Nuclear DivingPosted: April 26, 2012
I had no idea this profession even existed:
I could find no definitive statistics concerning nuclear diving injuries and deaths, but as I studied news accounts and individual incident reports, it became clear that most diving accidents involved intake work. In 2004, at Point Beach Nuclear Plant in Wisconsin, a diver became trapped when one of his lines got sucked into an intake pipe. The plant immediately turned off its circulating water pumps—which in turn shut down the reactor—so the diver wouldn’t be sucked into the pipe as well. Powering down a reactor too quickly can damage the nuclear core, but in this case everything worked out: The plant went undamaged, and the diver escaped. Other divers have been less fortunate. In 1986 an untethered diver performing intake inspections at Crystal River Nuclear Plant, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, failed to surface. The dive team sent a (tethered) rescue diver to find him. But a few minutes after entering the water, the second diver’s tether went taut and he became unresponsive. The team quickly pulled him up, and his unconscious body was almost to the surface when the tether line broke. The rescue diver sank again from view. As with the Point Beach incident, the intake systems were immediately shut down, but it was too late. Both divers were dead. While the rescue diver’s body was recovered quickly, it took workers almost two hours to locate the first diver. His body had been sucked almost all the way into the plant itself.