The South Texas Nuclear Plant west of Houston was hit by hurricane Harvey. Through the hurricane and subsequent days of heavy rain and flooding the power company has refused to go into a weather related shutdown.
Roads near the plant and nearby cities were rendered off limits due to extreme flooding. There are also widespread power outages in the area near the plant. Flood monitors near Bay City and Matagorda the two closest locations to the plant both showed the Colorado river going over its banks.
Three safety watchdog groups have demanded the plant shut until the high risks have passed. The multiple risks of flooding, potential failure of the earth berm holding back the cooling lake and no outside support services create a high stakes environment that could create a larger disaster should something go wrong. Reuters has now picked up the story but wasn’t able to provide critical details about the conditions at the plant besides a vague claim that the plant isn’t flooded.
Dave Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists, as his response to whether STP Nuclear Operating Company should be running given the hazards that present: “The plant has boundaries on it’s operation. I’ve not seen any indication that those boundaries have been crossed, and the NRC authorized the plant to continue operating with reduced margins. The intangible involves evacuations and emergency response if an accident were to happen. The emergency planning for nuclear accidents generally assumes the reactor accident is the only major problem ongoing and therefore gets undivided attention and undiluted response resources. That’s clearly not the case here. While the chances of a nuclear accident during the next few days is small, its consequences could be large. After Harvey is history, it might be a good time to ask the NRC when regional issues that compromise emergency plan capabilities warrant the prudent shutdown of nearby reactors. It seems a worthwhile discussion.”
Karl Grossman provided this statement on the issue: “The failure to shut down the two reactors of the South Texas nuclear plant in the face of oncoming Hurricane Harvey and its anticipated devastation — and then continuing the operation of these reactors, as, indeed, devastating and historic flooding has been underway is outrageous. A variety of severe nuclear accidents — including a full-scale meltdown — is highly possible. These nuclear operators are asking for another nuclear plant catastrophe.”