Reporter: Massive steam dump from New Jersey’s Salem nuclear plant during Sandy had ‘little’ radiation -Officials

Published: November 15th, 2012 at 6:09 pm ET


Title: NRC probes Oyster Creek’s Hurricane Sandy response
Source: New Jersey Newsroom
Author: Roger Witherspoon
Date: November 15 2012 at 14:20

[…] Salem 1 faced the most critical situation […]

The high waves in the river swamped four of Salem’s six massive pumps in a building along the river’s edge which pull in the water through a 40-foot wide conduit. The loss of these pumps caused a chain reaction of events leading to a shutdown of Salem 1 and a massive steam dump into the atmosphere. Officials later said the steam had little or no detectable radiation. […]

See also: [intlink id=”atmospheric-steam-dump-at-njs-salem-nuclear-plant-all-6-circulators-lost-due-to-debris-and-high-river-level-after-sandy” type=”post”]{{empty}}[/intlink]

Published: November 15th, 2012 at 6:09 pm ET


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  2. Report: Wave took out 5 of 6 critical pumps that cool reactor at NJ’s Salem nuke plant — Still operating on emergency cooling — NRC yet to inform public — At 100% power when Sandy hit November 1, 2012
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15 comments to Reporter: Massive steam dump from New Jersey’s Salem nuclear plant during Sandy had ‘little’ radiation -Officials

  • bmurr bmurr

    When they say "little or no radiation" I can't help but think "he's only mostly dead, there's a big difference between mostly dead, and all dead"

    Wonderful logic.

  • "Ultimately, the plant operator and the NRC are responsible for conduct at the plant site and coordination with outside agencies. The state is responsible for all emergency actions outside the plant property." – from article

    I see that as a problem.

    Who would be responsible for the whole thing is my question?

    Ultimately, the responsibility will fall to those who have allowed this atrocity to occur and continue without speaking.

    This is NOT an acceptable answer to me.
    –> "the steam had little or no detectable radiation"

    What exactly was the measurement?
    They know it.
    But they aren't going to tell us and they never will. 🙁

    • AGreenRoad AGreenRoad

      nope, never, not in a million, gajillion years… literally.

      Secrecy is the name of the game… It is the ONLY way…

  • The steam is gone so any independant measurements are impossible. They mainly want to avoid panic if a short leak happens so can you trust them?

  • AGreenRoad AGreenRoad

    Now tell us again how 'minor' this event was…. Why is the plant still down, weeks later? How long does it take to clear storm debris from pump inlets anyways?

    Salem I New Jersey Nuclear Plant Loses Primary Plus Backup Cooling System; via A Green Road

  • AGreenRoad AGreenRoad


    Fukushima Decommissioning Working Conditions Deteriorating; via A Green Road

  • enoughalready45 enoughalready45

    "the steam had little or no detectable radiation"

    They let us know one number "no detectable radiation" = zero.
    The question that we don't know the answer to is what "little" is. We also don't know what the "little" number is a measurement of. How much of the "massive" steam that was released was actually measured for radiation? 1%, 20% 75%?. Did they take one measurement or continuous measurements? Would the concentration of radiation in the steam be greatest when it was first released, during the middle of the release or near the end of the release? All of these factors are unknown to the public. If the NRC wants us to take their word for it they have a number of years worth of trust to build with the public before that happens.

  • TheBigPicture TheBigPicture

    Little, lots …many people x-rayed to death. Who knows?

  • guezilla

    "The plant vent is the final release point for planned gaseous effluent releases and is continuously monitored by installed radiation monitors. The vent is also continuously sampled for iodine and particulates with a charcoal cartridge and filter paper. The filter and charcoal are normally changed weekly, and analyzed on a multi-channel analyzer."

    So they know exactly, and they're going to have to write it up in a long, obfuscated document in about a year, when nobody is interested anymore. And that document is obfuscated enough I don't think there's any way to estimate right now; for example they give the number of gaseous leaks per quarter year, and average length… But no maximum, minimum flow, released radionuclides per event or at maximum. Just a flat total for whole year (and I don't have time to look, but there's enough small print that even the total can be at question).

    However saying "little or no detectable" is despicable, when they know exactly and have requirements to follow it exactly. And judging from the numbers it won't be "no detectable", or do they mean to imply they only release radionuclides when operating normally?

  • m a x l i

    I don't want to sound alarmistic, but this seems to be very bad. Whenever I heard "little radiation", it ended in mass evacuations and scores of people sick or dead.

  • These ten comments so far are gems going into searching detail and tearing apart the glum carelessness that has been always exhibited by the nuclear industry. Of course I do not minimize the heroics, bravery and awareness of the scope of an occurrence exhibited by some technicians and operators within the plants. I am reminded of the Narora near meltdown on 31 March 1993 for example. The safety problems of nuclear fission are too difficult to solve.Therefore as Amory Lovins so aptly pointed out in Non-Nuclear Futures(1975):'one cannot claim that they are solved by pointing out to all the efforts made to solve them'(page 12, Harper Colophon Edition).Gofman:Even during normal operations of the 400 nuclear plants, there will be Caesium 137 loss equivalent to 16 Chernobyl accidents per 25 years of operation at 99.9% perfect containment. "And this assault on human health would occur without blowing the roof off any single plant".(Chapter 25, page 17, Closing Statement of Gofman.1990. Radiation Induced Cancer From Low-Dose Exposure: An Independent Analysis.CNR, San Francisco. And it is too distressing to see Yablokov et al discussing the Consequences of just a single Chernobyl referring to evidence of what is happening in Belarus etc and the callousness of the authorities in hiding them from the public. ECRR 2010 brings out clearly that the risks of nuclear power are infinte compared to what ICRP 103(2007), the latest Risk recommendations of the group serving n-interest(IAEA).

  • AGreenRoad AGreenRoad

    They said the same thing about Three Mile Island…

    no need for alarm, no need to evacuate.. no harm to anyone

  • patb2009

    Note what they aren't saying

    1) Steam Release: Where from? Primary coolant loop? Secondary coolant loop? That they won't say, indicates it's Primary.

    2) Little or No radiation release: What's little? When they say Little, they mean, it won't melt the flesh off of you today. Provide a figure in Bq or Curies.

    3) 4 of 6 Pumps failed: Which pumps? Which Unit? That they won't say, is probably that it was the 3 pumps in the primary coolant loop and the feedwater pump.

    • guezilla

      They answered most of that in their original NRC situation report, which is even linked from todays news headline.

      "A subsequent loss of the 2 remaining circulators required transition of decay heat removal from condenser steam dumps to the 11-14 MS10s (atmospheric steam dump). Decay heat removal is from the 11/12 Aux Feed Pumps to all 4 steam generators via the 11-14 MS10s."

      So they lost EVERY SINGLE ONE of the 6 circulators, 100% primary cooling loss. I wish people stopped repeating the power-company's convenient omission that they only lost 4 (before they lost the rest – but this kind of reporting is standard industry practice). I am curious about their choice of word on "circulators", but that's separate issue.

      What the report is quite clear about, though, is that they were using auxiliary feedwater pumps (normally pumping water from on-site tanks intended just for cases where the condensers can't function) with steam vented through the atmospheric steam dump valves; this is neither primary nor secondary coolant loop, but auxiliary feedwater cooling the primary.

      This would be a normal configuration for reactor cooldown mode, but in this case they may have had to use it even with reactor still at power. A curious omission is whether they used normal vent stack or not, I recall seeing some blabber about "through a monitored route", but perhaps they just don't want to admit these kinds of steam dumps happen frequently.

  • EngineeringBloke

    Salem NPP is on an estuary, SW of Philedelphia. Since shortly after Hurricane Sandy arrived at the end of October, the radiation monitor (from the Rad Net web site) in that area of NJ has read around 70 when I checked it. That is for a couple of weeks. It dropped to about 56 now (but was 76 earlier today). This is in radioactive decay counts per minute (CPM).

    There are a few places in the US where there are readings under 20. There was one new reading of 70 in Colorado this morning but that has fallen to 49 now. 100 is considered to be an alert level.

    Of course, the risk is not just that the steam is radioactive and that people are exposed to radiation, but that it can contain radioactive material, including Iodine and Tritium, and might even contain cesium, and plutonium. These can be poisonous, carcinogenic and mutagenic. That's a big problem if they get into your lungs or digestive tract.