Nuclear Engineer: If quake caused weakness at Virginia’s North Anna nuke plant, hurricane could take it rest of way to failure

Published: August 27th, 2011 at 5:22 am ET


Risk to nuclear plants in hurricane’s path may not be what you think, iWatch by Corbin Hiar. August 26, 2011:

Nuclear plants have sensitive leak detection systems, but “if the earthquake caused piping to become weak, then that’s something that the hurricane could take the rest of the way to failure,” said David Lochbaum, a former nuclear engineer and director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ nuclear safety project. […]

More Concerns

[…] “The concern is that you have such a massive storm that you basically wipe out the grid to the point where you can’t restore power,” [Jim Riccio, an energy policy analyst at Greenpeace] said. […]

A 1993 report on Hurricane Andrew noted that the Turkey Point nuclear power plant in Florida lost offsite power for more than five days and the access roads to the facility were blocked by downed trees and utility poles.

If the power goes out along the Eastern seaboard for a long period of time, there is a risk that nuclear plants’ backup generators could run out of fuel. Or, Riccio added, the backup power could fail like one of them did Tuesday after the earthquake knocked out electricity to the North Anna nuclear power plant in Virginia. […]

Read the report here.

Published: August 27th, 2011 at 5:22 am ET


Related Posts

  1. Quake over twice as strong as North Anna nuke plant’s containment structure was designed to withstand: Feds September 7, 2011
  2. AP: Quake-hit North Anna nuke plant leaking radioactivity February 22, 2012
  3. “Augmented Inspection Team” is only used when risk of reactor core damage rises by 100 — AIT already at quake-hit North Anna nuke plant September 1, 2011
  4. NYT: North Anna nuke plant in situation that no US reactor has ever faced before — NRC has no protocol to see if design held up after quake September 8, 2011
  5. Experts concerned about North Anna: “Uncomfortably close” to maximum quake that nuke plant was designed to withstand August 24, 2011

41 comments to Nuclear Engineer: If quake caused weakness at Virginia’s North Anna nuke plant, hurricane could take it rest of way to failure

  • arclight arclight

    Thought I’d post these quotes from the article
    “It’s counterintuitive for most people that nuclear power plants need electricity from the outside for the safety systems to function,” said Jim Riccio, an energy policy analyst at Greenpeace, which opposes nuclear power. “But as we’ve seen from Fukushima, if you don’t cool the core, you have serious trouble on your hands and eventually a meltdown.”
    And this
    “But if these plants lose power in the course of the storm – as in Japan, where an earthquake followed by a tsunami knocked out the backup generators at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant – the fuel rods can overheat, causing an uncontrolled nuclear reaction. The massive amount of radiation released during the partial meltdown at Fukushima may soon force the Japanese government to declare the area around the plant uninhabitable.”

  • larry-andrew-nils

    why can’t it be a structural engineer to comment on the structure?

    why can’t nuclear engineers concentrate on nuclear engineering… because if we ask them about nuclear stuff they don’t say much at all, and now they’re saying stuff that’s not even in their field.

    where’s the structural engineer who can tell us what’s happening at the nuclear-plant ?

    • stock

      Give me a break Larry, the experts lie, built into the system.

      • larry-andrew-nils

        i’m sure not all experts lie.
        maybey just most of the experts who are not stopped from talking one way or another.

        someone mentioned today the expert who told of the oil gusher under the gulf of mexico…

        he died in his hot-tub

        he told the truth… you could feel it when he spoke.

        His name was Matt Simmons.

        on a lighter note, i just donated 100 dollars to enenews and now i feel like a man.

        • ocifferdave

          $100? You out man me by $60! Good job, Larry

        • Arizonan Arizonan

          Right on! I gave last month, and will do so again. I really value this site. It has given out more news about Fukushima than any other news source I have seen. Thank you for doing that! We all benefit.

    • Chelsea citnos

      I registered just to reply to your comment. You are aware that many nuclear engineers are also cross-trained as to be aware of structural damages, right? He’s not overstepping his bounds in making this assessment. You should google “Davis Besse” nuclear power plant sometime. If it wasn’t for a group of nuclear engineer whistle-blowers, there would have been a catastrophic meltdown here in Ohio.

      • arclight arclight

        thanxs citnos interesting links still checking it out, meanwhile thought id post this

        “On January 20, 2006, the owner of Davis-Besse, FirstEnergy Corporation of Akron, OhioAkron, OhioAkron , is the fifth largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Summit County. It is located in the Great Lakes region approximately south of Lake Erie along the Little Cuyahoga River. As of the 2010 census, the city proper had a total population of 199,110. The Akron…
        , acknowledged a series of safety violations by former workers, and entered into a deferred prosecution agreementDeferred prosecution agreementA deferred prosecution agreement is a voluntary alternative to adjudication in which a prosecutor agrees to grant amnesty in exchange for the defendant agreeing to fulfill certain requirements…
        with the U.S. Department of JusticeUnited States Department of JusticeThe United States Department of Justice , is the United States federal executive department responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice, equivalent to the justice or interior ministries of other countries.The Department is led by the Attorney General, who is nominated…
        . The deferred prosecution agreement relates to the March 2002 incident (see above). The deferment granted by the NRC were based on letters from Davis-Besse engineers stating that previous inspections were adequate. However, those inspections were not as thorough as the company suggested, and as proved by the material deficiency discovered later. In any case, because FirstEnergy cooperated with investigators on the matter, they were able to avoid more serious penalties. Therefore, the company agreed to pay fines of $23.7 million, with an additional $4.3 million to be contributed to various groups, including the National Park ServiceNational Park ServiceThe National Park Service is the U.S. federal agency that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations…
        , the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Habitat for Humanity, and the University of ToledoUniversity of ToledoThe University of Toledo is a public university in Toledo, Ohio, United States. The Carnegie Foundation classified the university as “Doctoral/Research Extensive.”-National recognition:…
        as well as to pay some costs related to the federal investigation.

        Two former employees and one former contractor were indicted for statements made in multiple documents and one videotape, over several years, for hiding evidence that the reactor pressure vessel was being corroded by boric acid. The maximum penalty for the three is 25 years in prison. The indictment mentions that other employees also provided false information to inspectors, but does not name them.”
        from this

        • Chelsea citnos

          I know all about Davis-Besse. I live less than an hour from the plant. Close enough that FirstEnergy sends out calendars every year with the back page being a neon yellow sign with the radioactivity symbol on it (so if we need to evacuate, we rip off that back page, we are to post it on our front door so authorities know the house is cleared without having to get out of their vehicles to search in potential hot-spots). When they discovered the almost-breach in the reactor head, the whistle-blowers were nuclear engineers. And let me tell you what… once the local media around here got word of it, they were forced to step up. DB is another disaster waiting to happen.

          • BreadAndButter BreadAndButter

            Hi citnos,
            I find that “calender with radioactive sign” gift idea something between hilarious and cynical.
            So that’s their emergency plan for the civilians? Bright idea (glowing, I might also say).
            Thanks for sharing.

    • Misitu

      The UK Institute of Structural Engineers has a webinar re Fukushima, etc., at

      which was indicated to me by a Structural Engineer with whom I used to work

      I haven’t checked it out yet, hopefully tomorrow, but according to the blurb on the site it is roughly in the right direction.



  • milk and cheese milk and cheese

    Japan had a tsunami caused by an earthquake. I wonder if the East coast formations are anything like California’s, which tended to be more active after a heavy rain. If that is the case, you could conceivably have an earth slippage, or earthquake, that is caused by the hurricane.

    • Seems I did just read a new san andreas-like fault found in the eastern u.s. recently, maybe even reported by m$mbc. Batten down hatches or bug out…safety to everybody.

  • lokay5 lokay5

    I would say that right now, the biggest concern at North Anna is the dam. All the off-site power, back-up generators or snorkle trucks in the country are going to prove to be absolutely useless to cool the reactor and/or power the cooling systems if they don’t have water. You sure as hell can’t remove decay heat with fans!

    • Steven Steven

      “You sure as hell can’t remove decay heat with fans!”

      It’s worth a try surely? Nuclear power seems to have plenty of fans, and I can’t think of a better use for them.

    • alasanon

      Well, we’re getting loads of additional water now. They say every water body will be FLOODING by tomorrow, so I don’t think huge Lake Anna will get too low… It’s a big lake and it definitely has a certain amount of radioactive tritium in it as a byproduct of the plant, so let’s not flood it!…

      It’s a hurricane…but I don’t think it will take out North Anna’s grid. I only have lost power for a few minutes in VA… And North Anna is far more reinforced and well inland from the coast!…We’re on a lucky break streak now! 😉

  • Toadmac

    “The massive amount of radiation released during the partial meltdown at Fukushima may soon force the Japanese government to declare the area around the plant uninhabitable”.

    Sounds like there was only one partial meltdown at Fukushima? I must have been dreaming the rest of it? Thank goodness, I will go back to bed!

    • arclight arclight

      its innacuracies like that that cloud informed opinion! 🙁
      well spotted toadmac! 🙂

    • Misitu

      No there were several partial meltdowns, and I would go as far as to say there were 6 partial meltdowns to make 3 whole meltdowns, no wait a minute must be 9 partial meltdowns to make 3 melt throughs, nonono that must be 12 partial meltdowns to make 3 melt outs.

      OK I got a factor of 12 here to bring the Ministry of Misinformation into the Reality Zone. Is that about right?

      Depends what you mean by partial, I guess.

      Me, I’m “partial” to a “portion” of truth.


  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    The subway is to stop running today.
    On the MSM..the word is ..” Follow mandatory evac or be prepared to be on your own for 72 hrs… as they will not be rescued during the hurricane.
    Nicely said considering..millions of people in that area have no private vehicle.

  • If any of you guys reside in the path of this Hurricane please take care. We had the Summer from hell down here in Australia so I know what it`s like. If in any doubt move to safer ground. It’s better to be wrong and evacuate than stay and find out you were wrong to stay!

    The power of mother nature can be highly underestimated until your stuck and it’s too late. Seems like a double whammy with that earthquake. These plants need to be closed because when something unexpected happens with no warning and believe me it will oneday they just complicate issues.

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    Governor Chris Christie..NJ
    “Get the hell off the beach..”

  • Sickputer

    Typing on iPhone as I have yet to get up… Feeling a little fatigued and had some weird dreams that must mean the moon phase is active (soom scientistz poopoo that belief, but I think it is true.

    Couple if observations… After Hurricane Alicia we had two months of restoration work in Houston. Over 5,000 miles of lines down, thousands of damaged transformers, etc. I have many anecdotal memories if those days working at HL&P, some good, some bad. Two workers died in the restoration work, one a meter reader electrocuted helping beyond his expertise and an older lineman killed climbing a soggy pole that fell backward on him.

    Irene could do a lot of the same… They try to prune trees yearly Director of the Science Media because of lessons learned in those hurricanes, and that helps some.

    Also its funny you mention air fan cooling. The application for thd proposed add-on unit for North Anna says it will be a dual air and water cooled unit. I csn guess how well that combination would work if it would be built.

    But fat chance… The momentum is building for massive public unease about more plants. None built since TMI, but several are in the works. I predict those will be abandoned and there will never be another nuclear plant open in

    • BreadAndButter BreadAndButter

      Good morning Sickputer,
      I SO hope you’re right about “no more plants to be built”. But what about the million-billion-zillion-loan for guarantees for the nuke industry?
      Is that one already decided??

      Btw, thank you for the music. I enjoyed it with my morning coffee 😉

      • Approx. 66 New Plants in the works. Right now!
        “A total of 15 countries are currently constructing new nuclear capacity.” Including the USA.

        Here’s the list again.

        ‘How To Profit From Nuclear Industry’ article: April 17th, 2011

        from article: “Despite fears of a large-scale radiation incident such as the one that occurred in Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986 so far Japanese engineers have mostly succeeded in containing the radiation leaks.” – This was stated on April 17th.

        Just for the record your honor, simple statements like this have, in part, led to the deaths and suffering and genetic destruction of life in ways we cannot imagine and on a scale we’ve never known!!!

    • dharmasyd dharmasyd

      “…there will never be another nuclear plant open…”

      Amen to that!

  • Sickputer

    Weird paste in one of the paragraphs: Director of the Science Media Centre.

    It was left over from me watching last night an online very recent nuclear industry financed rebuttal film that is quite slick… Uses Japanese and British actors and is supposedly a low funded citizen production. Uses very cozy sneaky format. I’ll post more on it this afternoon if the spooks don’t get me first.

    If you can’t wait google Rod Adams nuclear blog and find the film Beyond Fukushima Fear Factor (or close to that title) i have smoking gun info for the main actor and the financiers. Pretty slick propaganda piece as it will dupe 95% of casual viewers.