Could Hurricane Irma Turn Florida’s Nuclear Plants into an American Fukushima Disaster?

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By Daisy Luther

After watching the terrible series of cascading disasters on the Texas Coast after Hurricane Harvey, we know for a fact that the aftermath of a catastrophe can be just as bad (and sometimes worse) than the initial event. There’s a terrifying potential threat in Florida in the form of 3 nuclear plants, two of which are directly in the projected path of Hurricane Irma. Could Florida’s nuclear plants turn Hurricane Irma into the American version of Fukushima?

To be fully prepared for the possibility, people should be ready for the potential of a simultaneous hurricane and nuclear disaster.

Where are the nuclear plants?

Florida boasts of these nuclear facilities:

  • Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station
  • St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant

The Crystal River Coal and Nuclear Power Plant on the map has now been decommissioned and is said to pose no threat.

The first two plants on the list are right in the projected path of the eye of Hurricane Irma. See the map below.


Turkey Point is south of Miami and St Lucie is north of Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach.

Here’s the predicted timeline:

(via Bloomberg)

This isn’t their first rodeo.

The nuclear plants have weathered some pretty major storms before. Turkey Point withstood Hurricane Andrew, despite some damage.

In 1992, Turkey Point withstood Hurricane Andrew, a Category 4 storm and one of the strongest the country has experienced seen. The plant sustained $90 million in damages and had to run on backup generators for more than five days. Its access road was blocked, communication systems shut down, and fire protection system damaged. The exhaust stack of one of its oil-powered units cracked.

Yet the reactors, shielded by six feet of steel-reinforced concrete and 20 feet above ocean level, remained unscathed. No radioactive material leaked, according to the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (source)

The St. Lucie plant withstood a hit from Hurricane Frances in 2004 and Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

But none of the previous storms were as powerful as Hurricane Irma is expected to be.

What is being done to prevent a nuclear disaster?

Unlike the Fukushima disaster, which was sudden and unexpected, the management of these plants knows what is coming. While Florida Power and Light (FPL) hasn’t yet made the decisions to shut down the plants, the idea is a possibility.

Peter Robbins, spokesman for FPL, said shutting down a reactor is a gradual process, and the decision will be made “well in advance” of the storm making landfall.

“If we anticipate there will be direct impacts on either facility we’ll shut down the units,” he said…

…Robbins said the plant’s reactors are encased in six feet of steel-reinforced concrete and sit 20 feet above sea level. Turkey Point has backup generators, extra fuel and, as a “backup to the backup,” replacement parts and materials can be flown in from Tennessee.

The St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant is equally protected, Robbins said, and can withstand severe flooding from storm surges. (source)

So, to be clear, they have not yet begun the “gradual process” of shutting down the plants, nor have they even made the decision to do so.

For five years after the Fukushima disaster, residents within 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) were not allowed to go back to their homes. Despite the fact that potentially hazardous radiation remains in the area, some people have now opted to return. Dangerous levels of radiation were detected as far as 200 miles from the disaster, and contamination traveling in the Pacific Ocean reached the western shores of the United States. (source)

How do you prepare for a nuclear incident caused by a natural disaster?

Planning to survive a nuclear meltdown is very similar to planning to survive a nuclear strike. The major difference is that there wouldn’t be an explosion and mushroom cloud. Here’s what happens during the meltdown of a reactor:

Inside the core of a nuclear reactor are thousands of long, thin fuel rods made of zirconium alloy that contain uranium. When a reactor is turned on, the uranium nuclei undergo nuclear fission, splitting into lighter nuclei and producing heat and neutrons. The neutrons can create a self-sustaining chain reaction by causing nearby uranium nuclei to split, too. Fresh water flows around the fuel rods, keeping the fuel rods from overheating and also producing steam for a turbine.

But if not enough water flows into the reactor’s core, the fuel rods will boil the water away faster than it can be replaced, and the water level will decrease. Even when the reactor is turned off so nuclear reactions no longer occur, the fuel rods remain extremely radioactive and hot and need to be cooled by water for an extended period of time. Without enough water, the fuel rods get so hot that they melt. If they begin to melt the nuclear reactor core and the steel containment vessel, and release radiation into the environment, nuclear meltdown occurs. (source)

Aside from the lack of explosion, many of your steps after the meltdown would be the same as your steps after a strike.

Fortify your home against fallout.

  • Use duct tape and tarps to seal off all windows, doors, and vents. Get a LOT of duct tape and tarps.
  • Turn off any type of climate control that pulls the outside air into your home. Expect to survive without heat or air conditioning for the duration.
  • Close off your chimney.
  • If someone enters the home, make certain that there is a room set up that is separate from other family members so that they can decontaminate. All clothing they were wearing should be placed outside and they should immediately shower thoroughly.
  • Make a breezeway for putting things outdoors (like pet or human waste.)  Hang heavy tarps around the door and put on disposable coveralls, gloves, shoe covers, and masks if you have to actually go out. Disrobe, discard the disposable clothing by tossing it out the door, and shower immediately when you get back inside.
  • If you don’t have a basement, go to the most central part of your house and erect as many barriers as possible. If there is no central area without windows and exterior walls, go to the room furthest away from prevailing winds.

Have enough supplies on hand to wait out the danger.

As with many emergencies, you need to be prepared to survive at home without help from anyone. It’s unknown whether water and electricity will be running, and if the water is running, whether it will be safe to drink. Prep as though you won’t have access to these utilities and if you do, then it’ll be a pleasant surprise.

  • Stock up on emergency food. (Get Non-GMO Emergency Food in bulk HERE) In our current home, all of my emergency cooking methods rely on me being able to go outdoors. Because of this, I have stocked a one month supply of no-cook foods that do not require refrigeration. Canned vegetables and fruits, canned beans, pouches of rice and quinoa, crackers, peanut butter, dried fruit. You get the idea. The eating may not be exciting, but we won’t starve to death. You can find a more thorough list of no-cook foods here.
  • Have a supply of water for all family members and pets that will last throughout the 9-day waiting period that you need to remain indoors. (Or longer, which is what we’re planning.)
  • Get paper plates and cutlery in the event that the water isn’t running so you don’t have to waste your precious supply washing dishes.
  • Don’t forget a supply of pet food.
  • Make certain you have a potassium iodide supplement on hand to protect your thyroid gland. (Here’s how to use it.) And here’s another source for it – supplies are going fast.
  • Be prepared for the potential of a power outage.
  • If you have pets, have supplies on hand for their sanitation – you can’t let them go outside because not only would they be exposed, they would bring radiation in with them. So, pee pads, cat litter, etc, are all necessary. Solid waste can probably be flushed.
  • Have the supplies to create an emergency toilet. (This one is cheap and simple.)
  • Make sure to have a supply of any necessary prescription medications that will last through the time that you hunker down.
  • Have a well-stocked first aid kit. It’s entirely likely that medical assistance will not be available, and if it is, you’ll put yourself at risk by going out to seek it.
  • Have a way to get the news from the outside world. An emergency radio is a must.

Learn everything you can.

This is an overview but there is much more to learn about a nuclear event and the more knowledge you have, the more likely you are to survive without any ill effects.

Lisa Bedford and I created a course over at Preppers University called The Nuclear Preparedness Intensive. It contains 2 hours of interviews with a military nuclear expert, hundreds of pages of downloadable information, shopping lists, military guides, and far more information than I could ever put together in a blog post. With this course, you will truly know everything that I know about surviving a nuclear attack. It costs $29. You can learn more about it here. We had been working on this for quite a while, but with the uptick in rhetoric, we decided now was the time to introduce the class. It will really help you be prepared.

For some free additions to your nuclear library, you can print out this manual from the US government about surviving a nuclear emergency. It was written with first responders in mind, but much of the information would be applicable for us, too. The book, Nuclear War Survival Skills, by Cresson Kearney, is also available for free online.

The more you know, the better your chances are of unscathed survival. (source)

Supplies in Florida are mostly sold out. Products you order through Amazon Prime have a possibility of arriving before the storm, particularly if you are not in the Southernmost part of the state. But order immediately. Check what the projected arrival date of the supplies will be before completing the order.

If you can’t buy water, use every vessel in your home to fill with tap water. You may be able to still purchase empty containers at the store, even if bottled water is sold out.

Keep up to date with the situation by signing up for my daily newsletter.

You really should evacuate NOW if you can at all.

This is not your average hurricane. It is due to be one of the most powerful hurricanes to have hit the continental US in recorded history.

While it’s easy to give the advice to evacuate, there are some mitigating circumstances. Not everyone who is staying behind is doing so stubbornly. The roads out of Florida are so jammed that they look like parking lots. Many fuel stations are out of gas, which means people are unable to drive out of the area. Public transit like trains and buses are sold out, and the price of an airline ticket out of Florida has skyrocketed to over a thousand dollars. That’s PER TICKET, so you have to multiply that by the size of your family.

I see a lot of callousness in the comments on the website and on social media from smug folks who are arm-chair quarterbacking from the comfort of a home far away from potential disaster. While it’s easy to say offhand, “Anyone who stays is just stupid and doesn’t deserve to be rescued, blah blah blah,” one really shouldn’t judge those who have remained behind, what with the difficulties and expense in the transportation system. Keep in mind it’s this bad 4 days before the storm is due to hit and it’s only going to get worse.

Remember, it rarely stops with just one disaster.

If you have remained in your home, do some research about the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Remember that it won’t be over with the initial disaster. Florida has the addition of potential for a nuclear disaster which makes it all the more terrifying. Pack out your most important possessions, plan for your pets, and educate yourself about all of the horrifying possibilities so that you can create a plan to deal with them. Don’t forget to be prepared for looters who will be out in force as soon as the winds have stopped blowing.

I’m wishing you the very best, whether you are stranded in the hurricane zone or evacuating.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • I live approximately 15 miles from the Crystal River site. It was decommissioned years ago!

    It only uses coal for making energy now but Duke Energy is building a plant there which will utilize natural gas. I also read recently that they are also proposing building a solar power plant somewhere along the western part of Florida.

    Please make confirm your data before sending out. I like your site and forward a lot of your info but not this time!!!

  • Just saw a presser by Gov Scott, in which someone had said that the Turkey Point reactor will be shut down before the Hurricane strikes. Did not hear anything about the other one. They were also saying the hurricane is over 100 miles wide, so both coasts of Florida will be affected.
    I have friends who had planned to evacuate starting this morning (thur). Looks like they might have waited too long, with the situation being described pretty much as you stated in your article. Gov Scott was saying they have coordinated with the feds and other states to help move gasoline into the state and to the filling stations to help people get out. We’ll see if or how that works out and if prices will be gouged. Amazon has already been accused of price gouging on survival supplies as have other companies. Florida says they fully intend to prosecute gougers, and made a statement regarding gougers and looters, to the effect that while their court system will be shut down their jails are empty so if you get arrested, expect to cool your heels in the clink.

    • Florida is shutting down nuclear power plants

      There are two nuclear power plants in Irma’s path – Turkey Point, just south of Miami and St. Lucie, on Hutchinson Island on Florida’s east coast. Both plants will be shut down ahead of the hurricane, according to US Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Roger Hannah.

      Rob Gould, vice president of Florida Power and Light who oversees daily operation of the plants, says the construction of the nuclear sites are among strongest in America. They are designed to withstand winds and storm surge.

      They eye of Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm that devastated Florida 25 years ago, went directly over the Turkey Point plant and it suffered no significant damage.

      The plants have diesel generators will provide backup power. Although fuel levels vary from site to site, they can typically go for about a month without refueling if necessary.

  • These plant, the ones that are active, have weathered cat 5 before……nothing will change except those promoting fear porn and what if’s, that seems to be a constant these days………….

    • Actually, only one Category 5 has hit since those plants were built: Hurricane Andrew in 1992. As you read in the article, it sustained some damage but held strong. Andrew’s winds were clocked at 165 when it hit Florida. Irma is currently sustaining at more than 185. Hopefully, the plants will be ready again.

      PS: You’re welcome to disagree and share your viewpoints – I welcome spirited conversations – but accusing me of promoting fear porn is rather rude.

  • Isn’t it ironic how we have such “Educated” people in our world, yet we have no common sense among those who purport to be Educated?
    Martin Luther King once stated “We have guided missiles, but so many Misguided Men”.
    Our society has become lost in the turmoil of technology and lost our way along the way, Who cares who is better at tennis or Golf, We all have our own talents but technology has guided us away from them towards a faltered path of disarray.
    If this is a sign of what the New World Order has in store for us, PLEASE, Let us wander back to REALITY!

  • Hopefully this won’t Fukushima all over again. I don’t think it will be, partly because the reason Fukushima melted down was through negligence to put in proper safety and preventative measures by the owner company, and negligence from the Japanese government to not expose the companies’ shortfalls before the tsunami hit. It should not have melted down on such a large scale if there were proper safety measurements and backups like there are in Florida.

    So stay safe, and be prepared for this disaster.

    • Actually, TEPCO had installed all the requisite safety systems–a separate source of electrical power, &c. However, where that company failed (as did the architect/engineer) was in location, location, location. The Emergency Diesel Generator and its fuel supply, as well as the safeguards and control switchgear and circuitry were vulnerable to the 15m tsunami.

      I did a little digging, and the Fukushima Daiichi was built to withstand an earthquake of about 8.0 (we know, though, that the March earthquake registered 9.0); and it had been sited based on a potential tsunami of no more than 3.1m; later it was hardened to withstand a 5.7m tsunami. Recommendations had been made to move their EDG and its fuel tank, and harden the lower levels prior to the 11 March temblor.

      Had TEPCO heeded the warnings issued by the IAEA, or International Atomic Energy Agency, this article would likely not have been written. Some of the reactor cores may have indeed suffered some damage, but only from the physical insult from the quake, The EDGs and tanks would not have been flooded and washed out to sea, respectively, and TEPCO would have probably have been hailed for providing power for the rebuilding of the Fukushima prefecture.

      Sadly, they didn’t, and thus the failures. In the case of Turkey Point and St. Lucie, methinks they will not only survive, but will end up playing a major role in the clean-up and recovery of the debris left behind by Irma

  • Lies, misinformation, a twisting spinning kind of half truth/half lie mish mash (like this article, no doubt to SEEM credible) and malignant speculation. The tools of the anti-nuclear workman.

    You know what would be really cool? Before you badmouth an industry that not only is the best power we have in every category power is judged by, including safety, but talk smack about a topic you are clearly uneducated in…you could actually trying getting educated before you talk.

    I have some excellent book suggestions.

    Nuclear power will be what saves this planet. Whether you are a fan or not.

  • Sorry, but this blog-post seems rather shallow for the topic.
    Nuclear plants have several emergency plans in place before they are first switched on. Those plans are updated regularly and practiced fairly often. Believe it or not, sometimes it’s boring there. So emergency drills are also held, assessed, and reports written (ad nauseum). If winds at the plants had reached a certain speed, the plants would have been shut down – following procedure. Did you know every nuclear plant has at least two federal regulators working full time at the facility? Regulations & guidelines are followed!

    “Nuclear is the only energy source immune to all extreme weather events – by design.”

    Here’s a good site to learn more on the topic.

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