Minor fire closes one unit at Shippingport nuclear plant

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A Beaver County nuclear power plant remains offline today as workers with FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. check damage from an explosion and electrical wiring fire that broke out Tuesday evening.

The fire at Beaver Valley Power Station Unit 1 in Shippingport did not injure anyone or result in any evacuation of the plant.

“We’re continuing our assessment today,” Jennifer Young, a utility spokeswoman, said this morning. “The plant does remain shut down. It’s safe and stable.”

Workers idled the plant just before 6 p.m. after learning of a fire in the turbine building, a warehouse-like structure separate from the nuclear reactor that takes the steam created by the reactor, generates electricity and sends it to a transformer.

Members of the plant's fire brigade found indications that an explosion and fire had occurred in a cable tray carrying wiring from the breaker, according to a report sent to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

An “unusual event,” the lowest of four nuclear emergency classifications, was declared at 6:28 p.m.

The unit's "deluge system," a souped-up sprinkler, extinguished the fire. The reactor, which was coming out of a regularly scheduled refueling and maintenance outage, was manually shut down by the control room, said Neil Sheehan, a regulatory commission spokesman in King of Prussia.

Plant personnel declared the event over at 7:59 p.m.

Ms. Young said it was too early to determine how long the plant would remain down. It will take several hours for personnel to build scaffolding to access the area affected by the fire.

A second reactor, Beaver Valley Power Station Unit 2, remains fully operational.

“There’s plenty of electrical service out there to meet customer demand,” Ms. Young said. “There is no impact on the grid.”

Two resident inspectors with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission are on site, Ms. Young said.

One of the things inspectors will be looking at is whether any work was done on the cable tray during the scheduled maintenance, Mr. Sheehan said.

"We don't have a solid answer on that at this point," he said.

Jonathan D. Silver: jsilver@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1962 or on Twitter @jsilverpg. First Published November 6, 2013 11:09 AM

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