At Oyster Creek, which is scheduled to be shutdown and decommissioned in 2019, Sandy’s storm surge was fearsome: more than 7 feet of water flooded the plant’s cooling intake structure. It did not flood the plant itself — the water line was far below the 22-foot flood the plant was designed to handle – but threatened a possible shutdown of cooling water intake pumps. The pumps weren’t critical at the time because the reactor had been shut down days before for refueling.
The Stanford research didn’t mention Oyster Creek, despite the alert issued there during Sandy, but the plant’s operator, Exelon Generation, says the plant’s safety and emergency procedures worked as planned during the storm. “All Exelon plants, including Oyster Creek, are robust, fortified facilities, capable of withstanding the most severe weather,” spokeswoman Suzanne D’Ambrosio said.
Scientists are also concerned about how future storm surges and sea level rise could affect the Indian Point plant in New York that provides New York City with about 30 percent of its electricity.
In a letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission the month before Sandy hit, Jacob warned the NRC that additional study is needed on how rising sea levels, storm surges and tsunamis would affect the Indian Point Energy Center, which was shutdown during Sandy and sits about 15 feet above sea level on the Hudson River, 35 miles north of New York City. Severe storm surges on the Hudson River can easily be produced by hurricanes making landfall on the New York-New Jersey border, he wrote.
“Storm surge probability to exceed a given surge height is surprisingly affected (i.e., strongly increased) by climate-change induced sea level rise, which is forecast to accelerate more during this 21st century than it already has accelerated during the last half-century,” Jacob said, adding that recent observations have shown that a hurricane storm surge hitting Manhattan and the Jersey Shore are barely diminished on the Hudson River near Indian Point.