Are Most Nuclear Power Plants Vulnerable? → Washingtons Blog
Are Most Nuclear Power Plants Vulnerable? - Washingtons Blog

Friday, April 8, 2011

Are Most Nuclear Power Plants Vulnerable?

Whenever there is a disaster, those responsible claim it was "unforeseeable" so as to escape blame.

For example:

  • It happened with 9/11

The big boys gamble with our lives and our livelihoods, because they make a killing by taking huge risks and cutting costs. And when things inevitably go South, they aren't held responsible (other than a slap on the wrist), and may even be bailed out by the government.

Are All Nuclear Power Plants Vulnerable?

Much of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex has experienced difficulties because the earthquake knocked out the main power, and then the tsunami destroyed the backup diesel generators.

Of course, many other reactors are built in seismically active areas. But that's not my point.

Nasa scientists are predicting that a solar storm will knock out most of the electrical power grid in many countries worldwide, perhaps for months. See this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

Indeed, the Earth's magnetic field protects us from the sun's most violent radiation, and yet the magnetic field fluctuates over time. As the Telegraph reported in 2008:

Large hole in magnetic field that protects Earth from sun's rays ... Recent satellite observations have revealed the largest breach yet seen in the magnetic field that protects Earth from most of the sun's violent blasts.
I'm not predicting some 2012 Mayan catastrophe. I am simply warning that a large solar storm - as Nasa is predicting - could knock out power throughout much of the world, especially if the earth's magnetic field happens to be weak at the time.

What would happen to nuclear power plants world wide if their power - and most of the surrounding modern infrastructure - is knocked out?

Nuclear power companies are notoriously cheap in trying to cut costs. If they are failing to harden their electrical components to protect against the predicted solar storm, they are asking for trouble ... perhaps on a scale that dwarfs Fukushima. Because while Fukushima is the first nuclear accident to involve multiple reactors within the same complex, a large solar storm could cause accidents at multiple complexes in numerous countries.

If the nuclear power companies and governments continue to cut costs and take large gambles, the next nuclear accident could make Fukushima look tame.

I'm not saying this will happen in 2012, or 2013 (although Nasa appears to be hinting at this). But a large solar storm which knocks out electrical grids over wide portions of the planet will happen at some point in the future.

Don't pretend it is unforeseeable. The nuclear power industry is on notice that it must spend the relatively small amounts of money necessary to prevent a widespread meltdown from the loss of power due to a solar storm.

Note: Future generations of nuclear reactors will presumably run at lower temperatures and will store spent rods in a safer manner.

But most current reactors are of a similarly outdated design as the Fukushima reactors, where the cooling systems require electricity to operate, and huge amounts of spent radioactive fuel are housed on-site, requiring continuous cooling to prevent radioactive release.


  1. "Much of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex has experienced difficulties because the earthquake knocked out the main power"
    Unfortunately, this is almost certainly not true.
    The other Fukushima plant, Daini, was using grid power by midnight when the first plant status reports were issued.
    Daini was taking power from a substation it shares with Daiichi, and from which Daiichi has three chains of towers, each with two circuits. That's six circuits.

  2. Your statements don't depend on the fact that the grid did go down at Fukushima; you are asking what happens if it does, or when it does; what if nuclear plants don't have power for, say, a month. Sorry if I jumped in too quickly.

  3. Thank you for all the posts on this nuclear catastrophe. You are a voice crying in the wilderness. Nuclear power is a boondoggle and one of the most deadly menaces facing humankind. It makes no economic sense; mining, refining, milling and transporting uranium requires huge amounts of fossil fuels; and, it produces the most insidious and deadly toxins ever created. Read Dr. Helen Caldicott's "Nuclear Power is Not the Answer" for even more truth about this deadly menace. Thanks again!

  4. Had we moved to thorium reactors, we wouldn't be having this discussion. It's still not too late.
    Oh that's right, they can't be used to make bombs.....never mind.
    {end snark}

    From what I've read the Solar max that is coming in 2013 is not predicted to be as big as other ones we've gotten through just fine in the past.

  5. The problem of meltdown, and used fuel rods both disappear if reactors are of a molten salt design. The PWR and BWR reactors built by GE et al are based on expensive and dangerous design decisions made by the US navy for their ships, and their weapons. For a better way check out energyfromthorium,com. Uranium and plutonium can also be used in molten salt reactors.


→ Thank you for contributing to the conversation by commenting. We try to read all of the comments (but don't always have the time).

→ If you write a long comment, please use paragraph breaks. Otherwise, no one will read it. Many people still won't read it, so shorter is usually better (but it's your choice).

→ The following types of comments will be deleted if we happen to see them:

-- Comments that criticize any class of people as a whole, especially when based on an attribute they don't have control over

-- Comments that explicitly call for violence

→ Because we do not read all of the comments, I am not responsible for any unlawful or distasteful comments.