FRENCHTOWN TWP. (WWJ/AP) – A special federal inspection is planned of DTE Energy’s Fermi 2 nuclear power plant this year because the Monroe-area facility’s reactor was shut down too many times in 2012, officials said.

The supplemental inspection comes in addition to the routine or required inspections conducted annually at the plant. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said the inspection is required because Fermi 2 had three unplanned shutdowns within 7,000 hours of reactor operating time.

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The NRC already has scheduled at least 15 different inspections at the plant this year, The Monroe Evening News reported.

The most recent unplanned shutdown happened in November when a hydrogen gas leak developed in the cooling system of the plant’s main electrical generator and operators shut down the reactor. The plant was idled for nearly two months. A report by the NRC says the failure resulted from improper reassembly after maintenance, inadequate maintenance testing, and restarting the pump out of normal startup sequence.

In September, a bird flew into an electrical substation and knocked out power to the Fermi site, prompting an automatic shutdown. In late June, one of two big pumps that feed cooling water to the reactor disintegrated, prompting an automatic shutdown.

“All three of the shutdowns were related to generating equipment and not safety-related equipment and, even though they were not planned, the shutdowns were orderly and safe and all plant equipment operated as expected during the shutdown,” DTE spokesman Guy Cerullo said.

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“We’ve conducted thorough root-cause evaluations for each of the shutdowns and instituted rigorous corrective actions to minimize these types of shutdowns in the future,” Cerullo continued.

Detroit-based DTE is seeking a federal license to build and operate an addition to the Fermi 2 plant. DTE has said it hasn’t made any commitment yet to build the Fermi 3 plant, but it is seeking a license to keep that option open. Plans for Fermi 3 are opposed by an environmental coalition and some others.

Fermi has been running since Jan. 1988, after a construction period that spanned 20 years. Its located next to Lake Erie in Monroe County’s Frenchtown Township.

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