Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Emergency Situation At Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant in Toms River, NJ

From The New York Times :

Dangerous Water Levels at Nuclear Plant

Rising water threatened the cooling system at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant, in Toms River, N.J., on Monday night. The plant declared an alert at 8:45 p.m., which is the second-lowest level of the four-tier emergency scale established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The water level was more than six feet above normal. At seven feet, the plant would lose the ability to cool its spent fuel pool in the normal fashion, according to Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The plant would probably have to switch to using fire hoses to pump in extra water to make up for evaporation, Mr. Sheehan said, because it could no longer pull water out of Barnegat Bay and circulate it through a heat exchanger, to cool the water in the pool.

If ordinary cooling ceased, the pool would take 25 hours to reach the boiling point, he said, giving the operators ample time to take corrective steps. The reactor itself has been shut since Oct. 22 for refueling, so it is relatively cool.

Alerts are declared a handful of times every year among the 104 power reactors around the country.

So far, no reactors in Sandy’s path have been forced by the hurricane to shut down, although one in Waterford, Conn., Millstone 3, has lowered its power output to 75 percent. The operator said this was done to assist the New England grid, which would be destabilized if the reactor shut down suddenly from full power, and also to reduce the chance that it would automatically shut down; at 75 percent, Millstone 3 could withstand the loss of a pump without having to close.

Several other reactors in the region are now closed for refueling, which is ordinarily carried out in the spring or fall, when electricity demand is low.

Separately, FOX News reported about safety concerns with the nuclear power plant at Indian Point.

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