Nuclear Safety [was Re: Energy and "the Clash of Civilizations" -- a policythoughtproblem]

From: Ken Clements (
Date: Sat Sep 29 2001 - 11:12:19 MDT

Andrew Clough wrote:

> When I was at a tour of Maine Yankee (a now closed nuclear plant in Maine)
> the rep said that the dome was much more than strong enough to withstand a
> plane crash.

No one knows. There are many problems that make this a bad bet. Most
reactors were designed long ago when aircraft were smaller. Most of the
concern was for an accident, not a plot where the biggest possible bomb was
flown directly into the weakest possible link. I have seen nothing about a
plant's ability to resist the impact of a second hit, after the impact and
fire of the first has had time to reduce the structural strength of the
reinforcing bar, and powder the concrete.

Resistance in this case is theoretical. A whole calss of problems we have had
with the industry happen because the physicists present safety based on
theory, but the engineers design what can be done the real world, and the
construction companies take "little" short cuts they think will not matter,
and the workers do what workers do when the boss is not looking. Then, the
plant runs for 20 years during which normal deterioration happens, and the
operators fix only some of it.

However, the biggest problem I see is the storage of spent fuel in big pools
outside the containment. The plants were not designed to hold their waste
forever, but that is what has happened because we have not solved this
problem. So the containment could be 100% safe around the reactor vessel for
a single aircraft impact, but when the waste pools go up it is going to be a
very bad day.

I think we have some serious exposure, here, and were very lucky the bad guys
did not pick this kind of target.


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