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Coronavirus complicates refuelling of nuclear reactors, Fermi 2 has undisclosed number of Covid19 workers

Coronavirus strikes Fermi 2 nuclear plant during refueling; utility keeps working,TOM HENRY, The Blade, thenry@theblade.

9 Apr 20, NEWPORT, Mich. — An undisclosed number of coronavirus cases have been documented inside Fermi 2 during the nuclear plant’s latest refueling outage.

But owner-operator DTE Energy said it believes it has enough precautions in place now to complete the work and get the plant restarted in the coming weeks.

In a statement, DTE spokesman Stephen R. Tait said the company “can confirm that we have had employees test positive, but are not giving out numbers, locations or names at this time.”

Media reports showed the first worker tested positive about the same time the refueling outage began on March 21. A Detroit television station reported at least two more positive cases were documented within days of that.

DTE won’t say for the record when it expects to complete Fermi 2’s outage.

But many similar operations — which once took six weeks or longer — have been shortened to about a month in recent years. Utilities lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential electricity sales each day nuclear plants sit idle.

Nuclear plants are refueled every 18 to 24 months, depending on the type of uranium used in their reactor cores.

Fermi 2, located along western Lake Erie in northern Monroe County’s Frenchtown Township, is one of many nuclear plants across the United States scheduled to be refueled during the spring or fall of 2020, the two seasons when demand for electricity is lowest.

Energy Harbor’s Davis-Besse nuclear plant along the Lake Erie shoreline in rural Ottawa County recently completed its latest refueling.

Both plants are about 30 miles from downtown Toledo.

The coronavirus pandemic has, of course, complicated those efforts this year.

To help keep refuelings on schedule, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission last month allowed for an exemption from rules which limit the number of consecutive hours workers are allowed to be inside the plant at a time. The agency said in a March 28 letter to the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute that it will consider such requests on a case-by-case basis, and that exemptions will be limited to 60 days. …..

In nearly all refuelings, including at those at Fermi 2 and Davis-Besse, hundreds of specialized, out-of-state contractors augment the regular plant workforces, often resulting in 1,000 or more workers assigned to any given site at a time. Work is usually divided into eight-hour shifts, with activity occurring 24 hours a day. 

Officials have noted those contractors move throughout the country from job to job, bringing with them the potential of carrying viruses outside of the sites they last worked. ……..


April 9, 2020 - Posted by | health, USA

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