Florida Power & Light reported Monday that the St. Lucie nuclear reactor has returned to full power after shutting down for almost two months for a refueling outage.
The reactor's return to service hit a snag when an 8-ounce piece of metal thought to be from a power washing tool was found in a steam generator of St. Lucie Unit 2. The metal struck a plug in an out-of-service tube that workers had to replace.
St. Lucie's refueling outage was the subject of public scrutiny after the Tampa Bay Times reported that the reactor's steam generator tubes showed unusual wear in more tubes and with more wear indications than any other similar nuclear plant in the country.
FPL replaced the steam generators in 2007. If the unusual wear continues, experts say it could shorten the life of the steam generators, which are supposed to last until the reactor's license expires in 2043.
Including the steam generator replacement, FPL has spent about $750 million in upgrades to extend the life and increase the power output of the St. Lucie plant. Problems with the steam generators could hurt the investment that customers are paying for in their rates.
FPL is required to file a report to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the condition of the steam generator tubes within six months.
Ivan Penn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2332