What Happens If Hurricane Irma Impacts Florida's Nuclear Power Plants?

By Scott Di Savino and Timothy Gardner

The plant was built in 1972, so Irma won't be its first Category 5 hurricane.

Per Peterson, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of California Berkeley, told Ars in an e-mail that, although nuclear reactors including Turkey Point can be shut down immediately at any time, "It's preferred to shut them down more slowly, as this results in less stress on equipment than an abrupt shutdown".

Hundreds of thousands of people remain without electricity in South Florida as the state deals with the largest statewide outage within the last few decades. "Turkey Point is safe and is ready for Hurricane Irma". "We commend Secretary Perry's ongoing leadership and the commitment of the entire Administration to ensure unity of effort in the Irma response", said Kuhn. The plant's nuclear generators will be completely powered down.

"We think this could be the most challenging restoration in the history of the US", McGrath said.

Both Florida plants have previously weathered major storms. FPL has already restored electricity to approximately 320,000 customers, but anticipates more outages to come with high tropical storm-force winds. Repairs cost about $90 million.

"It took a week for Matthew", Jensen said, referring to a hurricane that past year did not make landfall in Florida but caused power outages.

In January 2014, about 50,000 gallons of rainwater leaked into the St Lucie plant after a heavy downpour.

Power plant workers had just a few minutes of warning before the 30-foot tsunami hit and disabled the power supply and cooling of three Fukushima Daiichi reactors, which caused a nuclear accident. That is the Crystal River plant, owned by Duke Energy Corp.

At a news conference today (Sept. 7), Robert Gould, Florida Power & Light's vice president and chief communications officer, warned residents of southern Florida to expect to lose power if Irma scores a direct hit on the state this weekend. The Homestead, Florida, plant also has a "backup to the backup" plan that involves extra generators and fuel.

To report a power outage in Florida, locate the contact information for your provider on the state Public Service Commission's website. FPL is one of four large publicly traded utilities in Florida. "Unlike some other natural disasters, onset of a hurricane is predictable and, as a result, lends itself to adequate early preparations for minimizing its effect on a facility", the NRC wrote in 1993. An quake in Virginia in 2011 shut Dominion Energy Inc's North Anna plant for about 2-1/2 months, the time it took to complete a full damage inspection.

At the time, Turkey Point didn't sustain any structural damage to its most sensitive facilities, despite facing sustained winds up to 145 miles per hour and gusts as strong as 175mph. The NRC report states that the hurricane "caused extensive onsite and offsite damage" at Turkey Point, which ultimately cost $90 million to fix.

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