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Below-freezing temperatures early Thursday caused the shutdown of a reactor at the Salem Nuclear Power Plant.
Control-room operators manually shut down the Salem Unit 2 reactor at 3 a.m. after ice accumulated on screens used to filter out debris before water from the Delaware River is pumped into the plants, said Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan.
The reactor was still offline as of Thursday afternoon, said PSEG spokesman Joe Delmar. A similar shutdown occurred at the plant in 2010 as a result of slushy ice blocking the 70-foot filter screens. Each reactor has six pumps that move water in and out of the river, and those pumps trip when water isn’t pushed through the filters.
“There wasn’t enough water going to the pumps. … It happened quickly,” Delmar said. “We lost four circulating pumps within five minutes.”
An NRC resident inspector who responded to the plant did not identify any safety concerns, Sheehan said.
“There were no complications during the shutdown, with all plant systems responding normally,” Sheehan said. “Our inspectors at the plant will continue to follow up on the event.”
Salem Unit 2 is one of three plants operated by PSEG Nuclear at the Artificial Island generating site in Lower Alloways Creek Township. In response to the shutdown, Sheehan said, Salem Unit 1 reduced power to 88 percent.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said PSEG should invest in more environmentally friendly cooling towers at its Salem Unit 1 and 2 reactors to avoid such shutdowns. Cooling towers create a “closed-loop system” in which water is drawn from a river, circulated through the plant and sent to a tower to lower its temperature before being reused.
Tittel called the current system “antiquated.”
“Here we are on one of the coldest days,” he said, “and they had to stop operating.”
PSEG is seeking $300 million in ratepayer subsidies it says it needs to keep its Salem plants open in the face of competition from cheaper natural gas. The Rate Counsel, an independent state agency representing consumers, disputes PSEG’s position.