This update by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was posted January 24th. Apparently one – and maybe a two – nuclear power stations were impacted by the blizzard that steamrolled New England over the weekend. Access the NRC blog directly →

Update: As the Blizzard Moves Out of the Mid-Atlantic

Posted by Moderator on January 24, 2016
Neil Sheehan
Public Affairs Officer
Region I

As of Sunday afternoon, only one nuclear power plant in Region I may have been directly impacted by the blizzard. (Region I covers the Northeastern U.S.)

Power output at Calvert Cliffs Unit 1, in southern Maryland, was reduced to just under 15 percent on Saturday evening after an electrical cable associated with a main transformer was found to be disconnected. It was not immediately clear if the storm was responsible for the cable coming loose. The downpower was needed to facilitate repairs.

While upstate New York was expected to be spared much of the intensity of the winter storm, the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear power plant was shut down by its operators at about 10:40 p.m. Saturday after icing impacted the facility’s flow of cooling water drawn from Lake Ontario. Power had already been reduced to about 50 percent at the Scriba, N.Y., plant due to lowering water intake levels at the time of the manual scram (shutdown).

The plant was safely shut down and the NRC’s Senior Resident Inspector for FitzPatrick traveled to the site to independently verify plant conditions and observe operator actions. The single-unit boiling-water reactor remained out of service as of this morning as troubleshooting and follow-up activities continued.

After the Pilgrim nuclear power plant experienced several winter storm-related shutdowns in recent years, the plant’s owner, Entergy, was prepared to conduct a pre-emptive shutdown of the facility should certain severe weather conditions occur. The NRC has been closely monitoring any effects of the blizzard on the Plymouth, Mass., site and has confirmed that there have been no significant impacts at the facility and certainly none that would have triggered the pre-emptive shutdown criteria.

On a similar note, the NRC has kept close tabs on the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, in Lacey Township, N.J. During Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012, water levels on the canal from which the plant draws cooling water reached levels that caused the declaration of an “Unusual Event” – the lowest level of emergency classification used by the NRC – and later an “Alert” – the next rung up on the emergency classification ladder. The water levels did not reach those levels during this storm and therefore no emergency declarations were necessary.

See the NRC blog page to read all the comments, but here is one worth sharing:

Pilgrim is recognized by the NRC as one of the worst performing nuclear power plants in the country. Pilgrim is owned and operated by a company who has been unwilling (at least) since re-licensing to invest the money required to maintain minimum NRC safety standards for a safe operation and has steadily gone downhill. Therefore Entergy has elected to shut Pilgrim down and couched it as “due to economics”. Translation: Entergy can’t compete without cutting corners.

In my opinion the NRC, Entergy, FEMA and MEMA needlessly gambled once again with public safety at Pilgrim during this storm rolling the dice against known switchyard deficiencies and a nuclear reactor known to have problems during scrams and restarts associated with severe winter weather conditions when emergency evacuations are impossible. This gamble was purely in the service of saving Entergy the $$$$ associated with a preemptive precautionary shutdown.

Again in my opinion this was reckless risk taking and textbook sociopathic corporate behavior, facilitated by “government” regulators with stronger loyalties and sympathies to the private sector than to the public sector. Now they all are patting themselves on the back for “lucking out”. Incredible! The sad part is most people will buy it because they are uninformed by design about Pilgrim deficiencies and risk (ie decades of recurrent switchyard flashovers with resultant scrams increasingly with more and more complications, leaving malfunctioning SRVs in operation, inoperable meteorological towers for inordinate periods of time, years of tritium leaks, etc, etc, etc).

This is a cue: The “smart money”, the insurance companies who are elite world class professional risk takers and who have done their due diligence won’t insure commercial nuclear reactors…too risky!

The fact that Pilgrim wasn’t shut down as a precaution in this last storm by regulators speaks to a way too cozy relationship between regulators and the commercial nuclear energy industry.

Disgusted…. Bill Maurer