Superstorm Sandy outages brings available nuclear capacity to lowest since Fukushima

Oyster Creek Nuclear Station

Superstorm Sandy, which tore through the Northeast United States causing property damage and even numerous deaths, led to three nuclear reactors shutting down and several other plants to reduce operations.

Reuters reported that including outages prompted by the storm,  32,045 megawatts of nuclear power were offline on October 30 - the highest amount since May 2011 when the Fukushima disaster occurred in Japan.

Of the nuclear power unavailable, only three reactors experienced shutdowns during the storm. They were Indian Point 3, in Buchanan, N.Y.; Salem Unit 1, in Hancocks Bridge, N.J.; and Nine Mile Point 1, in Scriba, N.Y. Operators reported all safety systems responded as designed.

Nuclear plants in Connecticut, Vermont and Pennsylvania also chose to reduce power due to the storm, Reuters reported. These resumed full power by October 31.

Further, another six nuclear power stations were engaged in standard refueling and maintenance outages adding to the low in available capacity.

Although Nuclear power plants are built to withstand hurricanes and other natural disasters, safety protocol requires plants to shut down operations when faced with potentially extreme conditions. In the case of Sandy, operators took precautions against hurricane-force winds, power loss and nearby water levels exceeding flood limits.

Thursday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it was beginning to return to normal inspection coverage for nuclear power plants in the Northeast.  Heightened coverage will continue at Oyster Creek, a plant in Lacey Township, N.J., still in an “Alert” status due to high water levels in its water intake structure.

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