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Published: Wednesday, 4/16/2014

DTE takes Fermi 2 nuclear plant offline


NEWPORT, Mich. - DTE Energy's Fermi 2 nuclear plant in northern Monroe County was taken offline this morning for an indefinite amount of time because the utility said it needs to replace one of the plant's two main transformers.

Guy Cerullo, DTE spokesman, said the faulty transformer "was not working correctly after restart following the recent refueling outage," which was in February.

Problems kept operators from bringing Fermi 2 back to full power following restart.

Transformers are in a non-nuclear part of the plant, separate from the nuclear reactor.

They increase the voltage of the power coming from the plant's generator so it can be sent out to on the regional electric grid, Mr. Cerullo said.

Every power plant, including those fueled by coal or natural gas, has them, he noted.

Viktoria Mitlyng, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman, said transformers are major pieces of equipment.

She said Fermi 2 had a solid performance in 2013, and that she was not aware of any significant issues in recent months, but also said she knows "they never got back to 100 percent power" following the plant's refueling.

A local activist group, Citzens Resistance at Fermi 2, claimed the transformer issue is the latest in the string of equipment-related problems it has documented through public records, and predicted the plant would stay offline for weeks.

Mr. Cerullo said DTE does not discuss the estimated length of outages for commercial reasons.

Utilities often don't discuss their anticipated lengths of outages to stay competitive in negotiating for replacement energy on the open market.

Fermi 2 is along Lake Erie in Monroe County's Frenchtown Township, about 30 miles north of Toledo. 

The plant, which first went online in 1988, is licensed through March 20, 2025.

It has the ability to produce 1,100 megawatts of electricity, roughly enough power for 1.1 million homes except for peak summer periods.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.

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