said a nuclear plant shutting down is not unheard of. It happens about twice a year in the entire number of nuclear plants in the U.S., Lochbaum said.

“Its unfortunate it occurred but the good news is the safety features worked and protected the employees and the public,” Lochbaum said.

Kevin Kamps, of Beyond Nuclear, said his group looks at shut down in the bigger picture.

“Davis-Besse is pushing 40 years ago and continues to have problems,” Kamps said. “If you end up with these problems at the same time that is dangerous.”

Beyond Nuclear is one of several activist groups fighting the relicensing of Davis-Besse. The plant is looking to continue its license to operate until 2037.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it was notified of Saturday’s event. Prema Chandrathil, NRC spokeswoman, said resident inspector are closely following Davis-Besse actions and are gathering information. It is to early to tell if any enforcement actions may occur if there were violations of procedures.