By Patricia L Johnson and Richard E Walrath
It was only a day ago when we began an article discussing the Great East Japan Earthquake, the tsunami and the subsequent nuclear meltdown at Fukushima Power Plant.
The intent of the article was to bring attention to the incredible number of major disasters that have struck the United States in the past six months.
One day later we find out that two separate United States nuclear facilities are being threatened by both fire and floods. Los Alamos National Laboratory, our nuclear weapons lab, in New Mexico was recently evacuated due to a wildfire, while a protective berm surrounding the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant in North Dakota has been breached.
A website statement from Los Alamos National Laboratory reads as follows:
6/26/2011 20:48 – On Monday, June 27, 2011 Los Alamos National Laboratory will be closed due to a nearby wildfire. All laboratory facilities will be closed for all activities and nonessential employees are directed to remain off site. Employees are considered nonessential and should not report to work unless specifically directed by their line managers. Employees should check local news sources, the LANL Update Hotline 505-667-6622 and the LANL web page http://www.lanl.gov for updates. All radioactive and hazardous material is appropriately accounted for and protected. LANL staff is coordinating the on-site response and supporting the county and federal fire response. The Laboratory’s Emergency Operations Center has been activated. Media can reach a Joint Information Center at 2209 Miguel Chavez Road, Santa Fe. Phone 505-820-1226.
The power plant at Fort Calhoun has been hit with two separate problems. On June 7, 2011 there was a fire in an electrical switchgear room that was put out by the Blair Fire Department and the Fort Calhoun Fire Department. The plant was in a cold shutdown condition at the time, but the fire was significant enough for a PNO to be issued. A PNO is a Preliminary Notification of Event or Unusual Occurrence. The PNO is basically an EARLY notice of an event that might affect public safety. This power plant remains in cold shutdown due to Missouri River flooding which is expected to last into July.
PRELIMINARY NOTIFICATION OF EVENT OR UNUSUAL OCCURRENCE — PNO-IV-004
This preliminary notification constitutes EARLY notice of events of POSSIBLE safety or public interest significance. The information is as initially received without verification or evaluation, and is basically all that is known by the Region IV, Arlington, Texas, staff on this date.
SUBJECT: Fort Calhoun Station Declaration of an ALERT Due to Fire Affecting Plant Safety
At approximately 9:40 a.m., Tuesday, June 7, 2011, the Fort Calhoun Station (FCS) declared an ALERT due to a fire in an electrical switchgear room. Automatic fire suppression systems operated as expected. Licensee fire brigade personnel, the Blair Fire Department, and the Fort Calhoun Fire Department responded to the fire. The fire was confirmed extinguished at 10:20 a.m. The plant was already in a cold shutdown condition following completion of a planned refueling outage and was maintained safely in cold shutdown.
There are only eleven states which have not reported disasters so far this year. These states are: Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. All others are facing droughts, wild fires, floods or damage such as occurring now in Nebraska from the nuclear reactors.
The eleven states that have not reported a disaster in 2011 are indicated on the following map in yellow.
© 2011 Patricia L Johnson and Richard E Walrath