Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Going Nuclear, American Style

Gregg Levine at FDL points us to his own article posted 10/29 on another site with the unlikely name of Capitoilette, regarding the status of the Oyster Creek, NJ nuclear generating station after its encounter with former hurricane Sandy and its wind, tides and storm surge. I'll let Gregg set the frame:
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reporting that an “alert” has been declared at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Ocean County, New Jersey. An alert is the second level on the four-point scale, a step above an “unusual event.”

The NRC declared the alert at 8:45 PM local time, as a combination of rising tides, wind and the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy caused water to rise above safe levels in the plant’s water intake structure. Sandy, which made landfall at around 8 PM in southern New Jersey with 90 mph winds, has caused power outages and widespread flooding along the Atlantic coast from Maryland to New York.

Oyster Creek is the oldest operating commercial reactor in the US. It is a GE boiling water reactor of similar design to the ones that failed in Fukushima, Japan during 2011′s Tohoku earthquake, though Oyster Creek is actually older. ...

Particular concerns were raised about Oyster Creek. The reactor is currently offline for maintenance, which means all the reactor fuel, along with generations of used fuel, is in the plant’s spent fuel pools. The plant itself is not generating any electricity, and so is dependent on external power. If the power were to fail, there would be no way to circulate cooling water through the pools.

Backup diesel generators typical to this design power the heat transfer from the reactor, but the so-called “defense in depth” backups for the spent fuel pools are the plant’s own electrical output and power from an external grid.

I think you have the picture. This could easily be Fukushima Two. In this case, the plant itself is momentarily out of service, but the spent fuel rods are vulnerable if the cooling water pumps don't get power from... somewhere, usually the plant itself, and as a backup, the grid. Grids are notorious in events involving hurricanes, exceptional tides and storm surges.

Defense in depth, indeed... I hope somebody remembered to put in a hand-crank. [/snark]

These half-century-old generators really need to be shut down permanently sometime other than during one or another storm-of-the-century. Even then, what to do with spent fuel is a good question.

Remember TV shows in the Fifties, titled things like Disney's "Our Friend the Atom," in which the catch-phrase about nuclear power plants (not sure it was used on that particular show) was "power too cheap to meter"?

Things have changed a bit. How about "power you can't afford at any price"?

AFTERTHOUGHT: it's not just Oyster Creek that is threatened. Sixteen (16) nuclear plants in all are or were in the projected path of Sandy. See the Democracy Now link above in the excerpt from Gregg's post. If I find more current info, I'll post it.

AFTER-AFTERTHOUGHT: none of this is a direct or indirect consequence of global climate change. Uh-uh. Noooo-way, no-how. Global climate change had absolutely nothing to do with Sandy. Sandy was a random event that will not be repeated. Global climate change isn't real. And besides, Al Gore is fat boring. [/snark]

1 comment:

  1. "what to do with spent fuel is a good question.' Send it to Utah? The state of American nuclear facilities and the deterioration of infrastructure is at a critical juncture now. Dozens of them are completely vulnerable.



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