Nuclear Shutdown News – October 2016: Hurricane Matthew Imperiled US Nukes

by on November 1, 2016 · 1 comment

in Energy, Environment, Health, History, World News

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NASA

By Michael Steinberg / Black Rain Press

Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline and fall of the nuclear industry in the US and beyond, and highlights the efforts of those who are working for a nuclear free world. What follows is our October edition, which is dedicated to Judy Friedman of Connecticut’s Peoples Action for Clean Energy (PACE)!

Hurricane Matthew Imperils  US Nukes As It Threatens Millions

Hurricane Matthew, which brought death and destruction from Haiti to the Carolinas in October, also had an impact on a number of aged nuclear facilities in the US.  There are no nuclear plants in Haiti, Cuba or the Bahamas, which suffered the worst of the hurricane’s wrath.

On October 4, as Matthew approached Florida, Florida Power & Light, the electrical utility that runs the St. Lucie nuke plant in the southeast part of the state, declared an “unusual event” at the plant.

On a scale of 1 to 5, an Unusual Event is a 1, with the worst such nuclear plant emergency being mandatory evacuation.

All US nuclear plants producing electricity also depend on outside electrical power sources to operate. In the case of St. Lucie, the storm caused loss of its outside power. When this happens, backup diesel powered generators are supposed to kick in.

This is critical, because a reactor’s nuclear fuel must constantly be covered with water. If it isn’t, it will begin to heat up, and, in the worst case, melt down, causing a nuclear catastrophe.

This is what happened at Fukushima in 2011. The earthquake destroyed the outside electrical system, and then the tsunami overwhelmed the backup diesel system, leading to multiple meltdowns at the plant that are still ongoing.

Fortunately the emergency at St. Lucie was short-lived.  But it demonstrates the vulnerability of the aging US nuclear industry. The two reactors at St. Lucie began operating in 1976 and 1983. They were designed to operate for only 40 years.

On October 6 the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) declared it “had dispatched additional inspectors to St. Lucie,” as well as to Turkey Point, another nuke in southeast Florida operated by FP&L, and to the Brunswick plant in North Carolina.

Like St. Lucie, Turkey Point ‘s two reactors are ancient, only more so. They started up in 1973 and 1974. They are located on Biscayne Bay, adjacent to Biscayne National Park.

According to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), “no other place” besides Turkey Point “uses an unlined porous industrial sewer to cool water” for a nuclear plant, resulting in “polluting ground water and the waters of Biscayne Bay.”

SACE also states that “the Biscayne acquifer  provides drinking water for  more than three million people” and that Turkey Point’s polluted waters “contain a slew of pollutants including arsenic, phosphorus. total nitrogen, high salinity levels, and tritium (radioactive hydrogen, all migrating in all directions.”

Unfortunately, the hurricane’s storm surge accelerated this toxic pollution.

Other nuke plants that had to close temporarily because of Hurricane Matthew were the 43 year old Robinson reactor 2 in South Carolina. and the Harris nuke on central North Carolina.

In addition, World Nuclear News reported on October 14  that –

“Storm Preparations were also put in place at Global Nuclear Fuel near Wilmington, North Carolina, a nuclear fuel fabrication plant that also designs nuclear reactors.”

That corporation, operated by General Electric (which built the Fukushima nuke plant), Toshiba and Hitachi, also operates in Europe, Mexico, Taiwan and Japan.

Before Hurricane Mathew turned east out into the Atlantic, it was projected to head up the East Coast towards New York City and Boston, meaning it might have threatened coastal nuke plants in Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

Sources: Florida Power and Light, fpl.com; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; nrc.gov; World Nuclear News; world-nuclear-news.org, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

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Avatar Laurel Kaskurs Defalco November 1, 2016 at 6:01 pm

It is time to shut all of these cancer causing nuke plants down. They’re old and past their estimated life expectancies. Instead, we have companies like Exelon and First Energy going state to state begging for subsidies. They couldn’t get voters to go for it in Illinois, so they’re getting around it by changing F.E.R.C. rules and manipulating how they get their energy valued. In New York, they get credits as a supplier of ” clean energy” and there is nothing clean about it! Even with overwhelming public protest, The “Cuomo Tax” makes New Yorkers pay $2 each more per month to keep three decrepit broken nuke plants running twenty years past their prime. It’s a sad state of affairs when failing at the PJM Auctions is not a reason to shut one down, but to go bribe the local politicians instead and make it about ” saving jobs” to win a subsidy. That’s not how capitalism is supposed to function. Unfortunately, this is what nuclear power providers are going to see as their new business model.

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