This page has been archived and commenting is disabled.

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


- advertisements -

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:11 | 1182270 long juan silver
long juan silver's picture

So sorry. I farted. hehe

Tue, 04/19/2011 - 00:30 | 1182920 the mad hatter
the mad hatter's picture

1.21 jiggawatts!

Tue, 04/19/2011 - 00:43 | 1182941 Sokhmate
Sokhmate's picture

it must've been more of a careless whisper

Tue, 04/19/2011 - 00:55 | 1182963 the mad hatter
Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:13 | 1182277 Thadeous
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.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:40 | 1182344 long juan silver
long juan silver's picture

Nope. Only one fart. I counted.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:26 | 1182468 Absinthe Minded
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.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:13 | 1182280 Manzilla
Manzilla's picture

Damn it I did too. Double whammy.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:16 | 1182287 AldousHuxley
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.

Mon, 04/25/2011 - 09:30 | 1203195 dizzyfingers
dizzyfingers's picture

Nooooooooo!! No junk!! Love this!

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:14 | 1182289 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

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

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:16 | 1182292 Hephasteus
Hephasteus's picture

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

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:20 | 1182296 buzzsaw99
buzzsaw99's picture

It's a good thing the generator worked.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 22:13 | 1182583 BigJim
BigJim's picture

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

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:20 | 1182297 sneering nihilist
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.


Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:24 | 1182305 topcallingtroll
topcallingtroll's picture

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

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:26 | 1182298 topcallingtroll
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.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:48 | 1182361 Ray1968
Ray1968's picture

Compelling thought.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 23:02 | 1182723 geekgrrl
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?

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:24 | 1182307 velobabe
velobabe's picture


Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:25 | 1182310 prizmev
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...

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:32 | 1182317 Hephasteus
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.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:34 | 1182330 djsmps
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.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:07 | 1182422 tmosley
tmosley's picture

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

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 22:18 | 1182589 BigJim
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.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:35 | 1182321 HelluvaEngineer
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.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:43 | 1182351 long juan silver
long juan silver's picture

Your comment seems somewhat racist to my eyes.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:59 | 1182399 Cognitive Dissonance
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.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:42 | 1182512 long juan silver
long juan silver's picture

Is that vehicle operated by a jigawatt?

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 23:53 | 1182862 mynhair
mynhair's picture

You said jig!

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:34 | 1182323 Buck Johnson
Buck Johnson's picture

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

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:35 | 1182324 Xennady
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.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:38 | 1182333 Rusty Shorts
Rusty Shorts's picture

ever see "Gone With The Wind"?

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:47 | 1182359 long juan silver
long juan silver's picture

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

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:39 | 1182338 Hephasteus
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.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:38 | 1182334 Alex2245
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.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:43 | 1182353 lead salad
lead salad's picture

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

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:38 | 1182500 long juan silver
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?

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:47 | 1182358 AbandonShip
AbandonShip's picture

Power plant losing power? 

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

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:50 | 1182366 bob_dabolina
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)"

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:28 | 1182469 Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden's picture

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

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:45 | 1182526 bob_dabolina
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.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:50 | 1182533 long juan silver
long juan silver's picture

I remember anthrax in the mail like it was yesterday

Tue, 04/19/2011 - 01:45 | 1183035 Hephasteus
Hephasteus's picture

You're cia cell work on that one juan?

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:55 | 1182379 max2205
max2205's picture

Fuck, is everything in Amerika over 40 years old?

Too bad Ben can't upgrade us

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:06 | 1182409 sodbuster
sodbuster's picture

Everything but Zimbabwe Ben's printer!


Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:11 | 1182426 tmosley
tmosley's picture

America stopped growing 40 years ago.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 22:17 | 1182593 Dapper Dan
Dapper Dan's picture

Your comment is prescient!  Care to expound?

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 22:40 | 1182655 long juan silver
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.

Tue, 04/19/2011 - 07:44 | 1183274 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

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

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:03 | 1182408 sodbuster
sodbuster's picture

Are there any cement trucks lined up at the gate?


Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:04 | 1182411 long juan silver
long juan silver's picture

Why are the net poker room asset seizures not far more relevant than a tornadic event in tornado alley?

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:07 | 1182416 MrPerspective
MrPerspective's picture

Interesting how the "crisis" in Japan is being blown way out of proportion. The air readings at this hour in Tokyo are no more than regular background radiation. It spiked on the day of the disaster but has been declining and been back at normal levels since two days after the event. 

Unless you are right next to the plant, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. 

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 22:10 | 1182576 AbandonShip
AbandonShip's picture

Then why sir, is your skin glowing?

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:09 | 1182428 Noreacharound
Noreacharound's picture

Something to worry about:

In a nutshell, spent reactor cooling pools, in a grid down situation, have 8 hours or less of emergency power.  After that, bad things happen.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:14 | 1182442 RmcAZ
RmcAZ's picture

Yawn... now every time theres any "event" at a nuke plant its going to be posted on ZH as a potential TEOTWAWKI situation.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:39 | 1182509 long juan silver
long juan silver's picture

TEOTWAWKI was the great Shawnee Indian word meaning;

run for your lives the nuke's on fire

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 22:23 | 1182597 Dapper Dan
Dapper Dan's picture

You should read more.


Tue, 04/19/2011 - 02:40 | 1183102 RmcAZ
RmcAZ's picture

I read plenty... problem is a lot of people around here read too much... or read INTO things too much.

There's a handy site that shows every "event" at any nuke plant you would like to know about:

I say ZH should stick to posting econ/finance articles, and leave this stuff for people to find themselves if they are interested in hyping up "events" at nuclear reactors.

Nobody would have cared about this if Fukushima didn't happen.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:41 | 1182502 New_Meat
New_Meat's picture

"A backup generator kept power running to both reactors."

More than likely, 4 backup generators (and probably more on idle) kept power running to [ed. both units, that is two per] reactor.  That's 'cuz the two units generally are independent (not cross-connected) except under unusual circumstances.

- Ned

{since I'm New_Meat among these financial discussions, I wonder at the accuracy of same when compared to things that I'm supposed to be at least marginally familiar with.}

{{and .. well .. yes, prepositions are bad words to end sentences with.}}

Tue, 04/19/2011 - 07:56 | 1183283 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

Yes.  Tyler doesn't understand the threat to his credibility that is represented by threads like this one.  Or maybe he does and doesn't care, thinking the readership too stupid to notice.  Some of us notice. 

Loss of offsite power is NOT loss of AC.

2 completely independent, seismically-rated, tornado-protected (yes this is a design criteria) emergency diesels for each unit.  Plus an alternate diesel source, owing to NRC's concerns about events "outside of design basis."

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:43 | 1182518 trav7777
trav7777's picture

time to get that geiger counter for my birthday or something...

Tue, 04/19/2011 - 00:14 | 1182892 UncleFurker
UncleFurker's picture


Only if your birthday's over 2 months away.

Have you TRIED buying a radiation detector right now? Good luck with THAT!


Mon, 04/18/2011 - 22:03 | 1182561 buzzsaw99
buzzsaw99's picture

atomic twister bitchez!

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 22:07 | 1182574 Wynn
Wynn's picture

I live 6 miles from this plant. It lies directly across the river from Jamestown settlement.

A nuclear meltdown would likely not be good for tourism.  ;-)

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 22:42 | 1182667 long juan silver
long juan silver's picture

Hiroshima is an extremely popular tourist destination. Even I have been there.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 22:15 | 1182584 BlackholeDivestment
BlackholeDivestment's picture

''A spokesperson for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says no release of radioactive material occured beyond minor releases associated with Normal station operations'' 

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 23:25 | 1182827 SilverDoctors
SilverDoctors's picture

Another major nuclear disaster now would spell the end for nuclear energy.

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 23:39 | 1182838 Hephasteus
Hephasteus's picture

There will be accidents at reactors and accidents at train stations and trucks moving fuel rods and crashes and spills.

It's called let's make shit people don't want to talk about a topic of interest.

Tue, 04/19/2011 - 07:21 | 1183236 Old Poor Richard
Old Poor Richard's picture

Of course it would not.

This is like saying another disastrous war would spell the end for the Military Industrial Complex. 

Mon, 04/18/2011 - 23:41 | 1182839 jkruffin
jkruffin's picture

Man, the Fayetteville NC tornado just missed my house by about 2 1/2 miles to the southeast. My son's high school got hit, and two brand new neighborhoods, and one brand new built apartment complex got wiped out.  This was some scary stuff.  It rained so hard where I live, the air was white and hail was bombing everywhere. My yard turned into a lake within 2 mins. Thank GOD my family and I didn't take a direct hit on this. If the tornado had been wider I think I woulda got hit hard. Goodyear at Kelly Springfield took a hit with a big hole in the front of their plant.  A Lowe's in Sanford got completely demolished about 30-40 mins from my home.

These were the worse tornados I have ever seen or read about.  They were on the ground for hundreds of miles. Truly incredible.  There was another tornado in Sanford that went towards Shearon Harris Nuclear Facility off Hwy 42/US1 near Holly Springs, NC.  I get my power from there and it was out for a day and a half.  Not sure if the plant took a direct hit or not.

Just crazy though. I drove down by my son's school and the Goodyear plant about 2-3 miles away and never seen damage like this. I have been through several hurricanes, and this trumps that easily.  Trees snapped in two like twigs, and I saw a CD stuck into the side of a house, flat part (not the end) impressed into the siding and stuck in it..  Unreal. 

Tue, 04/19/2011 - 07:18 | 1183230 Old Poor Richard
Old Poor Richard's picture

And if a tornado had snatched up that diesel generator and toted it off?

Seems to me that a T5 could denude a reactor facility as effectively as a tsunami.


Tue, 04/19/2011 - 07:59 | 1183287 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

Everyone: get up from your computer, go to your electrical panel, find the breaker on top of the panel labeled "MAIN," switch it to "OFF."  Enjoy!

Thank you very much.

Wed, 04/20/2011 - 01:28 | 1187054 Rusty Shorts
Rusty Shorts's picture

reality LMAO

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!