[New Jersey news room] Hurricane Sandy and N.J. nuclear power plants: Keeping it cool in high winds

<Quote> [New Jersey news room]

On Sunday, New Jersey’s four nuclear power stations, along with another dozen or so along the Eastern Seaboard,were prepped to deal with Hurricane Sandy as that massive storm crawls up the East Coast toward the Garden State.

Federal regulators require nuclear reactors to be in a safe shutdown condition at least two hours before hurricane force winds strike, according to Alec Marion, VP of nuclear operations at the Nuclear Energy Institute, an energy industry association.

Typically, plant operators begin shutting down reactors about 12 hours before winds exceeding 74 miles per hour arrive.

One of the most significant challenges in the shutting down process is keeping the reactor core cool. Stopping the fission, or atom-splitting, process can be accomplished simply by lowering control rods into the core. However, the heat-producing decay of nuclear materials continues long after fission is terminated – at high intensity for days and at progressively lower intensity for very long periods.

Because potentially dangerous heat levels persist, it is essential that cooling pumps continue to operate long after the reactor has been shut down.

When the reactor is operating, it produces abundant electricity, enough to power tens of thousands of homes and businesses and power its own cooling pumps. When it is shut down, the reactor requires electricity produced at other, distant generating plants to power its cooling pumps. If hurricane force winds, or some other phenomenon, damage the power lines connecting a shut-down nuclear station to the power grid, there are emergency generators located at each nuclear station that can supply power to the cooling pumps.

At the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan last year, the plants were cut off from the national power grid and the emergency generators were also knocked out of service by a powerful Tsunami, a gigantic wave of sea water created by a nearby earthquake.

Nuclear operators such as Exelon and PSE&G in New Jersey seek to locate and protect emergency generators and other key equipment so that they are unlikely to be affected by strong winds or unusually high tides. Federal regulations require that companies keep a minimum seven days of fuel on site to keep generators operating.

There are four nuclear generating stations in Jersey: Salem I, Salem II, and Hope Creek all situated next to one another in
Salem County on Delaware Bay; and Oyster Creek located in Lacey Township near the Jersey Shore. Each of these reactors is enclosed in a containment building, a protective shell of four-foot-thick concrete designed to keep radioactive materials from escaping in case of emergency. Such containment structures are tough enough to withstand the impact of a 747 airliner crashing into it.




About this site

This website updates the latest news about the Fukushima nuclear plant and also archives the past news from 2011. Because it's always updated and added live, articles, categories and the tags are not necessarily fitted in the latest format.
I am the writer of this website. About page remains in 2014. This is because my memory about 311 was clearer than now, 2023, and I think it can have a historical value. Now I'm living in Romania with 3 cats as an independent data scientist.
Actually, nothing has progressed in the plant since 2011. We still don't even know what is going on inside. They must keep cooling the crippled reactors by water, but additionally groundwater keeps flowing into the reactor buildings from the broken parts. This is why highly contaminated water is always produced more than it can circulate. Tepco is planning to officially discharge this water to the Pacific but Tritium is still remaining in it. They dilute this with seawater so that it is legally safe, but scientifically the same amount of radioactive tritium is contained. They say it is safe to discharge, but none of them have drunk it.


October 2012