Possible fuel defect addressed at Richland nuclear plant

Four fuel assemblies have been taken out of service at Energy Northwest’s nuclear power plant near Richland because of a suspected pinhole leak in one of them.

The possible leak does not change any of the radiological conditions inside or outside the Columbia Generating Station, said Energy Northwest spokesman John Dobken.

The plant still has 760 fuel assemblies in service, allowing it to produce electricity at full power.

The possible fuel defect was discovered when the plant’s chemists detected slightly elevated levels of xenon gas in the reactor’s recirculation system.

A control rod has stopped the four fuel assemblies with the possible fuel defect from fissioning, and they will be removed in the May 2017 refueling outage.

The fuel assemblies hold fairly new fuel, with two of them in the reactor only for a few months and the other two for just over two years.

The plant has not had a fuel defect since 2002.