Public Affairs Officer
What a difference a month makes. As of late December, many East Coast residents were savoring record warmth and a winter which, until that point at least, had been largely devoid of a certain four-letter word (snow), as well as ice.
Fueled by a potent El Nino – a warming of Pacific Ocean waters that occurs every several years – the season was marked more by bustling golf courses and joggers wearing shorts than an abundance of the white stuff.
But now a sizable storm that has piggy-backed on the jet stream is taking aim at the East and promises to deliver what could be a significant winter wallop accompanied by large snow accumulations and strong winds in many areas. As is always the case, the NRC is ready to keep a close watch on nuclear power plants that potentially could be impacted by the storm.
Plant personnel have checklists of specific tasks to be performed when a significant storm – no matter whether a blizzard or a hurricane – is approaching.
For instance, there will be “walkdowns,” or surveys, of plant grounds to ensure there are no objects or debris that could get whipped into the air by strong winds and cause damage to any structures, power lines or the switchyard.
Another activity is to check that tanks that supply fuel to emergency diesel generators are filled. If the flow of power from the grid to the plant is disrupted for any reason, these generators will activate and provide power to key safety systems until the normal electricity alignment can be restored.
There needs to be sufficient fuel on hand in case the generators are needed for any extended period of time.
Also, plant operators must prepare for the possibility of flooding. One way to do this is to follow each site’s procedures, which can involve checking that flood-protection doors are properly secured, putting sandbags in place, stationing portable pumps or other actions.
NRC Resident Inspectors will be monitoring the completion of these activities using their own inspection procedure while also tracking the storm’s track and expected conditions at each site.
All indications are that this storm – dubbed Jonas by the Weather Channel – is one to take seriously. The NRC is prepared to do just that.
For information on how NRC HQ prepares, see this post.