A half dozen nuclear power plants were shut down as Hurricane Sandy raged on Monday, and the nation’s old facility issued a seldom-used ‘alert’ as flood waters endangered a cooling system, Reuters reports.
In New Jersey, Excelon Corporation’s nuclear power plant, Oyster Creek, was put on ‘alert’ after the uranium rod cooling system was threatened and the plant was put on level two safety alert. Also in New Jersey, the Salem 1 nuclear power plant was shut after the water pumps failed, Democracy Nowreports.
The alert status at Oyster Creek marks the third time this year that emergency actions were triggered, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said. The plant had already been closed for scheduled refueling, but the unusually high water levels motivated safety officials to call it an “unusual event” and hours later, issue an ‘alert,’ the Associate Press reports.
The NRC anticipates the high levels of surged water to recede within the next few hours. It also stated that the nuclear power plant is watertight and can handle winds from a hurricane.
The power at the plant had also been disrupted in the station’s switchyard, but diesel generators were able to provide power, and more than two week’s worth of fuel is on hand.
NRC inspectors were sent to nuclear power plant sites in five different states, equipped with satellite phones in order to ensure constant communication.
Nuclear power plants are meant to withstand hurricanes and other major disasters, yet whenever hurricane-force winds persist, the plant must be shut down as the risk of flood water increases.
When only emergency personnel are available, operating a nuclear power plant becomes far more complicated. Generators are the only thing which can maintain the nuclear power plants on alert and shut down.