The Relative Calm After the Storm — UPDATED


11/2/2012 — Update: Here is some additional information that might be of interest: Circulating-water pumps at Salem Unit 1 were affected by the storm and taken out of operation, but they were not damaged. When several of the pumps were no longer able to perform their function because of high river levels and debris in the waterway, the plant operators followed procedures and manually shut down the reactor. Once the reactor was off-line, the plant operators followed procedures and used back-up systems, including atmospheric steam dump valves, to deal with residual heat. The plant was safely shut down. The NRC worked to provide regular updates on the situation at Salem Unit 1 and other affected plants via press releases, our blog and Twitter.

The Oyster Creek nuclear power plant did not, at any point, lose the ability to pump cooling water from the intake canal. The concern was that the motors for the pumps could be rendered inoperable if water levels in the water intake structure rose too high. That did not happen, however. Also, plant personnel stationed a portable pump at the intake structure as a precaution in case the pumps were impacted. As such, the ability to continue to keep the fuel assemblies in the spent fuel pool cool was at no point compromised.

The NRC strives for openness and transparency and will continue to do so as we gather additional information about plant performance during this historic storm.


There’s a feeling of normalcy in the NRC’s Region I today. After days of tracking Sandy and assuring the nuclear power plants in the Northeastern U.S. were in a safe condition, the storm is now out of the area and we’re open and back to business as usual.

Beginning last week – well in advance of the storm – nuclear power plant workers in the potential path of the storm took steps to prepare the site, such as tying down loose equipment, removing debris that could become projectiles, and topping off water and fuel tanks. NRC inspectors assured they took all of the appropriate steps.

As Sandy made its way toward the coast, the agency stationed inspectors around the clock at all of the plants that could experience effects of the storm, and agency response experts monitored the storm from our emergency response centers, and tracked it as it traveled inland.

While a number of plants reduced power or needed to shut down, all plants made it through the storm safely.

Oyster Creek, which declared an Alert Monday night when a combination of a rising tide, wind direction and storm surge caused water level to rise in the intake structure, exited the Alert early Wednesday morning. The plant also regained off-site power, which it had lost during the storm. (Emergency diesel generators provided back-up power in the interim.)

Three nuclear power plants shut down during the storm. Indian Point 3 and Nine Mile Point 1 due to grid disturbances, and Salem Unit 1 due to high water level and debris affecting the circulating water pumps. Preparations are underway at each of those sites to return them to service.

The plants that reduced power, Millstone 3, Limerick Units 1 and 2, and Vermont Yankee are at or near full power today.

The NRC and the nuclear plant operators worked hard to assure that the plants were safe over the weekend. In all, dozens of NRC staff members spent days preparing for and responding to the storm. While our thoughts are with those who have lost so much to the storm, we are satisfied that we did our jobs to respond quickly and effectively to the challenges the storm posed to the nuclear power plants we regulate.

Diane Screnci
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region I
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