President Hu extends condolences to US over Sandy havoc
Chinese President Hu Jintao today extended condolences to the U.S. President Barack Obama over the heavy casualties and property loss caused by hurricane Sandy. President Hu said he believes that the U.S. people can overcome the difficulties and rebuild their homes, Xinhua reported on Wednesday.
Sandy curtails nuclear plants, oldest under alert
Hurricane Sandy slowed or shut a half-dozen U.S. nuclear power plants, while the nation's oldest facility declared a rare "alert" after the record storm surge pushed flood waters high enough to endanger a key cooling system.
Exelon Corp's 43-year-old Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey remains on "alert" status, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said early Tuesday. It is only the third time this year that the second-lowest of four emergency action levels was triggered.
"Oyster Creek is still in an alert but may be getting out of it as long as water levels continue to drop,"
NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan told Reuters. The alert came after water levels at the plant rose more than 6.5 feet above normal, potentially affecting the "water intake structure" that pumps cooling water through the plant.
Exelon said in a statement that there was no danger to equipment and no threat to public health or safety. "Right now there's no imminent threat of releases.
There's no protective actions around the plant,"Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said on the Today Show.
On Tuesday morning, the NRC said that Entergy Corp's Indian Point 3 automatically tripped offline at about 10:41 p.m. last night due to fluctuations in the power grid caused by the storm, while Public Service Enterprise Group Inc shut Unit 1 at Salem in New Jersey at 1:10 a.m. due to a loss of "condenser circulators" due to the storm surge and debris.
The NRC spokesman said the company could use water from a fire suppression system or a portable pump to cool the pool if necessary. The used uranium rods in the pool could cause the water to boil in about 25 hours without additional coolant; in an extreme scenario the rods could overheat, risking the eventual release of radiation.
The concerns over the status of the spent fuel pool at Oyster Creek was reminiscent of the fears that followed the Fukushima disaster last year, when helicopters and fire hoses were enlisted to ensure the pools remained filled with fresh, cool water.
The nuclear industry has said that the spent fuel rods at Fukushima were never exposed to the air.
Sandy's death toll climbs to 80; millions in blackout
Millions of people from Maine to the Carolinas waited wearily for the power to come back on Tuesday, and New Yorkers found themselves all but cut off from the modern world as the U.S. death toll from Superstorm Sandy climbed to 48, many of the victims killed by falling trees.
The extent of the damage in New Jersey, where the storm roared ashore Monday night with hurricane-force winds of 80 mph, began coming into focus: homes knocked off their foundations, boardwalks wrecked and amusement pier rides cast into the sea.
"We are in the midst of urban search and rescue. Our teams are moving as fast as they can," Gov. Chris Christie said. "The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we've ever seen. The cost of the storm is incalculable at this point."
As the storm steamed inland, still delivering punishing wind and rain, more than 8.2 million people across the East were without power. Airlines canceled more than 15,000 flights around the world, and it could be days before the mess is untangled and passengers can get where they're going.
The storm also disrupted the presidential campaign with just a week to go before Election Day.
President Barack Obama canceled a third straight day of campaigning, scratching events scheduled for Wednesday in swing state Ohio. Republican Mitt Romney resumed his campaign, but with plans to turn a political rally in Ohio into a "storm relief event."
Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in property damage and $10 billion to $80 billion more in lost business, making it one of the costliest natural disasters on record in the U.S., according to IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm.
Lower Manhattan, which includes Wall Street, was among the hardest-hit areas after the storm sent a nearly 14-foot surge of seawater, a record, coursing over its seawalls and highways.
Water cascaded into the gaping, unfinished construction pit at the World Trade Center, and the New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day, the first time that has happened because of weather since the Blizzard of 1888. The NYSE said it will reopen on Wednesday.
A huge fire destroyed as many as 80 houses in a flooded beachfront neighborhood in Queens on Tuesday, forcing firefighters to undertake daring rescues. Three people were injured.
New York University's Tisch Hospital evacuated 80 patients after its backup generator failed. About 20 babies from the neonatal intensive care unit were carried down staircases and were given battery-powered respirators.
A construction crane that collapsed in the high winds on Monday still dangled precariously 74 floors above the streets of midtown Manhattan, and hundreds of people were evacuated as a precaution. And on Staten Island, a tanker ship wound up beached on the shore.
Some bridges into New York reopened, but some tunnels were closed, as were schools, Broadway theaters and the metropolitan area's three main airports, LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark.
With water standing in two major commuter tunnels and seven subway tunnels under the East River, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it was unclear when the nation's largest transit system would be rolling again. It shut down Sunday night ahead of the storm.
Joseph Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the damage was the worst in the 108-year history of the New York subway.
Similarly, Consolidated Edison said it could take at least a week to restore electricity to the last of the nearly 800,000 customers in and around New York City who lost power.
Millions of more fortunate New Yorkers surveyed the damage as dawn broke, their city brought to an extraordinary standstill.