Exelon Unfazed By Juno; NRC To Look Into Pilgrim Shutdown

Exelon Corporation said that its seven nuclear reactors in the path of winter storm Juno ran at full capacity throughout the blizzard.

Winter Storm JunoWhile the storm dumped from 10 to 40 inches of snow across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern portions of the country, Exelon's seven plants in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania operated without a hiccup, producing 10,832 megawatts of electricity per hour, the company said, adding that this was enough power for more than 10 million homes.

While other power sources struggle to maintain production, nuclear power plants are engineered to run uninterrupted for up to two years. “Beyond that, highly skilled plant workers prepare nuclear facilities months in advance for the worst conceivable winter storm,” Exelon said. “When extreme weather hits, procedures are in place to increase equipment monitoring to minimize or eliminate weather-related problems,” Exelon said in a statement.

The fundamental difference between nuclear power and conventional fossil fuel-burning power plants is that nuclear stations have fuel on hand that will outlast seasonal weather conditions. “Importing fuel can be challenging or even impossible in dangerous weather conditions,” said Exelon President and Chief Nuclear Officer Bryan Hanson.

Exelon's statement offers a contrasting view from the headlines that declared that the storm had caused a shutdown at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass, which is operated by Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc.

According to media reports, the storm caused disruption of two major transmission lines, which led to the plant being shut down. This suggests that the problem was outside of the plant, in the distribution system, and that the plant was, otherwise, operating smoothly. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, however, is investigating the unplanned Jan. 27 shutdown, plant spokeswoman Lauren Burm said.

Winter affords the nuclear power industry one of its fundamental bragging points. Last week, however, the headlines looked at the industry both ways. In one Google search, the first two headlines listed said, back to back, "Nuclear Power: Keeping Us Warm During Winter," followed by one that said, "Winter Storm Exposes Vulnerability Of Nuclear Power Plants."

Exelon Generation operates the largest fleet of nuclear plants in the nation. The fleet consists of 23 reactors at 14 locations in Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Entergy operates and owns nuclear power plants in Arkansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New York and Vermont and has a management contract with Cooper Nuclear Station in Nebraska. Entergy Nuclear with nearly 10,000 megawatts of nuclear capacity, has a workforce of about 6,000 employees.

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