Letter Re: Don’t Be Blind-sided By a Secondary Event

Dear James:

I second the motion – any nuclear power experts on the blog that can comment on the threat from further catastrophes in Japan, or similar catastrophes happening here in the US?

Quite frankly I had not paid enough attention to Fukushima.  What I am finally reading is incredibly disturbing.   To summarize, we have a fragile earthquake, and tsunami damaged building, holding tons of highly radioactive and unstable nuclear fuel rods – on the building’s second storey, 100 feet in the air, in an active earthquake zone.

Here is a photo.

Here is a quote: “If an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cs-137 released by the Chernobyl accident.”

This would be TEOTWAWKI for Japan.  I would love to hear from an expert how bad this one event would be for the US, especially the West Coast…

Even more ominously for Americans, the US is just as vulnerable to repeating the same catastrophe as Fukushima – because of a decades-long reliance upon insecure on-site water pool storage of nuclear waste.  This was supposed to be a temporary expedient before stable long term removal and secure long-term storage of nuclear waste.   The safer, and more expensive alternative, of on-site dry cask storage, has been resisted (dry cask storage has come through largely unscathed in Japan).

“The Worst Yet to Come? Why Nuclear Experts Are Calling Fukushima a Ticking Time-Bomb”

“Experts say acknowledging the threat would call into question the safety of dozens of identically designed nuclear power plants in the U.S.”

It Gets Worse…

Beyond the storage pool dilemma is the fact that nuclear reactors need a functioning power grid to keep the coolant flowing to prevent meltdown.  If the grid goes down, it is just batteries and diesel / propane generators to keep the coolant flowing.  If the fuel re-supply  doesn’t show up in time, meltdown occurs…

Natural News has the best overview of the threat I have seen:

“Solar flare could unleash nuclear holocaust across planet Earth, forcing hundreds of nuclear power plants into total meltdowns”

It is disturbing to fathom, but it appears that any disaster that takes the power grid down for an extended time, and disrupts the delivery of generator fuel, could easily turn a large chunk of the US into a nuclear contaminated wasteland.

Any nuclear scientists with a considered opinion on this?

The number of “Black Swan” scenarios that could take the power grid down for an extended time are legion:  EMP strike, or Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), a New Madrid quake, “The Big One” on the West Coast, war or terrorist attack, just to start the list…

Are we living on borrowed time?

Is the Southern hemisphere the only really desirable bug-out location for any scenario involving the power grid going down long term?

See this map.

Regards, – OSOM

JWR Replies: The American Redoubt region is relatively safe from contamination from nuclear power plants. It is noteworthy that all but one of the nuclear power plants in CONUS that are up-wind of the region have either been shut down or are so hopelessly entangled by lawsuits that they are unlikely to ever be operational. (The one operating plant is Columbia Nuclear Generating Station, near Richland, Washington.) In contrast, the eastern United States does indeed have many, many significant spent fuel storage pond meltdown risks, in the event of a long-term grid power failure.

In the west, there is still the risk of minor contamination from Fukushima. At worst, we might have to dump milk from dairy animals for a few months if there is another big radiation release. But thankfully, the inverse square law hasn’t been repealed. Distance is on our side!