U.S. NRC Blog

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Update: As the Blizzard Moves Out of the Mid-Atlantic

Neil Sheehan
Public Affairs Officer
Region I

UPDATE: As an update to the downpower and then shutdown of Calvert Cliffs Unit 1, the plant has restarted and once again began sending power to the electrical grid as of about 1:30 a.m. today (Jan. 26). The plant was returned to service after the main transformer cable that had become disconnected, apparently as a result of blizzard-driven winds, was fixed. That issue led to the plant reduction in power during the storm. Repairs were also made to address condenser tube leakage that was identified and led to a decision to shut down the plant on Monday morning. NRC Resident Inspectors assigned to the plant tracked the repair work and the unit’s restart.

As of Sunday afternoon, only one nuclear power plant in Region I may have been directly impacted by the blizzard. (Region I covers the Northeastern U.S.)

Power output at Calvert Cliffs Unit 1, in southern Maryland, was reduced to just under 15 percent on Saturday evening after an electrical cable associated with a main transformer was found to be disconnected. It was not immediately clear if the storm was responsible for the cable coming loose. The downpower was needed to facilitate repairs.

While upstate New York was expected to be spared much of the intensity of the winter storm, the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear power plant was shut down by its operators at about 10:40 p.m. Saturday after icing impacted the facility’s flow of cooling water drawn from Lake Ontario. Power had already been reduced to about 50 percent at the Scriba, N.Y., plant due to lowering water intake levels at the time of the manual scram (shutdown).

The plant was safely shut down and the NRC’s Senior Resident Inspector for FitzPatrick traveled to the site to independently verify plant conditions and observe operator actions. The single-unit boiling-water reactor remained out of service as of this morning as troubleshooting and follow-up activities continued.

After the Pilgrim nuclear power plant experienced several winter storm-related shutdowns in recent years, the plant’s owner, Entergy, was prepared to conduct a pre-emptive shutdown of the facility should certain severe weather conditions occur. The NRC has been closely monitoring any effects of the blizzard on the Plymouth, Mass., site and has confirmed that there have been no significant impacts at the facility and certainly none that would have triggered the pre-emptive shutdown criteria.

On a similar note, the NRC has kept close tabs on the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, in Lacey Township, N.J. During Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012, water levels on the canal from which the plant draws cooling water reached levels that caused the declaration of an “Unusual Event” – the lowest level of emergency classification used by the NRC – and later an “Alert” – the next rung up on the emergency classification ladder. The water levels did not reach those levels during this storm and therefore no emergency declarations were necessary.

16 responses to “Update: As the Blizzard Moves Out of the Mid-Atlantic

  1. steamshovel2002 January 29, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    It’s worse than you think. They go by a standard rate of loops per every one hundred years. I counted about 22 LOOPs in Pilgrim’s history beginning in 1980.

    “Pilgrim’s Astonishing Number Of LOOPs: NRC’s Historical Record Of LOOPs in Nuclear Industry”
    http://steamshovel2002.blogspot.com/2015/01/pilgrims-astonishing-number-of-loops.html

    In the 100 year rate in Pilgrim, this comes out to at least 55 LOOPs per one hundred years. They average a LOOP every two years. The NRC says the average rate per reactor is about a LOOP once every 100 years. Conservatively they allow in all calculation of violation levels and safety analysis a rate of about 4 loops per 100 years. It’s the standard rate of all plants put in safety calculating. Why doesn’t the NRC force all plants to use their actual LOOP rates (not the standard generic rate). Why does the bad actors always get a free ride? The NRC allows Pilgrim to use 4 LOOPs in all risk calculations. Pilgrim uses a conservative rate (sarcasm) of about 6 LOOPs. The actual rate is about seventeen more frequent that what Pilgrim and NRC puts into their calculations. I call this fraud.

    What would Pilgrim’s all past violations and safety analysis look like if the plant recalculated them in their actual rate of 55 LOOPs per 100 years? Would these recent violations be a yellow or red findings not white?

    As in Fukushima, you’re got to go into a LOOP to get to a meltdown and subsequence off site radiation dose.

    I talked about this to senior NRC officials and they all blew me off?

    Mike Mulligan
    Hinsdale, NH

  2. William Maurer January 28, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    In this post Mr Sheehan and the NRC categorizes Pilgrim’s winter weather switchyard failures and subsequent scrams as “After the Pilgrim nuclear power plant experienced several winter storm-related shutdowns in recent years, the plant’s owner, Entergy, was prepared to conduct a pre-emptive shutdown of the facility should certain severe weather conditions occur.”

    The “recent years” timeline is spin (a cover up) that minimizes decades of the NRC either not connecting the dots or looking the other way while both BECO and Entergy gambled running Pilgrim at 100% during severe winter weather conditions known to result in switchyard failures and subsequent scrams (sometimes with complications). Here is that documented history:

    Feb 6, 1978 (Nor’easter/Blizzard: “Blizzard of 78”) – The reactor automatically scrammed when heavy snowfall caused electrical breakers in the 345 kilovolt switchyard to flashover and trip.
    Feb 6, 1978 – The reactor automatically scrammed from 24 percent power when high winds and ice buildup caused all transmission lines to fail (causing a LOOP). .

    Feb 13, 1983 (Nor’easter/Blizzard) [LER 1983-007 LOOP] – With the reactor shut down, there was a LOOP.Feb 13, 1983 – High winds caused salt accumulation on electrical equipment that led to an electrical fault and a LOOP lasting about 1 minute. (records not on NRC webpage: “salt accumulation and electrical fault” suggests flashover)
    Feb 15, 1983 – The unit was connected to the electrical grid to end a 48.2 hour forced outage.

    Oct 30, 1991 (Nor’easter/Hurricane: “Perfect Storm”) [LER 1991-024 Loss of Preferred and Secondary Offsite Power Due to Severe Coastal Storm While Shutdown] – The operators shut down the reactor when a severe storm blew seaweed into the intake structure, clogging the circulating water pumps, and causing a loss of condenser vacuum.
    Oct 30, 1991 – Weather-related LOOP lasting 120 minutes (switchyard flashover reported in LER)

    Dec 13, 1992 (Nor’easter/Blizzard) [LER 1992-016 Automatic Scram Resulting From Load Rejection at 48 Percent Reactor Power] – The reactor automatically scrammed on a generator load rejection caused by flashovers in the switchyard due to salt deposits during a severe storm.
    Dec 18, 1992 – The unit was connected to the electrical grid to end a 116.4 hour forced outage.

    Mar 13 1993 (Nor’easter/Superstorm/Blizzard: “Storm of the Century”) [LER 1993-004 Automatic Scram Resulting From Load Rejection at 100 Percent Reactor Power] – The reactor automatically scrammed on a generator load rejection caused by flashovers in the switchyard due to wind-packed snow during blizzard conditions.
    Mar 13, 1993 – Weather related LOOP lasting 1 minute.
    Mar 17, 1993 – The unit was connected to the electrical grid to end a 84.5 hour forced outage.

    Dec 19, 2008 (Nor’easter/Blizzard) [LER 2008-006 Automatic Scram Resulting from Switchyard Breaker Fault during Winter Storm; LER 2008-007 Momentary Loss of all 345kv Off-Site Power to the Startup Transformer from Switchyard Breaker Fault] – The reactor automatically scrammed when a winter storm caused icing in the main switchyard.(switchyard flashover reported in 1/26/15 Supplemental Inspection Report)

    Feb 8, 2013 (Nor’easter/Blizzard: “Nemo”) [LER 2013-003 LOOP Events due to Winter Storm Nemo] – The reactor automatically scrammed at 9:17 pm when a blizzard caused LOOP. (switchyard flashover reported in 1/26/15 Supplemental Inspection Report)
    Feb 9, 2013 – Workers restored offsite power to the site at 6:09 pm.
    Feb 10, 2013 – Offsite power to the site was lost at 2:02 pm.
    Feb 12, 2013 – Workers restored offsite power to the site at 4:05 am.
    Feb 15, 2013 – The reactor was connected to the electrical grid at 10:39 pm to end a 169.37 hour forced outage.

    Jan 27, 2015 (Nor’easter/Blizzard: “Juno”) Forced Outage due to LOOP during winter storm Juno. Switchyard flashovers.
    Feb 8, 2015 – Restarted to 79%; Reached 100% on Feb 10, 2015.

    Precautionary Shutdown

    Feb 15, 2015 (Nor’easter: “Neptune”) Precautionary shutdown in advance of Nor’easter Neptune and an anticipated LOOP (first ever precautionary preemptive shut down provoked by citizens’ discovery and analysis of the history above).
    Feb 18, 2015 – Restarted to 18%; Complications delayed ramp up; Reached 100% on Feb 22, 2015.

    Only hind site allows the NRC to make the following statement, “The NRC has been closely monitoring any effects of the blizzard on the Plymouth, Mass., site and has confirmed that there have been no significant impacts at the facility and certainly none that would have triggered the pre-emptive shutdown criteria.” There is no such degree of “certainty” when severe weather is approaching and a preemptive decision to shut as a precaution needs to made. Entergy, the NRC and MEMA choose to gamble and got lucky. Did they even power down to 50% just in case? In light of the documented facts I would prescribe a belt and suspenders approach to severe winter weather conditions at Pilgrim rather than another roll of the dice, especially considering an evacuation might be impossible for days and first responders are already stretched and coping with the standard (non nuclear) severe winter weather emergencies. In my opinion, this is reckless risk taking…for what purpose, Entergy’s bottom line? C’mon!

    • Engineer-Poet January 28, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      You do realize that LOOP is an acronym for “loss of outside power”… in other words, the lines or transformers have a problem and circuit breakers shut them off?

      You do realize that LOOP will happen to ANY power plant under the same circumstances?  You do realize that it’s harmless and the plant handles it just fine?

      Or are you just throwing around terms the public is not familiar with, for the purpose of fear-mongering?

  3. Anonymous January 27, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Moderator Note: Some of the comments have moved far from the topic of the post. We ask that a conversation about topics unrelated to the storm be continued on the Open Forum section.

  4. Anonymous January 25, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    Pilgrim is an eyesore and agree with the assessment that the licensee will try to squeeze the maximum juice out of it, before the plant voluntarily shuts down in 2019 (like Vermont Yankee). The residents of Plymouth have earned its bragging rights boxed up in a town with no emergency evacuation routes and fear of imponderables what with Entergy’s poor operational records. But can’t agree with the assessment of a broad brush “too cozy relationship between regulators and the commercial nuclear energy industry.” On the contrary, the NRC has upped the ante on oversight inspection, consistent with a plant, with multiple/repetitive degraded cornerstone, what more they can do!

    Just because of a perceived threat, a cop cannot confiscate the driver’s license, you have to commit a traffic violation to do so, or at least that is how the law operates.

    Don’t shoot the messenger, dear Pilgrimers, the NRC s all what you have got on your side, not the plant’s operator.

    • Engineer-Poet January 26, 2016 at 12:00 pm

      Pilgrim is recognized by the NRC as one of the worst performing nuclear power plants in the country.

      Shocking!  And in other news, HALF the US population falls below the median in all measures!

      Yes that was sarcasm, but when someone uses a blatantly misleading trope it is important to show just how it is being used to imply a false conclusion.  In any top-to-bottom ranking of anything, one is going to come in last.  If you eliminate it because it’s last, something ELSE comes in last.

      Why not compare outside just nuclear plants?  For the sake of public safety, the total risks associated with any plant should be considered.  For Massachusetts in 2014, compare Pilgrim to Brayton Point.  Pilgrim generated 5,769,154 MWH of electricity with zero air emissions and perhaps 1 truckload shipment of fuel.  The hazards associated with the truckload of fuel are minuscule and the risks from air emissions, zero.  Brayton Point generated 2,573,319 MWh from 1.13 million tons of coal, generating perhaps 2.9 million tons of CO2 plus un-scrubbed sulfur, mercury, particulates and other air toxics.  At $37/ton (underestimate) social cost for the CO2 alone, the coal emissions cost the equivalent of 36 lives per year at $3 million each—for less than half the output of Pilgrim; at a more recent estimate of $220/ton, it’s equivalent to killing more than 200 people per year.  To this we must add the mortality and morbidity of car-train accidents in shipping its fuel, the health damage from blowing fines, and the health and ecological harm from shipping and dumping the ash.

      Natural gas is hardly exempt.  Pipeline explosions cause fatalities and injuries, gas fields and pipelines leak toxics, and the CO2 emissions and their associated damages only fall by about half compared to coal.

      The 4 biggest reactor meltdowns outside the old Soviet Union have a grand total of zero fatalities between them.  Given the circumstances of Fukushima, this is more or less a worst-case result—and the plants remained safer to the public than a single coal plant, or even a gas plant.

      To put it bluntly, the worst nuclear plant in the USA is safer than the best natural gas plant in the world.  Until the “alternatives” can actually provide the 24/7 energy supply that nuclear can (which will happen about the 43rd of never), their fossil-fired backup must be rolled in with their public risk.  When this is done, nuclear is the safest option for the USA and the world.  If the anti-nuclear forces actually cared about public safety they would stop harping on Pilgrim and go after fracking’s exemption from the Clean Water Act, inadequate safety measures on ash dumps, and greenhouse gas emissions regardless of source.

  5. Lillia Frantin January 25, 2016 at 11:24 am

    There’s little new to add, is there. The NRC shuts its eyes & ears, acts like ‘climate change’ is another Republican-corporate deniers fantasy and lets Pilgrim go (down?) on its merry and dangerous way. What will it take for Neil S. and the NRC honchos to declare they are either bought & paid for (paid off?) by the nuclear bandwagon…or do the right thing and make Pilgrim’s owners COMPLY with b BASIC SAFETY & COMMONSENSE rules & precautions. You don’t want or need the comments from We citizens..you’ve got your agenda it seems –protect the industry at all costs…as long as its not corporate-costs. Shame on you is too easy. But with you NRC holding all the cards (while the Pilgrim & nuclear power owners stack the deck against safety & health) what can we do but ‘Wait & Pray’…some regulatory system, huh? Awful. If even Pilgrim has an ‘accident’ (Oh forgive me…an INCIDENT…No, I mean accident), its not only us who will pay the price…Our grandchildren will reap what YOU ARE SOWING.

    • Engineer-Poet January 25, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      It’s ironic that the NRC made much out of putting Pilgrim on an improvement program, and some anti-nuclear activist interprets this as “The NRC shuts its eyes & ears”.  When the rhetoric is completely false to fact, you have to wonder just how much of a hold the speaker has on reality.  But most interesting is this:

      acts like ‘climate change’ is another Republican-corporate deniers fantasy

      Nuclear power generates 63% of the carbon-free electricity in the USA, and was responsible for ALL of the successful de-carbonizations of grids in Europe (France, Belgium and Sweden) compared to NONE for “renewables”, yet Lillia Frantin blames NRC inaction for lack of movement on climate change?  Another reality-free comment.

      If the USA grid was 78% nuclear like France’s, the electric sector would not have a carbon problem (or an air-pollution problem).  It was the “No Nukes!” activists who saved the coal industry from nuclearization.  Congratulations, the paternity test shows that the climate change problem is YOUR baby!

  6. William Maurer January 24, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    Pilgrim is recognized by the NRC as one of the worst performing nuclear power plants in the country. Pilgrim is owned and operated by a company who has been unwilling (at least) since re-licensing to invest the money required to maintain minimum NRC safety standards for a safe operation and has steadily gone downhill. Therefore Entergy has elected to shut Pilgrim down and couched it as “due to economics”. Translation: Entergy can’t compete without cutting corners.

    In my opinion the NRC, Entergy, FEMA and MEMA needlessly gambled once again with public safety at Pilgrim during this storm rolling the dice against known switchyard deficiencies and a nuclear reactor known to have problems during scrams and restarts associated with severe winter weather conditions when emergency evacuations are impossible. This gamble was purely in the service of saving Entergy the $$$$ associated with a preemptive precautionary shutdown.

    Again in my opinion this was reckless risk taking and textbook sociopathic corporate behavior, facilitated by “government” regulators with stronger loyalties and sympathies to the private sector than to the public sector. Now they all are patting themselves on the back for “lucking out”. Incredible! The sad part is most people will buy it because they are uninformed by design about Pilgrim deficiencies and risk (ie decades of recurrent switchyard flashovers with resultant scrams increasingly with more and more complications, leaving malfunctioning SRVs in operation, inoperable meteorological towers for inordinate periods of time, years of tritium leaks, etc, etc, etc).

    This is a cue: The “smart money”, the insurance companies who are elite world class professional risk takers and who have done their due diligence won’t insure commercial nuclear reactors…too risky!

    The fact that Pilgrim wasn’t shut down as a precaution in this last storm by regulators speaks to a way too cozy relationship between regulators and the commercial nuclear energy industry.

    Disgusted….Bill Maurer

  7. Mike Mulligan January 24, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    “Has been no significant impacts at the facility”…could the NRC describe all storm related impacts at Pilgrim?

    • Dan Williamson January 25, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      What did you have in mind? Limited access to the cafeteria….difficulties with employee parking? That sort of thing?

  8. Nikohl Vandel January 24, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    Thank you. Although, with options like windmills we don’t even have to worry about any of this. Why do we continue doing this?

    • Engineer-Poet January 25, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      with options like windmills we don’t even have to worry about any of this.

      Blistering cold and clear calm spells often follow winter snowstorms, and demand peaks at such times.  Anything that fails to generate when it’s needed the most isn’t an “option”, period.

      • CaptD January 26, 2016 at 9:41 am

        Eng-P

        How about the multi-billion dollar failures of Nuclear?

        #SanOnofreGate The new hashtag about the ongoing investigation into the multi-billion $ SCE-CPUC ripoff.

      • Engineer-Poet January 26, 2016 at 9:28 pm

        In case this doesn’t thread right, this is a reply to CaptD.

        How about the multi-billion dollar failures of Nuclear?

        You mean, the multi-year delays that the mandated review process would have thrown into the schedule for bringing San Onofre back up again?  They were completely political, not technological.

        Now, tell me how you can write a law to make the sun shine and the wind blow when people need them to.  I’m all ears.  Does the name “King Canute” ring any bells?

    • Engineer-Poet January 27, 2016 at 6:41 am

      Nikohl, as I write this it is 25°F (-4 C) outside, dead calm, and dark.  In your ideal world, how would you keep me from worrying about freezing to death?

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