Sandy Update: The Last of Three Shutdown Plants Back to Full Power

Credit: NASA/NOAA
Credit: NASA/NOAA

Just over five weeks after Sandy battered the Northeast, all three of the reactors that experienced a shutdown as a result of the storm are now back at full power.

Two of the affected reactors, Salem Unit 1 and Indian Point 3, returned to service not long after Sandy struck on Oct. 29. Indian Point 3, the Buchanan, N.Y., reactor that experienced an automatic shutdown due to grid fluctuations, was back at 100-percent power as of Nov. 3.

Salem Unit 1, the Hancocks Bridge, N.J. reactor that was manually tripped by operators after high water levels and debris impacted the plant’s circulating-water pumps, was once again at full power as of Nov. 5.

Nine Mile Point Unit 1 was the last of those units to return to full power output. That unit, located in Scriba, N.Y., was automatically knocked out of service during the storm after a lightning arrestor pole fell over in a switchyard, temporarily preventing the plant from sending power out to the grid.

Although the unit had restarted shortly after the storm, it experienced an automatic shutdown on Nov. 3 after a feedwater pump tripped, causing a lowering reactor water level. It restarted on Nov. 9, but vibration issues involving the turbine lube oil system led to a manual shutdown on Dec.1 to address the problem.

With the necessary repairs now completed, Nine Mile Point Unit 1 achieved 100-percent power once again on Dec. 5.

NRC inspectors kept close tabs on developments at all of the affected sites before, during and after the storm, and they were satisfied any related issues were satisfactorily addressed prior to the units restarting.

Oyster Creek, a plant out of service at the time of Sandy because of an already under-way refueling and maintenance outage, is also now back online. The Lacey Township, N.J., plant restarted on Nov. 30 and was at full reactor power once again as of Dec. 5.

The plant saw high water levels in its water intake structure during the storm, prompting first an “Unusual Event” declaration and later an “Alert” declaration. The Alert was terminated at 3:52 a.m. on Oct. 31 when the water level dropped sufficiently and off-site power that was disrupted by the storm was fully restored.

The NRC on Nov. 13 began a Special Inspection at Oyster Creek, the focus of which was to review the circumstances surrounding the event declarations and other storm-related developments at the site. Once the inspectors have completed their reviews, a report summarizing any findings will be issued within 45 days.

Neil Sheehan
Public Affairs Officer
Region I

EXIT — A Good Sign of Radiation

fs-tritium-image1Most people know that radioactive energy can be harnessed to provide electricity and even to diagnose and treat certain illnesses. But would it surprise you to learn that radioactive materials also perform an important safety function by lighting emergency EXIT signs?

Look for the EXIT sign the next time you go to work, school, a sporting event, religious service, the movies, or the mall. If the sign glows green or red, chances are it contains a radioactive gas called tritium. The tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, is sealed into glass tubes lined with a chemical that glows in the dark. Tritium emits low-energy radiation that cannot penetrate paper or clothing and even if inhaled, it leaves the body relatively quickly. As long as the tubes remain sealed, the signs pose no health, safety, or security hazard.

NRC estimates there are more than 2 million of these signs in use in the United States. To ensure safety in handling and the manufacturing process, NRC and its Agreement State partners regulate the manufacture and distribution of tritium EXIT signs. Companies have to apply for and receive a license before they can manufacture or distribute one of these signs.

But because the signs are designed to be inherently safe, NRC does not require any special training before a building can display the signs. Users are responsible for meeting the requirements for handling and disposal of unwanted or damaged signs and for reporting any changes affecting the signs.

Proper handling and disposal is the most important safety requirement for these signs. A damaged sign could contaminate the immediate area and require an expensive cleanup. That is why broken or unwanted signs must be return to a licensed manufacturer, distributer, radioactive waste broker or radioactive waste disposal facility.

fs-tritium-image1Tritium EXIT signs are one of several types of radioactive consumer products that NRC allows. These products can be produced and sold ONLY if they have a benefit that outweighs any radiation risk. See our earlier blog post for more information on how we regulate these products.

Maureen Conley
Public Affairs Officer