August 29, 2011: Markey: Hurricane Irene Exposes Holes in Nuclear Plant Safety Regulations

Week of Natural Disasters Points to Weaknesses in Backup Power, Emergency Alert Systems; Markey Calls on NRC to Implement Stronger Safety Standards
 
WASHINGTON (August 29, 2011) – As Americans move to recovery mode following Hurricane Irene, reports have surfaced that backup power and emergency alert systems failed at several nuclear reactors on the East Coast, and several reactors either were shut down or powered down because of the storm. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today called on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to implement stronger safety standards in light of the weaknesses exposed during the Virginia earthquake and Hurricane Irene.
 
Among the several incidents reported during Irene were:
 
    •    Calvert Cliffs Unit 1 (MD) nuclear reactor shut down automatically after a large piece of metal siding blew off a building and contacted high energy lines associated with a main transformer.  One of its emergency diesel generators was found to be inoperable due to flooding of its circuitry, and 66 out of 73 emergency sirens at the plant were out of service.
    •    The power at Millstone Units 2 and 3 nuclear reactors (CT) was reduced as a precaution, the spent fuel pool at the decommissioning Unit 1 lost power for its cooling system, and Unit 3 lost one of six water circulation pumps.
    •    The Oyster Creek (NJ) nuclear reactor shut down as a precaution, and 10 of 42 emergency sirens lost function.
    •    49 of the 172 emergency sirens at the Indian Point nuclear power plant (NY) and 74 of 113 emergency sirens at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant (MA) had to be placed on backup battery power
 
“In light of the widespread challenges to nuclear power plants caused by Hurricane Irene, as well as the potential that global warming could increase both the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, I urge you to quickly incorporate hurricanes and other strong storms into the safety and emergency response upgrades the Commission is currently undertaking,” Rep. Markey wrote today to NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko. Rep. Markey is the Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
 
The full letter is available HERE .
 
In the wake of the Japanese nuclear meltdowns, Rep. Markey released a comprehensive report, “Fukushima Fallout ”, which detailed the safety deficiencies in the U.S. nuclear power plant fleet. Rep. Markey also introduced H.R. 1242, the Nuclear Power Plant Safety Act of 2011. This legislation called for the NRC to ensure that nuclear power plants and spent nuclear fuel pools can withstand and adequately respond to earthquakes, tsunamis, strong storms, long power outages, or other events that threaten a major impact.
 
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Response from NRC can be found HERE .