A future severe nuclear accident at a U.S. nuclear power plant is a real possibility. In 2011 five nuclear power plants in the United States lost primary power due to earthquake or extreme weather events, including tornados, hurricanes, and flooding. Fortunately backup power systems kicked in at these plants and a disaster was averted. But weather is not the only risk factor. Other risk factors include:
Type of reactor – There are two types of reactors operating it the United States: Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) and Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs). Some experts judge that the design and structure of BWRs do not protect against the release of radiation during a severe accident as effectively as PWRs. The four reactors involved in the Fukushima nuclear crisis were BWRs. On the map, NRDC experts assigned a red flag to a reactor if it is a BWR.
Age of reactor – Reactors were designed to operate for 40 years, yet the regulatory body that oversees nuclear safety in the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has re-licensed some nuclear power plants to operate for 60 years, well beyond their originally engineered design lifetime. On the map, NRDC experts assigned a red flag to a reactor if the NRC has approved the reactor to operate for 60 years.
Power level of reactor – The NRC has approved many utility operators to increase the operating power of their nuclear reactors, including for Fukushima-type reactors, and in some cases multiple times and to significantly higher power levels. These so-called “power uprates” push reactors beyond what they were originally engineered to do, and could increase the radiation hazard if a nuclear accident occurred. On the map, NRDC experts assigned a red flag if the NRC has granted a reactor a power uprate.
If a person received one rad of radiation from a nuclear accident, it would increase one’s chance of getting cancer by 1 in 1,000 (averaged over all ages and both sexes). And although the NRC believes that the chances of a severe accident with fallout in a core meltdown for any one of the 104 U.S. nuclear reactors is small (probability of less than 1 in 10,000 per year), can we afford the risk? Millions of Japanese people were exposed to radiation from Fukushima, increasing their risk of developing cancer, and the cost of the Fukushima accident is projected to exceed US$100 billion, and the environmental effects will last for generations. What if a meltdown occurred at one of the 65 nuclear power plants in the United States?
pretty brutal stuff and a pic with projection map….
are you living near one?
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