What could go wrong?

i-1343ce7b24097ba0e1276dc6b678b0fc-Wolf Creek Reactor.jpgThe Nuclear Regulatory Commission, after dealing with patients who get busted by portable nuclear detectors after getting medical procedures with radioactive materials, they’ve decided defending nuclear plants against aerial assault is impractical:

The new defense plan — most of which is classified — offers provisions related to “multiple, coordinated groups of attackers, suicide attacks and cyber threats,” the agency said in a statement that provided few details.

But plant operators should not be expected to protect their reactors against a “deliberate hit by a large aircraft,” the NRC said.

The agency suggested that would be unreasonable because “the active protection against airborne threats is addressed by other federal organizations, including the military.”

Because that worked so well last time. Maybe the NRC can outsource protecting those sites against non-existent cyber-threats also. The image above is the reactor at Wolf Creek, Kansas. There are 11,000 people within a mile of it, and it’s a hundred miles downwind of Kansas City.

New York’s Indian Point reactor is just upwind of New York City; the 9/11 hijackers flew past it. Had they chosen to crash into it, the radioactive cloud would have irradiated millions of people. The idea that plant owners shouldn’t have to plan for that eventuality is bizarre.


  1. #1 Kickaha
    January 30, 2007

    No doubt, a Boeing 747 crashing into a nuclear power plant would cause horrific damage and release radiation. But I had some impression that the containment towers on American plants were quite stout–strong enough to resist completely cracking open with even a direct hit from a jumbo jet.

    I don’t remember how this bit of information entered my wee brain, so I’m not prepared to fiercely defend it. Still, I’m pretty sure American-designed plants are much less leak prone than plants designed like Chernobyl.

  2. #2 kristi
    January 30, 2007

    I believe some of the concern is that the plane crash would disrupt the water supply to the reactor, possibly causing a meltdown. Either way, it’s a horrific prospect.

  3. #3 mark
    January 30, 2007

    What I heard on the radio this morning said the NRC felt is would be enough to provide a little warning, enough to initiate an emergency shut down. A plane crash can still make quite a mess, but would be about the same anywhere. I guess it would be helpful to see some documentation of how robust the containment and plumbing are.

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