A piece of metal, perhaps part of a tool, damaged a steam generator at the St. Lucie 2 nuclear power plant, forcing Florida Power & Light to delay restarting the reactor.
Joey Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said it is believed that an errant part of a tool from past work damaged part of a steam generator tube that had been plugged due to excessive wear. Workers are examining the steam generator to ensure there is no further damage, he said.
FPL discovered the metal in the cooling system April 12, after the plant had been taken offline for routine refueling and inspection, Ledford said.
Tim Trudell, a spokesman for the Orlando Utilities Commission, a minority owner of the St. Lucie 2 plant, said the commission was informed this week that the refueling outage would last two more weeks as a result of the metal found in the cooling system. State officials had expected the plant to be offline for a month, a period that will now extend to eight weeks.
St. Lucie 2's steam generator tubes have been the subject of public scrutiny since the Tampa Bay Times reported in February that the plant has more tubes with wear indications than any other reactor in the country.
The steam generators also have been the focus of attention because they were replaced just seven years ago for $140 million and are expected to last until 2043.
"Regardless, the outlook on the health of and the results of the steam generator inspection remain the same," said Michael Waldron, an FPL spokesman. "There are neither tube integrity issues nor tube-to-tube wear. The rate of wear is less than we predicted it would be after this operating cycle."
Waldron said customers will not have to pay any additional costs because of the outage.
Ledford said St. Lucie 2 remains safe to operate and can return to service when FPL is ready to bring it back online.
"There is no regulatory issue precluding the unit's restart," Ledford said. "FPL can restart the unit once it is confident any needed repairs have been successfully completed. They are performing an engineering review to confirm the system is fully operable."
Ivan Penn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2332.