Tornado Forces Shut Down Of Two Reactors At 1.6 Gigawatt Surry Nuclear Power Plant

Tyler Durden's picture

One of the more surprising victims of this weekend's dramatic tornado flurry that ravaged numerous states causing the deaths of 45 people, were two nuclear reactors operated by Dominion Resources in Surry County, Virginia on April 16. Luckily, it appears that the shutdowns have been contained. From Reuters: "Dominion Virginia Power said the two nuclear reactors at its Surry Power Station shut down automatically when a tornado touched down and cut off an electrical feed to the station. The U.S. south was hit by violent storms over the weekend. No radiation was released during the storm and shutdown, the NRC and the company said. The situation was described as an "unusual event," the lowest of the four NRC emergency classification levels." The Guardian adds: "The US nuclear safety regulator said on Mondayit was monitoring the Surry nuclear power plant in Virginia. Dominion Virginia Power said the two reactors shut down automatically when a tornado cut off power to the plant. A backup diesel generator kicked in to cool the fuel. The regulator said no radiation was released and staff were working to restore electricity to the plant." Perhaps this is a modest but much needed validation that not every natural disaster will result in some form of nuclear incident. Then again, we will follow news of when precisely the Surry plant will officially regain full electricity.

Some more from the Dailypress:

Dominion officials said Sunday that a tornado apparently touched down on the switchyard supporting the nuclear power station and the facility's access road, cutting off the electrical feed from the grid to the station. A backup generator kept power running to both reactors.

One of the two main reactors has been reconnected to the plant's grid.

"We are trying to restore the second feed," said Dominion spokesperson Dan Genest. That process will take several days, he said.

Once the second feed is restored, then the power station will return to full power, Genest said. On Monday morning, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission's website still showed both reactors at zero capacity.

There were no injuries at the site, Genest said. Power company personnel are working to complete restoration of electrical service to the station, he added.

The tornado did not strike the two nuclear units, which are designed to withstand natural events such as tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes.

From Wikipedia, here is a brief summary of the Surry NPP facility:

The plant has two triple-loop Westinghouse pressurized water reactors which went on-line in 1972 and 1973 respectively. Each reactor produces approximately 800 megawatts  of power, for a combined plant output of 1.6 gigawatts. Surry Power Station draws its condenser cycle water directly from the James River, removing the need for the imposing cooling towers  often associated with nuclear plants. Repeated testing shows that Surry Power Station has minimal environmental impact and releases virtually no radiation or harmful emissions.

The station site was originally designed for four units; however, only two reactors were built. With increasing energy demands in the United States, it is possible that more reactors will be built at Surry in the next few decades. In 2003, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) extended the operating licenses for both reactors from forty to sixty years.

The Surry plant is similar in appearance and design to its "sister plant" North Anna Power Station, located northwest of Richmond in Louisa County, Virginia.

Surry was one of the plants analyzed in the NUREG-1150 safety analysis study.

h/t Martilias

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long juan silver's picture

So sorry. I farted. hehe

Thadeous's picture

So lets see, take "unusual event" and multiply it by 4 or so and I'm sure thats what the truth is.

long juan silver's picture

Nope. Only one fart. I counted.

Absinthe Minded's picture

Who could junk that? That was funny as hell! Of course I've had a few. Sympathies to those affected, could not imagine what they are going through. One of the most awe inspiring yet unpredictable forces on Earth.

Manzilla's picture

Damn it I did too. Double whammy.

AldousHuxley's picture

Dear Lord, show us your mercy and let the tornado pick up spent fuel rods and place them in the gold vault of the Federal Reserve.

dizzyfingers's picture

Nooooooooo!! No junk!! Love this!

Zero Govt's picture

comforting to know the regulator says all is well..., anyone got a Geiger counter handy? 

Hephasteus's picture

What's their slogan. "Virginia is for CIA cunts."

buzzsaw99's picture

It's a good thing the generator worked.

BigJim's picture

? Nuclear backup generators always work. What do you think they're there for?

sneering nihilist's picture

it's pretty easy to imagine a single tornado destroying back-up generators and then knocking out power to the plant.


topcallingtroll's picture

How about a private airplane slamming into an open cooling pool?

topcallingtroll's picture

A solar flare such as the one recorded in the 1850's could shut down the entire grid for a year, unless plant operators are fast enough and smart enough to isolate their plants from power surges and shut down quickly and safely.

Otherwise we better hope we can keep the diesel generators running at the nuke plants indefinitely. If we ever have an asteroid or a supervolcano what will kill us will be the nuke plants spewing radiation for a thousand years.

Humanity barely survived a small supervolcano 60,000 years ago according to the genetic record. Only one caucasian genetic code survived. With our nukes needing external power sources i dont think we have a chance of surviving a true supervolcano.

geekgrrl's picture

I don't think plant operators could react fast enough. The electrical grid can't be shut down in a way that could protect it from an event like in 1859. It is profoundly vulnerable, and is so complex that no one person could ever comprehend it. 

In any event, the induced currents from a solar flare like in 1859 would fry everything electrical and electronic connected to the grid, and a good amount of equipment not even connected to the grid. (especially electronics) Can you imagine every electronic device ever manufactured not working anymore?

Which brings up an excellent question: why are we so confident that these electrical systems: the electrical grid, the internet, the communications nexus that spans the planet, will never be wiped out by acts of nature? Seems to me we are profoundly underestimating the forces of nature.

How many examples do we need before we get rid of the low-hanging fruit, like nuclear reactors, each a disaster waiting to happen?

prizmev's picture

So what happens if a tornado knocks out the power lines to/from the reactors *and* destroys the backup generators?  Think Fukushima...

Hephasteus's picture

You cool it down with steady stream of popsicle shipments to the plant. On a staggered UPS, Fed Ex, USPS delvery schedule.

Until you can set up you're space shuttle rain making device.

djsmps's picture

Impossible. It could never happen. That plant was built to withstand an EF3 tornado, and nothing like that has ever hit there.

tmosley's picture

The buildings that house the backup generators should be built to withstand an F5, IF they aren't underground.

BigJim's picture

So what happens? How can we know? That is, in the words of the great Vizzini, absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable.

HelluvaEngineer's picture

1.6 Gigawatt?  I believe you mean 1.21 Jigawatt.  The only power sources capable of generating 1.21 jigawatts of electricity is a lightning bolt or a nuclear panner plant.

long juan silver's picture

Your comment seems somewhat racist to my eyes.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Going long flux capacitors once I get back from the future.

BTW by chance did anything interesting happen on Thursday Nov 25, 2010 at 3:59 PM? Just checking.

Buck Johnson's picture

Yea, but would they tell the truth if it was having problems.

Xennady's picture

The real scandal here is that these plants from the frickin 70s can't be replaced with newer and vastly safer designs because of the endless lawsuits and government red tape. Not to mention that most of the wealth of the country has been pissed away or stolen by the banksters.

Rusty Shorts's picture

ever see "Gone With The Wind"?

long juan silver's picture

Yep. I like the part where she whips the horse.

Hephasteus's picture

Wealth isn't pissed away or gone or removed.

Just the stupid permission to act slips known as debt tickets or shit tickets.

It's a mind game designed to turn you from action jackson into moaning mandy.

Alex2245's picture

While officials most likely have this condition under control, one has to wonder due to the record of the NRC and the fact that all radiation releases worldwide have been covered up to a certain extent.

This fact was outlined beautifully in a round table discussion that included Arnie Gundersen, Duane Peterson (president of VPIRG & coordinator for the campaign to retire Vermont Yankee nuclear plant), investigative reporter Harvey Wasserman and Paul Gallay. (executive director of Riverkeeper)

From this discussion and easily obtained research three clear cut examples of corruption can be seen.(Outlined By Washington’s Blog)

  • The NRC is wholly captive to industry
  • The NRC has never turned down the request of a nuclear power plant to be relicensed in the United States. Re-licensing is solely a paper process; there is no safety review.

lead salad's picture

I live 20 minutes from that joint....good thing I leave tomorrow on bizness.

long juan silver's picture

Are you telling me that tornado is still whirling away like mad right on top of those poor people after THREE days? Great heavens! When will it go away?

AbandonShip's picture

Power plant losing power? 

Almost as rare as a bank running out of money....oh wait

bob_dabolina's picture


What about the nuclear story that is pertinent:

"TEPCO official reveals there is “little doubt” plutonium has leaked from Fukushima (VIDEO)"

"Fukushima Forecast: Uninterrupted line of radiation stretches across Pacific, tracking towards West Coast of U.S., Canada"

"TEPCO: Unit 2 containment vessel leaking nuclear radiation (VIDEO)"

Tyler Durden's picture

Pretty sure it has been made abundnatly clear by now that all reactors are leaking radiation?

bob_dabolina's picture

I thought the "plutonium leakage" + the "Uninterrupted line of radiation stretches across Pacific, tracking towards West Coast of U.S" Was kinda' a big deal.

...than again, I'm not a scientist.

long juan silver's picture

I remember anthrax in the mail like it was yesterday

Hephasteus's picture

You're cia cell work on that one juan?

max2205's picture

Fuck, is everything in Amerika over 40 years old?

Too bad Ben can't upgrade us

sodbuster's picture

Everything but Zimbabwe Ben's printer!


tmosley's picture

America stopped growing 40 years ago.

Dapper Dan's picture

Your comment is prescient!  Care to expound?

long juan silver's picture

trolls cant expand on a topic. They'll call you homophobic names and say that you are the one that's dense. In any event, tmoseley is a great source for fart insults. He has hundreds.

SWRichmond's picture

This is the first comment in this otherwise ridiculous thread that makes any sense at all.