NRC reports on Waterford nuclear power plant

No. 05-118 August 28, 2005
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Sunday dispatched additional personnel to
three nuclear power plants in Louisiana and Mississippi in response to the expected
landfall Monday of Hurricane Katrina.
One plant near New Orleans - Waterford - informed the NRC it shut down to ensure that
all safety precautions are in place ahead of the storm.
The NRC is monitoring the hurricane from operations centers in Arlington, Texas, and its
Rockville, Md., headquarters.
"We are staying on top of the situation because protecting public health and safety is
paramount," said Nils Diaz, chairman of the independent regulatory agency.
At the Waterford plant the major concern beyond winds was the storm surge, last
predicted to approach the top of an 18-foot levee on the Mississippi River. Nuclear plants
are very robust structures designed to withstand winds in excess of those in Katrina and
associated storm surges. Both Waterford and the other plants have watertight doors at key
safety systems.
All three plants the NRC was monitoring are owned by Entergy Nuclear. The Waterford
plant is about 20 miles west of New Orleans. The River Bend plant is about 25 miles
north-northwest of Baton Rouge, La., and Grand Gulf is located 25 miles south of
Vicksburg, Miss.
Waterford initially declared an "unusual event" because of the approach of the hurricane,
and will raise its level of preparedness on the NRC's four-step scale to an "alert" as winds
reach hurricane strength and to a "site area emergency" should winds exceed 110 mph.
The alert levels are specified in advance precautionary plans dictated by the NRC. The
"site area emergency" classification is associated with plant personnel safety.
The NRC will have to approve the restart of Waterford and any other plant that shuts
down. Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will have to determine
that evacuation routes in the area are passable.
No. IV-05-031 August 30, 2005 CONTACT: Victor Dricks
Phone: 817-860-8128
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is working closely with operators at three nuclear
plants to ensure continued safe and secure operations in the aftermath of Hurricane
As a precautionary measure, the Waterford 3 nuclear plant near Taft, La., shut down
when a hurricane warning was issued for St. Charles Parish on Saturday. It remains in an
Unusual Event, the lowest of four emergency action levels. Electrical power for key
safety systems on site is being supplied by the plant's standby diesel generators,
following a loss of off-site power caused by instability in the regional electrical grid.
NRC staff have independently verified that key plant systems and structures, are
undamaged and able to support current plant operations. At the direction of the NRC, the
nation’s nuclear plants, which are among the most robust structures in the critical
infrastructure, have increased security preparedness and capabilities available during
A member of the NRC staff plans to accompany officials from the State of Louisiana and
the Federal Emergency Management Agency during a survey of the site within the next
48 hours. NRC approval is needed before the plant can be restarted. This survey will
include off-site evacuation routes and emergency sirens.
The Grand Gulf nuclear plant near Port Gibson, Miss., and River Bend Nuclear Station
near Baton Rouge, La., were both operating at reduced power this morning. The plants
operated through the storm, but voluntarily reduced power generation to assist in
restoring stability to the electrical grid when a drop in energy consumption caused grid
voltage to fluctuate.
Some emergency sirens were unavailable at Grand Gulf and River Bend, but Entergy
Nuclear has informed the NRC they can make offsite notifications in the event of an
emergency, should the need arise. The NRC will work with FEMA to independently
verify siren operability.
NRC staff continue to monitor the situation from its incident response center at its Region
IV office in Arlington, Texas.
No. IV-05-032 September 8, 2005 CONTACT: Victor Dricks
Phone: 817-860-8128
The Waterford nuclear plant near Taft, La., has terminated the Unusual Event due to
Hurricane Katrina and has begun recovery operations in preparation for restart. As a
result, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is shifting from monitoring the effects of
Hurricane Katrina to oversight of Waterford’s activities in preparation for restart.
On Aug. 27, Waterford declared an Unusual Event and shut down protectively when a
hurricane warning was issued for St. Charles Parish, in which the plant is located. The
robust design of the plant protected it from any damage, although offsite power and some
communications capability was lost during the storm. An Unusual Event is the lowest of
four emergency action levels.
Over the weekend, operators restored offsite power, ending reliance on standby diesel
generators. An additional set of generators, brought in before the storm as a precautionary
measure, were never needed. Repairs have also been made to communications systems,
which had been disrupted by Hurricane Katrina. The reactor is safely shut down and the
plant cannot restart without NRC permission.
"Under existing emergency plans, the NRC and its licensees took aggressive and
appropriate steps to prepare for Hurricane Katrina," NRC Chairman Nils Diaz said. "The
NRC requires all nuclear plant operators to have in place detailed site-specific plans and
procedures for a variety of emergency situations, including natural disasters."
The plant will remain shut down while workers perform some minor maintenance
unrelated to the hurricane. Operators will not restart the reactor until NRC completes its
restart readiness assessment, to verify both the plant and its staff are ready to support full
power operation. The agency’s resident inspectors, augmented by regional and
Headquarters staff, will continue around-the-clock oversight of licensee activities.
No. IV-05-033 September 9, 2005 CONTACT: Victor Dricks
Phone: 817-860-8128
Following a comprehensive assessment, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has
authorized the restart of the Waterford nuclear plant near Taft, La. Workers are
performing maintenance unrelated to the hurricane prior to initiating procedures leading
to restart of the reactor.
The plant shut down as a precautionary measure on Aug. 28 when a warning for
Hurricane Katrina was issued for St. Charles Parish, La., where the plant is located. The
plant was essentially undamaged by the storm, although it did lose offsite power and
some communications systems were affected.
NRC performed a readiness assessment to verify that the plant, its staff and onsite
emergency preparedness are ready to support restart. NRC worked with other Federal
agencies in their evaluation of the readiness of offsite emergency preparedness and
response capabilities to support operation of the plant. Conditions are sufficiently stable
to ensure that the plant’s emergency preparedness plans and procedures could be
implemented should they be needed.
"The NRC has performed a comprehensive review of the plant’s readiness for restart,"
NRC Chairman Nils Diaz said. "We are confident the plant can be operated safely." Once
operational, Waterford will supply electricity to support recovery of the regional
NRC and its licensees took aggressive and appropriate steps to prepare for Hurricane
Katrina. NRC coordinated extensively with other Federal, State and local emergency
response organizations before, during, and after the Katrina.
From its inception, NRC headquarters and regional operations centers carefully tracked
the status of Hurricane Katrina in the Atlantic Ocean and verified licensee preparedness
and confirmed communications capability amongst emergency response organizations.
NRC coordinated with its regional offices, other Federal agencies, including the Federal
Emergency Management Agency, and State and local organizations and maintained close
communications with its licensees throughout the passage of the storm. NRC also applied
lessons learned from previous hurricanes and updated its communication and
coordination protocols for determining offsite emergency preparedness for a natural
disaster in advance of Hurricane Katrina.