1 reactor shut down at Oconee Nuclear Station

An aerial view of Oconee Nuclear Station.

COLUMBIA — The Oconee Nuclear Station near Seneca had to shut down one of its three reactors after a problem in the water system that helps generate electricity, federal regulators said.

Unit 3 at the plant was manually shut down by Duke Energy around 6 a.m. Thursday, about four minutes after the problem was detected, Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Roger Hannah said.

A control valve in the plant’s water system started causing changes in the flow of water that generates steam to turn the turbines and create power. Engineers shut down the reactor before it was automatically turned off, and there was no danger to the public, Hannah said.

“We think they followed procedures. We don’t see anything in the plant that is unusual,” Hannah said.

The reactor remained shut down Friday as engineers worked to fix the problem, Duke Energy spokeswoman B.J. Gatten said. The utility doesn’t typically release when work will be completed.

“Everything worked just like it was supposed to work,” Gatten said.

Federal regulators should allow the plant to come back online as soon as the repairs are finished. No additional inspections should be required because of the problem, Hannah said.

The shutdown did come in the same month the Government Accountability Office released a report about nuclear plant safety. Since 2000, the Oconee Nuclear Station reported the most safety violations of any nuclear plant in the Southeast.

The plant reported 163 lower-level violations and 14 higher-level violations. Lower-level violations pose very low risk, such as improper upkeep of a transformer, while higher-level violations range in significance, such as an electrical system that caused a fire.

Duke Energy pointed out the plant is only one of two in the Southeast and three in the entire country with three reactors.

“Our No. 1 priority to keep the public and our workers safe,” Gatten said.

The Browns Ferry plant in Decatur, Ala., reported 135 lower-level violations and six higher-level violations, while the Palo Verde plant in Wintersburg, Ariz., reported 299 lower-level violations and five higher-level violations since 2000.