Six of the machines sustained “significant damage” and remain shut down, although “a number of machines” are up and running again, Paul Jacobson, vice president of corporate communications for USEC, said Thursday.
Energy Daily, a Washington, D.C.-based subscriber-only news service, reported on the power failure June 16.
It said the loss of off-site power caused a circuit breaker failure inside the plant and cut power to auxiliary systems for 37 operating centrifuge machines. Because of the effects of that failure, a backup power system also failed to initially restore power to the ACP auxiliary systems.
Jacobson said no one was injured and radiation is not an issue since the machines are operating only for demonstration. USEC has been running them for four years to demonstrate to DOE their viability and dependability in the production of nuclear fuel when the ACP goes on-line to replace USEC’s aging enrichment plant in Paducah, Ky., run by its subsidiary, United States Enrichment Corporation.
Jacobson said a circuit breaker in the building tripped and caused failure of the backup system. The six centrifuge machines apparently were damaged by the surge when the power returned.
“We’re doing a comprehensive review of this circuit breaker issue and we are obviously going to incorporate any findings into the final infrastructure design of the building,“ he said. “There was no flaw in the design or manufacturing process of the machines.”
Since it is a demonstration project at the ACP site and there was no danger to the public, he said no local news media was notified of the power failure.
He said it was reported when it happened on June 11 to DOE and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and to members of Congress who have been supportive of the ACP.
Ohio Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown have been lobbying for the federal loan guarantee.
Cash-strapped USEC has boosted the ACP’s finances by bringing in as partners Toshiba Corp. and Babcock & Wilcox Investment Co. (B&W).
Those companies agreed to invest in stages based on progress of the project. They could have backed out of their commitment when the June 30 deadline for DOE’s granting of a conditional commitment of the $2 billion loan passed, but they agreed to enter into a “standstill agreement” with USEC to extend the termination deadline from June 30 to Aug. 15. USEC expects to complete the loan guarantee review process with DOE by the end of this month.
“We continue to work closely with DOE on the loan, and we remain hopeful on that conditional commitment by the end of July,” Jacobson said.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236, or email@example.com.