Nuclear reactors in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast are being monitored for potential impacts by Hurricane Sandy, a Category 1 storm that may strike anywhere from Delaware to southern New England.
“Because of the size of it, we could see an impact to coastal and inland plants,” Neil Sheehan, a spokesman based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said by phone. “We will station inspectors at the sites if we know they could be directly impacted.”
The NRC met earlier today to discuss the necessary precautions to take for the storm, Sheehan said. Plants must begin to shut if wind speeds exceed certain limits, he said.
As of 2 p.m. New York time, Sandy had winds of 75 miles (121 kilometers) per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. It was about 430 miles south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, moving north at 7 mph.
The current Hurricane Center track calls for the system to come ashore just south of Delaware Bay on Oct. 30.
Nuclear plants in the projected path of the hurricane include North Anna and Surry in Virginia, Calvert Cliffs in Maryland, Hope Creek and Salem in New Jersey, Indian Point in New York and Millstone in Connecticut. The NRC is considering enhancing inspector coverage of these reactors, Sheehan said in an e-mail today.
Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. must shut all units at the Salem and Hope Creek plants two hours before the onset of hurricane-force winds greater than 74 mph, according to Sheehan. An “unusual event” would be declared if the winds are sustained for greater than 15 minutes or if the water level reaches 99.5 feet or higher, he said. Such an event is the lowest of four level of emergency used by the commission.
Salem Unit 2 is currently shut for refueling, while Unit 1 was operating at 83 percent of capacity today during maintenance on the circulating water system. Hope Creek ran at full power. The three units have a combined capacity of 3,365 megawatts.
“We are in phase one of our severe-weather plan,” Joe Delmar, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail responding to questions. “This includes inspecting, removing and securing outside areas for potential missiles, objects that could go airborne, and staging of emergency equipment and supplies.”
Nuclear generation in the Northeastern region dropped 1.1 percent to 18,016 megawatts, with seven plants shut, an NRC report today showed.
Dominion Resources Inc.’s Millstone plant is monitoring Sandy’s progress and preparing to adjust staff as it comes closer, according to Ken Holt, a plant spokesman based in Richmond, Virginia. The plant must shut if winds reach 90 mph.
“We would shut down in advance of the storm if they were expected to be 90 miles per hour at the site,” Holt said by phone today. “Floods and high winds are a threat because they can knock off off-site power and we’d then need to activate emergency generators for power to put the plant to safe conditions.”