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A piece of metal damaged a steam generator at the St. Lucie 2 nuclear power plant, forcing Florida Power & Light to delay restarting the reactor.

A potentially errant part of a tool from past work damaged part of a steam generator tube that had been plugged due to excessive wear, said Joey Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Workers are examining the steam generator to ensure there is no further damage, he said.

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FPL discovered the metal in the cooling system April 12, after the plant went offline for routine refueling and inspection, Ledford said.

The Orlando Utilities Commission learned late last week the refueling outage would last two more weeks as a result of the metal found in the cooling system, said Tim Trudell, a commission spokesman. The Orlando Utilities Commission is a minority owner of the St. Lucie 2 plant. State officials had expected the plant to be offline for a month, a period that will now extend to eight weeks.

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St. Lucie 2’s steam generator tubes have been the subject of public scrutiny since published reports in February found the plant has more tubes with wear indications than any other reactor in the country.

The steam generators also have been the focus of attention because they ended up replaced seven years ago for $140 million and should last until 2043.

“Regardless, the outlook on the health of and the results of the steam generator inspection remain the same,” said Michael Waldron, an FPL spokesman. “There are neither tube integrity issues nor tube-to-tube wear. The rate of wear is less than we predicted it would be after this operating cycle.”

Waldron said customers will not have to pay any additional costs because of the outage.

Ledford said St. Lucie 2 remains safe to operate and can return to service when FPL is ready to bring it back online.

“There is no regulatory issue precluding the unit’s restart,” Ledford said. “FPL can restart the unit once it is confident any needed repairs have been successfully completed. They are performing an engineering review to confirm the system is fully operable.”

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