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Nuclear nightmare worse than Fukushima could hit US because of ignored risks

The US has underestimated the risks to its nuclear safety as a single nuclear fuel fire could lead to fallout “much greater than Fukushima,” according to a new study. Researches slammed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for ignoring the potential danger.

If spent fuel at one of the dozens of US nuclear sites sets alight, it “could dwarf the horrific consequences of the Fukushima accident [in Japan],” researchers from Princeton University and the Union of Concerned Scientists warned in their study published in the May 26 issue of Science magazine.

The disaster would lead to “trillion-dollar consequences,” as the hypothetical fire would result in contamination of an area larger than New Jersey and force mass relocations.

The scientists simulated a nightmare scenario in their ‘Nuclear safety regulation in the post-Fukushima era’ article. Supposing that an imagined fuel fire broke out at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania at the beginning of 2015, and taking into account the weather conditions at that time, they showed the devastating extent of potential contamination in the area. The accident would have led to the relocation of around 8 million people and would have cost $2 trillion in damages, according to Science Daily, citing the article.

At first, it would mostly have affected a small part of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, also touching on New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. However, within three months almost all the East Coast from South Carolina to Maine would have become contaminated to a varying extent, the scientists said, with radiation going deeper into the land later on.

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The researchers say that this frightening scenario can be avoided if spent fuel is not housed in the pools which are used at almost all US nuclear plants to store and cool used radioactive material. Instead, it would be safer to transfer it to dry storage casks after it is cooled in pools for around five years, they say. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) previously considered such measures, but decided they would be too costly.

The study blames the NRC for downplaying the potential consequences and risking millions of Americans’ lives to favor nuclear industries.

“The NRC has been pressured by the nuclear industry, directly and through Congress, to low-ball the potential consequences of a fire because of concerns that increased costs could result in shutting down more nuclear power plants,” one of the authors of the study, Frank von Hippel, is quoted as saying by Science Daily.

“Unfortunately, if there is no public outcry about this dangerous situation, the NRC will continue to bend to the industry’s wishes.”

The researches also stressed that a nuclear disaster could be brought about by a large earthquake or terrorist attack, the possibility of which was excluded by the NRC.

They have called on the agency to take action to reduce the potential danger by enhancing the monitoring of the pools and increasing water levels in case of a breakdown. If the NRC does not act, the researchers say Congress should step up.

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The NRC previously said the transfer of spent fuel, which could reduce the threat of radioactive releases by 99 percent, would require additional spending of $50 million per pool. An accident would result in $125 billion in damages and radioactive contamination would not go beyond 50 miles of the site, according to the NRC, in sharp contrast to the researchers’ estimates. The NRC also said that the consequences would be dealt with within a year, while the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents have shown much worse effects, with the areas still deserted.

“In far too many instances, the NRC has used flawed analysis to justify inaction, leaving millions of Americans at risk of a radiological release that could contaminate their homes and destroy their livelihoods,” said Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists and co-author of the article. “It is time for the NRC to employ sound science and common-sense policy judgments in its decision-making process,” he said.

NRC spokesperson Scott Burnell has promised to study the scientists’ proposal and report to agency commissioners, Science Daily reports.

In early May, an emergency was declared at a nuclear waste site in Hanford, Washington, after a portion of a tunnel near the plutonium-uranium extraction plant collapsed. The same site leaked gallons of toxic waste last April, affecting a number of workers.


19 Comments on "Nuclear nightmare worse than Fukushima could hit US because of ignored risks"

  1. bobinget on Fri, 26th May 2017 12:53 pm 

    Dear RT,

    Did you by chance get Russia’s target list of likely Democrats who might object to Putin take-over? Mixed up with Fukis scare headlines?

    Worry about your Siberian gas pipelines turning to scrap as permafrost turns foundations to sticky mud.
    Moscow, gonna get cold this coming winter.

    Unrequested advice;
    Try to get posted to Venezuela.

  2. Apneaman on Fri, 26th May 2017 2:04 pm 

    When civilization goes you’ll have this happen with all the spent fuel pools and 455 nuke power plants. SO WHAT EXACTLY IS THE POINT IN PREPPING?

  3. bobinget on Fri, 26th May 2017 2:34 pm 

    Nuclear proved itself far too expensive.
    Or, a person could say alternative energies proved themselves far better choices.

  4. Go Speed Racer on Fri, 26th May 2017 2:56 pm 

    OK listen up, cause I have an important question.
    What we are talking about, is a nuclear fuel fire.

    Could happen in the spent piles of nuclear fuel.

    So if we are having a spent nuclear fuel fire,
    My question is can i put some old sofa’s on top,
    along with an old mattress, a La-Z-Boy
    recliner, and 3 or 4 tires?

    My concern is without this extra material,
    we might not get enough clouds of black smoke.

  5. penury on Fri, 26th May 2017 4:59 pm 

    I heard one time that “99 per cent of everything that we spend time worried about never happens. Of the portion that does happen 99 per cent there is nothing you can do to mitigate them.” So the advice I was given is to determine “which things you can do something about and spend your time on them” this is one of the things for me to ignore.

  6. makati1 on Fri, 26th May 2017 6:42 pm 

    Peach Bottom is on the shore of the Susquehanna River near the Pennsylvania/Maryland border. I saw it often when I was a teen, staying at my uncle’s cabin a few miles up river, in the summers of my youth. It is old! That was 60 years ago!

    Then there are those reactors on the West Coast that would spread contamination over the whole country. 100 possible accident sites in the U$ alone. And most of them are past their ‘expiration date’. It’s only a matter of time.

  7. diemos on Fri, 26th May 2017 8:55 pm 

    Well, look on the bright side makati. If it ever happens it will give you something to gloat about.

  8. Go Speed Racer on Fri, 26th May 2017 11:45 pm 

    Maybe when the nuclear reactors melt,
    it will poison the 0.1% who took all the
    money from the formerly middle class.

  9. Theedrich on Sat, 27th May 2017 4:48 am 

    Whether Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, dry storage casks, or any other rational, serious way of taking care of this growing nuclear waste threat is offered, the U.S. Congress can always be counted on to react to it in the same way it does to any other increasing horror, such as the proliferating narcotics plague, the ThirdWorld invasion, etc., etc.:  give in to suppressive and delaying tactics paid for by lobbyists, hold interminable “hearings” which result in no action, give the excuse that the needed cures or solutions are too disruptive to the herd, too expensive for the economy, blah, blah, blah.  Basically, the view of politicians is that, by the time push comes to shove, someone else will be saddled with the problem after they themselves are safely out of the way, enjoying the $millions they have stolen from the taxpayers.

    As astrophysicist Fred Hoyle said long ago in his Of Men and Galaxies (Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press, 1964, 1966), “[I]f we insist on always following the easy path, we could end up as a criminal species. [p. 70]  … This is a one-shot affair.  If we fail, this planetary system fails so far as intelligence is concerned.  The same will be true of other planetary systems.  On each of them there will be one chance, and one chance only. [p. 64]”

    But neither the U.S. nor any other political system cares about this fact.  Instead, superannuated religious systems and heresies drive the ship.  Sörös and his “Open-Society” confederates reign supreme in the West, while primitive savagery motivates the Mohammedan world and its belief in a heavenly whorehouse.  Other systems operate on equally blind premisses.

    There was only one attempt to stop this madness and come to grips with the fact that we have only one chance to make it to a higher species — one compatible with the realities of the earth and evolution.  That desperate attempt was defeated by madmen in the White House.  They could not see that the only system which had a realistic chance of allowing the planet to survive was the one directed by the Austrian.

  10. deadlykillerbeaz on Sat, 27th May 2017 8:22 am 

    The wolves of Chernobyl say nuclear meltdown is survivable.

    Just dump all of those spent rods in the Bikini Atoll and forget about it. Nobody cares where they are.

  11. Hawkcreek on Sat, 27th May 2017 8:57 am 

    I’ve spent enough years in industrial plants to know that eventually, a major accident will happen. Whether it is because of deferred maintenance, human error, or Act of God, it WILL happen. In any risk appraisal sheet, it always has the severity of the risk considered along with the cost of mitigating actions. Often, in my experience, the cost will be paramount in decisions on mitigating actions.
    If you don’t consider this worst case as having a possibility of happening, you don’t know Mr. Murphy.

  12. Sissyfuss on Sat, 27th May 2017 10:09 am 

    Gospeed, have you ever been convicted of arson in your lifetime; just wondering.

  13. Alice Friedemann on Sat, 27th May 2017 11:19 am

    In the latest NRC 2016 report “Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of U.S. Nuclear Plants: Phase 2” it was learned that:

    If electric power were out 12 to 31 days (depending on how hot the stored fuel was), the fuel from the reactor core cooling down in a nearby nuclear spent fuel pool could catch on fire and cause millions of flee from thousands of square miles of contaminated land, because these pools aren’t in a containment vessel.

    If the electric grid power fails, backup diesel generators can provide power for 7 days without resupply of diesel fuel under typical nuclear plant emergency plans. If emergency diesel generators stop working, nuclear power plants are only required to have “alternate ac sources” available for a period of 2 to 16 hours. Once electric power is no longer supplied to circulation pumps, the spent fuel pool would begin to heat up and boil off. It would only take 4 to 22 days from when water was no longer cooling the fuel to ignite the zirconium cladding within 2 to 24 hours (depending on how much the fuel had decayed). Without more water being added to the spent fuel pool, the total time from grid outage to spontaneous zirconium ignition would likely be 12-31 days (NIRS).

    The National Research Council estimated that if a spent nuclear fuel fire happened at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, nearly 3.5 million people would need to be evacuated and 12 thousand square miles of land would be contaminated. A Princeton University study that looked at the same scenario concluded it was more likely that 18 million people would need to evacuated and 39,000 square miles of land contaminated.

    In the worst case, nearly all of U.S. reactors would be involved if there were a nuclear bomb generated electromagnetic pulse, which could take the electric grid down for a year or more (see U.S. House hearing testimony of Dr. Pry at The EMP Commission estimates a nationwide blackout lasting one year could kill up to 9 of 10 Americans through starvation, disease, and societal collapse. At this hearing, Dr. Pry said “Seven days after the commencement of blackout, emergency generators at nuclear reactors would run out of fuel. The reactors and nuclear fuel rods in cooling ponds would meltdown and catch fire, as happened in the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan. The 104 U.S. nuclear reactors, located mostly among the populous eastern half of the United States, could cover vast swaths of the nation with dangerous plumes of radioactivity” )

  14. Anonymouse on Sat, 27th May 2017 11:54 am 

    And just think, all this so fat, greasy amerikans can have their 6 tvs on standby mode 24/7/365.

    The downside? Have to babysit the most toxic waste in existence for anywhere from 10,000, to 100,000+ years or more. YMMV. OR, if that is just too much bother, just store the waste out in the open, in the back yard of the plant instead.

  15. Hawkcreek on Sat, 27th May 2017 12:57 pm 

    Yep, nukes are stupid when you can provide power with much less risk from another source. But it looks like stupidity is not restricted to the amerikans. The rest of the world seems to like nukes too. Look at France.

  16. makati1 on Sat, 27th May 2017 6:15 pm 

    How to stop the nuke problem?

    Require the CEO of each nuclear power company to put 10 spent fuel cells in their backyard pool and every stock holder to keep one in their basement.

    End of problem.

  17. Go Speed Racer on Sat, 27th May 2017 9:19 pm 

    Hi Sissyfuss,
    no need to burn down the house.

    Just enjoy burning the furniture,
    in the backyard, behind the house.

    Makes great big clouds of toxic
    nuclear smoke.

  18. Kenz300 on Mon, 29th May 2017 1:45 pm 

    Nuclear energy was a CON job.

    Now it will cost us all to clean it up and keep us safe from the nuclear waste FOREVER.

  19. Cloggie on Mon, 29th May 2017 4:59 pm 

    Never knew that John Wayne possibly died from cancer caused by nuclear radiation:

    Among the cast and crew who filmed The Conqueror (1956) on location near St. George, Utah, 91 developed some form of cancer at various times, including stars Wayne, Susan Hayward, and Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell. The film was shot in southwestern Utah, east of and generally downwind from the site of recent U.S. Government nuclear weapons tests in southeastern Nevada. Many contend that radioactive fallout from these tests contaminated the film location and poisoned the film crew working there. Despite the suggestion that Wayne’s 1964 lung cancer and his 1979 stomach cancer resulted from nuclear contamination, he believed his lung cancer to have been a result of his six-packs-a-day cigarette habit

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