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Officials Investigating Another Unplanned Shutdown 'Scram' At Seabrook Nuclear Plant


Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant remains offline after experiencing its second unexpected shutdown in about a week on Saturday night.

The incidents stem from the same system, which the plant's owner NextEra says it’s now trying to repair. Federal officials say the issue, known as a “manual scram,” has posed no danger to the public or plant workers.

In both cases, NextEra reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that a set of control rods moved into Seabrook’s reactor when they weren't supposed to. In each case, operators followed procedure and “tripped” or shut down the reactor in response.

“All systems responded normally, and the reactor remains shut down while the repairs are made,” says Seabrook spokeswoman Lindsay Robertson in a statement Monday. “This is the same system that we worked on recently, but we have determined that additional work and repairs are needed.”

Those repairs are being overseen in part by the resident NRC inspector at Seabrook. NRC spokeswoman Diane Screnci says they were at the plant Saturday night and returned on Monday.

“We are currently following-up on the company’s troubleshooting as they try to understand the root cause of this week’s issue,” Screnci says in an email. “We’re also continuing our review of the root cause of last week’s scram.”

The NRC says Seabrook did not have any shutdowns of this kind last year. These two incidents come shortly after the plant underwent a periodic refueling earlier this spring.

Some of the plant’s routine inspections have been curtailed or waived in recent weeks due to the coronavirus, but the NRC says those are beginning to ramp back up.

New England’s other nuclear plant, the two-reactor Millstone in Connecticut, experienced two automated scrams in April and another manual scram in late December of 2019, according to NRC records.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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