Kansas nuclear plant scrambles to avoid shutdown after fire
- The Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Station in Kansas has been given an 8 hour extension by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to complete testing of a backup generator damaged in a fire. Without the extension, the entire plant would have been shut down.
- A fire on Monday damaged one of the plant's backup diesel generators. Federal regulations require the plant staff to repair the damaged equipment within three days of the incident or shut the entire plant down. Plant operators estimate a shutdown would cost utilities, and eventually ratepayers, about $280,000 per day.
- Wolf Creek officials say no radiation was released during or after the fire. The plant continued to operate at full capacity throughout the week.
Located near Burlington in Eastern Kansas, the Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Station is operated by Wolf Creek on behalf of Westar, Kansas City Power & Light and Kansas Electric Power Cooperative.
Wolf Creek spokesperson Terry Young told The Wichita Eagle repair crews spent most of Monday and Tuesday assessing the situation and deciding how to proceed. Equipment repairs began Tuesday night.
Crews say the exact cause of the problem was an excitation power transformer, which sends energy to the internal wiring of the unit so it can generate electricity. Young told the Associated Press yesterday that staff spent Wednesday testing the generator and its wiring. Without the extension, however, they would have missed the 72 hour NRC deadline for repairs because the agency stipulates that damaged generators must be run for 24 hours before entering regular service. The deadline passed around 1:30 pm, according to the Eagle, and generator testing was expected to conclude around 4:00 pm. Allowing time for paperwork and filing, crews say they expect the process to be finished this evening.
The backup generator is not the only equipment in need of repair at Wolf Creek. Last week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) granted the operator an extension on repair time to fix a sensor underneath the plant's reactor. When functional, the sensor provides warnings of coolant leaks. The entire reactor will have to shut down for it to be fixed. Wolf Creek had asked the NRC for an extension to the usual 30-day repair deadline, because, it said, other sensors monitoring heat, humidity, and radiation would warn of a leak as well. The repair is now scheduled for February, when the reactor is slated to be shut down for refueling.
- The Wichita Eagle Wolf Creek faces shutdown if fire-damaged generator isn’t fixed quickly
- The Wichita Eagle Deadline extension averts costly shutdown at Wolf Creek nuclear power plant
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