America's nuclear safety under scrutiny after Oyster Creek's Sandy alert Richard Schiffman Nov 1, 2012 The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/01/nuclear-safety-oyster-creek-sandy-alert
[Excerpted] Watchdog groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) warn that America's nuclear facilities remain vulnerable to a variety of potential catastrophic events, both natural and resulting from deliberate sabotage or cyber-attack. And they say that federal regulations are currently inadequate to deal with all of these possible disaster scenarios.
I reported on one such danger, solar flares, last May in the New York Daily News. A 2011 study by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory warns that a massive solar storm could knock out electricity in some areas for weeks, overwhelming the capacity of many nuclear plants to keep their critical cooling systems operational.
But nuclear regulators have not required power plants to guard against the risk of solar storms....
....One facility was put in a state of "high alert" during Sandy due to high-water levels in its water intake structure. The Oyster Creek Generating Station on Barnegat Bay – 40 miles north of Atlantic City, and the oldest nuclear facility in the nation – was shut down last week for refueling.
Plutonium, however, can dangerously overheat whether or not a plant is actively producing electricity. So, 300 employees stayed at Oyster Creek, Monday night, to ensure that the imperiled cooling system continued to function.Nuclear plants located near oceans are not the only ones threatened by flooding. Thirty-four reactors, fully a third of those in the US, are sited along rivers with dams upstream.
A report released last March by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission suggests that many of these plants were not designed to withstand the massive floods that catastrophic dam collapse would unleash....
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