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Florida Power & Light shuts three Florida nuclear units amid Irma

Both generating units at Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point nuclear plant south of Miami were shut over the weekend as Hurricane Irma moved along Florida's coast, while one reactor at its two-unit St. Lucie plant, also located on the Florida coast, shut Monday after the storm had passed.

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Crews are working to restart all three units, a process that can take about a day, FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said during a press briefing Monday.

One unit, the 885-MW Turkey Point-3, was shut preventively on Saturday, at which point the utility decided not to shut the Turkey Point-4 unit, also 885 MW, when new forecasts suggested there would not be hurricane-force winds at the site in Homestead, Florida.

It is a regulatory requirement that the units be shut at least two hours before such winds.

However, in a report to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Sunday, FPL said operators did manually shut Turkey Point-4 at 6:55 pm EDT (2255 GMT) Sunday due to the failure of a valve connected to a steam generator at the reactor. The company is investigating the cause of the valve failure, it added.

FPL said in a separate report to NRC that it was not planning to shut the two St. Lucie units, with a total capacity of 2,213 MW, because revised forecasts no longer called for hurricane-force winds to affect the site in Jensen Beach, Florida. Both units will continue to operate at 100% of capacity through the storm, it said.

However, one unit at St. Lucie was shut Monday, Silagy said. NRC said in a blog post Monday that St. Lucie-1 was reducing power because of salt buildup on insulators in the plant switchyard. St. Lucie-2 remains at full power, NRC said.

It takes about a day to restart nuclear units because of a long checklist of safety-related actions that must be taken before they resume generation, Silagy said. He did not provide an estimate for when the three units would return to service.

Company officials had said last week, when the hurricane was forecast to pass closer to both stations, that they planned to shut all four units.

The hurricane cut power to as many as 9 million FPL customers, with some losing power twice in the past days, Silagy said. "More than half the population of Florida is out of power," he said.

The utility is working to restore all its generating units, repair transmission lines, and restore power to customers using a "small army" of line workers and tree-clearing crews, he said.

The hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm Monday as it moved inland into southern Georgia, the National Hurricane Center said. Maximum sustained winds had dropped to 60 mph, it said.

--William Freebairn,
--Edited by Annie Siebert,