Apr 3, 2011

US Nuclear Power - How Safe Is It?

The following guest editorial will be featured in this coming Sunday’s local newspaper. The editorial provides answers to some common questions concerning on US Nuclear plant's ability to safeguard the health and safety of the public — or maybe even your friends and family — in the face of a natural disaster or terrorist threat.

As the world continues to watch the tragic circumstances in Japan, we at our Nuclear Plant understand that you may have new questions about living near a nuclear power plant. We have always tried to be open and available to the community, however, we understand the situation in Japan likely calls for increased dialogue.

All U.S. nuclear plants are designed to handle extreme environmental hazards including tornados, earthquakes or floods. Our plant is located more than 400 miles from the nearest fault line and is engineered to withstand an earthquake of up to 6.4 on the Richter scale. This translates into an even larger earthquake as measured at the epicenter.  

Since our plant is located on a lake, a tsunami is not possible.  However, we do have procedures for flooding or a seiche – which is a large wave on an enclosed body of water.  Seiches, however, are rare occurrences.  The largest seiche on record near our plant was 8 feet in 1954.  Our plant is designed to perform properly if there is an 11-foot seiche or flood.

A tornado is the most likely natural disaster here in the Midwest. The plant is designed to safely shut down despite the effects of an F5 tornado with 300 mph winds. Still, we acknowledge that not all natural disasters are predictable.  Please rest assured our personnel plan and prepare for severe conditions that may be greater than our design basis.

We all know that the lack of power following the tsunami was a problem in Japan. Our transmission switchyards are a hub of electrical distribution for our region and we have seven separate high-voltage connections to the grid. Each of our two reactors has two locomotive sized back-up diesel generators that
start automatically if offsite power is lost. Only one is required to safely shut down each reactor. These are located in seismically secure rooms 9 feet above lake level. There is also a supplemental diesel generator, something the Japanese plants didn’t have, that could safely shut down either unit.  This is located 23 feet above lake level.

We are participating in a U.S. nuclear industry initiative to verify our capability to protect the public under severe adverse conditions. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is also performing an independent review of our capabilities and has established a task force to develop safety improvement initiatives based on the Japanese events.

Our emergency response plans are very detailed and we regularly train and practice with the County and State emergency management groups. We recently participated with the NRC and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) evaluation of our emergency preparedness exercise and determined we successfully demonstrated our ability to protect the public in the event of an emergency at the plant.

If you have additional questions, please call or email (details omitted). We also have speakers available to talk to your service club, school or church group.

We will use the lessons learned from Japan’s tragic event to ensure that we continue to operate to the highest standards. Your health, safety and security are, and always will be our number one focus. More than 1,100 men and women at our plant  – your neighbors – are standing with me on that promise.


  1. Japan's tragic event effected us all. So sad and frightening.

    Hugs, Rose

  2. Good information. I am glad to hear someone admit we cannot our guess nature. I know plants are built to withstand what we can wisely predict, But as we all know Nature can always throw a curve.

  3. I agree with Jack. There are is only so much we can accurately anticipate happening and if all that can be done is to be prepared for the things we know can happen, I don't think that much more can be asked of the Nuclear Power Industry.


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