New FLEX Regional Center Opens in Arizona

One of three FLEX buildings at McGuire Nuclear Station in Huntersville, NC is almost complete.
One of three FLEX buildings at McGuire Nuclear Station in Huntersville, NC is almost complete.

As part of the U.S. nuclear industry’s ongoing response to the events at Fukushima in 2011, additional portable equipment is being added to all U.S. nuclear sites.  This portable equipment is being selected based on a diverse and flexible coping strategy (FLEX) which adds was developed for adding more backup systems to cool nuclear reactors and used fuel storage pools and to maintain the integrity of reactor containment structures. The implementation of this strategy requires new facilities and equipment at all U.S. nuclear power plants, as well as the creation of two new regional response centers. These regional centers are being made available to provide a second source of portable equipment for U.S. nuclear sites.  One of these centers recently opened in Phoenix, Arizona; a second facility will open in Memphis, Tennessee in June. Equipment from these regional response centers will be used – in addition to equipment and other measures taken by plant operators – to respond to severe natural events. According to an article in Nuclear Engineering International “Equipment stored at the centres includes portable backup generators, portable high pressure pumps, portable low pressure pumps, diesel fuel transfer pumps, diesel fuel tanks, diesel powered light towers, water treatment, booster pumps, electrical distribution cabinets, cables, and hoses. Each centre houses five full sets of equipment, with four ready to be moved to any U.S. nuclear power plant at all times, and the equipment will undergo regular testing for operability” (May 2014). Equipment from these centers can be delivered within 24 hours via ground and air. Click here to read more about the new regional centers.

A second FLEX building at McGuire Nuclear Station is currently under construction.
A second FLEX building at McGuire Nuclear Station is currently under construction.

In addition to these regional centers, nuclear plant operators have been focused on efforts to provide an uninterrupted supply of electricity and cooling water that will protect critical plant safety systems at all times. Utilities across the country are constructing robust buildings and facilities to protect and house emergency equipment like generators, battery packs, pumps and vehicles that can move this equipment to areas needed in the event of a severe natural event in conjunction with extended loss of AC power to station equipment. While the country’s nuclear plants continue to operate safely, implementing the FLEX strategy will make them safer. Duke Energy’s McGuire Nuclear Station currently has three FLEX buildings under construction. The buildings are designed to industry guidance and are very robust; built to withstand hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and winds up to 240 mph. The foundation of the buildings is nearly two feet in the ground to ensure their stability. All Duke Energy-owned and operated nuclear stations will have new FLEX buildings in the future.

Additional Resources:

NEI – Overview of the nuclear industry’s FLEX approach.

Nuclear Energy Three Years After Fukushima

NEI: FAQ: Nuclear Energy Industry Develops FLEX Strategy to Increase Safety, Address NRC’s Post-Fukushima Recommendations