WASHINGTON, D.C.—Nuclear energy facilities are prepared to safely withstand high winds and heavy rain as the eastern United States braces for Hurricane Irene to make landfall this weekend.
Nuclear power plants are the most robust facilities in the U.S. infrastructure, with reactor containment structures composed of steel-reinforced concrete that have proven their ability to withstand extreme natural events. In addition, nuclear plant operators are trained and tested one out of every six weeks to safely manage extreme events such as hurricanes. Plant operators also have multi-day staffing plans to ensure that personnel are on-site and prepared to respond to situations that may arise as a result of the storm.
When hurricanes occur, electric utilities operating nuclear energy facilities take specific actions mandated by U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission guidelines and the plants’ emergency preparedness plan. These include:
If there is a loss of off-site power, reactors automatically shut down as a precaution and the emergency backup diesel generators begin operating to provide electrical power to plant safety systems. Plant operators also may manually shut down the reactor as a precaution even if off-site power is still available.
Nuclear energy facilities are designed to withstand natural occurrences greater than those encountered in the regions where they are located. They are built to withstand floods, earthquakes and high winds, and have numerous safety systems that will operate and safely shut the reactor down in the event of a loss of off-site power. These plant designs are routinely reviewed and modifications are made to assure their integrity and safety.