Saturday, May 28, 2016

Links Addressing Nuclear Safety

Spent fuel pools pose catastrophic risks should cooling be interrupted. A 2003 study of the hazards of spent fuel pools describes risks:
R. Alvarez, J. Beyea, K. Janberg, J. Kang, E. Lyman, A. Macfarlane, G. Thompson, and F. von Hippel (2003) ‘Reducing the Hazards from Stored Spent Power-Reactor Fuel in the United States’, Science and Global Security, 11.1, 1–51.

Spent fuel recently discharged from a reactor could heat up relatively rapidly to temperatures at which the zircaloy fuel cladding could catch fire and the fuel’s volatile fission products, including 30-year half-life 137Cs, would be released. The fire could well spread to older spent fuel. The long-term land-contamination consequences of such an event could be significantly worse than those from Chernobyl.
These dangers were also documented in a 2005 report by the National Academy of Sciences.[see here]. The radioactive contamination from fuel pools is so threatening because of the volume of fuel and the lack of containment. Given these known dangers, concerns were expressed early in the Fukushima crisis that a fire in the spent fuel pools would release even more radiation than melted fuel in the actual reactors.

Recent research re-affirms the dangers of spent fuel pools:

Patrick Malone. May 20, 2016. Scientists say nuclear fuel pools around the country pose safety and health risks, Center for Public Integrity,
The Fukushima nuclear catastrophe could have been far worse, it turns out, and experts say neither the nuclear industry nor its regulators are doing enough to prevent a calamitous nuclear fuel fire in America. Ninety-six aboveground, aquamarine pools around the country that hold the nuclear industry’s spent reactor fuel may not be as safe as U.S. regulators and the nuclear industry have publicly asserted, a study released May 20 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine warned.
Citing a little-noticed study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Academies said that if an accident or an act of terrorism at a densely-filled pool caused a leak that drains the water away from the rods, a cataclysmic release of long-lasting radiation could force the extended evacuation of nearly 3.5 million people from territory larger than the state of New Jersey. It could also cause thousands of cancer deaths from excess radiation exposure, and as much as $700 billion dollars in costs to the national economy.

LINK TO THE THE STUDY Committee on Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of US Nuclear Plants. Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board Division on Earth and Life Studies. Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of US Nuclear  Plants, Pase 2.

I find the study committee members to be quite interesting. I wonder if they represent a variety of stakeholders or whether they have been selectively included?

Regardless, the National Academies has identified problems in current risk management practices at US nuclear power plants. Greenpeace offers additional evidence of risk management problems, with 166 near misses or accident precursors:
Jim Riccio. May, 2016. Nuclear Near Misses: A Decade of Accident Precursors at U.S. Nuclear Plants,
Greenpeace has documented 166 near misses or accident precursors at U.S. nuclear power plants.  Sixty one events and more than one hundred conditions were identified by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) risk analysts over the last decade that could have lead to a meltdown.  Ten of these near misses are considered important precursors to a melt down.
Apparently the US military nuclear arsenal also faces risk management issues deriving from reliance on outdated technology, preferred for security (anti-hacking) purposes:

Brian Fung. May 26, 2016. The real reason America controls its nukes with ancient floppy disks. The Washington Post,

America’s nuclear arsenal depends on a surprising relic of the 1970s that few of us may recall: the humble floppy disk. It’s hard to believe these magnetic, 8-inch data storage devices are what’s propping up the most fearsome weapons humanity has ever created. But the Department of Defense is still relying on this technology to coordinate key strategic forces such as nuclear bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to a new government report.
The floppy disks help run what’s known as the Strategic Automated Command and Control System, an important communications network that the Pentagon uses to issue launch orders to commanders and to share intelligence. And in order to use the floppy disks, the military must also maintain a collection of IBM Series/1 computers that to most people would look more at home in a museum than in a missile silo.


  1. We are very familiar with this sort of problem. We do not give lighters and matches to children because they might burn down the house. Fortunately as parents we have that control. If adult people had "parents" that controlled them then humans would not have nuclear power because they would destroy the planet. Most adult humans simply are not very responsible. Of that we have too much evidence stretching back as far as we want to go. Negligent, careless, stupid, blind, etc. Giving people dangerous things is asking for big trouble!

  2. Trump wants to leave nuclear regulation up to individual reactor owners. They need to all be shut down!

    1. Someone needs to inform him then. He is a practical person and knowing what the case is will change his mind. Obama refers to nuclear power as clean energy! There is so much false information out there about everything. If Trump gets elected he needs a really smart and well informed staff. He may have to settle for a DC knowledgeable VP. I now think there is a good chance that Sanders will be the Democrat nominee as Hilary is looking worse almost daily. If Sanders wins CA, then Hilary may be finished. She may have to just drop out.

  3. It would by nice I sanders won California. Him and trump could have some killer diller debates. That would be cool!