By Scott DiSavino
Oct 26 U.S. electric companies from Maine to
Florida were bracing for heavy wind, rain and flooding that
could take down power lines and threaten to close some East
Coast nuclear plants early next week when Hurricane Sandy comes
More than a dozen nuclear plants are located near Hurricane
Sandy's path in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut, providing power to
millions of customers in the region. See factbox
Hurricane Sandy is currently passing over the Bahamas as a
Category 1 hurricane with winds of about 80 miles per hour (128
kph) but has the potential to cause severe flooding from
Virginia to Maine.
Sandy is expected to remain a Category 1 hurricane as it
marches north past the Outer Banks in North Carolina early
Monday before hitting the Delmarva Peninsula early Tuesday,
according to the latest forecast from the U.S. National
Hurricane Center (NHC).
Other weather forecasters said Sandy could hit anywhere from
North Carolina to Nova Scotia in Canada, potentially knocking
out power for millions in some of the biggest metropolitan areas
in the United States, including New York, Philadelphia,
Washington, Baltimore, Boston and Virginia Beach.
Power companies from Maine to Florida have already started
urging customers to prepare for possible power outages, as they
mobilize crews and equipment to fix any damage that may occur.
The last big storm to hit the U.S. East Coast was Hurricane
Irene in 2011, which made landfall in the Outer Banks in North
Carolina as a Category 1 storm. Irene caused billions in
property damage as it ran up the coast from Carolinas to Maine.
Irene left more than 7 million homes and businesses without
power - some for a week or more in the hardest hit areas - and
forced numerous power plants to shut, including at least two
nuclear reactors, at Oyster Creek in New Jersey and Calvert
Cliffs in Maryland.
Other reactors reduced output ahead of the storm as a
precaution and two of the three reactors at the Public Service
Enterprise Group Inc (PSEG) Salem and Hope Creek plants
in New Jersey cut output after the storm as debris in the
Delaware River clogged the plant's intake system.
A spokesman at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
said the agency was monitoring Sandy's track very closely.
"We're keeping a close eye on the coastal plants. All plants
have procedures to deal with hurricanes, which include
procedures to shut the reactors if winds are expected to reach a
certain speed," NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan told Reuters.
For example, PSEG must shut reactors at the Salem/Hope Creek
plant two hours before hurricane force winds of over 74 miles
per hour are expected to reach the site, Sheehan said.
The coastal reactors include Dominion Resources Inc's
Surry in Virginia, Constellation Nuclear Energy Group's Calvert
Cliffs in Maryland, PSEG's Salem and Hope Creek in New Jersey,
Exelon Corp's Oyster Creek in New Jersey and Dominion's
Millstone in Connecticut.
Constellation Nuclear is owned by units of Exelon and French
power company EDF Group.
A few of those reactors however were already shut for
refueling outages, including Millstone 2 in Connecticut and
Oyster Creek and Salem 2 in New Jersey.
In addition to plans to deal with high winds, Sheehan said
all of the reactors also have plans to deal with flooding.
After the earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima
nuclear plant in Japan last year, the NRC made sure the reactors
would be able to shut safely if floodwaters reached certain
The biggest utilities in the path of the storm include units
of Duke Energy Corp, Exelon, FirstEnergy Corp,
National Grid Plc, Consolidated Edison Inc,
Northeast Utilities, Dominion, PSEG, PPL Corp,
Pepco Holdings Inc and Iberdrola SA.