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Fermi-2 reactor in Michigan starting up after pandemic-delayed outage: DTE

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Outage longest in US so far in 2020

Positive novel coronavirus tests interrupt work

Washington — DTE Energy's 1,205-MW Fermi-2 nuclear reactor in Newport, Michigan, is in the process of starting up after the longest nuclear refueling and maintenance outage in the US so far in 2020. The outage began March 21 and was extended by the coronavirus pandemic.

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"We have not yet connected to the grid; we are in our startup process at this time," company spokesman Stephen Tait said Aug. 3. "The plant remains in a safe and stable condition."

"We will complete a series of scheduled activities during the startup process before entering online operation and connecting to the grid," Tait added.

The average duration of refueling outages at US nuclear units in 2019 was 36.2 days, according to S&P Global Platts data.

DTE previously confirmed it had employees test positive for the novel coronavirus, but declined to release details on the number of positive cases. But on May 13, Ron Maracle, vice president of Local 687 of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, said nearly 250 workers at the plant had tested positive during the outage.

On May 1, DTE implemented a "stand-down" of activities that interrupted the outage. The company said some work at the plant resumed May 4.

In addition, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission extended an earlier modification on work hours at the plant to Aug. 11 after DTE said the outbreak was hampering efforts to finish the outage. In a July 6 letter to the agency, DTE said an extension until Aug. 10 would "provide Fermi-2 time needed to complete the refueling outage and transition back to online rules for covered workers."

DTE said in the July 6 letter the positive tests affected the torus recoating effort, and as a result the "outage has extended to over 100 days." The torus is a donut-shaped component of the reactor containment located below the reactor vessel. The torus is partially filled with water and is designed to absorb energy from the reactor or supply water to safety systems during an accident.

The plant was operating at 10% of capacity early on the morning of Aug. 3 after operating at 4% of capacity early Aug. 2, 5% early Aug. 1, 4% early July 31, 2% early July 30 and 0% early July 29, according US Nuclear Regulatory Commission daily reactor status reports.