(Natural News) At least twelve operating nuclear reactors are in the predicted path of Hurricane Florence, which has been upgraded to a category 4 storm as it surges toward the U.S. East Coast. According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which offers an interactive map of active nuclear reactors, two plants are vulnerable to both heavy rainfall and the expected storm surge which could bring a surge of up to 20 feet of ocean water pouring into coastal areas.
Those two reactors, located NE of Myrtle Beach, North Carolina, are known as “Brunswick Steam Electric Plant, Unit 1” and “Brunswick Steam Electric Plant, Unit 1.”
Each unit produces nearly 1,000 MWe of electricity, and they are both built on the General Electric “Type 4” power plant design, which is almost identical to the GE nuclear power plant design used in the Fukushima-Daiichi reactors in Japan. All of these reactors are designed and constructed as “boiling-water reactors” or BWRs. The designs are decades old, and they are subject to catastrophic failures and even core meltdowns that release radioactive isotopes directly into the atmosphere and surrounding areas.
According to current forecasts, these nuclear power plants appear to be in the direct line of Hurricane Florence. …
BWR nuclear power plants rely on cooling designs that use large bodies of local water (rivers or lakes) to transfer heat from the nuclear power plant to the atmosphere. This heat transfer is necessary to prevent nuclear fuel rods from overheating and melting down in a runaway nuclear reaction. Importantly, this cooling operation relies on electricity to run the cooling pumps that circulate the water.
For this reason, U.S. nuclear power plants are equipped with multiple redundant cooling systems and backup generators that can run the pumps even if the local power grid is cut off. At the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power facility, both backup diesel generators and battery power systems were present.
You might wonder, then, how the electricity failed on all accounts, causing the cooling pumps to stop operating, ultimately leading to “criticality” of the fuel rods — i.e. a meltdown. (For the record, the entire U.S. media lied about the Fukushima meltdown, claiming no meltdown had occurred. Only now, years later, does the media admit a nuclear meltdown took place. But in their original reporting, they universally claimed there was no meltdown. Just another example of how the media relentlessly lies about everything, not just politics.)
The answer is found in the storm surge — a massive wave of ocean water that swept through the Fukushima facility, drowning the diesel generators, coolant pumps and backup batteries. In effect, Fukushima was inundated with ocean water, and everything stopped functioning. But the physics of the fuel rods was still operating, and you can’t stop fission reactions just by hoping and wishing. So the fuel rods melted down and a nuclear meltdown took place, producing the Fukushima catastrophe we’re all still suffering under today.
The Brunswick power plant sits at a very low elevation, near the ocean
The concern among observers today is that the Brunswick Steam Electric Plant sits at a very low elevation in Southport, NC, just a few feet above sea level. The power plant sits directly on Cape Fear River, which was artificially modified to be used by the nuclear power facility so that coolant water could be drained into the ocean, just to the East. (Notably, Archer Daniels Midland also sits about half a mile away from this facility.)
To the East of the Brunswick power plant is Zeke’s Island, a thin barrier between the Brunswick power plant and the Atlantic Ocean. Zeke’s Island will of course be instantly under water if the expected 20′ ocean surge achieves a direct hit on this area.
A 20′ ocean surge would, without question, threaten the Brunswick nuclear power plant. To what extent, we can’t say. Presumably, highly qualified technicians are preparing the power plant for the coming hurricane. Then again, Fukushima was also run by highly qualified technicians and really smart nuclear engineers who claimed a meltdown could never possibly take place. Take all official assurances with a healthy dose of skepticism (and perhaps a dosimeter as well)….
Decay heat of reactor core after shutdown as a percent of full power:
About 1 hour after shutdown, the decay heat will be about 1.5% of the previous core power. After a day, the decay heat falls to 0.4%, and after a week it will be only 0.2%. The decay heat production rate will continue to slowly decrease over time; the decay curve depends upon the proportions of the various fission products in the core and upon their respective half-lives. An approximation for the decay heat curve valid from 10 seconds to 100 days after shutdown is
where is the decay power, is the reactor power before shutdown, is the time since reactor startup and is the time of reactor shutdown measured from the time of startup (in seconds).
… After one year, typical spent nuclear fuel generates about 10 kW of decay heat per tonne, decreasing to about 1 kW/t after ten years. Hence effective active or passive cooling for spent nuclear fuel is required for a number of years….
Hurricane Florence is shaping up to be the most powerful storm to ever threaten Duke Energy’s 1970s-era Brunswick nuclear plant, a 1,200-acre energy complex sitting in the path of the monster storm.
And it will be the first major test of the safeguards installed at the dual-reactor plant, about 30 miles south of Wilmington, since the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, which is the same generation and design as the Brunswick plant.
Seven years ago, a tsunami swamped Fukushima’s emergency backup generators, cutting off power that was needed to pump water to constantly cool the facility’s radioactive nuclear fuel. The loss of power caused nuclear fuel to overheat in three reactor cores, triggering hydrogen explosions and spewing radioactivity into the atmosphere.
Brunswick is one of about two dozen U.S. reactors that relies on General Electric nuclear technology that dates back to the 1960s, designed at a time when engineers underestimated the vulnerability of nuclear facilities during natural disasters….
The Fukushima disaster raised questions about the Brunswick plant’s capability to withstand massive flooding, and caused the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to determine that is not fully safe without modifications. As a result, Brunswick’s emergency plan now calls for installing nine temporary flood barriers in advance of a hurricane, to compensate for deficiencies in the original design.
Brunswick is built at an elevation of 20 feet above sea level and designed to withstand a storm surge of 22 feet, which would leave the plant’s emergency generators high and dry. Brunswick, which is four miles inland, can withstand maximum sustained winds over 200 miles per hour of a Category 5 hurricane, Williams said.
Florence is expected to make landfall as a Category 4, which ranges from 130 mph to 156 mph; but Galen Smith, the plant’s on-site resident inspector with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said flooding poses the greater threat to the facility….
The plant generates 1,870 Megawatts…
Hurricane Florence: Duke Energy’s nuclear power plants brace for impact
With Hurricane Florence set to hit the North Carolina coast on Friday, Duke Energy started to shut down its Brunswick nuclear power plant Thursday morning….
“Per our procedures, operators are systematically shutting down the units, unit 1 first and then unit 2, prior to the storm making landfall,” Duke Energy spokesman Chris Rimel said….
I’m thinking maybe they should finish picking their noses first, then go to lunch and maybe take in a movie, then do a very careful and meticulous countdown in preparation for the initiation of the shutdown etc etc.
If they had shut it down a week ago it would be at half the heat power output of what it will be tomorrow.
And of course the very notion of attaching long vertical pipes with stabilization cables to the intake manifolds of the diesel generators is just beyond comprehension. Much better to let entropy do its thing.