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The Role of a Meteorologist at the NRC

Most of us rely on meteorologists to tell us what the weather will be like on the weekend or if a hurricane will hit our town or how many inches of snow we might expect. But meteorologists at the NRC play a different – and very important – role in this country. We help determine how weather conditions can influence the design and location of new nuclear power plants.

Specifically, meteorologists from the agency’s Office of New Reactors assist in reviewing license applications for new plants, selecting sites for possible future plants, and assessing new plant designs. For example, meteorologists such as myself determine whether the new plant may affect areas close to the site through the release of heated water vapor from the cooling towers. We also model the effects of the plant using local site data to determine if there will be any changes in local or regional air quality conditions.

Equally important to our work is reviewing how the weather affects the plant. This includes studying how different types of severe weather, such as large amounts of rain and snow, hurricanes, tornadoes, and high and low temperatures can affect how the plant is designed and operates. All of these conditions are examined to ensure the plant stays safe during severe weather conditions.

Each new plant site has a weather station that measures wind speed, wind direction, temperature, and rain. We visit these weather stations to ensure that they are providing accurate weather data. The weather data are reviewed by the meteorologists and processed by computer programs so that the NRC health physicists can use the results to study how well the plant is protecting people and the environment.

Although the weather is generally unpredictable more than a few days in advance, we use all available resources to help ensure any new nuclear plant can operate safely during its lifetime!

Kevin Quinlan
Meteorologist

6 responses to “The Role of a Meteorologist at the NRC

  1. Loss Assessor November 23, 2011 at 12:32 am

    I personally think that the role of a meteorologist is very challenging but at the same time very interesting also.

  2. Peterborough Website Design Experts November 7, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Meteorology is a very important science which I think the public at large take for granted. Today they have been a small change in the world global climate pattern, only these experts can tell us, if these changes are reversible or not. Moreover meteorologist can educate all of us about the impact of our actions on the climate and on plants and nature, unfortunately for some strange reason, meteorology science always keep a low profile until a catastrophic event like a tsunami takes place, then they are brought to the front to explain what has happened. These experts need to make their voice heard before we have natural disasters.

  3. Susan Sterrett November 7, 2011 at 11:17 am

    You wrote:

    “Equally important to our work is reviewing how the weather affects the plant. This includes studying how different types of severe weather, such as large amounts of rain and snow, hurricanes, tornadoes, and high and low temperatures can affect how the plant is designed and operates. All of these conditions are examined to ensure the plant stays safe during severe weather conditions.”

    I can’t help but notice that you did not mention the effect of heat radiation: that the sun radiates heat to surfaces when it is shining, and that surfaces radiate heat back to the night sky when it is not. The effect on objects of all sorts varies not only with time of day, but with season of year and with the latitude of the location of the plant. The effect can depend upon how many consecutive days of elevated or low temperatures have occurred, too.

  4. Ade November 7, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I wonder what there doing in Japan in regards to this with the recent episodes.

  5. Vomino November 7, 2011 at 6:03 am

    I didn’t know the NRC had meteorologist…
    Thank to this article i do fully understand why they are so important to improve nuclear plants locations.
    Do the NRC have other specialists more than meteorologist and architects to find the right places to build a nuclear plant?

    Thank you for these useful informations.

  6. James Greenidge November 4, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I’m not being facetious, but is 70% of this almost picky attention to micro-details to weather (in this case alone) really just regulatory overkill to placate nuclear jittery communities and assuage anti-nuclear lobbyists? Try as I might, I just can’t find any mentions of on-site “weather stations” or construction weather considerations regarding gas or oil or — even more worrisome, chemical plants that aren’t protected from the elements by several meters thick of reinforced concrete yet, unlike nuclear power for almost fifty years, have had sorry occasional track records at killing off hundreds and thousands of lives and wiping out local neighborhoods around the world at one quick swipe. In this, there seems something almost blatantly uneven and biased by demanding far more super-excessive safety demands of nuclear power than these industries when rare non-fatal/low damage incidents as TMI and Fukushima are quickly showing that meltdowns aren’t the mass-killer Doomsday bogeymen that PC nightmares cracked-up to be.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

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