No problems so far for reactors in flood-battered Gulf Coast

Hard rains that have battered the Gulf Coast since Friday, Aug. 12, have not hurt operations any of the nuclear power plants operated by Entergy (NYSE:ETR) utilities in Louisiana, Mississippi or Arkansas, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

NRC examined the status of the nuclear plants in the aftermath of the regional flooding in an Aug. 17 blog posting.

The NRC is closely following events and getting periodic updates from the National Weather Service on conditions that might affect any of the Gulf Coast nuclear plants, the federal regulator said in the blog post.

Louisiana has been at the center of the flooding, which has been called “unprecedented” by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), who declared a state of emergency for the entire state on Aug. 12. Thousands in the state have applied for disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has declared a state of emergency for certain areas in South and Southwest Mississippi.

Nevertheless, NRC data showed all the units in the water-logged region were operating at 100% power early Aug. 17.

Here’s a rundown:

  • Although Baton Rouge has been hard hit by the flooding, there has been no significant impact on the River Bend nuclear power plant, located about 25 miles away in St. Francisville, Louisiana. Likewise, the designated routes that would be used to evacuate the public in the event of a nuclear emergency at the 1,000-MW plant have withstood the weather.
  • The Waterford 3 nuclear plant, located in Killona (about 25 miles west of New Orleans), has been similarly unaffected. “We’ve had some heavy rain here over the weekend but there has not been any real impact on the plant,” said NRC Resident Inspector Chris Speer. Waterford 3 is listed with a summer capacity of roughly 1,150 MW.
  • As of  Aug. 16, Arkansas Nuclear One, in Russellville, Arkansas, has gotten about five inches of rain since Friday, NRC Resident Inspector Margaret Tobin said. “It’s a little muddy at the site, but that’s about it.” There are two reactor units at the site with a combined capacity of more than 1,800-MW.
  • At Grand Gulf plant in Mississippi, 20 miles southwest of Vicksburg, only light rain has been reported. “We actually had very little rain at the site, compared to what was expected,” said Matt Young, the NRC’s Senior Resident at the plant. Grand Gulf has one unit with a summer operating capacity listed at 1,250 MW.

Flooding is one of the many natural hazards that nuclear power plants must be prepared for. Every nuclear power plant must demonstrate the ability to withstand extreme flooding and shut down safely if necessary. All nuclear power plants have emergency diesel generators that can supply backup power for key safety systems if off-site power is lost.

NRC has placed more emphasis on safeguards against flooding since the Fukushima accident in Japan in 2011.

https://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/2016/08/17/nrc-keeps-an-eye-on-gulf-coast-flooding/

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.