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The Palisades nuclear power plant shut down late last week after officials found a water leak of more than 10 gallons per minute in the system that cools the plant’s nuclear reactor.

The plant shut down because the leak exceeded the plant’s technical specifications, spokesman Mark Savage said. The plant filed a notification of an “unusual event” with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

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The likely cause of the problem is a leak from a valve in the primary cooling system, but there will not be a confirmation on that until workers can get in and do an evaluation, Savage said.

There is no estimate for when the plant will be back in operation, Savage said.

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An “unusual event” designation is the least serious of four emergency classification levels used by the NRC. It means that plant workers are aware of the situation and are working to resolve it. In this case, there is no effect on the public and no release of any radioactive material into the environment. The leaked water remains contained in the containment building’s sump system and workers will treat it on site.

Entergy owns the Palisades plant and has one 798-megawatt reactor. It began electrical production in 1971, and its extended NRC license allows it to operate until 2031.

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