Comanche Peak fire shuts down nuclear power unit, pressures Texas’ grid

Marin Wolf
The Unit 2 reactor at Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant near Glen Rose.

One of the Comanche Peak nuclear power plant’s two units has been offline for more than a week following a June 7 fire in the main transformer, putting pressure on the Texas power grid and contributing to this week’s plea for statewide conservation.

The plant’s shutdown worsened the power grid-capacity crunch that triggered the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to call for energy-saving measures through Friday. ERCOT recommends raising thermostats to 78 degrees or above and avoiding the use of large electronics like ovens and washing machines.

The cause of the fire at the plant near Glen Rose remained under investigation Tuesday, said Victor Dricks, senior public affairs officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Unit one is at full capacity while unit 2 is shut down.

Each unit of the plant, owned by Irving-based company Vistra Corp. and located 60 miles southwest of Dallas, can put out about 1,150 megawatts when operating at full capacity, according to NRC data. That’s enough electricity to power1.15 million homes during normal conditions and up to 460,000 additional households during peaks.

The fire, which began around 3:30 p.m. on June 7, was extinguished within 20 minutes and without major injuries, according to an NRC event report. It took place in the plant’s main transformer, which is located outside of the buildings that house the pressurized water reactors

“The reason the plant is still shut down is because [Vistra] ... is still investigating exactly what happened and what they need to do to repair that transformer,” Dricks said. “This plant has not had an unusual number of shutdowns.”