Nuclear Shutdown News for September 2017 – Texas and Florida Nukes Refused to Shut Down During Hurricanes

by on October 4, 2017 · 0 comments

in Energy

South Texas Project nuke plant

By Michael Steinberg / Black Rain Press

Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline and fall of the nuclear power industry in the US and abroad and highlights the efforts of those who are working for a nuclear free world. Here is our September 217 report.

As Hurricanes Batter the Caribbean and Southeast US, Nuke Plants in Texas and Florida Refuse to Shut Down, Heightening Risk to Already Devastated Communities

On September 19 the Austin American-Statesman ran this story “South Texas Project stayed open during Hurricane Harvey.” South Texas Project is a nuclear plant with two reactors near Bay City, TX on the Gulf Coast, 90 miles from Houston. It has been operating since the late 1980s. Austin Energy is one of three utilities that owns it.

The newspaper article’s subtitle was “Some question decision to keep Texas nuclear plant open during Harvey.”

The American Statesman reported,

“An evacuation of surrounding areas and flooding fears kept the plant’s storm crew in the plant for nine days.”

But management had planned for a stay of only three days and the A-E also reported “the Colorado River is only two miles away” and “it was forecast to crest a week after the storm hit.”

Fortunately the floodwaters didn’t reach the plant, so the nuke kept operating at 100%.

But Kathy Hedden, director of Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) told the American-Statesman “the risk wasn’t worth keeping the plant running.” And although winds topped off at 40 mph–well below the 73 mph that would have triggered mandatory shutdown for the nuke, the paper reported, “tornadoes touched down just miles from the site.”

Kathy Hedden asserted:

“The South Texas Plant nuclear reactors, 90 miles south of Houston, could have shut down to ensure our health and safety, but instead played radioactive roulette. They prioritized profit and continued operating. Picture a nuclear disaster on top of that.”

Turkey Point nuke plant

The situation was much the same in Florida as Hurricane Irma roared in. Florida Power & Light, owner of the Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuke plants, each with two reactors, was preparing to shut them down during the storm. But when winds fell to less than hurricane force, and the utility wasn’t required by law to take them offline, FPL kept them running full force, except when a faulty valve at one Turkey Point reactor closed it down.

By the way, both reactors at Turkey Point are over 40 years old, as is one of St. Lucie’s.

On September 11 Newsweek reported that FPL had been “operating during Irma although the plant had not met federal safety requirements implemented after Fukushima.”

The Fukushima catastrophe in March 2011 followed a severe earthquake and tsunami, resulting in the meltdown of three of its reactors and a disaster that continues today.

Although nuclear plants produce electricity, they are also dependent on outside sources for electrical power as well. If the grid is down, the risk of serious accidents can increase. Newsweek consulted two nuclear experts on this matter.

David Lochbaum is director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The pump room is the Achilles Heel at Turkey Point,” he commented.

Without Cooling Water during an accident, workers must deploy backup to the backup system. At Fukushima workers were unable to accomplish this task in time to prevent the reactor core from overheating.”

And Maggie Gundersen, co-founder of Fairewind Energy and Education, like Lochbaum a former high level nuclear employee, added –

“When there’s a possibility to lose power, why would you take the risk of that? That’s just hubris and a hug risk to the population.”

Sources: Austin American-Statesman, mystatesman.com; Newsweek,newsweek.om

Global Nuke Group Calls For Planning To Deal With Increasing Shutdowns Worldwide

At its 61st annual Global Conference on September 19, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) focused on preparing for the increasing shutdown of nuclear facilities.

The IAEA reported “More than 150 nuclear power reactors have been shut down or are undergoing decommissioning.” Decommissioning is the process of dismantling shut down reactors and dealing with their radioactive waste.

The IAEA also reported “More than half the 448 nuclear reactors” still operating worldwide “are over 30 years old.” Nuclear reactors were designed to operate for 40 years.

In addition, the agency stated, “more than 100 research reactors and critical assemblies, and similar numbers of fuel cycle facilities are permanently shutting down or already undergoing decommissioning.”

The IAEA stressed

“Availability of qualified and trained personnel is critical to the success of decommissioning programs.”

Greassima Thomas, an IAEA official, declared,

“Decommissioning is a normal part of the life cycle of nuclear facilities. Engendering public confidence in the industry requires this step to be undertaken as soon as possible after the shut down of the plant.

“There is also an ethical dimension: the generation that benefitted (sic) from the power generation of these facilities should take responsibility for the final stage of their life cycle rather than pass this on to a future generation.”

Source: International Atomic Energy Agency, iaea.org

 

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