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South Texas Project Produces Nuclear Power throughout Hurricane Harvey

On August 25, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in south-central Texas as a category 4 storm with 130-mph sustained winds, heavy rain, and devastating storm surge in coastal areas. Despite being in the affected region and calls from three watchdog groups to shut down the plant, the South Texas Project (STP) nuclear power station continued to generate power at full capacity throughout the historic event.

Key Details

  • STP is a two-unit, 2,700-MW nuclear facility located 90 miles southwest of Houston and 10 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, serving more than 2 million customers in southern Texas
  • The plant is built to withstand hurricanes exceeding category 5 strength with watertight buildings and doors, ensuring emergency electric power and cooling systems remain fully functional. Buildings housing safety-related equipment are flood proof to an elevation of at least 41 feet above sea level
  • Industry watchdogs, Sustainable Energy & Economic Development, the South Texas Association for Responsible Energy, and Beyond Nuclear, petitioned politicians, plant owners, and regulators to shut down the plant in advance of the hurricane making landfall
  • A storm crew of approximately 250 operators, engineers, maintenance, and support staff remained on site as Harvey made landfall. Meanwhile, mandatory evacuation orders were issued for the surrounding area of Matagorda County and Bay City
  • Working in 12-hour shifts over a four-day period, the individuals at STP continued full operation despite challenges ranging from coordinating a resupply of food to the site to ensuring the safety of loved ones as personal residences flooded from the heavy rains
  • Site conditions were continuously monitored ahead of and during the hurricane by STP’s storm team as well as on-site NRC representatives. While winds and significant rainfall persisted, conditions at the site never reached a point where a safe shutdown of the plant was required

Implications

The performance of the team at STP highlights the strengths of the commercial nuclear industry in the United States. Preparation, experience, and dedication contributed to the safe operation of the 2,700-MW plant during the severe weather, providing necessary power to millions, especially during the recovery effort. This exemplary performance of STP should ease the concerns of anti-nuclear groups who were petitioning for the plant’s safe shutdown in the days ahead of Harvey’s arrival.

This is the second major storm in the country (Superstorm Sandy) where nuclear power remained a resilient and reliable source of power for the stability of the bulk electric system.

Additional Resources

STP Nuclear Operating Company: Storm Information

Forbes: Texas Nuke Plant Stays Online Amid Harvey

Reuters: South Texas Project nuclear plant running despite Harvey

Bloomberg: As Harvey Raged, Workers Stayed at Nuclear Plant’s Controls

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