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Texas nuclear reactor officials watchful of Ike

LOS ANGELES, Sept 12 (Reuters) - The South Texas Project nuclear power plant near Bay City near the Texas Gulf Coast will shut if hurricane-force winds reach the area, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Friday.

Hurricane-force winds are 74 mph and higher.

The South Texas Project power station has two nuclear reactors that can produce a combined 2,560 megawatts of electricity.

Plant operator STP Nuclear Operating Co is required to shut both reactors two hours ahead of a hurricane’s arrival. The NRC said on Friday that forecasters are not expecting winds to reach hurricane force in Bay City.

South Texas Project is about 10 miles from the coast. It is also 12 miles from Bay City in Matagorda County, about 90 miles (145 km) southwest of Houston, said spokesman Victor Dricks.

Buildings that house the reactors and spent nuclear fuel have steel-reinforced concrete walls of 4 to 7 feet in depth which are designed to withstand Category 5 hurricanes and tornadoes, STP said.

The NRC sent four inspectors earlier this week to the South Texas Project to monitor hurricane preparations and the storm’s impact on the plant.

The twin reactors can produce 7.5 percent of the electricity used in Texas.

South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Co operates the station for its owners: NRG Energy Inc NRG.N (44 percent), the City of San Antonio's CPS Energy (40 percent) and the City of Austin's Austin Energy (16 percent). (Reporting by Bernie Woodall, editing by Matthew Lewis)