AuthorTopic: Nuke Puke Plants in the Path of Irma  (Read 309 times)

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Nuke Puke Plants in the Path of Irma
« on: September 07, 2017, 10:13:46 AM »
How many more of these Plants are there after those 2? ???  :icon_scratch:

I figured this sub-topic deserves its own thread.


Nuclear Plants in Irma's Path Plan Shutdowns Ahead of Storm
By Sophie Caronello
September 6, 2017, 9:10 AM AKDT

As Hurricane Irma continues to thrash its way over islands in the Caribbean, Florida is bracing for landfall as early as Sunday morning. Two of the Sunshine State’s nuclear facilities are in the Category 5 storm’s path: Turkey Point, south of Miami, and St. Lucie, north of Jupiter, both on the Atlantic coast. Turkey Point withstood Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the last storm to make landfall in Florida as a Category 5, with minimal damage. Operator NextEra Energy Inc. will shut the plants "long before" the onset of hurricane force winds, spokesman Peter Robbins told Bloomberg by phone Wednesday.

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Can You Really “Shut Down” a Nuclear Power Plant before a Hurricane?
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2017, 01:01:25 AM »

Can You Really “Shut Down” a Nuclear Power Plant before a Hurricane?
by Leonard Hyman and Willian Tilles • Sep 13, 2017 • 74 Comment

Soothing words before the storm: “Our nuclear plants are now shut down.”
By Leonard Hyman and Bill Tilles:

There are those who believe the answers to life’s most pressing questions can be found in one of two movies: “The Godfather” (part one) or “The Princess Bride.” In the latter movie, think of the Spaniard’s vaguely taunting response: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”  Which might also be the reply to: “Our nuclear plants are now shut down.”

Right now we are thinking about the Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear power stations in South Florida, in the aftermath of hurricane Irma. But we could have been referring to the South Texas Nuclear Project south of Houston, just a week or two earlier.

Those Westinghouse pressurized water reactors have six modes of operation, sort of like gears in a car. The highest level of performance, mode 1 includes power operations all the way up to 100% power. Mode 6, the lowest level of operation, describes a plant in the state of being refueled.

Senior management at NextEra’s utility subsidiary, Florida Power & Light, placed their nuclear reactors in mode 4, “hot shutdown,” as the hurricane advanced towards the plants. (Mode 5 is cold shutdown with far lower internal reactor temperatures.)

In so-called hot shutdown, a nuclear plant has one primary requirement for ongoing safe operation — a reliable supply of electricity (assuming competent staff of course).

Even though nuclear plants produce electricity for the grid, they also require large amounts of electricity to maintain their own operations particularly in this instance for: 1) cooling the fuel in the recently operating nuclear reactor core and 2) cooling the spent fuel pools where used fuel rods are placed after removal from the reactor. These activities are known as residual heat removal.

Let’s get something straight. If the zombie apocalypse occurred tomorrow, really bad things would happen at nuclear plants. And perhaps in the surrounding area of say a few thousand square miles. But what would not happen is a nuclear explosion.

This is not to deny the potential for explosion. But a hydrogen explosion, a steam explosion and a nuclear bomb type explosion are three very different things. Only the first two have been experienced at commercial nuclear plants. Fukushima Daichi was an unfortunate case of the former (Three Mile Island may have come close) while Chernobyl experienced the latter.

Nuclear plants, thus, need considerable amounts of electricity to maintain safe operations around both the reactor and spent fuel pool. Most of the time, the power comes from another electric generating station nearby.

But when a hurricane knocks down the electric transmission lines, nuclear power plants rely on large, on-site diesel engines to provide electricity for continued operation.

During Hurricane Andrew, a category 4 hurricane which passed over the Turkey Point nuclear power station about twenty five years ago, all the units lost offsite power and relied solely on electricity from diesel generators for more than five days — until electrical connection with the grid was restored. Some variant of this scenario could be occurring, as we write.

At the Fukushima nuclear facility, an earthquake destroyed transmission lines, eliminating their offsite power source. The back-up diesels were rendered useless by the subsequent tsunami. The rest is an unfolding tragedy.

This is to us the Achilles heel of nuclear power. It takes a lot of electricity to keep all those cooling pumps running and the fissionable materials on site stable. When or if that steady flow of power to the nuclear plant is interrupted, it’s a concern – because in reality, no one can just “shut down” a nuclear plant before a hurricane, though the words are very soothing. By Leonard Hyman and Bill Tilles.

Why take an action that’ll result in higher electricity prices? The dismantlement of a New Deal institution in South Carolina. Read… Why Santee Cooper Matters

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Nuclear Plants Plus Hurricanes: Disasters Waiting to Happen
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2017, 12:45:44 PM »

Nuclear Plants Plus Hurricanes: Disasters Waiting to Happen

by Harvey Wasserman

September 21, 2017

Don Ramey Logan

St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant at Port St. Lucie, Florida

Although the mainstream media said next to nothing about it, independent experts have made it clear that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma threatened six U.S. nuclear plants with major destruction, and therefore all of us with apocalyptic disaster. It is a danger that remains for the inevitable hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters yet to come.

During Harvey and Irma, six holdovers from a dying reactor industry—two on the Gulf Coast at South Texas, two at Key Largo and two more north of Miami at Port St. Lucie—were under severe threat of catastrophic failure. All of them rely on off-site power systems that were extremely vulnerable throughout the storms. At St. Lucie Unit One, an NRC official reported a salt buildup on electrical equipment requiring a power downgrade in the midst of the storm.

Loss of backup electricity was at the core of the 2011 catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan when the tsunami there and ensuing flood shorted out critical systems. The reactor cores could not be cooled. Three melted. Their cores have yet to be found. Water pouring over them flooded into the Pacific, carrying away unprecedented quantities of cesium and other radioactive isotopes. In 2015, scientists detected radioactive contamination from Fukushima along the coast near British Columbia and California.

Four of six Fukushima Daichi reactors suffered hydrogen explosions, releasing radioactive fallout far in excess of what came down after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Extreme danger still surrounds Fukushima’s highly radioactive fuel pools, which are in varied stages of ruin.

“In addition to reactors, which at least are within containment structures, high-level radioactive waste storage pools are not within containment, and are also mega-catastrophes waiting to happen, as in the event of a natural disaster like a hurricane,” says Kevin Kamps of the activist group Beyond Nuclear.

In 1992 Hurricane Andrew paralyzed fire protection systems at Florida’s Turkey Point and so severely damaged a 350-foot-high tower it had to be demolished. The eye of that storm went directly over the reactor, sweeping away support buildings valued at $100 million or more.

There’s no reason to rule out a future storm negating fire protection systems, flinging airborne debris into critical support buildings, killing off-site backup power, and more.

As during Andrew, the owners of the nuclear plants under assault from Harvey and Irma had an interest in dragging their feet on timely shut-downs. Because they are not liable for downwind damage done in a major disaster, the utilities can profit by keeping the reactors operating as long as they can, despite the obvious public danger.

Viable evacuation plans are a legal requirement for continued reactor operation. But such planning has been a major bone of contention, prompting prolonged court battles at Seabrook, New Hampshire, and playing a critical role in the shutdown of the Shoreham reactor on Long Island. After a 1986 earthquake damaged the Perry reactor in Ohio, then-Governor Richard Celeste sued to delay issuance of the plant’s operating license. A state commission later concluded evacuation during a disaster there was not possible. After Andrew, nuclear opponents like Greenpeace questioned the right of the plant to continue operating in light of what could occur during a hurricane.

Throughout the world, some 430 reactors are in various stages of vulnerability to natural disaster, including ninety-nine in the United States. Numerous nuclear plants have already been damaged by earthquakes, storms, tsunamis, and floods. The complete blackout of any serious discussion of what Harvey and Irma threatened to do to these six Texas and Florida reactors is cause for deep concern.

Harvey Wasserman’s California Solartopia show airs at KPFK-FM in Los Angeles; his Green Power & Wellness Show is podcast at He is the author of Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth and co-author of Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation.

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☢️ Nukes of Hazard
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2018, 01:41:15 AM »

 Nukes of Hazard

There's something wrong with every source of energy. How do our nuclear nightmares compare?

By Nathanael Johnson   on Apr 11, 2018

Is it any wonder that nuclear power scares people? The word nuclear alone conjures up a parade of terrors: the sinister radiation, the whiff of apocalypse, and the tendency to go boom.

Those are the obvious sci-fi horrors. But nuclear power comes with plenty of other risks that aren’t so obvious: the hazards of uranium mining, the fouled water, and the radioactive waste.

So do these horrors mean nuclear power shouldn’t be part of our tool kit for fighting climate change? After all, it doesn’t produce greenhouse gases. That’s why some have pushed to keep existing nuclear power plants open, and even build more. Often, nuclear nightmares are considered in isolation rather than weighed against the alternatives. Nobody, for instance, wants to get stuck with nuclear waste that stays radioactive for 10,000 years — but perhaps some would prefer that to coal waste, which contains mercury and lead and remains toxic forever.

When it comes to nuclear power, the risks appear right from the beginning of the process with uranium mining. And they continue to pop up throughout the nuclear life cycle, from enrichment and reactor operation to the radioactive waste at the end. It’s a process fraught with hazards.

When I started asking around about reasons to oppose nuclear power, I was surprised by how the history of uranium mining kept coming up. There’s a reason for this: It’s appalling.

The writer Peter Hessler visited the uranium towns of Utah and Colorado and met men breathing through oxygen respirators and women who had buried miners after they suffered agonizing deaths. One described her uncle’s decline to Hessler: “His lungs just crystallized and he was spitting up this bloody stuff. They told us it was parts of his lungs.”

During World War II, the U.S. government began digging for uranium throughout the Southwest to create the first atomic bombs. Officials saw early on that the work posed a hazard, says Stephanie Malin, a sociologist at Colorado State University, but they didn’t tell the miners or the people living in the surrounding communities. After all, they were making a secret weapon.

“They made recommendations — better ventilation in the mines, radiation monitors,” Malin says. “But these recommendations were made in classified public health documents in the 1950s. The government responded by not doing anything until the 1970s.”
Crushed rock from a uranium mill in Moab, Utah. U.S. Department of Energy

Meanwhile, people living downstream drank water seeping out of the mines, full of radioactive isotopes. Cancer clusters began to emerge, Malin tells me.

Many uranium mines were on the Navajo Nation, a 27,000-square-mile territory in northern Arizona and New Mexico. And this isn’t just ancient history.

“An undetermined amount of uranium mines still exist on native lands, and the government hasn’t finished cleaning up the ones we know about,” says Cecilia Martinez, executive director of the environmental justice group, Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy.

The federal government has fairly sophisticated clean-up plans, but politicians have refused to provide the money needed to carry them out, says Cindy Vestergaard, who studies the uranium supply chain at the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan think tank.

Mining today is much safer than it was during the Cold War, Vestergaard says. It takes at least a decade to complete all the environmental- and social-impact assessments needed before you start a new mine. “One thing I can say about mining is that it’s radically different than it was in the ‘50s and ‘60s,” Vestergaard says.

So mining’s much safer, but that’s not the same as safe. Studies have found increased risks ranging from lung cancer to diabetes in communities near uranium mines (though there’s not enough evidence to prove that mining is the cause). Other studies have suggested that modern-day miners are more likely to get sick than white-collar workers.

Mining of all kinds scars the land and puts people in danger. Coal and tar sands mining cause the same problems on a larger scale. Even renewable power relies on people unearthing the cobalt, indium, and other materials for solar panels and batteries.

There are bits of radioactive material scattered throughout the earth’s crust, and when you excavate tons and tons of rock, you’re going to get exposed to a lot of it. As a result, the people digging up the elements required to make solar panels collectively get a little more radiation than the people mining an equivalent amount of uranium. Blasting out the iron ore needed to build wind turbines and generate the same amount of power exposes miners to a little less radiation.

Whether any of this radiation is harmful depends on how it’s spread around. The earth, bananas, and airplane trips give us small, harmless doses of radiation all the time. But a giant dose can kill. A United Nations report found that individual uranium miners are exposed to roughly 4 percent of the federal limit of radiation for x-ray technicians and other workers who deal with radiation.
Nuclear … war?

After uranium ore is milled into yellow cake, it goes through an enrichment process where centrifuges spin uranium to transform it into nuclear fuel. Keep that fuel spinning longer, and it eventually turns into the stuff that can level cities.

So you can’t separate nuclear power from nuclear war. The crucial link in this connection between energy and weaponry is the enrichment process, not the reactors. You can’t build a warhead with nuclear-reactor fuel. You need to enrich it further. So as long as new reactors get their fuel from existing enrichment facilities, it doesn’t increase the risk of nuclear proliferation, says Matthew Bunn, a nuclear policy analyst at Harvard.

“As long as we keep control of enrichment and reprocessing, nuclear power can spread without spreading nuclear weapons,” Bunn explains.

There’s no guarantee that the United States and its allies will be able to keep control of the technology needed to concoct weapons-grade uranium. Saudi Arabia, for instance, is trying to make a deal to have the United States, Russia, or China build it a nuclear power plant. But Saudi Arabia refuses to say that it won’t then build the infrastructure needed to create nukes.

Sometimes, governments say they want to develop enrichment technology to generate their own fuel when they actually want to start making warheads. Iran, for instance, has insisted that it’s only enriching uranium for reactors, but the fact that it built a secret enrichment plant — and says it could produce weapons-grade uranium within a week — suggests that something else is up.
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveils a sample of the third generation centrifuge for uranium enrichment in 2010. BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

You don’t need weapons-grade fuel to cause a disaster. Nuclear experts also stress over the possibility of a terrorist attack. In 1982, after training for 10 years, an anti-nuclear activist named Chaim Nissim shot five rocket-propelled grenades at the Superphénix nuclear plant on the Rhone River in France. The reactor was still under construction, so there was no danger of a meltdown. The grenades damaged the outer concrete shell but not much else.

Nuclear experts are sure that terrorists have considered attacking working plants with the aim of causing a meltdown. So facilities need security: guns, guards, and gates.

“You need to make sure you have enough security that so bad guys don’t do what the tsunami did to Fukushima — cutting off the power and disabling the backup power to start a meltdown,” Bunn says. Most nuclear plants have so much security that terrorists look elsewhere, “at a dam or a chemical plant instead,” he says.

It appears to be working so far. There hasn’t been an attack on a civilian reactor since Nissim’s attack 36 years ago.

Let’s continue our tour of things that can go wrong in the nuclear fuel cycle. After getting enriched, fuel goes to the reactor, and that’s where you run the risk of meltdowns.

In the middle of the night on April 26, 1986, workers shut off the safety systems to run a test on the Chernobyl plant, in the Soviet Ukraine. Something went wrong. The reactor ramped up to 100 times its normal power, heating the steam in its pressurized system until the reactor exploded through the roof of the building around it. A fisherman reported seeing a blue flash in the sky from the reactor. People 60 miles away felt the ground shake. Two workers on site were killed by the explosion, and others would die from radiation exposure. Scandinavian countries began reporting higher radioactivity readings.

There have been three high-profile accidents since nuclear plants started running in 1951, and Chernobyl was the worst. Besides the two killed by the explosion, 28 workers died from acute radiation poisoning. Estimates of the total number of deaths in the years since varies wildly as a result of basic methodological disagreements over how much radiation increases your likelihood of cancer. The World Health Organization’s review came up with an estimate of 4,000 to 9,000 deaths.

And then there’s the Fukushima meltdown, which caused no direct fatalities. A 2017 report from the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation concluded that health effects to the general public from radiation were almost nil. The committee expects to see two or three more cancerous tumors among the 173 workers most exposed to radiation. The evacuation of 110,000 people, however, led to 1,600 deaths. Scientists reassessed the disaster response and concluded that, even with the risk of radiation, locals would have been better off staying put.

Three Mile Island, a reactor just south of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, partially melted down in 1978. No one was killed in the accident, and there was only a small release of radiation. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the accident had “no detectable health effects on plant workers or the public.” But it may have been enough to increase the risk of thyroid cancer among people exposed, according to one study.
An employee of Tokyo Electric Power Company walks through the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in 2018. BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Nuclear disasters are terrifying. They capture the attention of the world. Fossil fuels, in contrast, are quiet and insidious. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels, for instance, kills some 200,000 Americans every year. Calculated in terms of deaths per units of electricity generated, nuclear is among the safest forms of energy that comes from industrial plants.

Usually, when we’ve shut down a nuclear plant, or decided not to build one, it’s led to a greater reliance on fossil fuels. When Germany started shutting down nuclear reactors in 2011, its progress stalled in reducing emissions and weaning itself off coal.

As the environmentalist Mark Lynas pointed out in his book, Nuclear 2.0, when Japan shut down its nuclear plants after Fukushima, it started burning more natural gas and coal.

“Looking at the air pollution mortality figures strongly suggests that it is untrue to say that nobody will die because of Fukushima,” Lynas writes. “People will die; but not from radiation. Their lives will instead be shortened because of an increased reliance on fossil fuels due to post-Fukushima nuclear fear.”

Still, Harvard’s Bunn tells me I shouldn’t let the whiplash between my assumptions and the facts make me too bullish on nuclear. It’s been relatively safe only because we’ve been so careful.

“It requires human excellence,” Bunn says. “Yes, it’s much better today than it was before Fukushima — and it’s dramatically better today than it was before Three Mile Island — but we need continuous improvement.”

He adds that countries need to put in place focused incentives to get energy officials and others to point out the weak points in the technology — though he admits that such critics don’t tend to be very popular.

“Countries with a lot of corruption, countries that lock up whistleblowers, they just shouldn’t have nuclear power,” Bunn readily admits.

Even if you manage to avoid disasters, at the end of this process you will always end up with nuclear waste.

I really thought that the waste was something like green goo seeping through barrels, like you see in cartoons, but it’s actually all solid, just metal rods holding spent uranium. The rods go into a pool of water, and then, when radioactivity has cooled off somewhat, into metal and concrete containers filled with helium.

These dry casks stay at the power plants where workers can keep an eye on them, and it seems to work pretty well. “Since the first casks were loaded in 1986, dry storage has released no radiation that affected the public or contaminated the environment,” according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Dry casks at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass. Each contains 68 fuel assemblies, and stands on a 4 foot thick pad made of reinforced concrete and steel. Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Of course, the strongest container can’t last forever, and nuclear waste remains radioactive for as long as 10,000 years. If society abandons these dry casks, rather than maintaining and replacing them for perpetuity, they will eventually erode and expose the surrounding area to radiation.

There’s no perfect solution for spent fuel, but there’s no perfect solution for any kind of energy waste, Stimson Center’s Vestergaard says.

“We currently have around 400,000 tons of nuclear waste globally,” she says. Compare that to coal power, which produces nearly 100 times that much waste every year in the country of South Africa alone.

These other forms of waste aren’t nearly as well-controlled as nuclear. According to a comparison made in Scientific American by the science writer Mara Hvistendahl, “the fly ash emitted by a power plant — a byproduct from burning coal for electricity — carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.”

I’d gone into this analysis hoping I could put all these risks into economic terms — give them a dollar value, and see if this increased cost simply made nuclear prohibitive. But when I ask Bunn about that he says, “That’s the wrong way to think about it.”

Bunn offers up a simple rubric for thinking about nuclear risk: “(a) the risk is often exaggerated, (b) there are options we should be taking to reduce the risk, but (c) the risk can’t be reduced to zero,” he wrote in an email.

In the past, policymakers weighed the risks and doled them out in a way that fell disproportionately on the Navajo and other communities of color. In the future, nuclear plants will only succeed when communities weigh the risks for themselves, and decide they want them, Vestergaard says.

“Countries are realizing that we can’t just go in and build these things,” she says.

Chinese officials learned this the hard way in 2013, when they decided to build a 500-acre nuclear fuel production park in the industrial Pearl River delta. The government often bulldozes through local objections to development, but in this case the locals won.

“The community went, ‘Nope.’ And the government said, ‘We’re still doing it,’ and the communities said, ‘Nope, you’re not.’ And the government said, ‘Oh, I guess we’re not,’” Vestergaard explains.

Contrast that with the underground repository for nuclear waste that recently opened on Olkiluoto Island, Finland. In that case, officials found a community that was open to the idea, then let locals shape the project.

“Countries need to educate and work with the people,” Vestergaard says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a mine or a waste repository or a nuclear power plant: If you don’t have community support, you aren’t going anywhere.”


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