Hurricane Sandy: Nuclear Power Plant under alert

By Sophie Marsden and Gemma Mullin

Oyster Creek Power Plant in New Jersey is under alert after water levels at the plant rose by more than 6.5 feet, potentially affecting the pumps that circulate water through the plant.

The 43-year-old plant had been closed for planned refueling since October 22 so the pumps were not essential. However, a further rise to 7 feet could submerge the service water pump motor that is used to cool the water in the spent fuel pool.

Another plant, 72km north of New York City, was partially closed late last night due to external electrical conditions.

Nuclear power plants are built to withstand hurricanes, airplane collisions and other major disasters. But safety procedures call for plants to be shut down when hurricane-force winds are present.

Hurricane Sandy has proven to be the biggest test of the industry’s emergency preparations after the 90mph winds and 13 foot storm surges were labelled the largest Atlantic storm ever – the worst since the Fukushima disaster in Japan a year and a half ago.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sent additional inspectors to eleven reactors from Maryland to Connecticut but they have reassured the public that they are prepared for high winds and flooding associated with the storm.

Both candidates for the presidential campaign have called off all scheduled events until at least midnight tonight but further disruptions could be expected.

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