Davis-Besse hit by tornado

30 July 1998

On 24 June, the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ohio took a direct hit from a tornado with winds estimated at 160 miles per hour, the worst such event ever to hit a US nuclear station. The tornado first sucked water and debris from Davis-Besse’s cooling tower and destroyed the plant’s wind gauge, then caused lights in the control to go dim. The control room then grew dark for a brief period, except for instruments and emergency lighting. According to the NRC, Davis-Besse shut down automatically and the public was never endangered, but the tornado severed fibre optic lines and knocked out both the plant’s main telephone system and the “red phone” hot line to NRC headquarters. Plant personnel had to use a microwave-based phone system to notify local and state emergency planners that an “alert” had been declared. The NRC also activated its emergency command centre and alerted the White House and other US and international authorities. The NRC is preparing a report on the event.

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