FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Jet Crashes and Nuclear Reactors

by HARVEY WASSERMAN

The ever-vigilant Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued milestone regulations requiring the builders of new nuke reactors to explain how their plants might withstand the crash of large commercial jetliners.

But the NRC has exempted the reactors that matter most—the 104 licensed to operate RIGHT NOW. As you read this, jets hitting any of them could kill untold thousands of us and render entire regions of our nation permanently uninhabitable.

But requiring current reactor owners to do what’s now expected of future ones would apparently be an unsupportable burden.

All reactors would shut immediately without federal limits to their owners’ liability for the incalculable death and destruction that could come from a stricken nuke.

The first jet to crash into the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001 flew DIRECTLY over the one dead and two operating reactors at Indian Point, 45 miles up the Hudson, plus the three spent fuel pools there. Terrorists close to the attack—including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—have confirmed that reactors were originally targeted, but they changed their minds “for the moment.”

This is the NRC’s first significant public nod to ANY structural responsibility for such a catastrophe.

But the regulations say taxpayers must pay to prevent such attacks, not the industry. So far, not a single US reactor has any form of anti-aircraft protection, federal, state or otherwise, and many doubt they’d work anyway.

After 9/11 a bitter debate raged over the ability of American reactors to withstand jet crashes. Not one was required to do so, most importantly the fragile General Electric Mark I and Mark II designs installed at more than a third of US reactors. “We have not analyzed what would happen if a 767 crashed into a reactor,” according to the Commission’s Neil Sheehan. “Until we’ve done that, we can’t say with certainty that they could withstand it.”

NRC Chairman Dale Klein recently told CNBC a jet would “bounce off” a reactor containment dome. The industry uses a visually dramatic crash of an F-4 Phantom jet into a movable wall at the Sandia National Laboratory to “prove” its containments are “robust.” But the crash test “proves nothing, since the wall was not attached to the ground and was displaced nearly six feet,” says the Nuclear Control Institute’s Scientific Director Bernard Lyman. The Sandia test report says “the major portion of the impact energy went into movment of the target and not in producing structural damage.” The Phantom’s fuel tanks were filled with water, not jet fuel, and its total weight was about 5% of a 767. The wall was 12 feet thick, as opposed to 3.5 for a reactor containment dome.

Crash tremors at existing reactors could easily compromise cooling, electrical, safety, communication and other critical components without a containment breach. Human operators have not been realistically trained to run a control room after surviving—maybe—the impact’s shock waves.

As at Three Mile Island, radiation can—and does—escape en masse from stacks, outtake pipes and elsewhere around the reactor structure with no containment breach. Nobody knows what prolonged jet fuel fires would do to the already super-heated cores and cooling water.

Nearby pools and dry casks overbrimming with immensely radioactive used fuel rods are sitting ducks. Some are inside the containments. But most sit open to small-scale attack, let alone a jet crash.

The core radiation inside American commercial reactors can exceed by a thousand-fold what was released at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After a half-century of operation, eight years after 9/11, the official NRC admission that jets crashing into future reactors demand a structural response is long overdue. It confirms that every atomic power plant is a potential target for terror and error, a pre-deployed weapon of radioactive mass destruction.

“President Obama should replace the Bush-appointed Chairman of the NRC with an individual who will address the threat rather than lie about the vulnerability of nuclear reactors and their wastes to terrorist attack,” says Greenpeace’s Jim Riccio.

At very least the new administration should demand that the new regulations for proposed new reactors must now be applied to the ones actually operating.

If it can’t be done, the nuke power industry should tell us why.

HARVEY WASSERMAN, a co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy, is editing the nukefree.org web site. He is the author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030, is at www.solartopia.org. He can be reached at: Windhw@aol.com

 

 

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.prn.fm

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail