U.S. Nuclear Output Soars to 4-Month High on NextEra Gain

U.S. nuclear-power generation climbed to the highest level in almost four months as NextEra Energy Inc. boosted power to the St. Lucie 2 reactor and Southern Co. increased production at the Hatch 2 plant.

Nationwide output swelled 0.9 percent to 88,691 megawatts, or 87 percent of capacity, the most since Feb. 11, according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission data compiled by Bloomberg. Generation was 3.3 percent higher than a year ago with 13 of 104 reactors shut.

The St. Lucie 2 reactor led U.S. production higher as it increased power to 86 percent from 9 percent of capacity yesterday. The 1,002-megawatt unit, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of Palm Beach, Florida, is returning to full power after completing work on a non-nuclear side of the plant, said Doug Andrews, a company spokesman in Jensen Beach.

The 883-megawatt Hatch 2, about 74 miles west of Savannah, Georgia, returned to full power after operating yesterday at 75 percent. The unit reduced power June 4 to complete testing.

At the same time Hatch 2 increased, Southern cut output at the 876-megawatt Hatch 1 reactor. The unit operated at 90 percent of capacity, down from 97 percent when the commission took its daily report early yesterday.

Michelle Tims, a company spokeswoman based in Birmingham, Alabama, said yesterday the reactor had returned to full power after completing testing to evaluate a potential fuel deficiency. She did not immediately respond to an e-mail inquiring about today’s reduction.

Seasonal High

Production changes by NextEra and Southern sent U.S. Southeastern nuclear generation higher by 3.4 percent to 28,555 megawatts, the highest level for this time of year since 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Northeastern output also gained as PPL Corp. completed refueling at a Pennsylvania plant. The region advanced 0.9 percent to 22,133 megawatts, the highest level of production since April 13.

PPL’s Susquehanna 2, a 1,140-megawatt reactor about 50 miles northwest of Allentown, rose to 38 percent of power from 16 percent yesterday. The unit is returning from a refueling and maintenance outage.

The 1,149-megawatt Susquehanna 1, which was taken offline in early May to complete turbine modifications, shut early today for additional work after operating at 5 percent of capacity yesterday, said Joe Scopelliti, a company spokesman based in Berwick, Pennsylvania.

Turbine History

PPL has been conducting turbine modifications, testing and maintenance over the past year to correct turbine cracking.

“We will be continuing to monitor the performance of the turbines on both units after modifications that were made during Unit 2’s refueling and maintenance outage and Unit 1’s turbine outage,” Scopelliti said in an e-mail today. “These improvements address turbine blade issues that have affected the units in recent years.”

The U.S. Midwest was the only region to see a decline in nuclear-power generation today. Output fell nearly 2 percent to 18,764 megawatts after Exelon Corp. reduced output to the 869-megawatt Quad Cities 2 reactor.

The plant near Moline, Illinois, slowed to 57 percent of capacity from full power yesterday. Production fell after an animal caused a disturbance in the switchyard, which led to a transfer of electrical equipment, said Bill Stoermer, a plant-based spokesman.

“The unit is ramping back up to full power now,” he said.

Reactor maintenance shutdowns, usually undertaken in the U.S. spring or fall when energy use is lowest, may increase consumption of natural gas and coal to generate electricity. The average refueling down time was 46 days in 2012, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

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