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Monthly Archives: October 2012

NRC Starting to Return to Normal Inspection Coverage After Sandy

In addition to opening the headquarters and Region I offices tomorrow, the NRC is also beginning to return to normal inspection coverage for nuclear power plant sites in the Northeastern United States. Heightened coverage will continue at Oyster Creek, a plant in Lacey Township, N.J., still in an “Alert” due to high water levels in its water intake structure.

In addition to the event at Oyster Creek, three reactors experienced trips, or shutdowns, during the storm. They were Indian Point 3, in Buchanan, N.Y.; Salem Unit 1, in Hancocks Bridge, N.J.; and Nine Mile Point 1, in Scriba, N.Y. All safety systems responded as designed.

At Oyster Creek, the Alert – the second lowest of four levels of emergency classification used by the NRC – remains in effect as plant operators wait for the water intake levels to drop to pre-designated thresholds. The water level rose due to a combination of a rising tide, wind direction and storm surge. Oyster Creek was shut down for a refueling and maintenance outage prior to the storm and the reactor remains out of service. Water levels are beginning to subside to more normal levels, but the plant remains in an Alert status until there is enough confidence levels will remain at more normal levels. Offsite power at the plant is in the process of being restored.

Meanwhile, three plants – Millstone 3, in Connecticut, Vermont Yankee, in Vermont, and Limerick, in Pennsylvania, – reduced power in advance of or in response to the storm. Millstone 3’s power was reduced to about 70 percent in advance of the storm to minimize potential impacts on its circulating water system due to the storm. Vermont Yankee reduced power to 89 percent in response to a request from the grid operator due to the loss of a transmission line in New Hampshire. Limerick Unit 1’s power was reduced to about 50 percent and Limerick Unit 2’s to about 25 percent in response to low electrical demands on the grid because of storm-related power outages.

Besides potentially affected nuclear power plants, the NRC also monitored any possible impacts on nuclear materials sites it oversees but did not identify any concerns.

NRC inspectors were at all of the nuclear power plants expected to experience the greatest effects of the storm. Those inspectors were tasked with independently verifying that operators were following relevant procedures to ensure plant safety before, during and after the storm.

We will continue to coordinate with other federal and state agencies prior to the restart of the affected plants.

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director

NRC Keeps Eye on Nuclear Plants in Sandy’s Path – Including Three That Shut Down During the Storm

We continue to maintain our heightened watch over nuclear power plants impacted by Sandy – including three reactors that experienced shutdowns during the storm and Oyster Creek in New Jersey, which remains in an “Alert.”

The three reactors to experience trips, or shutdowns, during the storm are Nine Mile Point 1 in Scriba, N.Y., Indian Point 3 in Buchanan, N.Y.; and Salem Unit 1 in Hancocks Bridge, N.J.

Nine Mile Point 1 underwent an automatic shutdown at about 9 p.m. Monday when an electrical fault occurred on power lines used to send power to the grid. It is likely a storm-related event, but the plant’s operators are still evaluating the cause. All plant safety systems responded as designed and the shutdown was safely carried out. Meanwhile, Nine Mile Point 2 experienced a loss of one of two incoming off-site power lines as a result of the fault. One of the plant’s emergency diesel generators started in response to generate power usually provided by the line. Nine Mile Point 2 remained at full power.

Indian Point 3 automatically shut down at about 10:40 p.m. Monday in response to electrical grid disturbances caused by the storm. All safety systems responded as designed and the unit was placed in a safe shutdown condition.

Salem Unit 1 was manually shut down by plant operators at about 1:10 a.m. Tuesday as a result of circulating-water pumps being affected by high river level and debris in the waterway. The circulating-water system is used to cool down steam generated by the reactor; it is a closed system that does not come into contact with any radioactivity.

At Oyster Creek, the Alert was declared at approximately 8:45 p.m. Monday, preceded by an “Unusual Event” at about 7 p.m. when the water level first reached a minimum high water level criteria. The water level rose due to a combination of a rising tide, wind direction and storm surge. While the water level has dropped since peaking earlier today, the Alert will not be exited until the level is below the specific criteria for the intake structure, which is where water from an intake canal is pumped into the plant for cooling purposes. Oyster Creek was shut down for a refueling and maintenance outage prior to the storm and the reactor remains out of service.

The NRC will continue to coordinate with other federal and state agencies prior to the restart of the affected plants.

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director

NRC Continues to Monitor Sandy, Including Alert at Oyster Creek Plant

The NRC continues to monitor impacts of Sandy on nuclear power plants in the Northeastern U.S., 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.

An Alert is the second lowest of four NRC action levels. The Alert was preceded by an Unusual Event, declared at approximately 7 p.m., EDT, when the water first reached a minimum high water level criteria. Water level is rising in the intake structure due to a combination of a rising tide, wind direction and storm surge. It is anticipated water levels will begin to abate within the next several hours.

As of 9 p.m. EDT Monday, no plants had to shut down as a result of the storm although several plants were already out of service for regularly scheduled refueling and maintenance outages. All plants remain in a safe condition, with emergency equipment available if needed.

The NRC has inspectors providing around the clock coverage at all of the plants that could experience effects of the storm, and agency response experts continue to monitor the storm from our emergency response centers, and track it as it travels inland.

It’s important to remember that nuclear power plant procedures require that the facilities shut down under certain severe weather conditions. The plants’ emergency diesel generators are available if off-site power is lost during the storm. Also, all plants have flood protection above the predicted storm surge, and key components and systems are housed in watertight buildings capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds and flooding.

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director

NRC Continues to Monitor Hurricane Sandy; No Plants Shut Down So Far As a Result of the Storm

The NRC continues to monitor impacts from Hurricane Sandy on nuclear power plants in the Northeastern U.S., and as of 3 p.m. EDT today, no plants have had to shut down as a result of the storm. Several plants in the region are already out of service for regularly scheduled refueling and maintenance outages.

All plants remain in a safe condition, with emergency equipment available if needed and NRC inspectors on-site.

This is what Chairman Allison Macfarlane had to say about the NRC’s action: “Given the breadth and intensity of this historic storm, the NRC is keeping a close watch on all of the nuclear power plants that could be impacted. Our extra inspectors sent to the potentially affected sites will continue, on an around-the-clock basis, to independently verify that the safety of these plants is maintained until the storm has passed and afterwards.”

The NRC has inspectors at all of the plants that could experience effects of the storm. These include: Oyster Creek, in Lacey Township, N.J.; Salem and Hope Creek, in Hancocks Bridge, N.J.; Calvert Cliffs, in Lusby, Md.; Limerick, in Limerick Township, Pa.; Peach Bottom, in Delta, Pa.; Three Mile Island, in Middletown, Pa.; Susquehanna, in Salem Township, Pa.; Indian Point, in Buchanan, N.Y.; and Millstone, in Waterford, Conn.

Those inspectors will independently verify that operators are following relevant procedures to ensure plant safety before, during and after the storm. In addition, the NRC is monitoring the storm from its emergency response centers.

Nuclear power plant procedures require that the facilities shut down under certain severe weather conditions. The plants’ emergency diesel generators are available if off-site power is lost during the storm. Also, all plants have flood protection above the predicted storm surge, and key components and systems are housed in watertight buildings capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds and flooding.

The NRC will continue to track Hurricane Sandy using the resources of all federal agencies and several weather forecasting services. The agency will also continue to communicate on storm-related developments with other federal and state agencies.

The NRC asks that if you are not a member of the media or a licensee and need to contact the agency, please use  817-200-1868. We are monitoring that voice mail box regularly. We ask that you do not call the NRC emergency line unless it is an emergency.

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director

NRC Prepared for Hurricane Sandy; Storm Forces Postponement of Meetings

The NRC is prepared for the Hurricane Sandy, with inspectors at all nuclear power plants that could potentially experience impacts from the storm. The inspectors are independently verifying that plant operators are making the proper preparations, are following relevant procedures and are taking appropriate actions to ensure plant safety before, during and after the storm.

In addition, the NRC is monitoring the storm from the Incident Response Center at its Region I Office in King of Prussia, Pa., and from the Operations Center at the agency’s headquarters in Rockville, Md. And the agency is in contact with FEMA.

Activities at all nuclear power plants are overseen on an ongoing basis by at least two NRC resident inspectors. In response to the storm, the agency will dispatch additional inspectors, with others on standby. The plants to receive enhanced oversight during the storm include: Calvert Cliffs, in Lusby, Md.; Salem and Hope Creek, in Hancocks Bridge, N.J.; Oyster Creek, in Lacey Township, N.J.; Peach Bottom, in Delta, Pa.; Three Mile Island 1, in Middletown, Pa.; Susquehanna, in Salem Township, Pa.; Indian Point, in Buchanan, N.Y.; and Millstone, in Waterford, Conn.

To ensure that lines of communications are maintained, the on-site inspectors are equipped with satellite phones.

Nuclear power plant procedures require that the facilities be shut down prior to any projected hurricane-force winds on-site. The plants’ emergency diesel generators are available if off-site power is lost during the storm. Also, all plants have flood protection above the predicted storm surge, and key components and systems are housed in watertight buildings capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds and flooding.

The storm has forced the closure of the agency’s headquarters and Region I, with the exception of emergency personnel. The NRC’s independent Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) has already cancelled its subcommittee meetings for Tuesday and Wednesday morning. The ACRS currently expects to be able to continue as planned for the meeting of the Fukushima Subcommittee on Wednesday afternoon, and the full committee meeting on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Also because of the storm, the NRC has postponed Tuesday’s scheduled Commission briefing on the status of the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant. The briefing will be rescheduled. Please check our Public Meetings Page and the Commission Schedule on our website for updates. The meeting between NRC officials and officials of the Omaha Public Power is still scheduled for Nov. 15 in Blair, Neb.

Residents in the path of the storm can get information on hurricane preparedness at www.ready.gov .

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director
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