As the Eastern U.S. is facing Hurricane Irene now and at least through the weekend, we wanted to point out this Bloomberg article accurately describes the storm preparation work being done in more than a dozen nuclear energy sites around Irene’s path.
The storm’s winds pose a greater threat to the switch yards and power lines that support a nuclear plant than the reactors themselves, which sit beneath containment structures of steel- reinforced concrete, Alex Marion, vice president of nuclear operations for the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade group, said in an interview….
PJM Interconnection LLC, the grid operator that coordinates electricity transmission across much of the region in Irene’s anticipated path, is preparing for power outages caused by storm winds and falling tree branches, Ray Dotter, PJM’s spokesman….
Other plants, including Constellation Energy Group Inc.’s Calvert Cliffs facility in Maryland, and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc.’s Hope Creek and Salem facilities in southern New Jersey are at risk of losing power from the electric grid, depending on the storm’s path, he said.
And the article describes the U.S. standards for diesel back up generators that kick in if power is lost:
Diesel generators are secured behind flood-proof walls at U.S. nuclear plants, said Hannah, which stock a federally mandated seven-day supply of fuel. All plants in coastal areas of the country are typically built behind berms designed to withstand flooding, Hannah said, and key components and equipment are housed in watertight buildings.
And then it describes some of the procedures that utilities who run these plants go through as the storm approaches:
Federal regulations require nuclear reactors to be in a “safe shutdown condition,” cooled to less than 300 degrees Fahrenheit, two hours before hurricane-force winds strike, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Marion said.
To comply, plant operators typically begin shutting down reactors 12 hours before winds exceeding 74 miles per hour are predicted to arrive, said Roger Hannah, a spokesman with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Region II office in Atlanta, in an interview.
“We closely monitor, every hour, the storm track and intensity to determine potential for impact to the site,” said Indian Point’s Nappi in an e-mail….