Houston - Severe storms and tornadoes moving through the U.S. Southeast dealt a severe blow to the Tennessee Valley Authority on Wednesday, causing three nuclear reactors in Alabama to shut and knocking out 11 high-voltage power lines, the utility and regulators said.
Governors in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee each declared a state of emergency as more than 20 deaths were blamed on a recurring round of severe storms this week moving eastward across the southern United States.
All three units at TVA's 3,274-megawatt Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama tripped about 5:30 EDT (2230 GMT) after losing outside power to the plant, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.
A TVA spokeswoman said the station's backup power systems, including diesel generators, started and operated as designed. External power was restored quickly to the plant but diesel generators remained running Wednesday evening, she said.
The Browns Ferry units are among 23 U.S. reactors that are similar in design to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan where backup generators were swept away in the tsunami that followed the massive earthquake on March 11.
Browns Ferry output had been reduced earlier in the day due to transmission line damage from a line of severe storms that spawned tornadoes as it moved through Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Details of the transmission outages and co-op power outages were not immediately available.
The government owned corporation said crews were working to make repairs, but the severe weather was forecast to continue into the evening, TVA said in a release.
Most of the damage by Wednesday afternoon occurred in the western part of TVA's service territory in Mississippi, Alabama and western Tennessee and Kentucky.
Cullman Electric Cooperative in Cullman, Alabama, is the only power company directly affected by TVA's transmission outage, TVA said in a statement.
Rainfall amounts between four and seven inches have fallen since Tuesday in the area. Eight of the nine dams on the Tennessee River were generating at full power to move water through the river system to help control flooding, TVA said.
Alabama Tornadoes 2011: Emergency Declared at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant [PHOTOS]
By IBTimes Staff Reporter | Apr 28, 2011 10:47 AM EDT
Alabama officials have declared an emergency at a nuclear power plant in the northern part of the state and have started shutting it down in the aftermath of severe storms and tornadoes that have pounded the state.
UPDATE: Alabama Nuclear Plant Shut Down, Reactors 'Cooled'
Tennessee Valley Authority began the process Wednesday afternoon, declaring an 'unusual event,' the lowest of four emergency levels as the storms damaged electricity transmissions lines powering the plant.
Alabama Storm: Tornados wreak havoc on Tuscaloosa
"This afternoon, the Browns Ferry plant, because of the loss of transmission declared an unusual event, which is the lowest of the four emergency classifications used by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and personnel are working to safely shut down the plant," said Tennessee Valley Authority Chief Operating Officer Bill McCollum in a video posted to the Authority's web site.
The Browns Ferry plant contains three nuclear units and "is being shut down this afternoon after the transmission line damage took the plant offline," McCollum said.
Storms in Alabama: At least 128 killed [VIDEOS]
He said all of the systems at the plant functioned as designed and normal procedures were being used to cool down the plant.
The plant's units combine to give it 3,274 megawatts of power.
A spokeswoman said backup diesel generators started and operated as designed, according to Reuters.
The Brownsferry plant has the same design and age as the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, which was damaged when a tsunami in the aftermath of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake knocked out power and water damaged emergency backup units.
Browns Ferry's nuclear reactors are of the Mark 1 type by General Electric, similar to those at Fukushima.
Preston D. Swafford, TVA's chief nuclear officer said on a March 26 tour of that plant that Browns Ferry was ready for "a one-in-a-million-year flood, or however many zeroes you want to go out," according to the New York Times.
Read more: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/139188/20110428/alabama-tornadoes-2011-emergency-declared-at-alabama-nuclear-plant-photos.htm#ixzz1LAVV7lgv