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Published: Wednesday, 8/11/2004

Fermi II shut down to fix diesel generator

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Fermi II on Monday became the second area nuclear plant to be shut down for unexpected repairs in the past week.

Detroit Edison Co. had to shut down Fermi II in northern Monroe County because repairs to one of four emergency diesel generators could not be completed within seven days.

On Aug. 4, FirstEnergy Corp.'s Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ottawa County shut down automatically because of a bad fuse. Davis-Besse was restarting Sunday night about the same time operators at Fermi II had started taking that plant out of service.

By Monday night, Davis-Besse was back at full power and the temporary shutdown of Fermi II had been completed.

Fermi II had a 334-day run of continuous operation, the second-longest in the plant's history, until Friday. That's when Detroit Edison found an air-intake problem in a blower of one of the diesels that was taken out of service Aug. 2 for routine maintenance.

So it made plans to shut down the plant Sunday night, John Austerberry, utility spokesman, said.

Diesels at nuclear plants provide electricity to keep safety systems operable when a plant loses power or shuts down, as Fermi II and other nuclear and coal-fired plants did during last August's blackout.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows one diesel generator to be taken out of service at a time when Fermi II operates, but only for seven days. The utility would have had to complete the fix on a problematic air intake blower by 2 a.m. Monday to avoid the mandatory shutdown.

The utility hopes to finish the job and have Fermi II back in service within a few days.

Yesterday, several groups that together call themselves the Nuclear Security Coalition formally petitioned the NRC to question the vulnerability of 32 nuclear plants in 15 states that have boiling-water reactors, including Fermi II.

The coalition claims the radioactive spent fuel pools in plants with Mark I and Mark II containment designs are above

ground, making them more vulnerable to a terrorist attack by air. The groups are calling for spent fuel to be removed from pools, drained, and put into dry storage casks. Detroit Edison declines as a matter of policy to discuss its plant design because of security concerns, Mr. Austerberry said. A senior utility official told the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce in 2002 that some of Fermi II's spent fuel would likely be moved into dry storage vaults within a decade to ensure the long-term viability of the plant.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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