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Faulty reactor bolts will extend refueling of PSEG's Salem nuke

Thediscovery of damaged baffle bolts inside a reactor at 'sSalem nuclearplant in New Jersey will extend the refueling outage of the plant's unit 1,PSEG executives said in their first-quarter 2016 earnings call.

PSEGExecutive Vice President and CFO Daniel Cregg announced on April 29 that visualinspection of Salem 1 during a refueling outage that began April 14 revealed a "series"of damaged bolts inside the reactor at unit 1 of the Salem nuclear plant inSalem County, N.J. Further inspections aimed at repairing and replacing boltsare expected to extend the 30-day refueling outage, he said.

Itis not yet known how long the extended outage will last but Cregg said a delayin the 30-day refueling outage would reduce generation of the unit byapproximately 0.5 terawatt-hours and the PSEG nuclear fleet's capacity for theyear by about 1.5%, to 91% from a current forecast of 92.5%.

PSEGChairman, President and CEO Ralph Izzo assured investors that the issue ofdegradation among the unit's 832 bolts, which secure metal plates inside thereactor, "are not life-threatening issues." Izzo said Salem 2, whichpassed visual inspection in 2015, will also be visually inspected during itsupcoming refueling outage. The "industry problem" of degraded bafflebolts, which are put under pressure, is not an issue for the boiling-waterreactor of the nearby HopeCreek nuclear plant, he said.

PSEGspokesman Joe Delmar said in a statement, "This is the first time we'vehad any indication of an issue with our baffle bolts, but not the first timefor the industry."

Delmardeclined to say how long the company expects the unit to be out of service. "Asa merchant generator we will not discuss the length of any outage duration orin this case any extension," he said. "However, Salem Unit 1 will notreturn to service until repairs have been completed."

NuclearEnergy Institute spokesman John Keeley confirmed that baffle bolt replacementsare not a new phenomenon since the French first started to replace degradedbolts more than 20 years ago. Bolts can be subject to corrosion, vibration,temperature, and radiation, he said. While baffle bolt issues primarily concernpressurized water reactors, which make up about two-thirds of the U.S. nuclearfleet, "only a fraction" of them have had issues, said Keeley. Salem'stwo units are pressurized water reactors. Unit 1 began operating in 1977, andunit 2 began operating in 1981. Each has a nameplate capacity of 1,170 MW.

Keeleycredits the industry's "proactive management" of baffle bolts throughits safety programs for identifying and correcting degradations before they canbecome a safety concern. The renewal of operating licenses for reactors alsodepends on the management of these "major passive systems," he said.

likewise inMarch discoveredabout 220 faulty or missing bolts inside its Indian Point 2 nuclear reactor in WestchesterCounty, N.Y., during a planned outage and scheduled inspections that are a partof the license renewal inspection program. The revelation prompted New YorkGov. Andrew Cuomo to once again call upon the U.S. Nuclear RegulatoryCommission to deny the relicensing of the plant, which has been at the centerof a number of lawsuits and investigations following several recent incidents,including a low-level radioactive leak in February.

PSEGoperates the Salem plant through subsidiary PSEG Nuclear LLC. Exelon Corp., through subsidiary , owns aminority interest in both Salem units.