GE unit halts nuclear fuel output over alarm hitch
* Suspension follows problem with warning horns in test
* No impact on health and safety, company says
By Jim Brumm
WILMINGTON, N.C., July 19 (Reuters) - General Electric Co's (GE.N) nuclear fuel unit Global Nuclear Fuels (GNF) has suspended manufacturing since Thursday at its North Carolina facility after warning horns failed to operate properly during a safety system test, GNF reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The report posted on the commission website explained that the alarm system at the facility north of Wilmington failed to immediately activate the horns as designed during the test.
GNF said the problem was identified as a hardware failure, specifically a capacitor on a circuit board, and the system had been repaired.
"The malfunction did not have any impact on health or safety," GE Nuclear spokesman Michael Tetuan said, adding the company had not yet scheduled a restart of production.
All production activities were shut down and personnel were being kept away from the manufacturing area, the company said.
GE has manufactured fuel assemblies for boiling water reactors at its facilities near Wilmington since the late 1960s.
GNF was created in early 2000 when Hitachi (6501.T) and Toshiba (6502.T) purchased stakes of 18 percent and 22 percent respectively in the fuel manufacturing operation.
In its report to the NRC, the company said it had determined that problems with the warning system had existed at the time of previous tests in May and June but at the time they were "not adequately identified and thus not reported".
GNF operates a second fuel assembly plant in Japan at a site south of Tokyo, near the mouth of Tokyo Bay. (Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Jim Marshall)