Monday, August 29, 2011

The Rain Was Ending, And Light

WaterfordSo how was your weekend? I had some flickering lights but they stayed on, and I woke up Sunday without all the clocks blinking 12.

But that’s just a matter of geography. Irene was a very potent storm. The Associated Press reports that 3 million people are without electricity and that 35 people lost their lives. The first number will dwindle away, the second will stubbornly persist. Irene’s legacy.

And the nuclear energy fleet? Let’s see:

North Carolina:
Brunswick 1 and 2 – temporarily reduced power output to 65 percent of electric generating capacity.

Virginia:
Surry 1 and 2 – continued operating at 100 percent power

Maryland:
Calvert Cliffs 1 – automatically and safely shut down, as designed, when a large piece of aluminum siding struck a transformer late Saturday; the power station immediately declared an unusual event, the lowest of four emergency classifications, and exited the unusual event Sunday morning; the reactor is still off-line.
Calvert Cliffs 2 – continued operating at 100 percent power

New Jersey:
Oyster Creek – manually taken off-line approximately 5 p.m. EDT Saturday as a precaution
Salem 1 and 2 – continued operating at 100 percent power
Hope Creek 1 -- continued operating at 100 percent power

Pennsylvania:
Susquehanna 1 and 2 – continued operating at 100 percent power
Three Mile Island 1 – continued operating at 100 percent power
Peach Bottom 2 and 3 – continued operating at 100 percent power
Limerick 1 and 2 – temporarily reduced power output to 97 percent and 92 percent of generating capacity respectively

New York:
Indian Point 2 and 3 – continued operating at 100 percent power

Connecticut:
Millstone 2 and 3 – reduced power output to approximately 50 percent of generating capacity at both reactors upon request of ISO-New England for electric grid stability

Massachusetts:
Pilgrim 1 – continued operating at 100 percent power

New Hampshire:
Seabrook 1 – continued operating at 100 percent power

Vermont:
Vermont Yankee – continued operating at 100 percent power

So, aside from Calvert Cliffs taking a hit from aluminum siding – it’s a bit of a joke that Baltimoreans love their aluminum siding, though that would be a long way for it to fly – plants barely took note. As I wrote Friday, industrial structures in general are fortresses against this kind of weather.

NEI has a larger listing of various natural occurrences that nuclear energy facilities have weathered.

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Here’s one of those occurrences:

Aug. 28, 2005
Waterford 3 (PWR), Louisiana, (Entergy)
Hurricane Katrina knocked out off-site power and damaged regional electrical infrastructure
• Plant manual shut down proceeded safely as designed.
• All emergency equipment functioned as designed.
• Emergency diesel generators were used for 4.5 days.

Note the date? Yesterday was indeed the 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which has the distinction of nearly destroying an American city. I must admit, the fact that the nuclear energy plant weathered what so many people did not – and New Orleans almost did not – reminds me of the dangers of honing in so single mindedly on one subject.

Six years to the day after Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters destroyed her home in the Lower 9th Ward, Diedra Taylor said she’s glad to be back home. But home is a far cry from what it used to be.

“The lots are still empty,” she said. “The grass is still high. For me, it’s still like a desert.”

Taylor, who lives on Deslonde Street in one of the homes built by actor Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation, spoke about her experiences at a rally at the Hurricane Katrina Memorial on North Claiborne Ave.

But Katrina affected the entire Gulf coast, from Texas to Florida, with Mississippi in between:

What a difference six years makes. Today, the sun is beating down on Biloxi's Town Green, showcasing the beauty and the majesty of South Mississippi.  On August 29, 2005, that same area was being obliterated by raging waters from a storm we'll never forget.

Katrina killed at least 1,836 people.

So what is there to say about Waterford?

The 138 employees on-site and in the command center were moved into the reactor auxiliary building, the facility’s safest area before weather conditions deteriorated. When the hurricane cut Waterford 3 from the off-site power grid on the morning of Aug. 29, the facility’s two diesel generators maintained power for reactor cooling and other functions until the lines were reconnected on Sept. 2.

When the storm knocked out the plant’s communication system, the staff was ready, using satellite phones to stay in contact with government officials and Entergy’s corporate office. All employees remained safely inside until the storm passed and the recovery phase began.

And it did recover, returning to service a little more that two weeks later, on September 13. You sometimes forget that folks who work at facilities like Waterford must devote themselves to them completely even when every instinct is to be with family. And they do, completely.

Preventing the world from going pear-shaped in the face of disaster takes the efforts of people to keep their particular edge of society upright. That’s what happened at Waterford as it happened throughout the gulf coast, at energy facilities of all kinds. The electricity may go away for awhile, but it’ll come back – because workers ensure that it does.

So perhaps a glance at Waterford at this moment is not an exercise in nuclear navel gazing, but a nod to heroes largely unknown. Let them all take a bow.

Lawrence Binyon:

The rain was ending, and light; Lifting the leaden skies. It shone upon ceiling and floor; And dazzled a child's eyes.

Picture: Waterford

2 comments:

Mike G said...

North Anna 1 and 2 both tripped on a Loss of Offsite Power and went to their EDGs. Why are they not mentioned?

Anonymous said...

Mike, they tripped from the earthquake, not from the hurricane.