Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Has Emergency “Fail-Safe”

Businesses and individuals alike are at risk of facing natural or manmade disasters at any time. And as many of us in the U.S. live within range of a nuclear power plant, knowing how safe these facilities are can provide some peace of mind.

The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan was a horrible tragedy, with loss of human life and destruction of property being the two biggest losses during those disasters. But through these terrible disasters, there were some lessons learned. For instance, these disasters did provide insight into how to improve preparedness levels for such events. And in the case of the aftermath of the Japan 2011 earthquake and the resulting chain of events at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, officials learned that even the best-intended disaster plans fail.

But one U.S. power plant — the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant at Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County, California — is now saying it has a fail-safe disaster response plan. Where the Fukushima plant failed — the inundation of its backup emergency equipment by water that left its safety equipment without power for days causing meltdowns in three of its six reactors — the Diablo Canyon plant looks to succeed, according to a report by http://www.sanluisobispo.com.

In case of loss of power, the Diablo Canyon plant has a backup system of 60 batteries, for powering equipment that would safely shut down the two reactors, and six 18-cylinder diesel engines, which would provide long-term power for such safety equipment as the cooling water pumps.

The diesel engines are kept maintained so that in the case of a power outage they can be brought online within 10 seconds. To facilitate this, lubricating oil is kept at optimum temperature so it is ready to take the load of the generators without having to spend crucial time warming up.

The plant keeps enough fuel on hand to run the engines for seven days, with the fuel being stored in two watertight, underground tanks. And in case the diesel engines are damaged or do not work, the plant has the batteries that provide 125 volts. That should be enough to power safety systems for two hours. Hopefully by that time one of the six diesel engines can be brought online.

While the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has stated that the 104 nuclear reactors within the United States are safe, they have come up with 12 recommendations to help increase emergency preparedness. Congress is pushing the NRC to implement these 12 recommendations at the nation’s nuclear power plants by October 21.

For more information about nuclear power plant safety in the U.S., visit: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2011/10/02/1780388/diablo-has-fail-safe-nuclear.html