U.S. NRC Blog

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NRC Continues to Respond to Irma

Update (Sept. 12, 2017 4:15 p.m. EST):

Late Monday afternoon, Hurricane Irma had diminished to the point that the NRC exited monitoring mode and stopped staffing the Region II Incident Response Center in Atlanta. (The Operations Center at NRC headquarters in Maryland remains staffed 24/7 as usual.) Neither the Turkey Point nuclear plant nor the St. Lucie nuclear plant, both in Florida, lost offsite power during the storm, and both units at each plant are expected to be operating again this week. St. Lucie Unit 2 remained at full power throughout the storm, and Florida Power & Light tells the NRC it expects to restart St. Lucie Unit 1 today after local emergency management officials confirm they could implement their emergency plans for the plant. FPL has also indicated that it plans to restart both units at Turkey Point after emergency officials in South Florida provide the same assurances for the site. The NRC has returned to its normal inspection and oversight of Turkey Point, St. Lucie, and the other plants in the Southeast and will begin to evaluate lessons learned from Hurricane Irma in preparation for future storms that may affect nuclear plants.

Roger Hannah
Senior Public Affairs Officer, Region II

(Sept. 11, 2017): As Irma (now a tropical storm) continues to track through the southeast, the NRC continues to monitor its path and the nuclear power plants potentially along that route.

Turkey Point Unit 3, in south Florida, remains safely shut down, as it has been since Saturday. Operators at the Turkey Point plant shut down Unit 4 just before 7 p.m. Sunday evening due to a valve issue. The shutdown was uncomplicated, the plant is in a safe condition, and winds and rain have diminished at the site such that the plant staff exited their declaration of an unusual event at 4 a.m. Three NRC resident inspectors remain at the site, but the agency is now assessing steps to return to its normal inspection staffing within the next day or two.

At St. Lucie, also in Florida, operators are reducing power on Unit 1 due to salt buildup on insulators in the switchyard that supplies offsite power and plant employees are working to resolve this situation. St. Lucie Unit 2 remains at full power. Two NRC resident inspectors remain at the site, but it is expected that NRC will return to normal inspection staffing at this site, also within a day or two.

As of Monday morning, the Region II Incident Response Center staff is monitoring potential effects from the storm on the Hatch nuclear plant in south Georgia and the Farley nuclear plant in south Alabama. The two units at Hatch and the two units at Farley are currently at full power. Even though the staffs at both sites have completed storm preparations, it appears that projected winds will not be strong enough to affect plant operations at these two locations.

The NRC’s Region II continues to be in monitoring mode and the Incident Response Center in Atlanta is staffed. However, predicted wind and rain from the storm has prompted the closure of the Region II office as well as other federal agencies in the area.

9 responses to “NRC Continues to Respond to Irma

  1. junehughes September 14, 2017 at 8:09 am

    Very impressive and helpful article, thank you.

  2. stock September 11, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    I am perplexed by this “maximum wind” meme. That should not be the foremost criteria for shutting down a plant.

    The primary criteria should be that if there is more than a 5% chance of losing offsite power, then the plant should be shutdown as soon as that 5% is hit.

  3. miningawareness September 11, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Many thanks for renewing this blog after 6 months of silence. It is good to know that you are doing at least some of your job. You save yourselves and everyone else time in the long run by providing information online. Obviously, “Half-Truth Slayer” doesn’t want you to do your job at all. You don’t tell us, however, the causes of valve failure, nor of the salt buildup. Also, despite claims to the contrary, there remains some risk due to the nuclear waste at the Crystal River nuclear site north of Tampa. Are you checking that site? Will you? How many workers does Duke have on site? Do you have any? Any status available re the crack in the spent fuel pool at Crystal River noted by you 5 to 8 years ago? Has anyone examined what happens if the roof comes off of the spent fuel pool and the huge amounts coal dust piled up nearby for the Crystal River coal plant fly into the spent fuel pool? I haven’t found anything.

    • Anonymous September 11, 2017 at 9:18 pm

      Amen that. I protested earlier that the NRC Blog which is indeed -the most powerful medium- was silent all along and was forcefully awakened by a hurricane. After all what do they say about the Comission – They serve at the pleasure of You Know Who, that is How! I hope, they continue the communication channel after Irma!

    • stock September 11, 2017 at 10:12 pm

      Mining, indeed we want to see the NRC become real regulators, real fines, real ramifications when things are done wrong. Like why did they let Turkey Point reduce the Maximum Flood Level after Fukushima?

    • Moderator September 14, 2017 at 10:12 am

      The NRC conducts periodic Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation and decommissioning inspections at the Crystal River nuclear power plant. The next planned inspections are scheduled for October. Although the NRC no longer maintains a resident inspector at Crystal River, when events such as Hurricane Irma occur, communication protocols with plant staff are established. For Hurricane Irma, the NRC’s region-based inspectors received twice-daily status briefings from Crystal River personnel and would have been promptly notified of any deteriorating conditions. No concerns regarding the ISFSI at the plant were identified.

      We are not aware of any spent fuel pool cracking at Crystal River. You may be referring to cracking involving the containment building, which led to the plant’s shutdown. As to a potential issue involving the spent fuel pool building’s roof, the plant was required to analyze all possible external hazards and has procedures in place to deal with a wide variety of situations.

      Neil Sheehan
      NRC Region I

      • miningawareness September 14, 2017 at 4:55 pm

        Thank you very much for the detailed reply. Some NRC documents-spokesperson left the impression that it might not even be checked for awhile. It is encouraging to know that there was staff-monitoring, as well there should be. This is all the more true if the crack – documented below- has grown. I hope the fuel transfer crane was well-protected/dismantled and power maintained. Thanks again. Our lives and future depend upon you.

        The “hairline crack” was found 8 years ago (ML103220257 ) and could have grown in that time. In “Safety Evaluation Report With Open Items Related to the License Renewal of Crystal River Unit 3 Nuclear Generating Plant Docket No. 50-302, December 2010, the USNRC “staff noted that there is a hairline crack in the spent fuel pool south wall, and the applicant has concluded in the inspection report to inspect and monitor it on a yearly interval. During its audit, the staff performed a walkdown on July 15, 2009, and found this hairline crack location at elevation 143 foot was dry at that time. The staff also walked down the leak chase channel drain points to ensure that the leak chase channel system is functioning. The staff noted one of the pipe ends appeared to contain mineral deposition and there was blockage of the leak chase channels that can potentially cause leakage of the borated water from the spent fuel through the floor and walls of the spent fuel pool. By letter dated September 11, 2009, the staff issued RAI B.2.30-5 requesting that the applicant provide a summary of the daily records of the leakage data collected at its spent fuel leak chase channel piping. Specifically, the staff requested that the applicant provide information about the time frame when initial leakage of the leak chase piping stopped and the actions that were taken to clean the leak chase piping….” (p. 3-142). It was also noted that “Boral, boron steel spent fuel storage racks neutron-absorbing sheets exposed to treated water or treated borated water (3.3.1-13), Aging Effect/ Mechanism: Reduction of neutron-absorbing capacity and loss of material due to general corrosion” (p. 3-256) https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1032/ML103220257.pdf

  4. Half-TruthSlayer September 11, 2017 at 11:45 am

    I feel so much better with additional, but totally unnecessary, NRC people at nuke sites in Florida. And it is so reassuring that the NRC incident response center in Atlanta is up & running. Is there no end to you guys patting yourself on the back?! I guess you have too as no one else will. Thank God for well qualified utility nuke plant operators at these sites. The NRC only gets in the way!

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