April 18, 2011 4:07 PM
By Paula C. Squires
The weekend storm that spawned deadly tornados over some parts of North Carolina and Virginia knocked out electrical power to two nuclear units at Dominion Virginia Power’s Surry Power Station. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday that it’s monitoring the situation after Surry’s offsite power was knocked out early Saturday evening by a tornado.
According to Dominion Virginia Power, an apparent tornado touched down on the switchyard supporting the power station near the facility’s access road, cutting off the electrical feed from the grid to the station. The plant is located about 17 miles northwest of Newport News.
The NCR reported that Surry’s two units automatically shut down after losing power, and four of the plant’s diesel generators started to power the units’ emergency loads. Dominion notified the NRC of the situation soon after it happened and declared an “unusual event,” the lowest of the four NRC emergency classification levels, around 7 p.m.
Roger Hannah, a spokesman for the NRC in Atlanta, said the agency sent its two resident inspectors to Surry, and also is following the situation through an incident response center in Atlanta. “In a situation like this, we have a handful of technical experts on standby in Atlanta, so the resident inspectors can call and ask questions.” He said the NRC assigns resident inspectors to every U.S. nuclear plant, and that the typical number, as in the case with Surry, is two. Monitoring will continue, Hannah added, until “they restore the offsite power, and I think they are well on the way to doing that … When they say they are no longer in the unusual event, we’ll stop the monitoring, although we may do a follow up inspection.”
By early afternoon today, Dominion Virginia Power said crews had restored power, although the NRC was reporting that power had been partially restored.
Dominion said in a press release that the tornado did not strike the two nuclear units, which are designed to withstand natural events such as tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes. The reactors are housed inside steel reinforced concrete containment buildings. In addition, the company reported no release of radioactive material beyond minor releases associated with normal station operations. Dominion said these minor releases are below federally approved operating limits, and pose no threat to station workers or the public.
There were no injuries at the site. In addition to the NRC, Dominion notified state and local officials about the power outage.
Asked about the frequency of tornados knocking out power to nuclear plants in this country, Hannah said it’s not unheard of during bad storms. “I don’t know of any that have completely lost offsite power, but it’s not unusual with bad storms to lose power. It’s unusual to have a switchyard problem, where you lose all power, but it’s not unheard of.”
Nuclear electricity is the most expensive electricity in the world. Entitlements and tax-payer bailouts for the industry keep it afloat. The cost of managing the radioactive waste will cost taxpayers for the next 20,000 years. Would you buy a hamburger for $10,000? Nuclear electricity is the kind of electricity you use once and pay for every year until the cancer causing radiation disapates. How would you like to make house payments for the next 20,000 years. If so, just keep going along with your governments energy policies. Just do nothing.
Apr. 18, 2011 at 11:47 PM
Knowing how government officials tend to lie to cover possible catastrophes I don’t have any confidence in these statements. All of our nuclear plants are so old and our weather is becoming more erratic so just how long will it be before we have at least one horrendous “accident?“ Solar, Hydro, Wind, more power saving appliances, when will we wake up and quite paying the GEs, EXONs, KOACHs, BPs, and all the other thousands of greedy companies and their executives to keep on creating more dirty fuel, cars, feed lots, chicken factories, and industries to kill our land, air and water? Wake up Washington DC! Quit fighting like second graders and do what you are sent to do. Create green jobs, get us out of wars, replace our decaying infrastructure and act like the responsible grown ups that you are supposed to be!
Hassie Gaugau of Oklahoma
Apr. 19, 2011 at 10:49 AM
Thank you Hassie. At last someone, who speaks out!
diana of london
Apr. 19, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Very accurate account of what happened during the storm. I was there.
David of Virginia
Jun. 9, 2011 at 03:46 PM
Yeah right, keep trying to hinder progress you luddite, William. France get’s 78% percent of its power from nuclear plants, while selling 18% of that to neighboring countries and it has the cheapest energy cost of all of Europe. In addition their carbon emissions are 1/10 of the UK and Germany. Nuclear power is the future, and the most prudent source of energy now and tomorrow
strong force of Virginia
Jun. 18, 2011 at 03:19 AM
Nuclear power is the only carbon-cool way of powering the needs of the enormous number of people on the planet right now and their enormous energy “needs.“ There’s the key - too many people, too much energy.
The standard reactor configuration used right now is not safe. It requires power and people to keep it from becoming a disaster. If the combination of effective sea level rise (actual sea level rise and land subsidence - very significant in the Hampton Roads area) and increased weather intensity and frequency (look at the pattern emerging) causes significant storm surge inundation, what are the chances that a submerged nuclear power station will operate its fail-safe measures adequately? Surry is just another time bomb. If we are going to continue looking at nuclear, two things are going to happen or have to happen:
1) We are going to have to ignore the fact that we are reaching a critical mass of people on the planet, regardless of how clean our energy is.
2) We are going to have to start using passive fail-safe designs such as the pebble bed reactor or other configurations, and switching to shorter half-life fuel sources like thorium.
I’m studying the potential effects of climate change on the Hampton Roads area (specifically as it relates to transportation, but it applies across the board), and my report (which will likely be 50+ pages) can be summarized this way:
Hampton Roads is f***ed.
Sorry for all the parenthetical notation. I know it’s hard to follow sometimes.
Also, KEEP THE BAN on Uranium mining in VA.
Ari of Virginia
Jul. 1, 2011 at 12:13 PM
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