Hurricane Irma poses toughest test for USA nuclear industry since Fukushima

Violet Powell
September 10, 2017

"Irma is one of the most powerful storms we've seen in the Atlantic since we started keeping record", Duke Energy lead meteorologist Steve Leyton said in a statement.

The local utilities are part of a nationwide mutual assistance network that coordinates the response of utilities in the wake of natural disasters.

The company plans to deploy about 16,000 utility workers from 29 different states to begin restoration efforts once conditions are safe.

FPL said it invested about $3 billion to fortify its electrical grid in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Particularly when a plant, such as Florida Power and Light's Turkey Point, has a poor safety record and a propensity to leak. Guikema said that while the number of customers without power will be far greater due to Irma's wrath than that of the recent Hurricane Harvey, it won't approach the massive outages of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant is equally protected, Robbins said, and can withstand severe flooding from storm surges.

Let us hope that Hurricane Irma weakens before it gets to Florida, because the destruction that it is causing right now is off the charts.

They do plan to shutdown Florida's two nuclear power plants, Turkey Point near Homestead and St. Lucie nuclear power plant before the storm.

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There have not been cases of nuclear reactors damaged by hurricanes in the United States, but two plants in New Jersey - Oyster Creek and Salem - had to shut down in advance of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"It's going to get worse", Scott said.

FPL is the third-largest electric utility in the US and serves almost 10 million people in the southern half of Florida. Turkey Point's date back to 1972 and 1973; St Lucie's were commissioned in 1976.

Bell Chem makes the bleaching agent sodium hypochlorite at a plant in Longwood, just north of Orlando. Turkey Point survived Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm that in 1992 passed directly over the nuclear plant.

Two Florida nuclear power plants in the path of Hurricane Irma are shutting down to brace for the powerful storm, CNN reported. They must be cooled off after shutting down or a meltdown can occur causing hydrogen-air explosions and release of radioactive material. The diesel generators live in bunkers near the reactors, and those bunkers also include considerable reserves of fuel.

'We will not take any chances and those plants will be secured, ' said Silagy.

FPL said they won't have a good idea of the track on the storm - until tomorrow, or later.

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