A nuclear reactor in southern New Jersey has resumed operations after crews repaired a leak in the containment building.
The Salem Unit 1 in Lower Alloways Creek Township was manually shut down around 7:30 p.m. Thursday, after slightly radioactive water was discovered leaking at a rate of four gallons a minute. The initial investigation determined the leak came from a valve in the reactor coolant system.
PSEG Nuclear says about 4,800 gallons leaked, and the water went through the plant drain system as designed. The entire system holds 90,000 gallons.
Regulators say the spill was confined to the containment building. There was no threat to the public or workers.
PSEG Nuclear spokesman Joe Delmar tells the South Jersey Times (http://bit.ly/14PRR0T) that the plant returned to service at 4:47 p.m. Saturday. More Below…
Salem 1 nuclear reactor returns to service after faulty valve is repaired
LOWER ALLOWAYS CREEK TWP. — The Salem 1 nuclear reactor was returned to service today, less than 48 hours after a leaking valve caused the plant to be shut down.
The plant began sending electricity out over the regional power grid at 4:47 p.m. today, according to Joe Delmar, spokesman for the reactor’s operator, PSEG Nuclear.
Salem 1 operators manually took the reactor off-line at 7:29 p.m. Thursday to repair a leaking valve in the plant’s reactor coolant system, Delmar said.
The reactor coolant system is the primary system of water that cools the reactor core.
“The hard work of our employees these past few days allowed for the quick turnaround, Delmar said today. “The plant responded well Thursday night when shut down and our employees worked together safely in following our forced outage plan. This is a testament to the work they do everyday.”
On Thursday, operators became aware of the leak and were working managing the problem, Delmar said. The leak was coming from a valve on the system within the reactor containment building and was allowing the escape of four gallons of slightly radioactive water per minute.
Per guidelines from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the agency which oversees the operation of the nation’s nuclear reactors, the plant is limited to a water leak of only one gallon a minute.
Since Salem 1 operators were unable to isolate the leak within the NRC’s required six-hour time frame, the plant was taken off-line.
According to Delmar, workers were able to isolate the leak at approximately 10 p.m. Thursday after the plant was shut down and begin needed repairs.
Delmar said approximately, 4,800 gallons of water leaked from the reactor coolant system. All of the water, described as slightly radioactive, remained in the containment building and went through designated plant drain systems and will be processed through normal plant systems.
“To put the leak into perspective,” Delmar said, “the reactor coolant system contains more than 90,000 gallons of water.”
With the needed repairs complete to stop the leak, operators were able to bring the plant back on-line this afternoon.
At no time was there any release to the environment and never a threat to the public or PSEG Nuclear employees, according to Delmar.
He added that the incident was not serious enough to be declared an “unusual event,” the lowest level of four emergency classifications at a nuclear power plant.
For an unusual event to have been declared, the leak would have to have reached the 10 gallons per minute level.
Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC, said on Friday the agency’s resident inspectors assigned to the Salem plant were made aware of the situation and were on hand to witness the shutdown, which went smoothly.
The valve that was leaking, NRC officials said, was replaced during the last refueling outage at Salem 1 this spring.
The neighboring Salem 2 and Hope Creek reactors, also operated by PSEG Nuclear at its generating station on Artificial Island, were not impacted. Each of those units remained operating at full power.
The Salem and Hope Creek units each produce enough electricity for a million homes a day, three millions homes in all when all three are operating at full power.
Together, the three units comprise the second largest commercial nuclear power generating facility in the United States.