A reactor at Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in Taiwan malfunctioned on Tuesday morning, triggering an auto shutdown that resulted in the loss of 985 megawatts of power – all due to the misplacement of a chair.
The plant owner, state-run Taipower, said the incident did not cause any grid power outages, although the power supply light turned yellow from green, indicating the system was running at 6-10 per cent of operating reserve ratio.
Both the power company and the Atomic Energy Commission, a government agency for atomic safety, confirmed there was no concern about radiation release.
An investigation by the Association for Natural Energy pinpointed the cause: misplaced furniture. Staff working in the control room moved the chair to clean and, in the process, knocked the acrylic protective cover of a main steam isolation valve switch causing it to tilt, shift, and close, setting off a chain reaction that tripped the main steam turbine and stopped the reactor.
Taipower filed a report on the 6:30am oopsie and by 11:40pm the reactor was approved to restart.
However, restarting a nuclear reactor of this type from scratch takes three days to reach maximum output, according to the Taipei Times.
Luckily for Taiwan and the power company, the incident took place early in the morning when demand was low and sufficient reserve capacity existed.
The reactor in question is scheduled to pump out power until March 2023, when its operating permit expires. ®