Sunday, March 13, 2011

U.S. Nuclear Plants

The cost to build, the cost to maintain, the cost {hopefully} in preparing for a worse case scenario, the decades long costs as to the spent fuel rods and safety, is it all worth just one accident, especially one major accident or force of nature!!

Can U.S. Nuclear Plants Handle a Major Natural Disaster?

Futaba Kosei Hospital patients who might have been exposed to radiation are carried into the compound of Fukushima Gender Equality Centre in Nihonmatsu on March 13, 2011, after being evacuated from the hospital near the troubled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. (Daisuke Tomita/AP Photo/The Yomiuri Shimbun)

March 13, 2011 - As engineers in Japan struggle to bring quake-damaged reactors under control [1], attention is turning to U.S. nuclear plants and their ability to withstand natural disasters.

Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who has spent years pushing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission toward stricter enforcement of its safety rules, has called for a reassessment. Several U.S. reactors lie on or near fault lines, and Markey wants to beef up standards for new and existing plants.

"This disaster serves to highlight both the fragility of nuclear power plants and the potential consequences associated with a radiological release caused by earthquake related damage," Markey wrote NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko in a March 11 letter [2].

Specifically, Markey raised questions about a reactor design the NRC is reviewing for new plants that has been criticized for seismic vulnerability. The NRC has yet to make a call on the AP1000 reactor [3], which is manufactured by Westinghouse. But according to Markey, a senior NRC engineer has said the reactor’s concrete shield building could shatter "like a glass cup" under heavy stress. {continued}

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