Just as momentum is building to encourage and finance the building of new U.S. nuclear power plants, a rash of mostly bad news for existing nuclear plants and plant operators—including recent small fires—has tempered industry excitement. The incidents are minor in magnitude, yet the timing is bad for those hoping for a revival of nuclear power.

Here is a quick summary of several stories from the past week.

More Bad News for Vermont Yankee. Local media reported that on Monday the Vermont Department of Health said that more tritium contamination had been found in a well—this one beyond an area that they thought was clear. Last week, Entergy announced that it had found and repaired the leak source; this new discovery throws that assumption into question.

Fire in North Carolina. On Friday, Progress Energy’s Brunswick Power Plant in North Carolina reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) "An Unusual Event . . . due to a fire in the Unit 1 Turbine Building lasting > 15 minutes. The fire was reported by field personnel working in the Unit 1 Turbine Building Condenser Bay at 2245. Smoke was observed coming from the overhead but no visible flames were evident. The source of the fire was from electric blankets used for post-weld heat treatment. The fire was extinguished when the blankets were de-energized. No off-site assistance was required."

Fire in South Carolina. Two fires at the Progress Energy H.B. Robinson Plant in South Carolina on Sunday were reported to the NRC. The first was a “fire on 4kV Bus 5 affected 4kV Bus 4 which caused a loss of ‘B’ Reactor Coolant Pump which caused a Reactor trip and Turbine Trip.

"That fire was extinguished without a required event declaration, but a subsequent fire on 4kV Bus 4 required declaration of an ALERT at 2300 [EDT] based on the fire affecting the safety-related ‘A’ and ‘B’ DC Buses. The fire was out at 2301 [EDT].”

Fire in Ohio. At FirstEnergy’s Perry Power Plant on Sunday a lube oil fire on the Turbine B reactor feed pump resulted in two fire brigade members being transported by ambulance to a hospital with signs of heat exhaustion.

N.Y. Says No to Entergy Spinoff Plans.
On Thursday, the New York Public Service Commission rejected Entergy Corp.’s plan to spin off five of its nuclear plants into a separate company.

Kentucky Has Almost Removed Ban on New Nukes. Kentucky is attempting to join Illinois in reversing a ban on new nuclear power by overturning a 1984 law that essentially prevented the building of nuclear plants in the state. House Bill 213 has passed both houses but has been amended and is now in the rules committee, a legislative aid told POWERnews on Tuesday.

North Anna Reactor Clears NRC EIS Hurdle. The NRC completed its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Dominion Virginia Power’s proposed North Anna Unit 3 reactor and concluded that there are no environmental impacts that would preclude issuing a combined license (COL) for construction and operation of the proposed reactor at the site, near Mineral, Va.

Exelon Files Early Site Permit. Exelon Nuclear Texas Holdings LLC filed an early site permit (ESP) application with the NRC on Thursday for an 11,500-acre site in Victoria County, Texas. At the same time, Exelon formally withdrew its application for a combined construction and operating license for the same site. If approved, the early site permit would effectively reserve the property for new nuclear construction for up to 20 years with the possibility of renewal for another 20. Unlike a combined construction and operating license, an ESP does not authorize construction of a new plant.

Sources: NRC, wwaytv3.com, Louisville Courier-Journal, Exelon, Dominion Virginia Power, Wall Street Journal, WCAX.com