Southern to store Hatch nuclear plant backup equipment in new dome

Southern (NYSE:SO) and Georgia Power have unveiled a new ‘dome’ building at the Hatch nuclear power complex in Georgia that will house portable emergency equipment in the event of a rare but severe accident.

In response to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi tragedy in Japan, in which that plant lost on-site and off-site power needed to operate its safety cooling systems, Southern and other plant operators, with the urging of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC),  have worked to develop flexible, diverse strategies for protecting U.S. plants against such extreme events.

These efforts are referred to as the FLEX strategy and include tactics such as FLEX domes, Southern noted in an April 13 news release.

The Hatch FLEX Dome is 39-feet tall, nearly 50 yards wide and features steel-reinforced concrete walls that are 18 inches thick.

At Fukushima, the reactors were left without power for cooling when the emergency generators were swept under by a tsunami that came over the plant’s seawalls. Southern officials say they have at least enough backup equipment stored in the sturdy dome building to provide emergency cooling for at least 72 hours – probably longer.

The building is designed to withstand an earthquake, a direct hit by a tornado, airborne flying objects during a tornado or similar threats. The dome will store portable generators, pumps, communication equipment, refueling equipment, and other resources that might be needed if the power supply to the plant were interrupted for an extended period. The portable equipment would be put into service only in the event other redundant resources at the plant were depleted or damaged.

The on-site dome for backup equipment is in addition to regional centers for emergency backup equipment that the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has opened in Memphis and Phoenix.  

Hatch Units 1 and 2 are boiling water reactors (BWRs). The two units have a combined generating capacity of roughly 1,700 MW.

In addition to Plant Hatch, FLEX domes have been put into place at Southern nuclear facilities Plant Vogtle (Georgia) and Plant Farley (Alabama). A video on the domes is available for viewing at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-Sga8NyZzc

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.