Leak sparks shutdown of SC nuclear power plant

07/15/2014 9:57 PM

07/16/2014 12:03 AM

A leaking safety valve at SCE&G’s nuclear power plant northwest of Columbia is expected to keep the plant shut down for up to two weeks as the utility works to make repairs.

S.C. Electric & Gas temporarily shuttered the V.C. Summer plant in Fairfield County on Sunday afternoon, notifying the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that water was leaking from a pressurizer safety valve, according to a notice filed with the atomic energy oversight agency.

The Cayce-headquartered power company, which said Tuesday the leak isn’t a danger to the public, said it may take up to 14 days to get the nuclear power plant up and running again. The leak released a small amount of contaminated water inside the plant, federal regulators said.

“On Sunday afternoon, plant operators and monitoring systems at V.C. Summer nuclear station detected that a relief valve was not working properly,” company spokeswoman Rhonda O’Banion said in an email. “Although still within operating limits, management made the conservative decision to shut down the plant to inspect and replace the valve.”

NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said SCE&G didn’t have to close the plant because the leak had not reached a level that required a shut down.

But Hannah said it’s important to make the repair. The safety valve is part of the plant’s cooling system, which keeps the nuclear plant from overheating and causing a radiation release.

“This is part of the water that would cool the (reactor) core and be circulated through the core,” Hannah said. “If you had a really large leak of water, then you could potentially lose that ability over time. But we are talking about a very small percentage of water.”

The Summer plant, first licensed in 1982, is about 25 miles northwest of Columbia near Jenkinsville. Like other nuclear plants, the facility is growing older and some repairs have been made to replace aging parts.

In addition to the existing reactor, SCE&G is building two new reactors next to the current one – a nearly $10 billion project.

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