The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Archive

May 18, 2013

Many lessons learned from Fukushima tsunami

Terrifying was the televised footage of the tsunami steamrolling across the coast of Japan following a 9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011.

For those who lived near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on Japan’s eastern coast, the days after offered no relief as the plant slouched toward eventual meltdown.

North Alabama residents deal with sometimes-deadly tornadoes on a yearly basis and the occasional, low-magnitude earthquake, but they have never experienced a violent earthquake, a 100-feet tsunami wave or the meltdown of a nuclear plant.

But the disaster at Fukushima, hopefully, will better prepare the Tennessee Valley Authority’s nuclear power plants at Browns Ferry in Athens, and Sequoya and Watts Bar in southeastern Tennessee.

“There were a tremendous number of lessons learned from Fukushima,” said Joey Ledford, Region II spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Atlanta. “Specific upgrades have been ordered for a lot of different plants. All plants had to reassess their ability to withstand a severe natural events, including Browns Ferry.”

The recommendations include requiring plants to have the capability to cope with blackouts of up to 72 hours, backup systems to assure cooling of spent-fuel rods and sufficient margins for beyond-design events involving earthquakes and flooding.

After Fukushima, the NRC learned “Sequoyah and Watts Bar might be subject to flooding due to earthquake but not Browns Ferry because its flood plan proved to be adequate.” Ledford said.

He said the NRC is still waiting for plans to come back with more information on these improvements, such as increasing the height of floodwalls as well as improvements to the facilities.

Ledford also said all nuclear power plants in the United States had to prepare for possible earthquakes before they were built.

Earthquakes rarely work alone. Large ones can bring with them tsunami waves, flooding, landslides, fires, damage to buildings, bridges, dams, highways and other infrastructure, and nuclear accidents.

“Every plant, in the licensing process, has to show a plan for seismic activity as well as flooding,” Ledford said. “It is part of the safety evaluation report and every plant has to do it.”

Officials look at a design’s ability to withstand an historic flood or earthquake. The prospective plant must exceed previously recorded seismic activity in the region, he said. What if the quake exceeds its predecessors?

Although Ledford did not know the precise margin, he said it would be “enough to be safe.”

When a 5.8-magnitude quake struck 11 miles from the North Anna Nuclear Generating Station in Virginia on Aug. 23,2011, the plant automatically shut down as required, he said.

“Because there was enough margin (of safety) in its design phase, it was not damaged,” Ledford said, adding that a spent-nuclear-fuel long-term storage canister shifted during the earthquake. The plant passed inspection and was returned to service.

However, the plant faces additional NRC oversight because a gasket failure, due to improper installation, prevented a diesel generator from performing its function after the quake.

1
Text Only
Photos


Poll

Which foreign crisis is the biggest threat to the security of the United States?

Russia-Ukraine
Israel-Palestine
Iraq
None of the above
     View Results
Facebook
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA
Twitter Updates
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Business Marquee