Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy on Course to Go Where New Jersey's Nuke Plants Are Located

For now, Oyster Creek may miss the eye but Salem and Hope Bay may be a direct hit when Hurricane Sandy makes landfall.

1. Oyster Creek

Hurricane Sandy seems to have shifted the path slightly to the south, so Oyster Creek plant on New Jersey Sound may escape the eye of the hurricane but is likely to be hit with heavy rain.

Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station is the oldest commercial nuclear power plant in the United States, commissioned in 1969 with GE's Mark-I reactor.

It is located in Lacey Township in New Jersey, operated by Excelon and serving 600,000 customers. The reactor has been offline since October 22 for regular maintenance and refueling. You know what it means.

At least part of the hot fuel core may be in the Spent Fuel Pool, as they were going to replace one third of the core with new fuel.

2. Salem (2 reactors), Hope Bay

Instead of Oyster Creek, the hurricane is heading directly at Delaware Bay where the three reactors are located in Salem County.

Salem Nuclear Power Plant has two pressurized water reactors by Westingshouse. The plant was commissioned in 1977 (unit 1) and 1981 (unit 2), is operated by PSEG, a publicly owned utility company in New Jersey.

PSEG also operates Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Station, which is located in the same site as Salem Nuclear Power Plant. It has one GE Mark-I boiling water reactor.

Maps of the nuclear plants locations:

Salem and Hope Bay (left), Oyster Creek (right)

Hurricane Sandy's projected path and rain forecast, as of 10:00AM EST Monday (image from Huffington Post 10/29/2012, part):

Now, if Sandy was a normal hurricane, it probably wouldn't matter very much. After a hurricane hits, the sky clears quickly and all will be good. However, this one is extraordinarily big and slow-moving, fed by the polar jet stream. Instead of several hours at most a day, heavy rain and wind may persist for DAYS. I don't know if the design specs for these nuclear power plants had allowed for this kind of "Frankenstorm" with storm surge further increased by the full moon (Wednesday).

Business Week just reported that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent additional inspectors to 11 reactors from Maryland to Connecticut, and the inspectors are equipped with satellite phones.


NYUltraBuddha said...

Sandy likely to shut at least two NJ nuclear reactors via @reuters

Out here in Southern Bklyn. the winds are howling and causing the trees on our block to dance scarily. Really hoping nothing falls on our car. This is definitely worse than Irene and it hasn't even hit yet. The West Side Highway in Manhattan is already flooded and waves are already coming over seawalls and causing some flooding in lower Manhattan. Thousands of homes are without power in Long Island and parts of Brooklyn, though thankfully, we have power and are OK so far. Let's see how it goes...

Anonymous said...

If they lose one and suffer a fast core breach or pyrophoric blaze what do we think the evac zone will be?

50 mile radius or 100 miles?

Greyhawk said...

With all of the news stories about the hurricane this is the first news I've found about the New Jersey nuke plants. Thank you for the news, bad as it may be.
Damn! There just ain't no way to avoid these things.

Anonymous said...

The eye is pretty spread out, and the NORTH side of the eye has the worse winds. Its damaging water and wind. Hope the design is adequate. It will be tested. Latest update, Sandy is still a Hurricane, at 90 mb and 940 mb--30 miles off Cape May. WNW at 28 mph movement. May go STRAIGHT up the bay towards the other plants. Darn it.

NYultrabuddha said...

More than a dozen nuclear power plants in Sandy's path via @michaelmccrae

Atomfritz said...

What a pity that the bet office in my town only offers bidding on sports events!
I'd really like to put a bid that Sandy will knock out Salem NPP!

Look at this hi-res photo in the Wikipedia of the Salem NPP:

If you want to see Salem NPP from above, enter "Hope Creek, NJ, United States" in google maps.

You can see that this NPP has practically no protection against flooding.
Moreover, the installations are visibly very fragile and in bad maintenance shape. The Wikipedia article even stated that the lack of maintenance has been confirmed by the NRC and several independent hired consultants.

Even more, the article states that the Salem NPP has much problems with debris clogging of the cooling water inlet.

Won't be one or two more small meltdowns a good thing for the anti-nuke movement?

Anonymous said...

Let's all take comfort in the "Lessons Learned" from Fukushima. There is no risk here from 9.0 earthquakes or tsunamis.
Dear NRC,
Will someone explain the risk difference and effects between a tsunami and 5-10ft. storm surge waves with torrential rainfall lasting several days.
We are about to find out.
Take care everyone.
The guys are already surfing the waves out on Lake Michigan

Atomfritz said...

It's really impressing.
This page [*] shows the power outage status in and around NJ.
A few hours ago there were only small outages, but now there is a widespread power outage.
Too sad there is no webcam at Salem/Hope/Oyster creek.
I'd be really curious if there already is station blackout :)


Anonymous said...

Station blackout means no external power, no emergency generators, no batteries: all electrical instrumentation is gone, no way to remotely operate valves, only torchlights.
Such was Fukushima predicament. Hopefully those plants are not at that stage.

Anonymous said...

They just reported that the oyster creek facility may not have backup generators as they are serviced at the same time the reactor is serviced.

Atomfritz said...

According to [*], Salem 2 is under maintenance (as Oyster Creek), but Salem 1 and Hope creek were running full load today morning. So in NJ there are only two meltdown candidates.

On the other hand, according to the forecast on wundermap [**], Sandy could pass directly over Salem and Hope creek.
Storm surges and water level displayed on wundermap don't seem particularly high. But this could still change.
And, when looking at google maps, one finds that the nuclear complex is connected via three parallel lines, which could domino-collapse with a portion of bad luck.

So there is still some little chance for some spectacular things happening in Salem/Hope creek.


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