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Hurricane Irene is now on track to "beach-sweep" much of the US Eastern shore, from North Carolina to Maine, and it looks like it's final destination is to come ashore near NY City and then cruise on up the Hudson River, dumping massive amounts of rain. It will most likely do this when tides are maxed out due to a full moon.

The Hudson River normally gets tidal action almost all the way to Albany, and sometimes there are "standing waves" that are discernible some distance up the River. But, 10 foot plus storm surges from a major hurricane that coincide with a full moon tide - not good. There will be a lot of waterfront and riverfront damaged - and perhaps a lot of the Amtrak rails that connect NYC to Albany and Montreal are going to get water and other damage.

But, all that is chump change when one considers what is sitting on the waterfront 38 miles north of midtown Manhattan - the Indian Point nuclear complex. These are two big reactors (about 1300 MW and 1100 MW) that supplied NYC with about 1863.1 MW of electricity (on average) last year. This wikipedia link has a nifty picture of these twin potential doom engines for a large part of the NYC metro region, with about 30 million or  more people in "internal tanning range".

Anyway, when massive water walls of water interact with sea-level situated nukes, the results can be ...not good. Then lets take a water-sodden ground and intense wind gusts associated with a big area hurricane going onshore, and lots of grid damage can happen. And when a grid connection happens combined with a back-up diesel system fails to activate, you get a "Loss of Cooling Accident" or LOCA. That is NEVER a good thing. And if that continues for more than a few hours, well, the stinky stuff really hits the proverbial fan. That is really bad, and is NOT supposed to ever happen. But it has happened before...

So, maybe that site should just be put into shutdown mode pronto, control rods fully inserted in both nukes, and get those back-up diesels activated. If they don't work as they should right away (and that has also happened, more than once, at places like the Fermi 2 nuke in Michigan), maybe they will be working by the time Irene comes to town. And maybe they ought to get more back-up gen-sets lined up in case the back-up diesels get swamped, or some other Black Swan event rears its ugly head, care of Mr. Murphy and his nefarious laws.

What do you think about that idea?


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Comment Preferences

    •  Fear mongering. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Blubba, Focusmarker, Mcrab

      "doom engines" etc. etc.

      That kind of fear mongering flies in the face of the facts:

      Fifty years of nuclear power worldwide have produced fewer than 1/4 the fatalities of one year of coal in the USA alone.

      After Fukushima, plant operators worldwide took account of the danger of inundation whether from tsunamis or storm surges.  The people who work at Indian Point will be taking steps to assure no Black Swans ride in on the wave.

      So:  After the hurricane has dissipated and New York isn't glowing blue, are you willing to post a diary thanking the workers at Indian Point for running a safe operation?

  •  no one could have predicted (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Louisiana 1976

    so there is no point thinking about it??

    Do you have any storm surge projections based on the current path from NOAA for the Hudson River?   Is this a likely scenario given the probable strength and landfall of this particular storm?

    •  Surges (4+ / 0-)

      I have heard anywhere from 4 to 13 feet for the region. But, NYC is at a funnel point, and the water pushed by Irene/tugged by the low pressure at the center will get focused into NY Harbor. And from there, it will get shoved back up the Hudson River, only a lot more than is normally the case.

      The extent of the surge, timing and exact landfall point is not possible to predict yet, and if so, not by me. But, if the nuke is in shutdown mode, diesels are running and the grid connection gets shut off due to too many downed wires/crapped out/waterlogged sub-stations, life can go on in an uneventful (for a Hurricane) mode. This one will be bad enough without a nuke or two or cooling pond going into LOCA mode...

      So, I really hope that this does not happen. But, IMHO, they should shut down Indian Points twins ASAP, and get those back-ups running, even if grid power is still there, for now..


      •  I went and looked (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        isabelle hayes, Louisiana 1976

        at the NOAA map and it doesn't have the detail up for NYC area yet, maybe by tomorrow afternoon.  Looks like most of the NC coast at first landfall with see 9-12 with some areas seeing 12-15, further out from landfall more 3-6 foot areas.  Most of GA/SC coast which has an outer band just touching right not has under 3 foot storm surge predictions.

        It also sound like there are rules in place to help ensure safe shut down.  We'll see how they work in practice.

        The North Anna plant that had to shutdown for the earthquake was short one generator, apparently a known problem for months that nobody bothered to make a priority fix.   Hopefully these twins don't have any major deferred maintenance issues.

  •  I think the plant operators are ahead of you. (10+ / 0-)

    Most of what you are suggesting here is already in the works or planned for.

    Federal regulations require nuclear reactors to be in a “safe shutdown condition,” cooled to less than 300 degrees Fahrenheit, two hours before hurricane-force winds strike, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Marion said.
    To comply, plant operators typically begin shutting down reactors 12 hours before winds exceeding 74 miles per hour are predicted to arrive, said Roger Hannah, a spokesman with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Region II office in Atlanta, in an interview.
    “We closely monitor, every hour, the storm track and intensity to determine potential for impact to the site,” said Indian Point’s Nappi in an e-mail.

    In the choice between changing ones mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.

    by jsfox on Fri Aug 26, 2011 at 09:36:11 AM PDT

    •  Cool (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Louisiana 1976

      This is good. But the Fukushima incident showed that the back-ups are vulnerable to big surges of water. And given the unique geography of this area and the known occurence of standing waves, maybe they need a back-up for the back-up, in this case. Let's hope these "what ifs" get addressed and acted upon.


      •  Ok let's clear this one up (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Recall, Focusmarker

        A storm surge is not a tsunami.


        It is rarely a "wall of water" as often claimed, but rather a rise of water that can be as rapid as several feet in just a few minutes. The storm surge moves with the forward speed of the hurricane--typically 10 - 15 mph. This wind-driven water moving at 10 - 15 mph has tremendous power.

        Next storm surges are most damaging along the coast where wave action comes into play. Above Tappan Zee Bridge where Indian Point the estimated storm tide for a Category 1 hurricane is projected to be 2 to 6 feet.

        In the choice between changing ones mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.

        by jsfox on Fri Aug 26, 2011 at 09:54:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Water blob (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ozsea1, Louisiana 1976

          Add in record amounts or water flowing down the Hudson (up to a foot in very recent times), the expected 6" to 12" from this one and a more than 6 ft "blob" of ocean water, plus high tide. And while the wind intensity will only be Cat 1, this one covers a huge area, and so a very large volume of water will get funneled into NY and this section of the Hudson.

          I just hope they have a back-up for the back-up gen-sets, because this unlikely scenario might not have been anticipated to the extent that it is shaping up to be.


          •  Having worked security at Indian point... (0+ / 0-)

            ... I can say two things with confidence:

            1) The folks who run the plant are far from stupid and have several contingency plans in effect for a large variety of situations.


            2) the plant itself is located on the side of a fairly sharp slope. the main reactors are approximately 52 feet above sea level. I would hope that is high enough to avoid storm surges or water blobs.  

            Of course, I could be wrong, but I think the plant will be safe.

  •  Fortunately, hurricanes are at least semi- (0+ / 0-)

    predictable these days, at least in terms of path and wind intensity, so we can hope they're on there toes.
    On the other hand, rainfall, storm surge, length of power outages, and the gods only know what else is less predictable.
    I think they should be able (if all goes well) to shut down the reactors, but I wonder what their spent fuel situation is. Most US plants just have stacks of it, and some of it needs to be closely maintained.

    "Our answer is more democracy, more openness, more humanity." ~Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg

    by Andhakari on Fri Aug 26, 2011 at 09:43:56 AM PDT

  •  ACTION LINKS (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Union of Concerned Scientists:


    DO get involved, donate, make phone calls, write letters, contact elected officials......

  •  B L A C K O U T , (0+ / 0-)


    Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

    by tom 47 on Fri Aug 26, 2011 at 11:27:27 AM PDT

  •  I realize everyone will have Fukushima (0+ / 0-)

    on the brain for awhile, but the greatest threat to New York City will be the hurricane itself. Hurricane Andrew went directly over the Turkey Point nuclear plant in Florida and that was a Category 5 hurricane. Irene is only Category 2.

  •  The plant wasn't shut down through the (0+ / 0-)

    earthquake.  I hope the governor heeds the first warning and takes steps to be sure that the facility is secure.

    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Fri Aug 26, 2011 at 01:37:43 PM PDT

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