There is so much disturbing stuff to know about nuke plants, and so much denial by the powers-that-be, that choosing what sources to rely on can be hard.
One important thing to consider is that most nukes have open circuit cooling systems using huge amounts of water–up to around one billion gallons per day per reactor. They use much more water than coal or gas plants of similar capacity because they are of lower thermal efficiency, meaning that more of the thermal energy released has to be dumped as “waste heat.” So, they are usually located on a riverbank, or on the shore of Lake Michigan, the Pacific Ocean, etc. This is so common we take it for granted and don’t think about the implications, such as high vulnerability to floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, water level rise–all of which are increasing rapidly due to climate change.
Another is that these plants generally have on site, or nearby, several decades worth of accumulated “spent” nuclear fuel, in addition to what is in the reactor itself. This spent fuel is nastier and more radioactive than the original uranium fuel, and is often far less well protected than the fuel in the reactor vessels themselves.
What would be the consequences if the Salem/Hope Creek reactors, sitting on the Delaware River just where it widens out into Delaware Bay, were to dump even a small fraction of their accumulated radioactive loads into the Delaware?
What would be the consequences if the Peach Bottom reactors, sitting on the banks of the Susquehanna River just where it feeds Chesapeake Bay, were to dump even a small fraction of their accumulated radioactive loads into the Susquehanna?
What would be the consequences if the Monticello or Prairie Island reactors in Minnesota, sitting on the edge of the Mississippi River, were to dump even a small fraction of their accumulated radioactive loads into the Mississippi? Would there be any way to keep it out of the food chain in the Gulf of Mexico …?
Such releases to water would be accompanied, as in Japan, by large releases to the atmosphere.
“Inches away from being America’s Fukushima: Nuclear plant dangerously close to being engulfed by Missouri floods”
“As of Thursday morning the river at Brownville, which is 70 miles from Lincoln and Omaha, had climbed to within a foot and a half from forcing the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD ) to declare an “Alert” and shut the reactor down. Earlier this week a Cooper spokesman told Nebraska Watchdog a shutdown would occur over a period of 4-10 hours although it could occur “within three seconds” if necessary. The spokesman insists that there is no fear of a meltdown because Cooper “would be operating with power from off-site sources that would run the pumps and other equipment necessary to keep the reactor and spent fuel storage facility with cooling water.”
“In the last 24 hours the NRC issued a statement noting among other things that “two feet of water” are onsite in many areas of the Fort Calhoun plant, located 19 miles north of Omaha.”
Now, consider this:
“LACEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. ï¿½ Federal regulators have been working closely with the nuclear power industry to keep the nation’s aging reactors operating within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards, or simply failing to enforce them, an investigation by The Associated Press has found.”
“Time after time, officials at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission have decided that original regulations were too strict, arguing that safety margins could be eased without peril, according to records and interviews.”
This is precisely what I have observed at NRC meetings and hearings in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Minnesota. They say there are multiple layers of protections; therefore no one screw up or violation really matters. Usually this is so, but when it isn’t the consequences can be very large.
(I think most NRC staffers do their best. They are working in a system dominated by the industry they are supposed to be regulating ….)
Have any Delaware elected officials spoken out about protecting us from these hazards?
Shifting to cleaner and safer energy sources is a survival issue for us all. And it is something we can do, technically, if we can overcome the political obstacles.