Hurricane Florence To Test Sixteen Nuclear Plants

A storm with 135 mph winds – Hurricane Florence – is potentially threatening as many as sixteen of the nation’s nuclear power plants that sit in its path, according to media reports.

Hurricane PathClass 1 Containment buildings are structured to withstand winds up to 300 mph, which could whip through a power plant in the form of a tornado. Florence, with sustained winds of 100 mph is barreling in from the Bermuda area in the south Atlantic with probable landfall expected in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina on Thursday and Friday.

Concerns that the storm will collide with man-made industrial hazards include the potential disruption caused by damage to coal-ash pits, miscellaneous industrial waste and lagoons filled with animal manure generated at large farms.

While nuclear power plants are built to withstand storm-force winds, fresh concerns have arisen in the aftermath of the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident in March 2011 in which back up power was knocked out by a massive tsunami event triggered by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake.

In addition, the potential for rising seas in the age of global warming is pointedly worrisome for coastal nuclear power plants that, ironically, do not use gas emissions that cause global warming. Regardless of the causes of global warming, however, melting polar ice caps means seas that rise during storm events will rise higher than previously expected.

Nuclear power plants most threatened by Hurricane Florence include Brunswick Nuclear Plant Units 1 and 2 in Southport, N. C., Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant in New Hill, N.C., Duke Energy’s Catawba Nuclear Station in York, S.C., the McGuire Nuclear Station in Mecklenburg, N.C., Oconee Nuclear Station in Seneca, S.C., Robinson Nuclear Power Plant in Darlington, S.C., V.C. Summer in Jenkinsville, S.C., and the North Anna Units 1 and 2, situated 40 miles northwest of Richmond, Virginia. 

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