Last Man Standing: Nuclear Plants Power Texans During Deluge – Wind Turbines Automatically Shut Down During Hurricane Harvey

Texans have been in the news for all the wrong reasons, over the last week or so.

Hurricane Harvey belted the Texan coast with 130 mph (209 kph) winds and delivered a deluge of biblical proportions.

For some time now, Texas has been the pinup girl for American wind worshippers. With some 21,000 MW of nominal capacity spread over 40 projects, like everything in Texas, wind power is ‘big’.

Except, of course, when the weather turns nasty.

Modern industrial wind turbines do not operate when wind speeds hit around 25 m/s (90kph or 55mph) – Hurricane Harvey dished up a gale double that speed, and more.

In order to prevent their catastrophic disintegration (as seen in the video below) Texas’s turbines downed tools, en masse, (as they are deliberately designed to do) leaving the critical work of providing power to storm battered Texans to its fleet of nuclear power plants.


That wind turbines simply can’t handle the weather appears on German turbine maker, Siemen’s  website – which has this to say about the automatic shutdown of wind turbines when wind speeds hit 25m/s (90km/h):

Nature presents us with different kinds of challenges. High wind can create extremely high loads, and as a result wind turbines are normally programmed to shut down if the 10-minute mean wind speed exceeds 25 m/s. This may pose a significant challenge for the grid system – for example, if turbines in large wind farms shut down simultaneously.

Thankfully for Texans, nuclear power is designed to power through anything that Mother Nature dishes up, no matter how extreme.

If Australians needed another reason to get on with the construction of its own nuclear generation fleet, this is it. Remember how the weather experts keep telling us to expect lots more Hurricanes like Harvey? South Australians will, of course, remember 28 September 2016, when a typically vigourous spring storm (with 100 kph winds) led to the automatic shutdown of its entire wind farm fleet, plunging the whole State into Stone Age darkness.

Hurricane Harvey Makes The Case For Nuclear Power
James Conca
2 September 2017

Hurricane Harvey made land fall in Texas this week and the flooding was historic. What is shaping up to be the most costly natural disaster in American history, the storm has left refineries shut down, interrupted wind and solar generation, caused a constant worry about gas explosions, and caused a chain of events that led to explosions and fires at the Arkema chemical plant that is only the beginning.

Over a fifth of the country’s oil production has been shuttered. Natural gas futures hit a 2-year high as did gasoline prices at the pump.

But the Texas nuclear power plants have been running smoothly.

The two nuclear reactors at the South Texas Project plant near Houston were operating at full capacity despite wind gusts that peaked at 130 mph as the Hurricane made landfall. The plant implemented its severe weather protocols as planned and completed hurricane preparations ahead of Category 4 Hurricane Harvey striking the Texas Gulf Coast on August 25th.

Anyone who knows anything about nuclear was not surprised. Nuclear is the only energy source immune to all extreme weather events – by design.

This nuclear plant has steel-reinforced concrete containment with 4-foot (1.2 meter) thick walls. The buildings housing the two reactors, vital equipment and used fuel have steel-reinforced concrete walls up to 7 feet (2.1 meters) thick, which are built to withstand any category hurricane or tornadoe. It can even withstand a plane flying directly into it.

The plant is located 10 miles (16 kilometers) inland and at an elevation of 29 feet (8.8 meters) above sea-level. The facility is designed with watertight buildings and doors, with all buildings housing safety-related equipment being flood-proof to an elevation of at least 41 feet (12.5 meters).

‘We’ve got significant rain but flooding has not been an issue here,’ plant spokesman Buddy Eller said in a phone call about the reactors.

That the nuclear plant is just fine seemed to irk anti-nuclear groups who don’t want to see nuclear ever performing well, even if it helps the storm-wracked people of south Texas when other power sources are failing.

Three watchdog groups, the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development coalition (SEED), the South Texas Association for Responsible Energy and Beyond Nuclear recklessly urged politicians, the owners, and regulators to shut down the plant because of Harvey, even if it hurt residents, emergency workers and hospitals who desperately need that power.

But the regulators and the State would have none of that nonsense, understanding that these groups just peddle fear. The reactors provide 2,700 MW of power to 2,000,000 customers in the area.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff are at the plant, constantly assessing the situation and safety aspects. ‘The South Texas Project reactors have been operating safely throughout Harvey and continue to do so,’ NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said. The reactors can be shut down quickly if something develops, but that’s not expected to be necessary.

Two-hundred and fifty storm crew workers, along with regulators, were running the plant and were set up with sleeping arrangements, food and water to weather the storm no matter how long it took. None of them were afraid, knowing how safe the reactors are.

No other industry was as prepared.

According to the online news source North American Wind Power, one large wind installation in the path of the storm sent all 39 workers home as the hurricane closed in, but operated remotely until the wind hit 55 mph. It then shut down automatically like all farms when wind speeds exceed their design limits. Most wind farms have not sustained much damage, but getting them back to capacity will be difficult.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also said Harvey does not pose a threat to the Waterford Nuclear Power Plant in New Orleans and the River Bend Plant near Baton Rouge.

We’ve seen this before. Last summer, a heat wave cooked America with extreme temperatures, affecting most energy production as well as causing fires and water shortages, sucking electricity like crazy to power the cooling necessary to avoid discomfort and even death. According to the National Weather Service, 122 million Americans were under heat alerts.

Fortunately, nuclear power didn’t mind, scoring record capacity factors of 96% and up, with no increase in price. Other energy sources did not fare so well and some gas plants gouged consumers just because they could.

In 2014, a Polar Vortex shut down natural gas and coal plants, and stopped wind turbines and solar generation. But nuclear performed wonderfully and provided more power to the hard-hit northeast than any other source.

Whether it’s hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, heat waves or severe cold, nuclear performs more reliably than anything else. There’s no better reason to retain our nuclear fleet, and even expand it, to give us a diverse energy mix that can handle any natural disaster that can occur.

Dr. James Conca is an expert on energy, nuclear and dirty bombs, a planetary geologist, and a professional speaker. Follow him on Twitter @jimconca and see his book at

Last Man Standing: Texas’s nuclear plants power through Hurricane Harvey.

22 thoughts on “Last Man Standing: Nuclear Plants Power Texans During Deluge – Wind Turbines Automatically Shut Down During Hurricane Harvey

  1. Chernobyl killed 56 emergency workers and Fukushima killed no one.
    I would contest everything you say. No one knows how many people will die because of the Chernobyl disaster and the history of Chernobyl is yet to be written as the sarcophagus will have to be replaced every fifty years with the inherent risks to the workers that entails. As far as Fukushima goes it is still spewing highly radioactive water into the Pacific ocean and the total clean up bill is now put at over one trillion dollars if a clean up can ever be achieved. Putting all the radio active dirt into plastic bags and cooling water into tanks is hardly a permanent fix. Like all nuclear disasters the effects are kicked down the road for another generation to deal with and suffer the consequences. Your assertions are total rubbish and are commensurate to what an uneducated primary school kiddie would come up with. I suggest you do some research into the real facts and not the ones espoused by the nuclear industry.

    1. You would, but you conflate the damage done by a tsunami with a non-fatal incident at a reactor to inflate your figures in order to make your case. Radiation is everywhere. The sun is a nuclear furnace that bombards the earth constantly with the full gamut of radiation. That radiation causes cancer, so the sun should be shut down on your reckoning? This is like arguing with Helen Caldicott…

  2. Fukushima disaster was preventable, new study finds
    Critical backup generators were built in low-lying areas at risk for tsunami damage — despite warnings from scientists

    “Earlier government and industry studies focused on the mechanical failures and ‘buried the lead.’ The pre-event tsunami hazards study, if done properly, would have identified the diesel generators as the linchpin of a future disaster. Fukushima Daiichi was a sitting duck waiting to be flooded.”
    “What doomed Fukushima Daiichi was the elevation of the EDGs (emergency diesel generators),” the authors wrote. One set was located in a basement, and the others at 10 and 13 meters above sea level — inexplicably and fatally low, Synolakis said.

    1. Having been an engineer all my life commissioning large electrical plant I am yet to see a disaster that couldn’t have been fixed before the event. All disasters like Fukushima have a cause and usually the problem is in the oversight of the original engineers and designers who built the plant. We all know what doomed the Fukushima plant after the event just like the doomed “Comet” or the “Concord” or Chernobyl but disasters will still always happen no matter how smart the human race perceives it is.The problem with Nuclear power plants is the cost when you do have a disaster not whether there will ever be another disaster because there will be another one and then another one after that because they are built by imperfect humans.

      1. Give us a cost benefit ratio comparison between nuclear and coal involving loss of life over time. Don’t forget to include the 3,000 or so Chinese coal miners that perish each year. Chernobyl killed 56 emergency workers and Fukushima killed no one.

  3. Reblogged this on Conservative_Writer and commented:
    Wind & Solar (with big government grants and incentives) brag about how many jobs they are creating. And yet, if these favored energy sources all shut down for a week, the country wouldn’t even know it.


    The latest flailing propeller update on the situation in South West Victoria does not make for happy reading.

    Thanks to Keith Staff for drawing my attention to this article.


    Warrnambool Standard

    Tall turbines on the horizon for Moyne Shire wind farms

    Matt Neal

    1 Sep 2017

    CONSTRUCTION on the next wind farm in Moyne Shire is expected to start soon – the first in a new wave of renewable energy projects on the horizon.

    The Salt Creek Wind Farm, to be constructed two kilometres south of Woorndoo, will be the fifth built in the shire and is one of six projects in various stages of approval.

    When completed, the turbines at Salt Creek will be the tallest in the shire, with blade tips reaching 150 metres from the ground.

    But that regional record could be soon eclipsed as wind farm proponents move toward larger and more efficient turbines.

    In April this year, Acciona Energy’s Mortlake South Wind Farm received approval to construct turbines with a blade tip height of 186 metres, up from its original submission of 141 metres.

    It means the project will house fewer turbines (42 down from the originally proposed 51), while complying with more stringent noise controls and producing enough clean energy to power 40,000 homes per year.

    Other proponents are following suit. Some of these projects were first mooted over a decade ago, and the passage of time has allowed turbine technology to improve greatly – something wind farm companies want to capitalise on.

    In May, the developers of the Woolsthorpe Wind Farm – trans-Tasman company Wind Farm Developments – received approval to increase their turbine blade tip height from 135 metres to 168 metres.

    Ryan Corner Development Pty Ltd is awaiting approval from state planning minister Richard Wynne to increase its blade tip height from 126.3 metres to 180 metres at the Hawkesdale and Ryan Corner wind farms.

    The amendment applications would also see the number of turbines drop from 31 to 26 at Hawkesdale and 68 to 56 at Ryan Corner.

    But Tilt Renewables is seeking to top them all. The company is responsible for the Salt Creek Wind Farm and the recently approved Dundonnell Wind Farm, with the latter already the subject of debate over an amendment that could lead to turbines with a blade tip height of 189 metres being built.

    For context these towers are still some way short of the tallest in the world.

    Up until last year, the tallest wind turbine was in Denmark and stood at 220 metres. It was surpassed in June 2016 by a 230-metre-high turbine in south-west Germany. Towers with turbines reaching to 200 metres are increasingly common in Europe.

    It all shows that turbine technology has come a long way since Australia’s first commercial wind farm was built at Codrington back in 2001.

    Those 14 towers are still going strong and create enough electricity to power 10,000 homes.

    This is equal to avoiding the emissions of 49,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases or to taking more than 17,000 cars off the roads, according to Pacific Hydro.

    End quote.

    My first thought is that these are off shore wind farm dimensions. What the hell do the Moyne Shire Council think they are playing at? These turbines are going to tower over towns like Mortlake and Yambuk. They will also be visible from Port Fairy, a tourism hotspot in the region.

    Secondly, a planning member stated to me that the Coddrington wind farm was having countless problems with blown oil seals. Some of the towers and blades have been covered in oil stains.

    And thirdly, what makes this all the more frustrating is that a member of the regional planning department, then known as the DPCD, visited our home at Cape Bridgewater in relation to our wind farm proximity noise / health complaint, only to announce that he would have to leave due to a sudden headache. He staggered backwards and put his hand on his forehead and said, “Did you feel that? I’m going to have to leave!” This was witnessed by several people.

    Now I happen to like the person involved. So I will not mention their name here. They have a family to support and I get that. However, after this incident, they were quickly moved to another department. How much longer can this seemingly corrupt behaviour continue? The turbines that caused such a visible reaction on this particular planning official were 110 metres high. The turbines proposed for the region as mentioned in the article above are up to 189 metres in height!

    To the Victorian Premier, planning departments and the Moyne Shire Council members, I say this.

    Ignorance is no defence. With your actions come consequences. There have been three Senate Inquiries into this issue. And there was simply too much damning evidence revealed against the wind industry to simply ignore it.


    If these projects go ahead, ARMAGGEDON out of here!

    1. Thanks Crispin. Wind Industry propaganda regurgitated by lazy hacks who claim to be journalists is integral to the international game plan of this most dishonest and malicious industry. Thanks for highlighting it, and to STT for ceaselessly championing the facts. .

      1. Thanks for the comments folks.

        This whole business is like watching a car crash in slow motion.

        A family member has taken to calling them ‘wind terrorists’. Quite appropriate when you think about it.

        We are under attack!

    2. Crispin
      Thank you for bringing the comments in the article to for, misinformation is running rife and it needs to be out in the open so people can know anyone supporting these things has VERY LONG NOSES and need to be ignored or for them to clarify their comments.
      The other question to be asked is those companies who have received approval and are now asking to install bigger turbines/blades whether they intend to reduce the number or not
      they need to resubmit and go through the application process again – in full.
      They need to have their environment and health reports redone in light of the increased size and changed sizes and placement of the turbines they are seeking permission to install.
      Even submission to the EPBC should have to take place as the changes may affect endangered flora and fauna in the area.
      Gaining approval for smaller turbines/blades and then after receiving it deciding they want make significant changes is a ploy this industry is now using.
      I still cannot believe Victoria is continuing down this path when they have SA as an example of this industries failure.
      If the Victorian Labor Government is foolish enough to go down the path of SA, then I can only see Victoria becoming another backwater in Australia. No sudden Gold Rush will save it from disaster, and they will have destroyed half of their States Tourism districts and industry.

      1. Jackie, I’m glad you’ve brought up about the issue of approvals for smaller turbines & then the company having an amendment made for bigger ones. That is exactly what has happened with the Flat Rocks Windfarm here in WA. We, the neighbours found out about the ‘extraordinary’ council meeting about 36 hours beforehand, which gave us very little time to prepare anything. The original proposal that was approved had a condition to it that the turbines could be no higher than 140mtrs in height. When I brought this up at the meeting & questioned why we were having a meeting to discuss an amendment regarding the height which would allow the turnbines to be 180mtrs, I was told that the ‘Shire can change their mind’!! I wrote to the CEO afterwards to question this again & ask why it was not a whole new submission. Again I was told that the Shire is able to change their mind!! Disgraceful is the word that comes to mind!!

    3. “enough clean energy to power 40,000 homes per year.” 80,000 homes in two years, 400,000 homes in 10 years. I love math!

    4. At the Acciona Morltake Meeting I made comment that Mr Delaire was not a Qualified Acoustic Engineer. And on that Basis wind farms approved in Victoria had no Basis to be approved and that the approved wind farms be peer reveiwed.

      Reasons for this comment is:

      1/ Mr Delaire agreed to do testing at our property in June 2009 to consider conditions that brought about our Complaint and we did not receive the agreed report from Mr Delaire required to be independent of Acciona.

      2/ Mr Delaire did not assess whether SAC,s existed at our property in relation to the swooshing sound that we heard .coming from the operating turbines.

      3/ Mr Delaire said at the Moorabool wind farm hearing in response to Questions put to him:

      Did he have any formal training in regards to assessing wind farm noise -Mr Delaire Said NO. Did he subscribe to any Acoustic Society? Mr Delaire said NO. Did he subscribe to any Acoustic Journal ?Mr Delaire said NO.

      4/ I was unable to obtain evidence that Mr Delaire had Australian Accreditation to practice as a Acoustic Engineer.

      5/ That Mr Delaire did NOT identify what LAeq meant in the Glossary of terms in both pre construction and post-construction reports.

      6/ Pre-construction report Mr Delaire Provided evidence of predicted sound pressure levels using the descriptor LAeq.

      The definition of LAeq in Windtest reports using the IEC61400-11 Standard as being “equivalent continuous A weighting sound pressure”
      with Ln being background. Ls being only wind turbine noise and Ls+n being combined wind turbine and back ground noise …

      Mr Delaire used the descriptor LA95 for compliance in the post construction report.

      LA95 meaning given in post construction report reads: The noise level exceeded for 95% of the measured period, measured in dBA. This is commonly referred to as background noise level..” The quietest 5% of the noise experienced is NOT that of our complaint”

      Mr Delaire referred to( IEC61400-11 Standard Ln and Ls) in his post -construction report for Waubra Wind Farm, without using the LAeq descriptor that represents Ln and Ls ..

      From the information above it can only be concluded the Mr Delaire DOES NOT understand the wording in the documents referenced in his reports and, has therefore failed his duty of care to my family and others who have relied on his expert evidence when applying for and approving Wind farm developments and/or amendments.

      The large difference between LAeq and LA95 has been demonstrated in the Dean Report July 2010 and the revised report in June 2014. Both have been provided to the Planning department by my Family soon after their release ..

      Noel Dean

  5. Anyone who knows anything about nuclear was not surprised. Nuclear is the only energy source immune to all extreme weather events – by design.
    What happened at Fukushima if Nuclear reactors are indestructible by desgn ??????
    For the cost of every Nuclear power station you can have five coal fired power plants without the costly handling of spent fuel rods. The first problem with Australia having Nuclear reactors is there is no engineering or Nuclear industry in Australia to help with the building or running of these plants. Australia would have to develop a costly nuclear fuel industry to fuel the reactors where coal is a very simple fuel to use and handle. Australia needs several power plants along the whole east coast to feed the many load centers not just one large expensive nuclear power plant stuck near Sydney or Melbourne. What about the rest of Australia???
    There is no insurance company in the world that will now insure a Nuclear power station so any nuclear power station built in Australia will have to be built insured and run by a government.
    The problems and cost of Nuclear power plants are to numerous to list here but to even think Australia could have nuclear power plants when we cannot even build a car is ludircrous in the extreme..

      1. You answered your own question. No matter what you do there is always a very real chance of a melt down. Nuclear power will never power anything in Australia!!!! Where are you going to get $10 Billion to build a nuclear power station when you can build a coal fired power station of the same out put for $2 Billion ?????

      2. The same place they found $60bn to throw at windmills and solar panels. You are focussing on $$, when the political/media class are obsessed with CO2 gas. Nuclear power is the only solution, if CO2 is really the problem.

      3. So the country that couldn’t even build a viable Submarine which was first used in the 1800’s is going to start up one of the most intensive high level industries in the world to build and run Nuclear reactors. Yes I can see it happening, I suggest you take a look at the two reactors being built in India now which has a long standing Nuclear industry and even these two reactors are years behind in their completion date because of ongoing problems with their design. But Australia will have no trouble being such a smart country, even the two new multi billion dollar navel landing ships are duds and from memory human begins have been building boats/ships for thousands of years that have traveled around the world but Australia in it’s now long tradition of failures cannot even buy ships that can get out of Sydney Harbor. Luckily for Cook he sailed from England to Australia and not the other way around.
        It’s always easy to spend $60 Billion on very low tech useless windmills when someone else does all the work and remember where that $60 Billion came from in the first place, probably from coal exports to countries which can build cars and ships and nuclear reactors.

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