As expected hurricane Sandy turned into a superstorm as it hit land. Hurricane Sandy already killed 12 people, flooded New York and put a US nuclear plant on alert. Experts expect Sandy to cause damages worth at least $20 billion.
Hospitals have been evacuated, people have bought supplies and hoped for the best as Sandy, the strongest tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean, hit the land. The hurricane moved along the East coast before bulging into the mid-Atlantic coast on Monday. A nuclear power plant in New Jersey is now on alert, while 9 others remain under watch.
Bloomberg writes that Hurricane Sandy is the biggest test for the US nuclear power industry. Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant is the worst-case scenario engineers in US are now trying to avoid. Inspectors have been dispatched to 10 facilities in the path of hurricane Sandy to monitor water levels and cooling.
“Given the breadth and intensity of this historic storm, the NRC is keeping a close watch on all of the nuclear power plants that could be impacted” said Allison Macfarlane, NRC Chairman. Inspectors will “verify that the safety of these plants is maintained until the storm has passed and afterwards”.
The Associated Press and Reuters reported that two nuclear plants in New York had to shut down their activity because of Sandy. The nuclear plant in New Jersey is on alert since last night because of high levels of water in the water-intake pipes. The Oyster Creek plant is 33 miles north of Atlantic City and close to Sandy’s eye.
Exelon, the operator of the Oyster Creek facility, explained via e-mail that there is “no challenge to plant safety equipment and no threat to the public health or safety”. The company added that it has “on-site and off-site emergency operations centers to monitor weather and plant conditions and to provide updated information to local state and federal officials”.
Whereas experts say a Fukushima scenario is unlikely in the United States, there is a chance that some nuclear plants could “lose access to grid power… for extended periods of time”. “This is not uncommon, and they have had some warning of it, which Fukushima did not” Peter Bradford, former NRC commissioner, told Bloomberg. “They also have Fukushima itself to thank for advance warning of the possibility of extensive flooding and so should be reasonably well prepared” he added.