Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station

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For the nuclear power station in Trino Vercellese, Italy, see Enrico Fermi Nuclear Power Plant (Italy).
Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station
Fermi NPP.jpg
The Fermi Station (NRC image)
Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station is located in Michigan
Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station
Location of Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station in USA Michigan
Country United States
Location Newport, Michigan
Coordinates 41°57′46″N 83°15′27″W / 41.96278°N 83.25750°W / 41.96278; -83.25750Coordinates: 41°57′46″N 83°15′27″W / 41.96278°N 83.25750°W / 41.96278; -83.25750
Status Operational
Commission date Unit 1: 1957
Unit 2: January 23, 1988
Decommission date Unit 1: September 22, 1972
Owner(s) DTE Energy
Operator(s) DTE Energy
Nuclear power station
Reactor type BWR-4 (Unit 2)
Reactor supplier General Electric
Power generation
Units operational 1198 MW (Unit 2)
Units planned 1550 MW (Unit 3)
Units decommissioned 66 MW (Unit 1)
Annual generation 8,314 GWh

The Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station is a nuclear power plant on the shore of Lake Erie near Monroe, in Frenchtown Charter Township, Michigan. All units of the plant are operated by the DTE Energy Electric Company and owned (100 percent) by parent company DTE Energy. It is approximately halfway between Detroit, Michigan, and Toledo, Ohio. It is also visible from parts of Amherstburg and Colchester, Ontario as well as on the shore of Lake Erie in Ottawa County, Ohio. Two units have been constructed on this site. The first unit's construction started in 1963, and the second unit reached criticality in 1988. The plant is connected to two single-circuit 345 kV Transmission Lines and 3 120 kV lines. They are operated and maintained by ITC Transmission.

The plant is named after the Italian nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi, most noted for his work on the development of the first nuclear reactor as well as many other major contributions to nuclear physics. Fermi won the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on induced radioactivity.

On October 5, 1966, Fermi 1, a prototype fast breeder reactor, suffered a partial fuel meltdown, although no radioactive material was released. After repairs it was shut down by 1972.[1]

On August 8, 2008, John McCain was taken on a 45-minute tour of the plant, becoming the first actively campaigning presidential candidate to visit a nuclear plant.[2]

Fermi 1[edit]

The 66 MWe prototype fast breeder reactor Fermi 1 unit was under construction and development at the site from 1957 to 1972. On October 5, 1966 Fermi 1 suffered a partial fuel meltdown. According to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, there was no abnormal radiation release to the environment.[3]

The main cause of the temperature increase was a blockage in one of the spigots that allowed the flow of cooled liquid sodium into the reactor. The blockage caused an insufficient amount of coolant to enter; this was not noticed by the operators until the core temperature alarms sounded. Several fuel rod subassemblies reached high temperatures of around 700 °F (370 °C) (with an expected range near 580 °F, 304 °C), causing them to melt.[3]

Following an extended shutdown that involved fuel replacement, repairs to vessel, and cleanup, Fermi 1 continued to operate intermittently until September 22, 1972, but was never again able to reach a fully operational state. It was officially decommissioned December 31, 1975. It is currently in SAFSTOR with a gradual "final" decommissioning in progress.[3]

A number of accounts of the accident are available. There is some debate about whether the details of the accident as written in the book Fermi-1 New Age for Nuclear Power[4] and published by the American Nuclear Society in 1979 are completely accurate. Several of the claims in the ANS's account are contradicted by certain parts of We Almost Lost Detroit, a book written by local Detroit newsman John Grant Fuller (subtitled "This Is Not A Novel").[5] The song "We Almost Lost Detroit", by Gil Scott-Heron is also about the Fermi 1 meltdown.[6] The book Normal Accidents, written by Yale professor Charles Perrow, describes this accident in more detail.

Fermi 2[edit]

Fermi 2 is a 1,198 MWe General Electric boiling water reactor owned and operated by DTE Energy. It began commercial operation in January 1988.[7]

On June 6, 2010 a tornado touched down and damaged the Fermi 2 generator building and forced an automatic shutdown. The tornadoes damaged electrical transmission and distribution infrastructure in the area leaving over 30,000 people without power in the area.[8]

Fermi 3[edit]

The original Fermi 3 project was to be a companion unit identical to Fermi 2. It was ordered in 1972 and cancelled in 1974. See DOE data page 67 and WNA Fermi 3 data.

In September 2008, Detroit Edison filed an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a Combined Construction and Operating License (COL) for a third reactor.[9] The new unit is supposed to be built on the same site, slightly to the southwest of Fermi 2. The reactor design selected is the 1,550 MWe GE-designed passive Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). Review of the 17,000-page application could take four years, after which construction could take six years. The cost is estimated at as much as $10 billion.[10] CEO Anthony Earley said that DTE's analysis "so far shows that nuclear power will, over the long term, be the most cost-effective baseload option for our customers, ... We expect nuclear to remain the low-cost option, but we will continue to evaluate nuclear against other resources and will commit to proceeding with construction only at the right time and at the right cost".[11]

In March 2009, a coalition of citizen groups asked federal regulators to reject plans for Fermi 3, contending that it would pose a range of threats to public health and the environment. The groups have filed 14 contentions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, claiming that a new plant would pose "radioactive, toxic and thermal impacts on Lake Erie's vulnerable western basin."[12][13]

Seismic risk[edit]

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's estimate of the risk each year of an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the reactor at Fermi was 1 in 238,095 (less than those of Three Mile Island), according to an NRC study published in August 2010.[14][15]

Reactor data[edit]

The Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station consist of one operational reactor, one closed unit and one additional is planned.

Reactor Unit[16] Reactor Type Electrical Generation Capacity Construction Start Initial Criticality Commercial Operation Start Permanent Shutdown
Net Gross
Fermi 1 LMFBR 60 MW 66 MW 8/8/1956 8/23/1963 7/8/1966 11/29/1972
Fermi 2 BWR-4 1152 MW 1198 MW 9/26/1972 7/2/1985 1/23/1988
Fermi 3 (planned)[17] ESBWR 1490 MW 1550 MW


  1. ^ http://www.nrc.gov/info-finder/decommissioning/power-reactor/enrico-fermi-atomic-power-plant-unit-1.html
  2. ^ NucNet. McCain Reiterates Support For Nuclear During Enrico Fermi Visit. August 8, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c NRC "Fermi, Unit 1", NRC Website, 3 February 2011, accessed 17 March 2011.
  4. ^ ISBN 0-89448-017-0
  5. ^ Originally published 1975 by Reader's Digest Press, republished 1984 by Berkley, ISBN 0-425-06700-9
  6. ^ Spignesi, Stephen J. (December 1, 2004). Catastrophe!: The 100 Greatest Disasters Of All Time. Citadel Press. p. 304. ISBN 978-0806525587. 
  7. ^ NRC "Fermi, Unit 2", NRC Website, 13 January 2011, accessed 17 March 2011.
  8. ^ Toledo On the Move News 6 June 2010
  9. ^ "Fermi, Unit 3 Application". U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). 2008-09-19. Retrieved 2008-09-19. 
  10. ^ Lam, Tina (2008-09-19). "DTE applies for another nuclear plant". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2008-09-19. [dead link]
  11. ^ Dolley, Steven (2008-09-18). "Detroit Edison files with NRC for license to build new nuke unit". Platts Nucleonics Week (McGraw-Hill). Retrieved 2008-09-19. 
  12. ^ Groups petition against new nuclear plant
  13. ^ Fermi 3 opposition takes legal action to block new nuclear reactor
  14. ^ Bill Dedman, "What are the odds? US nuke plants ranked by quake risk," msnbc.com, March 17, 2011 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42103936/ Accessed April 19, 2011.
  15. ^ http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/Sections/NEWS/quake%20nrc%20risk%20estimates.pdf
  16. ^ Power Reactor Information System of the IAEA: „United States of America: Nuclear Power Reactors- Alphabetic“
  17. ^ Power Reactor Information System of the IAEA: „Nuclear Power Reactor Details - ENRICO FERMI-3“


  • We Almost Lost Detroit, John G. Fuller, Ballantine Books, 1976
  • Normal Accident, Charles Perrow, Basic Books, 1984

External links[edit]

  • Public Comments "Public Comments at the meeting re: FERMI 3 with the NRC. This includes youtube videos of speakers calling for an end to the new nuclear reactor project. Featured are a Professor from the U of M, Don't Waste Michigan members, Sierra Club members, and other concerned citizens."