Ethan A. Huff
November 3, 2012
The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)’s official alert for the Oyster Creek nuclear power facility in Forked River, New Jersey, has been lifted. The narrowly-averted crisis was first triggered as an “unusual event” on Monday as flood waters from Hurricane Sandy rose to 4.7 feet around the plant, but was later upgraded to an actual “event,” which is the second point on the NRC’s four-point scale, after waters reached 7.4 feet just after midnight.
As was widely reported after the storm first made landfall, Oyster Creek’s reactor had already been offline for fueling and maintenance, a fact that was apparently intended to quell public fears that the reactor might be severely compromised. But individuals with knowledge about how nuclear power plants work were still gravely concerned, as such reactors still need electricity in order to power the cooling pools responsible for preventing fuel rods from overheating and causing a meltdown, which is was occurred during the Fukushima crisis.
Grid failures left not only Oyster Creek at risk in the hours and days following Sandy’s arrival, but also Nine Mile Point near Syracuse, New York, and Indian Point new New York City. Numerous reports had warned that at least 26 nuclear power plants dotting the New England coastal area were in the direct path of Hurricane Sandy, sending fears throughout the public that a Fukushima-type nuclear event could potentially emerge from the wreckage.
At this time; however, water levels around Oyster Creek have dropped, and the facility is reportedly no longer at alert status. The Post-Standard reports; however, that Nine Mile Point’s Unit 1 reactor is still offline as a result of an automatic shutdown triggered by Sandy. Indian Point’s Unit 3 reactor is also still offline, according to reports, and will not be reactivated until “the grid is ready to accept the power.”
Meanwhile, Salem Nuclear Power Plant’s Unit 1 in southern New Jersey continues to remain offline as well after severe weather took down four of the plant’s six circulating water pumps. Several other plants throughout the region are also operating at reduced capacity until the energy grid is capable of handling fully restored power generation, which could take several weeks.
“When offsite power is lost, [nuclear power plants are] forced to dramatically reduce power really quickly, and then [they] still need to be cooled,” says nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer of the energy consulting company Fairewinds Associates.
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