A transformer caught fire at the Oconee Nuclear Plant in Seneca, SC, Sunday.

The transformer was away from a reactive building, said Fire Chief Charlie King. Firefighters responded to the fire at 3:19 p.m. and said when they arrived on scene, the transformer outside the building was fully involved in fire.

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The fire ended up declared an unusual event, the lowest of four nuclear emergency classifications. An alert, the second level of emergency classification, also went out because of a downed power line associated with the oil-filled transformer.

Forty firefighters from Oconee and Pickens County as well as the onsite fire brigade worked to control the fire in just over half an hour.

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Oconee County Emergency Management (OCEM) are investigating to determine what caused the transformer to catch on fire.

Below is the statement released by OCEM after the fire:

“At 3:19 pm, personnel at Oconee Nuclear Station requested assistance for a fire on site. Keowee Fire arrived on scene within 10 minutes to find a large transformer outside of the building well involved in fire. Approximately 40 firefighters from both the onsite fire brigade and Oconee & Pickens County were able to bring the fire under control in just over 30 minutes. The transformer is located outside of the building. There was no damage to the building or the containment area. Unit #1 was shut down as a precaution. There is NO POTENTIAL FOR RELEASE. No Evacuations or traffic detours are needed. However, we ask that the public stay away from the area as emergency personnel and Duke Energy staff work around the area. There were no injuries sustained during the fire.

“Crews are continuing to work with on site personnel to ensure the transformer remains cool and that there is no further extension. The run off from the firefighting water mixed with foam and transformer oil is being contained on site. Crews will remain on site throughout the evening assisting plant crews as needed.”

The Oconee Nuclear Plant, owned by Duke Energy, is on Lake Keowee and began operation in 1973.

Duke Energy released the following statement:

“The Oconee Alert was terminated at 8:16 p.m. An investigation of the transformer fire is underway.

“The event at Oconee Nuclear Station was upgraded to an Alert classification at 4:58 p.m. when the fire that occurred earlier today damaged a power line in the station’s switchyard, which resulted in an equipment fault. Per procedure, an Alert must be declared when a fire causes loss of electrical equipment.

“An Alert is the second in increasing significance of four nuclear emergency classifications. This classification is used to describe conditions that require emergency response agencies to be in a heightened state of readiness, but pose no threat to public safety.

“An unusual event was declared at Oconee Nuclear Station today at due to a transformer fire in the Unit 1 switchyard at 3:20 p.m.

“Unit 1 has been safely shutdown and Units 2 and  3 continue to operate safely.

“Site fire brigade responded with assistance provided by local fire responders.

“The fire has been extinguished.

“There was no impact to plant neighbors or employees.

“We will be conducting a thorough investigation of the cause.

“An Unusual Event is the lowest of four nuclear emergency classifications. This classification describes a condition or event that is outside of normal plant operations, but poses no threat to public safety.”

On Monday, Scott Batson, vice president of Oconee Nuclear Station operations said investigators hoped to know what caused the fire within two weeks.

Batson said Unit 1 was out of operation and there is no timeline for when it would be back up and running.

The plants second and third units were operating at 100 percent and still meeting the required energy demands, Batson said.

Investigators were still working to determine how much damage the fire caused to the transformer equipment.

The plant followed the Nuclear Regulatory Commissions’ protocols and have since alerted the agency the plant was no longer in emergency operation mode Monday.

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