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National Safety Month: FLEX Strategy

Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that impacted Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, industry leaders in the U.S. worked together to develop a flexible, diverse coping strategy that would protect our country’s nuclear plants against extreme events. This “FLEX” strategy was put in place at all of our sites.

As part of the strategy, backup emergency equipment such as generators, air compressors, pumps, battery packs and battery chargers were added at our plants. With this portable equipment stored on-site, the plant has greater capability for ensuring power and water are available to maintain key safety functions. In the absence of AC power from built-in safety systems, this equipment can be deployed quickly by plant employees. It can be used to maintain reactor core cooling, used fuel pool cooling and containment integrity. FLEX equipment provides the greatest safety benefit to the plant in the shortest amount of time.

The FLEX strategy also has another component – two emergency response centers, one in Memphis and one in Phoenix. Southern Nuclear manages this program, which stores and maintains critical spares for the entire U.S. nuclear industry. Each of these secure, 80,000-square-foot facilities has five sets of equipment that can be transported by truck or air to a plant site anywhere in the country in 24 hours. The response center equipment is the same as the equipment stored on-site and would only be sent if something happened to our equipment during an extreme and unexpected event such as seismic events, hurricanes, floods, tidal waves or volcanic activity. This backup equipment – both at the emergency response centers and on-site – ensures that plant operators can maintain key safety functions even if off-site power sources are diminished.