NRC, EIA not snoozing during East Coast winter storm

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Jan. 22 that they are keeping close watch on the major winter storm that could result in blizzard conditions for much of the East Coast.

“An upcoming winter storm has resulted in blizzard watches in major Mid-Atlantic cities, including Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City,” EIA said. “Nearly 75 million people are in regions expected to be affected by the storm. In addition to record levels of snowfall, affected areas could experience high winds as well as coastal storm surges and flooding in susceptible regions.”

Governors in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina, and the mayor of Washington, D.C., have declared states of emergency ahead of this weekend’s storm.

PJM Interconnection is preparing for “Winter Storm Jonas,” which is expected to reach sections of the region served by PJM, the grid operator said Jan. 22. “PJM has no major concerns for the transmission system. However, effects of heavy snow, ice and high winds can’t be out ruled.”

The system has adequate generation available to meet power needs. Demand is expected to be naturally lighter because of weekend, PJM said. (Power use is normally higher during the work week due to businesses, schools and others being open.)

Such storms often result in power loss for many residents of the affected areas. To help analysts and the public assess storm impacts, EIA maintains an energy disruptions map displays key layers of energy infrastructure, including oil refineries, power plants, and major electric transmission lines, and updated storm information from the National Weather Service.

This web page also contains links to U.S. Department of Energy websites that provide updates to the effect of severe weather on energy infrastructure.

The webpage can be found at: www.eia.gov/special/disruptions/.

Nuclear plants have checklists prior to storms

While EIA’s website will monitor potential disruptions across the nation, NRC said it is working with the nuclear industry to minimize weather-related issues at commercial power reactors.

“As is always the case, the NRC is ready to keep a close watch on nuclear power plants that potentially could be impacted by the storm,” NRC said in a Jan. 22 blog post. “Plant personnel have checklists of specific tasks to be performed when a significant storm – no matter whether a blizzard or a hurricane – is approaching.”

For instance, there will be “walk-downs,” or surveys, of plant grounds to ensure there are no objects or debris that could get whipped into the air by strong winds and cause damage to any structures, power lines or the switchyard, NRC said.

Nuclear plant officials also check that tanks that supply fuel to emergency diesel generators are filled. If the flow of power from the grid to the plant is disrupted for any reason, these generators will activate and provide power to key safety systems until the normal electricity alignment can be restored.

There needs to be sufficient fuel on hand in case the generators are needed for any extended period of time, NRC said.

Also, plant operators must prepare for the possibility of flooding. “One way to do this is to follow each site’s procedures, which can involve checking that flood-protection doors are properly secured, putting sandbags in place, stationing portable pumps or other actions,” NRC said.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.