Did Anyone Consider Bomb Trains Within Two Miles of a NUCLEAR Power Plant?

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Town of St. Lucie Village, St. Lucie County, Florida

FOLLOWING A PRESS BRIEFING ON MAY 3, 2016, ST. LUCIE VILLAGE MAYOR WILLIAM G. THIESS PRESENTED TO COUNTY COMMISSIONERS A LETTER HE WROTE ON APRIL 22, 2016 TO FIVE STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT STATE AGENCIES ON HOW THE ALL ABOARD PROJECT WILL USE FLORIDA EAST COAST RAILWAY (FECR) TRACKS RUNNING THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF THE VILLAGE WITHIN APPROXIMATELY TWO MILES OF THE ST. LUCIE NUCLEAR POWER PLANT LOCATED ON HUTCHINSON ISLAND.

The letter was addressed to the Federal Railway Administration (FRA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), The Florida Department of Transportation (FDT), The Nuclear Regulatory Administration (NRA) and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM).

200,000 people live within the 10 mile emergency planning zone of the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant.

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Florida Power and Light’s Nuclear Power Plant on Hutchinson Island

According to the NRC, to facilitate a preplanned strategy for protective actions during an emergency there are two emergency planning zones (EPZs) around each nuclear power plant. The preplanned strategy for an EPZ provides a substantial basis to support activity beyond the planning zone in the extremely unlikely event it would be needed.

Radius

Two Emergency Planning Zones

In his letter, Mayor Thiess pointed out that FEC currently hauls hazardous materials including Ethanol, Chlorine Gas, and Liquid Propane gas. With FEC’s projected increase in freight traffic, over 50 trains daily will stream through St. Lucie Village and possibly block evacuation routes in the case of a nuclear accident.  He also put FRA on notice that consideration should be given to the impact on evacuation routes while trains wait to cross the old single track on St. Lucie Bridge.

Additionally he pointed out that a rail incident could also impact the Operations Center at the power plant.

“Our town wants to see a formal Hazard Analysis done by All Aboard Florida (AAF) before the express train project goes any further,” said Mr. Thiess. “A review of AAF documents shows that no analysis has been done or at least made public at this point.”

Patricia Pacitti, of the Presidents Council for Hutchinson Island, representing over 5,000 county residents said: “It is unconscionable that FEC would run LNG and other volatile materials through our populated areas.”

Distance

Total distance between St. Lucie Nuclear Plant and FECR freight tracks.

In his letter to the five agencies referred to above, Mayor Thiess indicated “the rail projects presents hazards that have not been evaluated; and, the Village asks you:

  • Has your agency assured that the FP&L power plant emergency response department plans for and simulates freight and passenger trains on the tracks during a nuclear accident at the plant?  Have the trains been factored into evacuation timing calculations?
  • Has the increased frequency and length of FECR trains carrying hazardous materials on its route been considered?  Has existence of such materials, including chlorine gas, been included in the analysis of external hazards to Control Center Operations and to the power lines suspended over the tracks?
  • Have all potential hazard scenarios, including hazardous material breaches at possible accident sites such as grade crossings and the intersection of the rail lines near the plant, been considered?
  • Has the proximity of hazardous materials and the nuclear plant location implications been shared with FEMA and Homeland Security?
  • Are the implications for insurability of the power plant in light of the relative location of the tracks and the existence of hazardous materials and train passengers?

Please provide us with your analysis of the potential threats and impacts on any emergency situation involving the nuclear power plant and advise of the steps that will be taken to ensure the safety of all residents in our area.”

As Mayor Theiss wrote: “Has your agency assured that the FP&L power plant emergency response department plans for and simulates freight and passenger trains on the tracks during a nuclear accident at the plant?”

According to an article in Courthouse News Service on September 18, 2012 entitled “Disturbing Tale From Florida Nuclear Plant,” Mark W. Hicks, a safety compliance officer for the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant discovered coolant leaking from a reactors “code safety release valve.” Under the Code of Federal Regulations the leak “mandated the immediate shutdown of the reactor.”

A reactor which loses too much nuclear reactor coolant has the potential of causing core damage, which could ultimately lead to a nuclear meltdown at the power plant.

Hicks immediately directed his operations shift manager to shut down the reactor and begin a cool down so that his team could repair the leaky valve.  He is quoted as saying his actions “saved the company from the potential ruin that would have followed a Florida version of the ‘Three Mile Island accident.'”

It turns out the valve was improperly installed, the piping was out of alignment placing stress on the valve body that caused the leak. Two other valves and piping was sprung out of place because of the misalignment.

While a meltdown is not an explosion of any kind, the reaction of overheated fuel cladding (zirconium) with water generates hydrogen, which can explode if not vented properly. This hydrogen is what caused explosions in Fukushima. (Source: http://www.rationalwiki.org)

According to a March 2014 report written by Mark Leyse of the National Resources Defense Foundation (NRDF) entitled “Preventing Hydrogen Explosions in Severe Nuclear Accidents: Unresolved Safety Issues Involving Hydrogen Generation and Mitigation…the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has a checkered history when it comes to requiring measures that would effectively reduce the risk of hydrogen explosions in the event of a severe accident at a U.S. nuclear power plant.

This regulatory lapse is rooted in the history of the development of commercial nuclear power in the United States, when the NRC’s predecessor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), had a dual mandate: both to promote and to regulate commercial nuclear power.

In the NRDF report, Mr. Leyse outlines six recommendations for reducing the risk of hydrogen explosions in severe nuclear accidents.

https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/hydrogen-generation-safety-report.pdf

“NRDC works to safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.

We combine the power of more than two million members and online activists with the expertise of some 500 scientists, lawyers, and policy advocates across the globe to ensure the rights of all people to the air, the water, and the wild.” https://www.nrdc.org/about

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