Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Several Nuclear Plants Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

Oyster Creek Nuclear Reactor - New Jersey - the oldest operating civilian reactor
Here is an early rundown of the impact of Hurricane Sandy on several of the nuclear plants in the areas hit Monday:
Oyster Creek had service water pumps at risk due to high water from Sandy. This included the cooling water for the spent fuel pool cooling system. As of 2:53am EST Exelon did not know if the service water pumps had been impacted. Media contacts at Exelon, owner of Oyster Creek are promising an update shortly. We will pass on any new information as soon as we get it. 
Oyster Creek; 36 of 43 emergency warning sirens in the emergency planning zone have failed in the last 24 hours. 
Nine Mile Point; SCRAM due to load reject. The reactor was running at 100% when the fault caused the reactor into emergency automatic shutdown. 
Indian Point; Lost offsite power to unit 3, causing a SCRAM from 100% power. Unit 2 still running 100% 
Peach Bottom; Lost 31 of 97 warning sirens for the emergency planning zone due to Sandy. 
Nine Mile Point; Lost one grid power line causing emergency diesels to kick in. 
Salem Unit 1; Scram from 100% power after cooling water intakes were blocked by storm debris and high water from the storm. 
Changed power status: 
Indian Point #3: 0% (from 100%)
Limerick #1 48% (from 100%)
Limerick #2 27% (from 100%)
Millstone #3 73% (from 100%)
Nine Mile Pt #1 0% (from 100%)
Salem #2 0% (from 100%)
Vermont Yankee 89% (from 100%) 
via NRC reporting
Writing at firedoglake about the Oyster Creek plant, Gregg Levine notes

Oyster Creek is the oldest operating commercial reactor in the US. It is a GE boiling water reactor of similar design to the ones that failed in Fukushima, Japan during 2011′s Tohoku earthquake, though Oyster Creek is actually older. As Sandy moved up the coast, fears were raised about several nuclear facilities in the storm’s path. The NRC had issued no specific directives in advance of the hurricane, though extra inspectors were dispatched to threatened plants early on Monday.
Particular concerns were raised about Oyster Creek. The reactor is currently offline for maintenance, which means all the reactor fuel, along with generations of used fuel, is in the plant’s spent fuel pools. The plant itself is not generating any electricy, and so is dependent on external power. If the power were to fail, there would be no way to circulate cooling water through the pools.
Backup diesel generators typical to this design power the heat transfer from the reactor, but the so-called “defense in depth” backups for the spent fuel pools are the plant’s own electrical output and power from an external grid.
Flooding of the coolant intake structure further complicates matters. Oyster Creek does not have a cooling tower (like those seen in classic pictures of Three Mile Island). Safe temperatures are maintained by taking in massive amounts of water from a nearby source (in this case, Barnegat Bay). Water must continue to circulate in and out of the facility to keep temperatures at safe levels.
Another question would be whether floodwaters would carry additional radioactive contamination into Barnegat Bay as they recede.
In the NRC press release on Oyster Creek (PDF), the regulator also noted (with apparent pride) that no reactors had been shut down because of Hurricane Sandy. However, at least one reactor, Millstone 3 in Connecticut, had reduced output in anticipation of the storm

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