After the Arctic polar vortex brought temperatures in parts of Canada to record lows that, in some places, rivaled the temperatures on the surface of Mars (not to mention leaving nine people dead), the infamous Arctic air has notched another milestone: It has shut down a nuclear reactor due to an extremely rare phenomenon called 'frazil ice'.
Never heard of frazil ice? Neither had we.
Public Service Enterprise Group, shut a reactor early Thursday at unit at its Salem nuclear plant in southern New Jersey after screens on its intake froze over, restricting the flow of water needed to cool off the reactor, according to spokesman Joe Delmar.
A second unit at a station on the Delaware river was temporarily closed for the same reason.From a reader regarding frazil ice: in North Dakota we simply call it "slush." But that would be pretty embarrassing if nuclear engineers were flummoxed by "slush." Best to come up with a bit of obfuscation to confuse the regulators. From a reader, regarding "slush" -- or as nuclear engineers call it, frazil ice -- it sinks:
Unlike solid ice, however, frazil ice doesn’t float.
The small crystals give it what experts call “ineffective buoyancy,” meaning that water currents can carry it to the bottom very easily. There, the crystals can quickly increase in number, and will start to adhere to objects in the water, such as intake structures, especially if the objects themselves are at a temperature below the freezing point of water. The buildup can restrict or even fully block water flow. It’s a cold-weather chain reaction.Rocks don't have effective buoyancy either but I digress.
Now, on the other hand, the water plant folks in Sheboygan, MI -- these would be your blue collar folks with no advanced degree who solved this problem years ago: they backflush the lines at night to prevent clogging.
By the way, completely off topic. but I can't resist. Years ago, our younger daughter and I were on a cross country trip -- we lived in Texas and she was going back to South Dakota for college. We were listening to the nocturnal news reports coming out of Minneapolis, MN, about the I-35 bridge across the Mississippi that collapsed, resulting in a number of deaths. It was during active reporting that this statement was made, and I'm paraphrasing: the death toll would have been higher, but authrities released new criteria defining death. I can't make this stuff up.
So, now we have frazil ice.
Remember those articles -- probably apocryphal -- how many words the Eskimos have for snow. I guess that's the same for slush. Snirt. Frazil ice. Slush.