The Salem 1 nuclear reactor went offline this past weekend after workers were unable to meet a deadline to repair a cooling unit inside the plant’s containment building, officials said.
The Lower Alloways Creek Township, NJ-based reactor shut down Sunday at 4:13 p.m., said Joe Delmar, spokesman for the plant’s operator, PSEG Nuclear.
Utility workers were working to repair a faulty containment fan cooling unit for the past week and get it restarted, but their efforts were unsuccessful.
Regulations from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requires if one or two of the cooling units in a containment building remain inoperable for seven days, a reactor must shut down, said NRC Spokesman Neil Sheehan.
PSEG will be replacing the cooling unit’s motor and testing it prior to the plant’s restart, Sheehan said.
“We are disappointed that we could not resolve the issue, but remain committed to making the appropriate repairs to get the plant safely back in service,” Delmar said.
The containment building is the dome-shaped structure which houses the nuclear reactor. The other four cooling units, described as huge air conditioning units, remain operating without problem, officials said.
During the attempt to fix the cooling unit, the NRC resident inspectors assigned to the Salem station kept close watch on PSEG Nuclear’s attempts to fix the unit and monitored the plant’s shutdown Sunday, Sheehan said.
Resident inspectors will continue to closely monitor repairs and plans for the plant’s restart, officials said.
Delmar said there is no estimated time for a return to service for Salem 1.
A number of unplanned outages at the Salem 1 unit last year caused the NRC to downgrade the plant’s performance rating.
Salem 1’s rating dropped from “green” to “white” on the NRC’s four-color rating system. A green rating meaning a plant is operating according to all NRC guidelines while “red” means a plant is facing serious problems. A white rating means that problems at the plant are of low to moderate safety significance.
The other two reactors operated by PSEG Nuclear at the Artificial Island generating complex, Salem 2 and Hope Creek, remained operating at full power.
When operating at full power, the three reactors produce enough electricity to light three million homes.
The reactors comprise the second-largest commercial nuclear complex in the United States.
PSEG Nuclear, subsidiary of Newark-based Public Service Enterprise Group, is considering whether to build a new reactor at the Artificial Island site. While an application is under review that would allow the building of a new reactor, the utility company has not made a final decision whether to move forward.