August 25. 2011 10:31PM

Seabrook plant gets ready for storm

By CLYNTON NAMUO
Union Leader Correspondent

SEABROOK — The Seabrook nuclear power plant intends to remain open should Hurricane Irene make it to New Hampshire this weekend, but that could change depending on conditions, a spokesman said Thursday.

“There are very specific criteria that could lead to that scenario, but we fully expect the plant will remain running,” said Al Griffith, a spokesman for NextEra, which owns the plant.

He added: “There’s no one particular thing that leads there; there’s usually a series of decisions that have to be made.”

Seabrook is designed to withstand hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes, Griffith said, and officials plan to monitor weather forecasts and conditions as they happen.

Although Irene’s path remains unclear, the storm is expected to be around New Hampshire late Sunday or early Monday, according to Mary Stampone, the state climatologist.

“There’s still a pretty wide area of uncertainty,” Stampone, an assistant professor of geography at the University of New Hampshire, said of Irene’s trajectory north.

And while the hurricane could reach Category 4 with winds up to 125 mph farther south along the East Coast, by the time it gets here, Irene will likely be a tropical storm packing winds from 39 to 74 mph, she said.

The state can expect “massive rain” as a result of the storm, she said.

“I’ve heard anywhere from 5 to 10 inches,” she said.

And if Irene moves farther east of the state, large storm surges can be expected as well, she said.

Officials have already begun preparations for Irene at the nuclear plant, Griffith said. The plant has detailed procedures it enacts when severe weather is imminent, he said.

Officials have done numerous walkthroughs of the plant’s property to find anything that isn’t secured, such as tools or other things left out. Officials are also reviewing emergency procedures for the plant’s control room should anything happen.

“Every inch of the property is walked down and checked,” he said.

The reactor is contained in a double dome with two layers of steel-reinforced concrete totaling about 6 feet thick, Griffith said. The uranium that allows the plant to generate power is located within a steel reactor in the bedrock, he said.

Griffith also noted that the plant is about two miles from the shore, on an estuary, minimizing the possibility of problems from a storm surge.