Can Proper Maintenance Guarantee a Transformer Will Not Explode?

As transformers are typically the most expensive and vital piece of equipment located in power plants and substations, they require a comprehensive maintenance plan to ensure their proper functioning and longevity. These maintenance procedures are usually detailed in lengthy manuals which can easily reach several hundred pages. Furthermore, these maintenance standards are multiplied in highly regulated industries, such as Nuclear Power Plants.

Following these meticulous maintenance guidelines can reduce the occurrence and possibility of a transformer explosion, however, it does not nullify this risk. In fact, numerous explosions have occurred on extremely well-maintained transformers. For example, let’s look at the transformer fire that the James FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant experienced in November of 2012. Upon investigation, it was confirmed that this incident was caused by an internal fault, regardless of proper testing and maintenance. A FitzPatrick Plant spokesperson stated that*:

“All test results and monitoring data prior to the transformer failure indicated it was operating appropriately. There was nothing observed that would indicate the transformer would fail.”

Just a few other examples of incidents occurring at Nuclear Power Plants in the US include: Bay City in Texas, Limerick in Pennsylvania, Indian Point in New York, and Brunswick in North Carolina. These cases confirm that even following the high maintenance standards of Nuclear facilities, transformer explosions cannot be prevented.

*Source: Syracuse.com, “Nuclear experts work to figure out why a transformer caught fire at the James FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant”.