Monday, October 29, 2012

(UPDATED) US NRC Puts Oyster Creek Nuke Plant in New Jersey on Alert, as Power Supply Disrupted

(10/30/2012 10AM Latest from NRC in the new post)

(UPDATE 3) From Reuters (2:53am 10/31/2012):

Exelon spokesman David Tillman said the plant has "multiple and redundant" sources of cooling for the spent fuel pool. He said he did not know whether the service water system was operational at the moment.

(UPDATE 2) From Reuters (10/30/2012):

(Reuters) - Exelon Corp declared an "alert" at its New Jersey Oyster Creek nuclear power plant due to a record storm surge, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Monday, warning that a further rise in water levels could force operators to use emergency water supplies from a fire hose to cool spent uranium fuel rods.

The alert -- the second lowest of four NRC action levels -- came after water levels at the plant rose by more than 6.5 feet, potentially affecting the pumps that circulate water through the plant, an NRC spokesman said.

Those pumps are not essential since the plant is shut for planned refueling at the moment. However a further rise to 7 feet could submerge the service water pump motor that is used to cool the water in the spent fuel pool.

The spokesman said the company could use water from a fire hose to cool the pool if necessary. The used uranium rods in the pool could cause the water to boil within 25 hours without additional coolant; in an extreme scenario the rods could overheat, risking the eventual release of radiation.

The NRC said in a statement that it expected water levels would begin to abate within the next several hours.

(UPDATE) NRC's statement on the alert:

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is continuing to monitor impacts from Hurricane Sandy on nuclear power plants in the Northeastern United States, including an Alert declared at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey. The plant, currently in a regularly scheduled outage, declared the Alert at approximately 8:45 p.m. EDT due to water exceeding certain high water level criteria in the plant’s water intake structure.

Does that mean the plant's water intake is not functioning?


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission declared an "unusual event" at 7PM, then upgraded to an "alert" two hours later, probably because power was disrupted in the station's switchyard.

Not to worry. Backup diesel generators are providing stable power, says the operator Exelon.

From Yahoo News quoting AP (10/29/2012):

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation's oldest nuclear power plant, already out of service for scheduled refueling, was put on alert late Monday after waters from Superstorm Sandy rose 6 feet above sea level.

Conditions were still safe at and around Oyster Creek, a plant in Lacey Township, N.J., and at all other U.S. nuclear plants, said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees plant safety. No plants that had been up and running before the storm were planning to shut down.

High water levels at Oyster Creek, which generates enough electricity to power 600,000 homes a year, prompted safety officials to declare an "unusual event" around 7 p.m. About two hours later, the situation was upgraded to an "alert," the second-lowest in a four-tiered warning system.

The plant's owner, Exelon Corp., said power was also disrupted in the station's switchyard, but backup diesel generators were providing stable power, with more than two weeks of fuel on hand.

A rising tide, the direction of the wind and the storm's surge combined to raise water levels in the plant's intake structure, the NRC said. The agency said that water levels are expected to recede within hours and that the plant, which went online in 1969 and is set to close in 2019, is watertight and capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds.

The heightened status at Oyster Creek aside, most nuclear plants in the Sandy's path were weathering the storm without incident.

Inspectors from the NRC, whose own headquarters and Northeast regional office was closed for the storm, were manning all plants around the clock. The agency dispatched extra inspectors or placed them on standby in five states, equipped with satellite phones to ensure uninterrupted contact.
(Full article at the link)


Nancy said...

They don't mention that the flood levels may make it so the intakes can't pull in water to cool the spent fuel pools. If so they lose fuel pool cooling. They are being very dishonest in the half truth in some of the public statements.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Nancy, is this reactor Mark-I? Do you know the location of the SFP? Up there like in Fukushima, or on the ground level?

Anonymous said...

LAST MINUTE ADDITION: Exelon has re-confirmed to the ANS by telephone and e-mail that Oyster Creek does in fact have numerous, redundant cooling systems for the spent fuel including closed-loop and service water systems. Exelon tells us that if required, two locomotive sized diesel engines are ready and standing by should offsite power be lost to provide power to those two backup systems during the refueling outage should an extended LOOP scenario arise.

Atomfritz said...

Great news, thanks for the updates!

Only a half foot of water level before they need to start up the firefighting pumps. Let's hope Sandy manages to knock these pumps out, too!

I guess there will be some other severe damage due to flooding. Remember, Oyster creek is practically identical to Fuku reactor #1, with the SFP up there, and the cooling water pumps and the emergency power generators practically at sea level.

At least Oyster creek is in maintenance outage, and so it will be no questions why the plant won't start up again soon after the hurricane.

Let's hope the MSM will leak enough of what happened to make people see that it was a close call, but only because the plant was in maintenance outage.

If Oyster Creek would have been in operation like Fuku before the earthquake, there would probably have been some serious consequences. But Sandy's last word isn't yet spoken...

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that Oyster Creek already lost external power (switchyard problem) and emergency generators are already running.

Atomfritz said...

Yes, and if the reactor were in operation until a few hours ago instead of being in maintenance outage, the water intake would possibly already have been clogged with debris due to the higher water intake due to the cooling of a still-hot reactor.
In my imagination I see the pro-nuclearists sighing heavily "Phew!" :)

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

One of the reactors at Indian Point shut down.

Anonymous said...

Let's hope they last the night.

Anonymous said...

Here is a big list of tweets coming out of the storm effected area. It shows tankers on the street in Staten Island and flooded subways along with building collapses and fires that couldn't be extinguished because ironically there was too much water around.

Anonymous said...

Reuters reports that the general impression is that npps passed the hurricane test.
Good job Reuters.

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