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When flooding strikes…will the lights stay on?

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The tsunami that resulted in the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant was a sobering event for all concerned in the utilities sector.  Obviously the results of any issue at a nuclear plant are amongst the most serious imaginable – the disaster at Fukushima resulted in a 20km ‘no-go zone’ around the site.  An area of 2,600km2 remains an exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant in The Ukraine, nearly 29 years after the disaster occurred.

On a smaller scale, recent floods have caused power outages when sub-stations have been overwhelmed by flood water and sewerage systems have failed when pumping stations have ceased to work after being inundated by flood water.

The net result is an intensification of utility regulators in requiring the utility providers to make their networks resilient to flooding. 

As with all areas served by the flood industry, there is a great deal of education of clients that has to occur.  In general, those who are managing the assets of utility providers are not aware of the options available to them with respect to mitigating and managing flooding at their sites.

For example our flood doors operate as both fire doors and security doors, meeting three requirements in one.  Many times a ‘passive’ solution such as our self activating flood barrier is appropriate for the protection of remote sites where no one is likely to be in attendance at the time of a flood.

For secure sites, such as high voltage sub-stations, hinged flood gates that are permanently closed except when access is required are a good solution.  These can be automated with hydraulics and linked into an electronic access system so that operatives do not have to even leave their vehicles to operate the gates.  These gates can also be fitted with anti-climb measures to prevent unauthorised entry to the site.

On nuclear sites, additional functionality may be required of the flood defences.  For example, on a nuclear site in Scotland that we protected, the passive barriers had to be designed to take the extreme axle-loadings from the fork-lift trucks carrying materials around.  Click here to read the full case study. On other nuclear sites, we have been asked to design flood barriers which can raise sections of rail where flood defences are required across track beds.  Railway tracks are notoriously hard to defend, but our passive barrier is capable of sitting below them and lifting them up out of the way when it deploys.

With the water companies, not only is there a requirement to protect their assets, but they also have a duty of care to protect the homes of people within their jurisdiction from sewer flooding.  This is where our range of property level protection (PLP) measures comes into use.  These measures can be fitted to domestic properties to mitigate flooding.  Measures often comprise of flood proof uPVC or composite doors, door barriers, non-return valves, masonry treatment and self-closing airbricks.  As far as possible we aim to make our PLP measures passive to minimize the risk that there is failure due to human error or non-fitment.

Ultimately, our utilities are vital to the economic health of our country and the well-being of our citizens, so protecting these vital assets is an important issue and one which UKFB is committed to with a broad range of products and on-going research and development.  

 

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