The devastation of the recent tsunami in Japan was made worse when a nuclear power plant fell victim to the mammoth waves. As Waterford watches in horror, the question lingers: What would happen if something like this happened at Millstone Power Station?
The answer is that a tsunami is highly unlikely at Millstone, as there are no major fault lines and Long Island Sound provides a buffer, Dominion spokesman Ken Holt said.
“Eastern Connecticut is not a very seismic area,” he said.
That said, flooding is very possible, either through hurricanes or just heavy rains, and even a tornado, Holt said. Dominion is prepared for such events, he said.
“When the plants were first built … they looked at the worst historical storms and built the plants to withstand that, plus some,” he said.
Flood barriers and massive concrete walls surround any place the water shouldn’t be, he said. To ensure energy is always coming into the plant, backup generators are placed in other locations with buried lines, he said.
Dominion is also looking at Japan to see what it can learn to avoid similar problems, Holt said. The company has offered support to Japan, although so far it has refused, he said.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is also looking at the Japan disaster to see how to improve Connecticut plants, NRC Resident Inspector Brian Haagensen said.
Haagensen reiterated Holt’s point that a tsunami was highly unlikely to hit Waterford. A hurricane is very likely, but that scenario, as opposed to a tsunami, isn’t as dire.
“With a hurricane, you have plenty of advance notice, usually 24 hours,” Haagensen said. “In a tsunami you may have a couple of seconds’ notice.”
If the NRC had major concerns about a pending storm, it would shut down the reactor, Haagensen said. Such a move has never done before, and would hopefully be avoided in the future, Holt said.
Even if Millstone Point completely flooded over, or hit by a tornado, it would be unlikely that the radioactive material would get out, Haagensen said. The nuclear reaction occurs 45 feet below the water table, in a fully enclosed structure that has walls of concrete five feet thick, he said.
“We don’t believe there are vulnerabilities like they had in Japan,” he said.
After the tsunami, Dominion did an extensive review of Millstone, First Selectman Dan Steward said. That was the right step, he said.
“Is Dominion looking into this? It is,” said Steward, who was formerly a Millstone employee. “It is important for Dominion to be able to handle a wave of this magnitude.”