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
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail