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Nuclear power plant systems ‘responded as expected’

By AMANDA SCOTT

Staff writer

Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant Unit 2 in Lusby experienced an automatic shutdown Wednesday night due to high reactor coolant system pressure levels, though the incident has been classified as a non-emergency.

At 9:47 p.m. Wednesday, unit 2 was automatically shut down because of high reactor coolant system pressure levels while simultaneously experiencing a loss of turbine load, according to an email from U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan. He said in the email there were no complications during the shutdown.

Kory Raftery, the plant’s spokesman, said Thursday afternoon the loss of turbine load tripped the automatic shutdown of the unit.

A turbine load is the amount of electricity sent out of the spinning turbine, which is powered by steam generators, onto the grid.

According to Sheehan’s email, all of the control rods, which control the level of power in the reactor, were dropped into the reactor core and the unit automatically began shutting down “as designed.”

The plant’s reactor protection system is designed to detect any anomalous conditions, such as loss of turbine load, affecting any safety systems, Sheehan said in the email. When that occurs, he continued, it can automatically shut down the reactor by instantaneously inserting all of the control rods and halting the fissioning process.

According to an NRC “Reactor Trip Notification,” the situation has been classified as a “non-emergency” and all systems “responded as expected.”

Raftery said the plant is in stable condition and power will not be returned to the unit until all maintenance and testing provides “a full understanding of all contributing factors that may have led to the automatic shutdown.”

“The safety of the public and the facility was never threatened due to the shutdown,” Raftery said.

The NRC is continuing to gather more information about the event and the response, Sheehan said in the email. He said the two resident inspectors at CCNPP are tracking Constellation Energy Nuclear Group’s troubleshooting efforts and repair plans.

According to Sheehan, this is the first unplanned shutdown for CCNPP Unit 2 in 2013.

ascott@somdnews.com