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DTE's Fermi 2 plant is coming back online after refueling, maintenance


Fermi 2, the nuclear power plant in Monroe County, is slowly coming online, officials confirmed Friday.

The plant has been powered down for more than three months as it went through refueling and maintenance. According to data from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the plant was typically only powered down for roughly three to four weeks at a time for maintenance in recent years before COVID.

DTE Energy, the company that runs the plant, originally estimated it would be shut down for a few weeks but declined to share any specifics, citing "market considerations." 

The plant serves all of southeast Michigan. DTE says Fermi 2 provides about one-fifth of all power the company generates.

As part of the shutdown, specialized teams replaced equipment in the facility, including the rotor. Electricity is generated when steam, created by boiling water from the hot nuclear reactions, spins the rotor, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Teams also replaced a third of the fuel in the reactor and completed "thousands of maintenance and testing activities to ensure the continued safe, reliable operation of the plant," Stephen Tait, nuclear communications manager at DTE, said Friday.

It is normal for maintenance to happen while the facility is down, in part because teams need to access equipment that cannot be reached when the plant is at full operation.

"The plant remains in a safe and stable condition," he said. "There are a series of scheduled activities and testing that plant operators will complete during the startup process before entering normal online operation."

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It synchronized to the grid at 4 p.m. Friday, Tait said, meaning it is generating electricity again for DTE. Fermi has resumed operation but won't be at 100% power for a few days while operators slowly increase levels.

Spent fuel is stored in secured on-site pools, where it cools down over a period of years. After it has cooled, it is put in sealed cannisters made of steel and concrete and stored on-site.

Tait has previously said that there are no concerns about safety during a refueling. 

hharding@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Hayley__Harding