USA: Hurricane Florence Threatens Nuclear Reactors in North Carolina

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The Duke Energy plant in Brunswick will close two hours before the arrival of the cyclone and authorities of the company reported that they are sending additional personnel to monitor the situation continues in suspense because of the threat posed by the advance of Hurricane Florence. According to the latest forecasts, the cyclone threatens to impact the nuclear plant Duke Energy Corp. in Brunswick, on the south coast of North Carolina.

Although company officials have said they are ready to receive this powerful meteorological phenomenon, industry analysts believe that the risk is greater.

According to Karen Williams, spokesperson for Duke Energy, the two reactors, located near the city of Southport, were built to withstand winds from a Category 5 hurricane (exceeding 156 miles or 251 kilometres per hour).

The infrastructure is located 20 feet above sea level and four miles from the coast, so they must be resistant to the 13-foot forecast of Florence.

The plant with a production capacity of 1,870 megawatts will close two hours before the tropical storm force winds reach the facility, and the company is providing additional personnel to monitor the plant.

Nevertheless, is not the only one. At least nine nuclear facilities are located within the area that could be impacting Hurricane Florence.

“Brunswick is close to the eye, but all the reactors exposed to the hurricane winds will close,” said Joey Ledford, spokesman for the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission… “We have inspectors in each plant.”

The boiling water reactors used in Brunswick are similar to those that melted at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan in 2011, said nuclear expert Edwin Lyman, who said they have “a particular vulnerability to flooding.”

So the federal regulators took additional measures to avoid a similar accident in the US, hence re-assessing the risk of flooding.

If Florence “really is significantly greater than anything else that is experienced in these plants, it can exceed even her reassessed risk,” Lyman said.

For now, both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the utility have said the storm is unlikely to cause problems for nuclear plants.

“We will quickly assess any impact on a nuclear power plant after the storm,” said FEMA associate administrator Jeff Byard.

Another nuclear facility on the Florence road is the Savannah River Site of the US Department of Energy. It is located about 25 miles southeast of Augusta, Georgia, and for decades produced materials for nuclear weapons. A spokesman for the agency said the facility was built to withstand extreme natural events, including hurricanes and floods.

Florence will touch down on Friday

Florence will not touch land until Friday morning, but radar data shows that the outer bands are already sitting along the North Carolina coast.

It is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast creating a greater risk of flooding. Like Harvey last year in Texas, it is likely that a large part of the storm’s circulation will remain above the water, which will allow it to absorb more moisture that will then be thrown on the ground.

That could break state records in North Carolina and South Carolina, which is currently at 24.06 inches that fell with Hurricane Floyd in 1999. The notice from the National Hurricane Center warns about 40-inch potentials in certain areas.

Health risk

The possible trajectory of the meteor also includes half a dozen nuclear plants, wells with coal ash and other industrial waste, and numerous pig farms that store their waste in large open-air lagoons.

Some airlines such as American and Southwest allowed passengers to change their flights if they were within the possible route of the hurricane.

On the other hand, the director of the National Hurricane Center, Ken Graham, warned that Florence is expected to remain on the Carolinas once it makes landfall. People living inland must be prepared to run out of electricity and withstand floods and other dangers, he said.

The destructive potential of Hurricane Florence also includes an increase in risks to the environment and public health, while torrential rains could cause wells to overflow where toxic waste from power plants is stored.

Animal manure lagoons are also at risk of flooding.

Two years ago, Duke Energy was ordered to clean coal ash ponds in North Carolina that posed risks to the environment and public health. The company will not arrive in time for the storm, which will make the sites vulnerable to spills that can let waste escape.

Duke was pressured to deal with the storage of coal ash after in 2014 some 39,000 tons spilled from a pond near Eden, North Carolina.

In 2016, the state gave the company a term until August 1, 2019, to dig and close some of the coal ash pits and almost a decade more to provide solutions to others. Duke has begun work on several high-risk sites.

Hurricane Florence Threatens Nuclear Reactors in North Carolina

Fear for coal deposits

“The coal ash sites are very vulnerable to this hurricane and any other,” said Frank Holleman, a lawyer with the Center for Environmental Law of the South.

Duke owns 31 coal ash basins in North Carolina. They contained about 111 million tons of coal ash in August 2017, according to state calculations. Duke is moving personnel and equipment to the North Carolina coast to supervise coal ash disposal sites, a byproduct of coal burning to generate electricity.

The ash contains metals such as arsenic, chromium and mercury, which pose risks to public health and the environment if they spill into the drinking water supply. Once the storm arrives, the staff is ready to inspect the sites on foot, in boats and with drones.



Source: Estrategiaynegocios With information from AFP, Infobae and Univision.