Update: The NRC Readies for Hurricane Irma

UPDATE (9/10/2017 – 10 a.m. EST): The NRC activated the Region II Incident Response Center in Atlanta and entered the agency’s monitoring mode just after 6 p.m.yesterday. One unit at the Turkey Point plant is shutdown, but the other unit continues to operate because winds on site have been projected to not exceed hurricane strength. Florida Power & Light has told the NRC it currently has no plans to shut down the two units at the St. Lucie plant because projected wind speeds there are also expected to be below the hurricane level.

Latest Press Release: NRC Preparing for Hurricane Irma Sept. 8, 2017

Roger Hannah
Senior Public Affairs Officer, Region II

At least two nuclear power plants, Turkey Point and St. Lucie, are in the predicted path of Hurricane Irma. Both are preparing for the strong and potentially damaging storm – just as they have for past dangerous hurricanes.

Twenty-five years ago, Turkey Point was directly in the path of Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm, and although many of the plant’s structures were damaged and offsite power lines were lost, important safety equipment was safely maintained.

Florida Power & Light, the company that operates Turkey Point and St. Lucie, is working through a very detailed storm preparation procedure. That work includes checking equipment and supplies such as diesel generator fuel, securing or moving other equipment or items that might be blown around, and implementing a staffing plan to ensure enough operators and support staff are on site around the clock if roads become inaccessible.

Meanwhile, the NRC’s resident inspectors at the two sites are watching and ensuring company employees are following their procedures. The NRC’s Region II office in Atlanta has already dispatched two additional inspectors to Turkey Point and two others to St. Lucie so the resident inspectors assigned to those sites can take care of their homes and families.

As Hurricane Irma moves closer, the NRC will activate its Incident Response Center in Atlanta for around the clock staffing and begin ongoing communications with the plants and the NRC inspectors on site.

Procedures require both plants to be shut down prior to the onset of hurricane-force winds on site, and remain shut down until equipment has been checked and reliable offsite power lines are restored. The plants have diesel generators that can provide power to keep the plants in a safe condition for many days if offsite power is not available.

In addition, regional inspectors have been in contact with NRC license holders in Puerto Rico, Florida and other potentially affected states, which have responsibility for securing radioactive materials during the storm.

Hurricane Andrew and other natural events that have affected nuclear plants in past decades have provided the NRC with a wealth of experience in responding to conditions that can be expected during Hurricane Irma.

Author: Moderator

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

23 thoughts on “Update: The NRC Readies for Hurricane Irma”

  1. According to Reutters, bellow, one Turkey Point unit 4 was shut down Sunday night due to a likely valve issue. As one unit should have been closed on Saturday this would make two units?
    Would you confirm this?
    What is the cause of the valve issue? Was it related to the hurricane Irma?
    What is the cause of salt issue at St Lucie?

    It is an obvious risk that storm depris would stuck in valves and water intake.

    Question: Has salty and contaminated waters has been released from the channels of Turkey Point as there has likely been floods.due to high amount of rain an possible storm surge? How possible releases have been monitored with regard to salt and radioactivity? Is there information about salt and radioactivity inventory in the channels before and after the hurricane Irma?

    Moderator Note: Copyrighted information removed


  2. Wind speeds that would require a shutdown of a nuclear power reactor facility are typically specified in the licensee’s Technical Specifications as a Limiting Condition for Operation (LCO). Tech Specs are part of the facility’s License and thus are public information. Therefore, such information on wind speed shutdown conditions is not “sensitive” information or National Security Information. You should be able to get that info from the Region II (Atlanta) Public Affairs Office, during normal working hours.

  3. So is Turkey Point shutdown or not?
    NRC has not updated the reactor status page today, interesting…..

  4. Order the shutdowns now. This hurricane is unlike anything the plants have ever seen and failing to take every possible precaution is gross negligence.

  5. Mike, per your question below on why Harvey did not get a similar post. Well, after Trump took office, NRC had pretty much abandoned this blog. The timing is interesting to say the least.

  6. The new meme from nuclear….even in an accident it is better to stay put, because the stress is far worse than radioactive contamination.

    Not buying it. Millions will be killed by Fukushima, not to mention the 90% loss of the Pacific itself.

  7. Kelvinsdemon, indeed the fact that we have not switched to thorium, et al, is an indication that the entire nuclear supply and operation chain is a dysfunctional cartel, controlled by special interests that simply want to maximize profit, regardless of risk.

    To your point on not shutting down LWRs, I believe you completely missed what happened at Fukushima. 3 of 4 units where running at Fukushima.

    Shutting down would be far better, its the residual heat generation from the half life decays, many of which are very shortlived, so a few days shutdown makes a huge difference in ability to avoid a meltdown.

    I think it is very irresponsible not to have NRC DEMAND that these 4 plants be shut down immediately. NRC noted that loss of offsite power is extremely likely, and it could be for many days. This is actually the most dangerous situation for nuclear plants, loss of offsite power. So taking mitigating actions (shut down) to react to the most dangerous thing, is smart risk control.

    We can’t afford a multi-trillion dollar Fukushima in this country, although it would help balance the budget on Medicaid

  8. Mod, I have to express umbrage at the generality of the responses. It should be quite obvious to all that the longer a plant has been shut down, and the less heat being generated by the on going half life energies of the partly spent fuel….the safer it is.

    So to risk a multi-Trillion dollar accident and a sacrifice zone, in order to make an extra $3 Million dollars by running for an extra day, if horrific risk management. Please respond.

  9. Great work Mike M, also noted that there has not been a single picture of STP released since the storm. You would think they would know that keeping us in the dark just creates stress, aggravation, and suspicion.

    I got the same from a female nuke operator when questioning about the exact levels MSL at which components at STP would be compromised. She played nice for a while, but prior to any real answers, she defaulted to “I would have to check to see if I can give out that information”. I asked her to check and respond, and she never responded.

  10. I am not at all sure that shutting down LWRs for a hurricane is wise at all, Fukushima proved that it exposes them to their worst vulnerability. But it is the fault of Carter, Nixon, and Clinton (William) that we do not possess running Molten Salt or Fast Neutron reactors that already have shown themselves capable of meltdown immunity.

  11. Of the people who evacuated from Fukushima-Daiichi, 1600 or so died, some perhaps of the infirmities of old age. Of the engineers and all others who did not leave, there were no deaths and no apparent ill effects. One person drowned of the same tsunami that drowned the emergency diesel electric plants and doomed the reactors that had otherwise survived the earthquake and shut down. Leaving Miami to avoid the floods is a good idea. The danger from the reactors by comparison is trifling.

  12. The NRC inspectors are monitoring the two plants’ preparations and the agency is satisfied that the company is taking appropriate actions.

    FPL has informed the NRC that operators at the Turkey Point plant will begin the process of shutting down the two reactors there on Saturday. The NRC will have at least two inspectors stationed at the site prior to the arrival of Hurricane Irma and they will remain at the site for the duration of the storm.

    The operators at the St. Lucie plant also expect to begin the process of shutting down the two reactors there later on Saturday if projected hurricane-force winds continue to be expected at that site. The NRC will also have at least two inspectors stationed at the St. Lucie site and they will remain there through the storm.


  13. We used Facebook to provide updates on NRC actions related to South Texas Project and Hurricane Harvey. That plant did not shut down, unlike what is anticipated with Hurricane Irma. We will post updates to the blog related to Irma as appropriate.


  14. INPO/NRC Andrew report:
    Note, they calculate the Andrew storm surge different than they do today.
    “At about 4:00 a.m. Monday morning, August 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew passed directly over the Turkey Point site in a westerly direction with sustained wind speeds of 145 mph (233 km/h) and gusts of at least 175 mph (282 km/h).
    The highest storm surge of Hurricane Andrew was 16.9 feet (5.15 m) at a location approximately 10 miles (16 km) north of Turkey Point. This is the highest storm surge ever recorded in Florida.
    By contrast, the storm surge at Turkey Point was less than 7 feet (2 m). Turkey Point is designed to withstand a storm surge of at least 20 feet (7 m).”

    Mike Mulligan
    Hinsdale, NH

  15. So why didn’t Hurricane Harvey get a similar post. I’ll bet you are responding to the mayor of Miami comment. His nuclear hurricane Irma comment is circling the globe.
    “After he was informed some residents were not planning to evacuate, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine had strong words for those who wanted to ride out the storm.
    I hate to hear that,” he told CBS Miami. “I’ll do anything in my power to convince them this is a very serious storm. This is a nuclear hurricane. They should leave the beach, they must leave the beach.”

    I spoke with one of the STP inspectors today. I was quarrying him about the hurricane shutdown requirements between STP and Turkey Point. TP is required to shutdown when first feeling hurricane winds, while STP is required to shutdown at winds of 73MPH. STP stayed up at power at 100%. His first comment was, “we never felt hurricane winds on site”. I push him pretty hard later he said, “the peak winds at about 40MPH. I asked him in the procedures, “what was the wind speed requirement to shutdown”. He said, ‘I can’t tell you its sensitive information”. More humorously, I asked him if the Colorado River abuts the plant. Again he said, “its sensitive information”. I ask his as string of questions, he kept coming back over and over again, “I don’t know”, “I don’t know”. He later told me he is not sure what is really national security information, so he defaulted to, “I don’t know”. Same with the peak height of the river.
    So I wanted to have a discussion with his inspector’s boss about this. I called the region IV front phone desk. No human voice answered the phone. I get this click, click click, then a noise like they are recording the line (leave a message.) I find it amazing management isn’t monitoring the quality of voice recording system. Personally, I think somebody is sabotaging the telephone voice recording system, or not manning the phones, so basically we don’t waste the staff’s time. Please don’t delete the phone recording with the inspector and me. I am in contact with the OIG.
    Mike Mulligan
    Hinsdale, NH

  16. In the staff review of the St Lucy plant the staff hydrologist required the plant increase the grade elevation to protect the plant from a storm surge. This information can be found in the AEC application files.
    Charles Ferrell
    Site Analyst for this plant
    Retired Nuclear Engineer/Health Physicist
    US NRC/AEC, DOD US Army Chemical Corps
    and Third Armored Division

  17. Will NRC provide updates through the storm? Since it may hit over the weekend I would hope information doesn’t go dark since it isn’t normal office hours.

  18. Not that impressed with Flex, 550kW generator and emergency pumps are stored in a whole separate building. The Probably Flood Level, would in fact, breach the seawalls and flood the plant, that is in the “design”. This hurricane likely to be much larger Storm Surge than “basis”. How they going to grab that 550kW DG, drag it through a flood, and then install it?

  19. I guess my question was a bit different.
    Does the NRC have the authority to force a shutdown on weather concerns only?
    “prior to hurricane force winds”, sure, but what timing before hurricane force winds, the earlier the shutdown, the safer the whole event because things are cooler.
    What mode is considered “shutdown” for the arrival of hurricane force winds.

    What of the other concern, storm surge. At what predicted storm surge would the NRC direct the plant to shutdown, and how long before that surge.

    Real answers put people at ease. Half answers /assurances create stress and frustration.

  20. As the post points out, procedures require that these plants shut down prior to the onset of hurricane-force winds on site.


  21. I would have thought that the FLEX mitigating strategies established based on Fukushima lessons learned would have been mentioned.

  22. When is the NRC going to require the operator to shut those units down? the longer they are shut down, the safer it is when offsite power is lost.

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