“It’s just absolute hubris and a huge risk to the population.”
The most likely problem for a nuclear power plant in a hurricane, added Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, “is a loss of power to the plants.”
“Most people don’t understand this, but you need electricity going into a power plant — two sources of it generally to be on the safe side — to make sure that the electric motors that control things like safety control rods are running,” he added.
Scott Burnell, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said Turkey Point’s response to Irma was “entirely acceptable,” and that the storm surge and precipitation did not exceed barrier levels tested beforehand. “There was no reasonable concern that the storm would challenge plant safety from a flooding perspective.”
A VALVE FAILURE AMID DANGEROUS STORM SURGE AND WINDS
The plant dodged a bullet — power outages in the state did not ultimately lead to a disaster. But a part of the reactor’s all-important cooling system, a piece called the steam generator’s feed regulating valve, did fail on Sunday night, prompting engineers to finally shut the lone reactor in operation that night.
Again, disaster was averted. There is “no known primary-secondary steam generator tube leakage” — jargon for radiation — according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The failure of the valve is just one problem at the plant: Turkey Point knew that it had improvements to make. The plant failed to improve seals on its exterior doors, which would produce “substantial leakage” in a hurricane, as well as improve floodwater drainage mechanisms near “key” cooling pumps, according to a flood- and hurricane-preparedness report the power plant sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in June — a requirement of post-Fukushima regulations.