Leak Stopped at Fermi 2 Nuclear Power Station - Toledo News Now, Breaking News, Weather, Sports, Toledo

Leak Stopped at Fermi 2 Nuclear Power Station

NEWPORT, MICHIGAN -- One day after a leak forced the Fermi 2 Nuclear Power Plant offline, officials still don't know when it will go back into service.

The leak was first detected around 4:00pm Monday afternoon in the containment building that houses the nuclear reactor. Fermi 2 is near Monroe, Michigan, about 25 miles northeast of Toledo.

Detroit Edison still isn't sure what component failed, creating the leak.  When crews get inside the building today, they hope to isolate it and make repairs.  The plant will remain shut down until that happens.  As long as it is down, DTE will get power from the national power grid to replace what it can't generate.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission had issued an "alert" for the plant when the leak was discovered.  All nuclear plants use four emergency classifications to describe problems, and "alert" is the second level of severity, meaning something is happening or has happened that would degrade the level of safety at the plant. "Alert" level does not indicate damage to the plant, and there would be little or no radioactivity released.

That "alert" was lifted after the leak was stopped Monday evening.

A spokesperson for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission office in Chicago says the plant was shut down Monday without complications and nonessential workers were allowed to leave for the day. Detroit Edison says the public was not in danger, and no evacuations were ordered.

Extracurricular activities were canceled at several schools in the area.  That's a standard operating procedure for schools within a ten-mile radius of the plant.  Students were able to report on Tuesday as normal.

A DTE spokesperson says the reactor's coolant remained at a normal level despite the leak.  "There was never any release of radioactive material," said Lori Kessler of Detroit Edison.  "The core of the reactor has always been covered and it's been determined that the leak was cooling water and from a non-radioactive source."  She added that the leaked coolant was *not* released into the environment.

Monroe County officials say their nuclear emergency plan worked just as it was designed to.  "I'm very satisfied with our emergency response team here.  I think they've done a great job," said Jerry Oley of Monroe County Emergency Operations.  "Our people are very dedicated and they work very hard to ensure that the citizens of Monroe County were at the top of the interests and concerns that we had and making sure that safety was top priority."

Fermi 2 is a boiling water reactor designed by General Electric. It first went online in 1988, according to Detroit Energy's web site. At full capacity, the plant is capable of producing 1089 MWe (megawatts electric), according to the NRC.

Detroit Edison is a principal operating subsidiary of DTE Energy. In its company history from its Internet site, the utility says it operates nine base-load generating plants, including the Fermi 2 Nuclear Power Plant in Monroe. Detroit Edison's system capacity is more than 11,000 megawatts. The company uses coal to generate about 85 percent of its total electrical output, with the remainder produced from nuclear fuel, natural gas and solar energy.

The Fermi 2 plant is named for scientist Enrico Fermi, who led the experiments that created the first controlled nuclear chain reaction on December 2, 1942.

Detroit Edison also operated the Fermi 1 Nuclear Power Station at the same site. DTE first broke ground on the plant in 1956, and started operating the plant in 1963. Fermi 1 suffered a partial meltdown of its radioactive fuel in 1966 which took 4 years to repair. It was restarted intermittently between 1970 and 1972 until the order to decommission the plant was issued in 1975. Right now, the plant is in the process of decommissioning, with radioactive material still stored at the plant.

Count on News 11 to stay on top of this developing story.

On the Web:
NRC Frequently Asked Questions about Emergency Preparedness and Response
How the NRC Responds to Emergencies
What do I do in a radiological emergency?
NRC Emergency Levels
Fermi 2 Nuclear Power Station Description
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality/Radiological Protection Program

Updated 6:40pm, Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Sources: WTOL News 11 staff reports, www.nrc.gov, www.dteenergy.com, The Associated Press.