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Low water level halts Seabrook N-plant

By Taylor M. Miles
Globe Correspondent / October 7, 2011

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The Seabrook Station nuclear power plant automatically shut down Wednesday due to a low level of water in the steam generator, say officials of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Seabrook, N.H., plant shut down at 12:27 p.m. as it was designed to do, after sensing low water levels in the steam generator, NRC officials said. NRC spokeswoman Diane Screnci said the incident did not pose a threat to public health and safety, and there were no radioactive releases.

It was unclear last night whether the plant was back up and running, and the company that owns the facility, NextEra Energy Resources, could not immediately be reached. The plant is currently stable at normal operating temperature and pressure, NRC officials said.

NextEra Energy owns about 88.2 percent of the plant, and its share generates enough power to supply the daily needs of more than 900,000 homes, according to a website for the company. It was unclear last night if customers were affected.

The low levels of water were caused by a pump that stopped, which occurred during “a filling and venting of a condensate pump that was being returned to service following maintenance,’’ the NRC said. The exact cause of the pump stoppage is under investigation.

Screnci said it is the company’s responsibility to determine what happened in the incident.

An NRC senior resident inspector responded to the control room and observed plant operators implementing the emergency operating procedures, an NRC statement said.

The inspector confirmed that plant conditions were stable and that no emergency level thresholds were reached, according to NRC officials. They have not identified any performance concerns.

NRC resident inspectors will continue monitoring plant conditions and conducting inspections to ensure the company understands what happened and why, NRC officials said. Incidents similar to the Seabrook shutdown tend to occur less than once a year, Screnci said.

Taylor Miles can be reached at tmiles@globe.com.