During Thursday's so-called bomb cyclone storm, an important piece of power equipment known as a static line crashed on Route 6 in Sandwich, bringing down a 345,000-kilovolt Eversource transmission line that serves the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.
A second high voltage line that serves Pilgrim remained in service but the coastal plant shut down mid-storm, citing procedural requirements stemming from the plant's previous experiences during major storms.
"We are able to feed the grid with the second line that remained available but, based on past operating experience, our procedures require us to come offline if we lose either of the 345kv in a storm," Patrick O'Brien, a Pilgrim spokesman, told the News Service over the weekend.
In January 2015, Pilgrim shut down after both main power lines to the facility went down during the Juno blizzard. During that outage, backup generators supplied power to the facility to make sure safety precautions in the plant continued.
While electric grid operators are hungry for power to meet demand during this extended cold period, Pilgrim remained offline Monday, with workers performing preventative maintenance. Officials there are unable to pinpoint when they'll be back online, saying such information is business sensitive.
A spokesman for Eversource told the News Service over the weekend that while its line was down -- it fell between exits 1 and 2 -- Eversource continued to deliver power to Pilgrim through its second transmission line and a lower-voltage distribution line.
The fallen line was repaired, inspections were conducted on land and via helicopter, and the line was returned to service at 8 p.m. Friday and is available for use by Pilgrim, according to Michael Durand, a spokesman for Eversource. No one was hurt when the equipment landed on the highway, Durand said.
Electric grid operators at ISO-New England in Holyoke are managing through a challenging period.
"While the ISO is continually assessing the reliability of the system, other conditions continue to make grid operations difficult," the ISO said in an update on Sunday. "Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station remains out of service, some oil-fired generation is nearing emissions limitations, and other power plants are awaiting fuel deliveries that were postponed because of Thursday’s storm. But these deliveries will not begin before tomorrow at the earliest."
Warmer weather forecast for this week will likely make fuel deliveries easier to execute.
Pilgrim's sudden closure last week was expected to be among the talking points Monday as activists visit the State House for a rally and trip to Gov. Charlie Baker's office. Cape Downwinders, Boston Downwinders, Peace Abbey and Occupy Hingham planned to deliver a letter urging Baker "to use his executive and moral authority" to demand the Nuclear Regulatory Commission immediately revoke Pilgrim's license "or resign for failing to protect our right to safety."
Citing safety concerns, eight Cape Cod and South Shore lawmakers in March called on federal regulators to immediately close Pilgrim. Plant critics point to repeated problems there that have necessitated temporary but extended shutdowns. Pilgrim officials say the plant is safe and have repeated over the years that the safety of the public and plant staff has not been put at risk.
Media outlets in 2016 obtained a Nuclear Regulatory Commission email documenting safety concerns inspectors found at the plant, including "poor maintenance, poor engineering practices, and equipment reliability problems."
Power system managers say the New England grid is operating reliably during the extended cold period, but operators have also seen high natural gas and wholesale electricity prices and constrained resources.
ISO-New England on Thursday issued an alert associated with abnormal conditions that called on energy users to "cease any routine maintenance, construction or test activities on their equipment that could jeopardize the reliability of the power system."
The alert was described as precautionary and was issued in connection with the weather and "continued concerns about fuel supplies and unexpected outages." On Friday, the ISO said its alert would likely stay in place for "the duration of the extremely cold weather."
The grid operator's website on Friday evening showed a fuel mix that included 34 percent oil resources, 24 percent natural gas, 20 percent nuclear, 11 percent renewables, 9 percent hydroelectric and 6 percent coal.
In a report Thursday night, ISO-New England also said that Pilgrim had "tripped offline" Thursday "due to storm conditions." The grid operator called it an unexpected outage but said there were "no immediate reliability issues to the local area."
Pilgrim can produce 680 megawatts of power using its boiling water reactor. Entergy, which owns Pilgrim, plans to shutter the plant for good by June 1, 2019, after holding its last scheduled refueling in May 2017.
Source : http://www.newburyportnews.com/news/regional_news/pilgrim-plant-remains-offline-for-repairs-amid-power-crunch/article_6017b0de-6c29-584e-aed6-c3a1e10422d3.html