Monday 28 August 2017

An update on Texas' nuclear reactors

More on Texas’ nuclear reactors

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SouthTexas Nuclear Plant is playing a game of chicken with a hurricane

Via Facebook

From Mark Austin on Texas nuclear reactors:

Texas reactor checks this week as track on hurricane formed. During an initial interview last week, Eller said backup systems were located above ground, though he was unsure how high they were situated. Hadden and others familiar with the facility said some of the generators are actually located three feet below ground. And the NRC’s Uselding said the generators “located at ground level,” were enhanced five years ago with nine-inch-thick, water-tight doors, and are routinely tested against a fire hose.

However, one underground generator was damaged in April 2002 during a heavy rainstorm. At the time of the flood, the water-tight concrete walls had been moved for maintenance, Hadden said.

When asked to clarify whether the systems are indeed located below ground, Eller said: “The safety systems are located in different locations throughout each unit. They are completely independent, separate systems and are all designed to withstand flooding, storm surges, fires, and seismic events.”

Matthes said he was not aware that some systems might be located below ground.

Backup generators have been especially prone to problems at STP and other reactors across the country, according to the activists who regularly review inspection reports available on the NRC website. One generator was down last August after a circuit breaker failed, Hadden said.

David Crane, president and CEO of NRG Energy, said in a prepared statement last week that, “It is not obvious to us that any modifications are necessary to regulatory requirements applicable to either our existing or planned nuclear facilities.”

Inland Flood Crisis At Texas Nuclear Plant! Texans Weigh In!

Investment Watch Blog,
27 August, 2017

August 125, 2017: MAJOR UPDATE/HURRICANE HARVEY: STP/South Texas Project – 2 Nuclear Reactors.…

In the wake of Fukushima, it’s been a good idea to keep a close eye on nuclear plants in disaster areas. So of course a lot of eyes are on the STP nuclear plant in Texas right now.

This article from the Bay City Tribune in Texas from before Harvey hit had the headline ‘STP Nuclear Plant Prepared To Weather Storm’

While STP may have been prepared to weather the storm, are they prepared to weather record inland flooding?
From the article-

The plant site is located 10 miles inland and at an elevation of 29 feet, well above the reach of even a Category 5 storm surge. The plant was designed with watertight buildings and doors to keep emergency electric power and cooling systems fully functional. All buildings housing safety equipment are flood-proof to an elevation of at least 41 feet above mean sea level.”
The following article on the plants safety in the wake of Fukushima makes similar points about a hurricane storm surge, but makes an important distinction about inland flooding from the Colorado river about 2 miles away from the plant, and that the plant is built to withstand a “worst case scenario” of a 100 year flood on the Colorado River! A 100 year flood, hmmm…-

From the article-

STP spokesman Buddy Eller said the five-foot-thick, bunker-like concrete reactor domes reinforced with steel are able to withstand hurricane Category 5 winds and a 41-foot storm surge…“We’re built to withstand a worst-case scenario involving a hurricane with combined wind and a 100-year flood along that Colorado River,” Eller said. “…we’re located at 29 feet above sea level.”

So from the above two articles and from the STP nuclear plant spokesman himself, the plant can withstand a 41 foot storm surge from the ocean, but being at 29 feet above sea level, that’s only 12 feet of inland flooding, what they describe as a mere 100-year flood along the Colorado River…
Let’s take a look at the river level gauge on the Colorado River at Bay City, about 10 miles upstream from the STP nuclear plant which is located 2 miles from the Colorado River-

The Colorado River at Bay City is forecast to surge 27 feet in the next two days!

And considering the river is currently 9 feet above what is forecasted at this time according to the graph, this is likely to surpass the record crest of the Colorado River in the next few days. That 100 year flood the plant spokesman talked about which happened in 1913, cresting at a level of 56.1 feet.

The highest crest of the Colorado River at Bay City since the STP nuclear plant began operating was 24.04 feet in 1991-

They designed a nuclear plant to withstand a 100 year flood on the Colorado River?

That’s weak, and stupid for a nuclear plant. And it looks like STP will be facing a major test in the coming days, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it, for cryin’ in the sink!
TEPCO was keen to invest in the STP nuclear plant in Texas before Fukushima:

Decades without a major catastrophe and growing interest in low-carbon energy sources brought the nuclear power industry within grasp of a renaissance in recent years as utilities from San Antonio to China looked to nukes as the solution to energize 21st-century population growth.

That momentum halted on March 11, when a 8.9-magnitude earthquake triggered a monster tsunami that both knocked out primary power to a nuclear power complex along Japan’s northeast coast and washed out the backup generators, causing a series of explosions, fires, radiation leaks, and, possibly, meltdowns within most of the six reactors at the Fukushima nuclear complex…

The chaotic situation is especially surreal for South Texans because CPS Energy, TEPCO, and potentially the Japanese government itself, were among investors lined up to fund expansion of the STP nuclear complex near Bay City. A partnership between NRG Energy, Toshiba, and federal contractor Shaw Group (in charge of maintenance at STP), were preparing to construct two advanced boiling water reactors (ABWR) at the South Texas Project nuclear complex where CPS already owns 40 percent of STP reactors 1 and 2…”

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