"Unusual event" declared at Brunswick Nuclear Plant, North Carolina

An "unusual event" has been declared for Brunswick Nuclear Plant located just outside of Wilmington, North Carolina on September 17, 2018. This is the area where Hurricane "Florence" recently made landfall, causing 'historic and unprecedented' flooding. "Unusual event" is the lowest level of nuclear emergency, as required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The plant was shut down before the hurricane arrived.

A hazardous event has resulted in on-site conditions sufficient to prohibit the plant staff from accessing the site via personal vehicles due to flooding of local roads by Tropical Storm Florence, NRC said.

NRC spokesman Joey Ledford said the plant is stable and poses no threat to public safety. The plant has off-site electricity from the power grid to cool the nuclear reactors and radioactive nuclear waste at the site.

"None of the roads are passable," Ledford said, adding that the plant is safe and the reactors are in hot standby mode 3 shutdown.

The flooding prevented fresh crews from relieving the nearly 300 Duke Energy workers and NRC 'storm riders' who have been on site for days. Some employees who live locally have been able to leave the nuclear plant and check on their homes, while others have made trips to local stores for supplies, Ledford said.

This plant has two nuclear reactors of the same design as those in Fukushima, Japan. Following the Fukushima disaster after earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, federal regulators required all U.S. nuclear plants to perform upgrades to better withstand earthquakes and flooding.

At 03:00 UTC on Tuesday, September 18 (23:00 EDT, September 17), the center of Post-Tropical Cyclone "Florence" (post-tropical since 21:00 UTC, Sep 16) was located about 30 km (20 miles) NW of Morgantown, West Virginia. The cyclone was moving toward the northeast near 19 km/h (12 mph) and this motion is expected to become more easterly and quicker on Tuesday and Wednesday, September 18 and 19 before Florence becomes absorbed by another low pressure area on Thursday, September 20.

Maximum sustained winds are near 35 km/h (25 mph) with higher gusts. Some strengthening is forecast Tuesday night and Wednesday as the system transitions into an extratropical cyclone. The estimated minimum central pressure was 1 008 hPa.

In the wake of Florence, prolific river flooding will remain a long-term concern in parts of the Carolinas and southern Virginia, NWS said.

The storm has so far claimed lives of at least 32 people (25 in North Carolina, 6 in South Carolina and 1 in Virginia).

Featured image credit: Google, TW

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