Friday, October 14, 2005

Safety concerns shut down Arizona nuclear power plant

.: Corvallis Gazette-Times :. News

PHOENIX — Two reactors at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, located about 50 miles west of downtown Phoenix, were shut down Tuesday when its operators were unable to demonstrate to regulators that a key safety system would perform as designed.

Jim McDonald, a spokesman for plant operator Arizona Public Service Co., said Wednesday it is uncertain when the facility will be returned to service. He said the utility has ample power from other sources to serve its customers.

However, The Arizona Republic said the shutdown would likely boost electricity prices as utilities that count on relatively inexpensive Palo Verde electricity have to purchase replacement power on the open market or run higher-cost natural-gas generators.

The 20-year-old plant’s third unit has been down for refueling and repairs since Oct. 7. The problem, which involves an emergency system that cools the plant’s nuclear reactors after an accident, also affects the third unit.

“It’s not that the system wouldn’t operate, it’s that we couldn’t prove that it would,’’ McDonald said.

A restart must be cleared by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the safety issue would first have to be resolved.

McDonald said the company is exploring several options that could bring the units back on line. The unit down for refueling will be out for 10 to 12 weeks, McDonald said.

The NRC stepped up supervision of Palo Verde earlier this year due to another problem with the plant’s emergency reactor cooling system that resulted in a $50,000 fine.


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