SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

The Nation

March 29, 2011

Long blackouts pose risk to US reactors

WASHINGTON — Long before the nuclear emergency in Japan, U.S. regulators knew that a power failure lasting for days at an American nuclear plant, whatever the cause, could lead to a radioactive leak. Even so, they have only required the nation's 104 nuclear reactors to develop plans for dealing with much shorter blackouts on the assumption that power would be restored quickly.

In one nightmare simulation presented by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2009, it would take less than a day for radiation to escape from a reactor at a Pennsylvania nuclear power plant after an earthquake, flood or fire knocked out all electrical power and there was no way to keep the reactors cool after backup battery power ran out. That plant, the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station outside Lancaster, has reactors of the same older make and model as those releasing radiation at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, which is using other means to try to cool the reactors.

And like Fukushima Dai-ichi, the Peach Bottom plant has enough battery power on site to power emergency cooling systems for eight hours. In Japan, that wasn't enough time for power to be restored. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Institute trade association, three of the six reactors at the plant still can't get power to operate the emergency cooling systems. Two were shut down at the time. In the sixth, the fuel was removed completely and put in the spent fuel pool when it was shut down for maintenance at the time of the disaster. A week after the March 11 earthquake, diesel generators started supplying power to two other two reactors, Units 5 and 6, the groups said.

The risk of a blackout leading to core damage, while extremely remote, exists at all U.S. nuclear power plants, and some are more susceptible than others, according to an Associated Press investigation. While regulators say they have confidence that measures adopted in the U.S. will prevent or significantly delay a core from melting and threatening a radioactive release, the events in Japan raise questions about whether U.S. power plants are as prepared as they could and should be.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
The Nation

AP Video
Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel David Perdue Wins Georgia GOP Senate Runoff 98-Year-Old Woman Left in Parked Truck Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Raw: MD Church Built in 1773 Ravaged by Fire Flight to Tel Aviv From US Diverted to Paris AP Review: Amazon Fire Adds Spark to Smartphones Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed
NDN Video
LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Prince George Turns 1 and is Already a Trendsetter Train Collides With Semi Truck Carrying Lighter Fluid Kanye West Tells-All on Wedding in "GQ" Interview Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Scarlett Johansson Set To Marry In August New Star Wars Episode XII X-Wing Revealed Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB'