NRC Continues to Take Action on Flooding Issues

Flooding is one of many natural hazards that U.S. nuclear power plants must withstand in order to safely shut down and protect the public. Well before last year’s accident at Fukushima, the NRC was hard at work ensuring U.S. plants have robust flood protection measures in place, and now we’re focused on having the plants update their flooding analyses.

We’ve devoted significant efforts at two sites – Oconee in South Carolina and Fort Calhoun in Nebraska – to oversee those sites’ work in addressing flooding issues noted by our resident inspectors at the sites. The Fort Calhoun improvements paid off last summer, when the plant safely rode out severe flooding along the Missouri River.

The effort at Oconee, focused on dams upstream of the plant, has been underway for several years. Today, all the information available to the NRC leaves us satisfied that the plant’s owner, Duke, has put appropriate temporary flood-related features in place to ensure the public’s safety in case of flooding at Oconee. We’re monitoring additional work Duke has under way to further enhance Oconee’s permanent flood protection.

The experience at those two plants, however, led us to take a broader look at upstream dams to see if anything else needed to be done. That work was largely completed when Fukushima occurred, and the upstream dam analysis played a role in the NRC requiring every U.S. plant to perform a comprehensive reanalysis of all potential flooding sources. The screening analysis did not evaluate the changes at Oconee or Fort Calhoun; instead it answered the question of whether there were possible improvements at other plants.

The NRC has to keep some of that upstream dam information out of public view for several reasons. For one thing, we must coordinate the use of dam-specific information with our federal partners at the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Homeland Security. Other plant-specific information in the analysis also falls into security categories that are withheld from public release.

Two NRC staffers, one of whom worked on the analysis, have offered their opinions that more information should have been made available. They submitted their concerns to the NRC’s independent Inspector General, which is one method the staff has to formally disagree with an agency decision. While the IG does its work, the NRC can only comment on the analysis currently available on our website.

Scott Burnell
Public Affairs Officer

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

10 thoughts on “NRC Continues to Take Action on Flooding Issues”

  1. NRC continues to take action on flooding issues. which is really nice blog. thanks to share it..

  2. I am terrified of run off radiation seeping into our water supply, or worse, a disaster like what happened in Japan. We should strive to maximize the use of other safer alternatives like solar and wind and create increased efficiencies in those energy sources IMHO.

  3. We believe this blog post’s language – “[Fort Calhoun] safely rode out severe flooding” – is very clear about where the agency stands in terms of safety at this plant.

    We’ve used this blog consistently to refute rumors and describe Fort Calhoun’s continued safety during last year’s flooding:

    We’ve also held regular meetings near Fort Calhoun to update the community on the NRC’s oversight of the plant’s efforts to return to normal operation so they hear the facts — from us.

    Scott Burnell

  4. It should be a victory. It was the process working correctly. The year prior the NRC mandated improvements to Ft. Calhoun’s flood protection, which helped control the flooding at the plant and ensure its safety. Even David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists said this was an example of the process and the NRC working correctly.

  5. Why don’t NRC actually refute some of the ignorant accusations that get posted here? Show some cojones like the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, who are so bold as to call the antinukes on their falsehoods and call them falsehoods. See .

    You actually have a lot of info, but your ability to put it across in a way that can answer the specific concerns that people have, and put them in perspective with other hazards (e.g. the hazards from burning more coal and gas because you’re NOT running nuclear power plants) is WOEFUL.

    You could start by listing some of the ways in which Ft. Calhoun was still safe in spite of the flooding and the much-hyped accident with the rubber donut, and that it was in no way a skin-of-the-teeth near miss. Specific refutations, not bland, dusty “the-information-leaves-us-satisfied-bla-bla-bla” generalities.

  6. Rubber donuts?

    Okay, seriously: Rubber donuts were used at Fort Calhoun, and that was nearly a complete failure when a truck driver backed into one and tore it. Is that what’s being “temporarily” used at Oconee? And let’s see, what could be being kept secret about dams upstream from nuclear reactors… oh yeah, I know! If someone blows up a dam, and then the floodwaters inundate a nuke, or the lake is the emergency backup for the nuke so they drain the lake then destroy the reactor so it needs emergency backup…. hey, if I can think of these things so can anyone else, so maybe, if these are serious threats (like tsunamis are — did the NRC miss that in their analysis that was started “well before” Fukushima?) — since these are all unstoppable, unavoidable, and obvious (“clear and present”) dangers, shouldn’t those reactors that are under such threats be “retired” (along with the rest, because the fuel build-up is an unsolvable, not just an unsolved, problem, and the risk of meltdown is much higher than NRC calculations and predictions admit, since they ignore so many perfectly-plausible accident scenarios, such as greater-than-design-basis earthquakes)?

    The biggest problem with the nuclear industry these days is that it can’t seem to exit the scene gracefully. It’s outpriced if proper safety features are required, but if they are NOT required… well, “scientists” should all take a warning from the seismologists convicted of manslaughter in Italy a few days ago: The nuclear industry is no place for games, lies, or under-achievers. If the truth hurts — and it does — suck up to it and admit it. Help these plants all close down before the public is hurt, before the truth — and the radiation — gets out, and before thousands of square miles of valuable real estate somewhere in America is lost for a thousand generations.

    The cost of a mistake by a supplier to a subcontractor to a manufacturer in Japan of a product installed (by subcontractors of subcontractors) in a reactor in the United States might be a trillion dollars. This is not rocket science. It’s far more dangerous, but corners are cut, liberties are taken, and the 1% (if that) which NRC officials could possibly watch is a show put on for your benefit — even the logs are faked. The consequences of failure because someone didn’t do their job, let fake electronic parts slip through in a supposedly “mil-spec” system, are “unfathomable,” “unthinkable,” and sure: “unlikely.” But “unlikely” becomes “inevitable” if you keep making the same mistake over and over and over. Relicensing 40 to 60 year old plants for an additional 20 years? Unfathomable. Every reactor is a “Model T” and the “4th Gen” reactors are Model A’s, at best. Computerizing them to avoid operator errors invites Stuxnet-like attacks from outside, inside, or by accident (a kid plays with his dad’s computer and downloads a virus…).

    The efficiency that was needed to make nuclear power financially viable just isn’t there anymore, with other energy sources, including renewables, getting cheaper all the time and nuclear costs going up and up and up, and the waste problem — the effect of ionizing radiation on everything — will forever remain the legacy of our inaction today. For either cost, technological, or safety reasons — usually all three — we can’t find a place to bury it, we can’t rocket it to the sun, dump it at sea, drop it safely into a subduction zone, neutralize it, transmute it, or leave it where it is. So why keep making more of it?

    Please do not allow the nuclear industry continue to manufacture (through fission, neutron activation, gamma irradiation, etc.) monumental quantities of highly radioactive poison for which there is no sane, safe solution for containment or disposal.

  7. A near miss at Calhoun shouldn’t be considered a “victory” it should be considered “too close”

  8. Great news for everyone that does not want a Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster in the USA…

    The official “warm and fuzzy” posted comment about how the NRC is doing yet more studies fails to grasp the terror that many felt watching Ft. Calhoun slowing become surrounded by raising flood waters… If anything happened to the dams upstream either by Nature of Act of Man things would have been far different at Ft. Calhoun…

    America escaped having a nuclear incident or worse by the “skin on their teeth” and to think otherwise only makes protecting the USA much harder for all concerned in our SAFETY!

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