South Carolina

Leak shuts down V.C. Summer nuclear plant

Dominion Energy has shut down the V.C. Summer nuclear reactor in Fairfield County after the utility found a “small leak’’ in the atomic power plant’s coolant system, a spokeswoman said Saturday afternoon.

Leaking material has not escaped into the environment, the company said. Dominion didn’t have to shut down the reactor, but it chose to do so while it addresses the leak, spokeswoman Rhonda O’Banion said in an email.

O’Banion said there is no danger to the public.

The utility said plant operators had been monitoring a small leak for several weeks, before finally deciding to shutter the plant so the leak could be fixed. The company declined to say how long the power plant might be shut down, noting that when the unit will “return to service is market sensitive information.’’

“Operators at V. C. Summer Nuclear Station have been monitoring a very small leak in the reactor coolant system,’’ the company said. “This small leak is captured within the site’s containment building and is not going to the environment.’’

O’Banion said safety will “remain the number one focus as we work to mitigate this matter and foster our culture for continuous improvement.’’

Water is leaking, possibly from a valve, the company said.

Nuclear safety watchdog Tom Clements said he’s concerned that the utility didn’t issue a notice to the public. A Facebook post mentioned the leak. Dominion confirmed the leak when The State contacted the company Saturday afternoon.

“They should have notified the public,’’ Clements said, noting that a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report said the plant was not producing power Friday. “With nuclear plants, it is essential that there be full openness about safety related issues.’’

Dominion spokesman Ken Holt said the company notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but was not required to make any other public notice. Holt said the plant was being shut down Wednesday and was off line by early Thursday. The leak was found several weeks ago, he said.

The leak did not escape the reactor’s containment building, which provides a barrier between the reactor and the environment.

The V.C. Summer nuclear plant is in Jenkinsville, a small community about 25 miles northwest of Columbia. The plant received a license to begin operating in 1982. A plan to add two reactors at V.C. Summer to complement the existing reactor was abandoned two years ago by SCE&G, which Dominion has since acquired.

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Sammy Fretwell has covered the environment for more than 20 years at The State. He writes about an array of environmental subjects, including nature, climate change, energy, state environmental policy, nuclear waste and coastal development. Fretwell is a University of South Carolina graduate who grew up in Anderson County. Reach him at 803 771 8537.