Oyster Creek Continues To Be Under Alert – UPDATED

Update: Reuters reported last night that 7 feet was the height of the service water pump needed to cool the spent fuel pool.
However, a further rise to 7 feet could submerge the service water pump motor that is used to cool the water in the spent fuel pool

Reuters quoted the NRC this morning that water peaked at 7.4 feet. They have moved in a temporary pump but the NRC claimed they have not needed to use this. The vague statement does not clarify if the service water system continues to operate or if they have shut it off and are going to use the temporary pump to restart cooling if the pool reaches an increased temperature level.
On Tuesday, an NRC spokesman said the levels reached a peak of 7.4 feet — apparently above the threshold. As of 6:10 a.m. EDT waters were at 6.5 feet, with the next high tide at 11:45 a.m. He said the company had moved a portable pump to the water intake structure as a precaution, but has not needed to use it.

As of last night the Exelon spokesman told Reuters that he did not know if the service water system that provides plant cooling was working or not.
Exelon spokesman David Tillman said Monday night the plant has “multiple and redundant” sources of cooling for the spent fuel pool. He said he did not know whether the service water system was operational last night.

Exelon and NRC have told the media that the reactor did not need cooling as it was shut off for refueling. The reactor would still have the full or a partial load of fuel in the reactor right now. This does require some active cooling to remove decay heat. This is a fraction of the need for cooling during operation but it is inaccurate to declare there is no need for cooling. Units 5 and 6 at Fukushima Daiichi continue to require service water cooling 1.5 years after the disaster. Both units were offline when the disaster hit. It is quite obvious that Oyster Creek does need cooling and access to the ultimate heat sink (the river) to keep the reactor cool. It is just a lower level than if it was in full operation.

Oyster Creek nuclear plant has been under alert for over 14 hours now with little for details on what is going on at the plant. The NRC reported via email in the last hour that Oyster Creek remains under alert due to high water at the intakes.

“At Oyster Creek, the Alert was declared at approximately 8:45 p.m. An alert is the second-lowest level of emergency classification used by the NRC. The Alert was preceded by an “Unusual Event” at about 7 p.m. when the water level first reached a minimum high water level  criteria. The water level rose due to a combination of a rising tide, wind direction and storm surge. While the water level has dropped since peaking earlier today, the Alert will not be exited until the level is below the specific criteria for the intake structure, which is where water from an intake canal is pumped into the plant for cooling purposes. Oyster Creek was shut down for a refueling and maintenance outage prior to the storm and the reactor remains out of service ‘ – via NRC email

Repeated attempts to get answers out of the NRC or Exelon about this situation have been unanswered. The questions are, is the intake service water system working currently or not working currently? This service water system is the only method for cooling the spent fuel pool as it feeds the heat removal system similar to Fukushima Daiichi. They do have the ability to replace water that evaporates or boils off with water on site and as Exelon told Reuters “fire hoses” as a last resort to at least keep water on the fuel.

 

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