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Coverup: Risk of Nuclear Melt-Down in U.S. Higher than it was at Fukushima Massive Cover-Up of Risks from Flooding to Numerous U.S. Nuclear Facilities. Revelation of NRC Whistleblowers.

A leaked copy of a redacted Nuclear Regulatory Commission report indicates that flooding at dozens of nuclear reactors could result in a Fukushima-like disaster in the U.S. The report pointed to the many dams that were at risk of failure and the resulting flooding of the reactors.

Given the forecast extremes of the storms the risk of dam failure will increase as these facilities are stressed with increased rainfall and in-stream flooding will increase as well.

An un-redacted version of a released Nuclear Regulatory Commission report highlights the threat that flooding poses to nuclear power plants located near large dams — and suggests that the NRC has misled the public for years about the severity of the threat, according to engineers and nuclear safety advocates.

“The redacted information shows that the NRC is lying to the American public about the safety of U.S. reactors,” said Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer and safety advocate with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Among other things, evidence in the report indicates that the NRC has known for a decade or longer that failure of a dam upriver from the Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina would cause floodwaters to overwhelm the plant’s three reactors and their cooling equipment — not unlike what befell Japan’s Fukushima Dai-chi facility after an earthquake and tsunami struck.

Oconee Nuclear Station ClemsonAccording to the NRC’s own calculations, which were also withheld in the version of the report the odds of the dam near the Oconee plant failing at some point over the next 22 years are far higher than were the odds of an earthquake-induced tsunami causing a meltdown at the Fukushima plant.

The NRC report identifies flood threats from upstream dams at nearly three dozen other nuclear facilities in the United States, including the Fort Calhoun Station in Nebraska, the Prairie Island facility in Minnesota and the Watts Bar plant in Tennessee, among others.

watts-barr33

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has put the Sequoyah and Watts Bar nuclear plants on heightened safety review after plant designers and operators violated flood safety requirements for the riverfront plants.

Advocates and engineers also contend that the NRC, by originally releasing only a heavily redacted version of the report, inappropriately invoked security concerns to mask embarrassing information. This includes the full extent of the flood risk at Oconee, which is covered at greatest length in the report, and the continued failure of regulators to require the facility’s owner, Duke Energy, to swiftly improve the plant’s defenses.

“Rather than hiding the triple meltdown threat from the public and taking more than a decade to address it,” said Jim Riccio, a nuclear analyst with Greenpeace, “the NRC should force Duke Energy to reduce the risk or retire the reactors.”

According to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, the precise number of dam failures in the U.S. is difficult to pin down, though incidents have occurred in every state. In a recent analysis, the organization determined that in the four years beginning in January, 2005, state dam safety programs reported 132 dam failures and 434 so-called “incidents” — described as “episodes that, without intervention, would likely have resulted in dam failure.”

A non-comprehensive list of dozens of dam failures is maintained at the organization’s website.

damfailures

Reactors in Nebraska and elsewhere were flooded by swollen rivers and almost melted down.

A tornado or a ravaging flood could just as easily be like the tsunami that unleashed the final blow [at Fukushima as an earthquake].

Richard H. Perkins, a risk engineer with the NRC and the lead author of the leaked report says that a reactor meltdown is an “absolute certainty” if a dam upstream of a nuclear plant fails … and that such a scenario is hundreds of times more likely than the tsunami that hit Fukushima.

Perkins also pointed to the analysis by the Association of Dam Safety Officials – “I felt it made a significant point that large, fatal, dam failures occur from time to time,” he said. “They are generally unexpected and they can kill lots of people. It’s not credible to say ‘dam failures are not credible.”Tepco, admitted for the first time that it had long known improvements were necessary to harden facilities from catastrophes like tsunamis, but that it failed to act — in part because it wanted to avoid stirring anti-nuclear sentiment, as well as increased risks of litigation.

Other Comparisons Between Dangers In U.S. and Fukushima

There are, in fact,numerous parallels between Fukushima and vulnerable U.S. plants.
A Japanese government commission found that the Fukushima accident occurred because Tepco and the Japanese government were negligent, corrupt and in collusion. See thisthis and this. The U.S. NRC is similarly corrupt.
The operator of the Fukushima complex admitted that it knew of the extreme vulnerability of its plants, but:

If the company were to implement a severe-accident response plan, it would spur anxiety throughout the country and in the community where the plant is sited, and lend momentum to the antinuclear movement ….

TVA Reservoirs and Power Plants

Tennessee Valley Authority Reservoirs and Power Plants. Use this map to link to detailed information on all of TVA’s facilities. Point to a colored dot on the map to see the TVA site name. Click for more information. or Point to a name on the list to see the site location on the map. Click for more information.

The U.S. has 23 reactors which are virtually identical to Fukushima.

Most American nuclear reactors are old. They are aging poorly, and are in very real danger of melting down.

And yet the NRC is relaxing safety standards at the old plants. Indeed, while many of the plants are already past the service life that the engineers built them for, the NRC is considering extending licenses another 80 years, which former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority and now senior adviser with Friends of the Earth’s nuclear campaign David Freeman calls “committing suicide:”

You’re not just rolling the dice, you’re practically committing suicide … everyone living within a 50 mile radius is a guinea pig.

Indeed, the Fukushima reactors were damaged by earthquake even before the tsunami hit (confirmed here). And the American reactors may be even more vulnerable to earthquakes than Fukushima.

Moreover, the top threat from Fukushima are the spent fuel pools. And American nuclear plants have fuel pool problems which could dwarf the problems at Fukushima.

And neither government is spending the small amounts it would take to harden their reactors against a power outage.

The parallels run even deeper. Specifically, the American government has largely been responsible for Japan’s nuclear policy for decades. And U.S. officials are apparently a primary reason behind Japan’s cover-up of the severity of the Fukushima “accident”to prevent Americans from questioning our similarly-vulnerable reactors.

 

alertA RIGHT TO KNOW?

Perkins filed a complaint with the agency’s Inspector General in which he suggested that “NRC staff had improperly redacted information from the public version of his report.”

“The redacted information includes discussion of, and excerpts from, NRC official agency records that show the NRC has been in possession of relevant, notable, and derogatory safety information for an extended period but failed to properly act on it,” Perkins wrote. “Concurrently, the NRC concealed the information from the public.”

The NRC, which described the redacted information as a “security risk,” has responded by saying that the redaction’s were made in consultation with other federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers. Burnell, the NRC spokesman, said the agency would only comment on information contained in the version of the document released to the public.

Perkins has also raised questions about the NRC’s position, suggesting that the other consulted agencies, at least in initial interactions, had no concerns about releasing the full report, and that there “appeared to be no valid reason for the NRC to withhold it.”

“If that were the case, then the NRC would need to weigh the benefits of redacting this information against the detriments to safety, open discussion, prioritization, and funding that result when information is censored from the public.” 

“This issue of flooding following upstream dam failure has been debated for many years. Can it still be reasonable, all these years later, that the NRC needs to redact large sections of a report that deals exclusively with a safety issue? If so, how much longer should this strategy be employed? Indefinitely? Until a specific plant is retired? Does the public have a right to know?”

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Dams at risk of failure and the resulting flooding of the nuclear reactors.

Below is a compilation of US maps indicating Natural and Man-Made Disaster Risks like Earthquakes, Floods, Tornadoes and Hurricanes, along with US Population Density breakdowns by counties and an up to date map of currently operating Nuclear Plants and other hazards.

This information will help you be more informed about high risk areas as they relate to your particular location and future plans.

Natural Disaster Risk Map

Natural Disaster Risk Map
The map above overlays Earthquake (both moderate and high risk), Flood, Tornado and Hurricane risks in continental United States. Data for this map was provided by Redcross.org and Noaa.gov.

Earthquake Risk Map

US Earthquake Risk Map
This map highlights Earthquake risk in the entire USA, based on US Geological Survey data.

Tornado Risk Map

Tornado Risk Map
The map above displays Tornado risk in United States, based on data provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Hurricane Risk Map

Hurricane Risk Map
The map displayed above highlights the Hurricane risk in continental US based on data provided by University of Miami.

US Population Density Map

NuclearFloodsFinal_Highres
Above is US Population Density By County Map provided by U.S. Census Bureau. Click on the map to download a PDF file of the map which you can use to zoom in for better detail.

Nuclear Facilities and Seismic Hazards Map

Nuclear Power Plants and Seismic Hazards
This map overlays Nuclear Facilities and Seismic Hazards. It shows areas of equal seismic hazard and indicates the minimum peak horizontal ground acceleration value, a measure of the how hard the ground shakes in a given area. The map also shows locations of the 65 US nuclear facilities. The data comes from the US Geological Survey Geological Hazards Team and the US Energy Information Administration. It was compiled by Mike Meuser from MapCruzin.com. According to Mike as of March 2011 there are 65 operating nuclear power facilities in the U.S. Each facility has from 1 to 3 reactors for a total of 104. This number does NOT account for those reactors that are decommissioned, reactors at research and university facilities or all of the nuclear waste at various locations around the United States.

The catastrophe at the Fukushima plant in Japan should serve as a lesson to the United States as well as Japan. The map below illustrates just how vulnerable we could be: many of the United States’s nuclear facilities are located near areas of seismic activity.

Man-made Earthquakes

Man-Made Earthquakes

Seismicity of the coterminous United States and surrounding regions, 2009–2012. Black dots denote earthquakes with a magnitude ≥ 3.0 are shown; larger dots denote events with a magnitude ≥ 4.0. Background colors indicate earthquake hazard levels from the U.S. National Seismic Hazard Map (NSHM).

The number of earthquakes has increased dramatically over the past few years within the central and eastern United States. Nearly 450 earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and larger occurred in the four years from 2010-2013, over 100 per year on average, compared with an average rate of 20 earthquakes per year observed from 1970-2000.

Hydraulic Fracturing Earthquakes

geothermal_mapjpg.ashxProjects are advancing that use hydraulic fracturing to crack “hot rocks” thousands of feet below the earth’s surface and turn them into geothermal energy-producing zones. Some say it could start a revolution in electricity generation.
Certainly, this map from the Energy Department’s National Renewals Lab, posted on the EnerGeo Politics blog, suggests there’s lots of hot-rock energy beneath the United States – especially in the West.

Toxic Release Inventory

toxic releaseEach year more than 20,000 industrial facilities release over 4,000,000,000 pounds of toxics into our environment. Wondering about the chemicals that are released to the air, water and land where you work, live and play? The Toxic Release Inventory can help answer these questions. Here’s just one example of what we have done with them. Exploring the proximity of toxic chemical releases to schools in the U.S. We have also used the TRI for environmental justice research and for the maps we created for EDF’s Scorecard project.

Current U.S. Drought Map by State and Region

current_total_trd

Projects are advancing that use hydraulic fracturing to crack “hot rocks” thousands of feet below the earth’s surface and turn them into geothermal energy-producing zones. Some say it could start a revolution in electricity generation.

Certainly, this map from the Energy Department’s National Renewals Lab, posted on the EnerGeo Politics blog, suggests there’s lots of hot-rock energy beneath the United States – especially in the West:

– See more at: http://energytomorrow.org/blog/2012/august/fracking-and-a-geothermal-energy-revolution#sthash.cWETf0Zs.dpufProjects are advancing that use hydraulic fracturing to crack “hot rocks” thousands of feet below the earth’s surface and turn them into geothermal energy-producing zones. Some say it could start a revolution in electricity generation.ertainly, this map from the Energy Department’s National Renewals Lab, posted on the EnerGeo Politics blog, suggests there’s lots of hot-rock energy beneath the United States – especially in the West

Projects are advancing that use hydraulic fracturing to crack “hot rocks” thousands of feet below the earth’s surface and turn them into geothermal energy-producing zones. Some say it could start a revolution in electricity generation.

Certainly, this map from the Energy Department’s National Renewals Lab, posted on the EnerGeo Politics blog, suggests there’s lots of hot-rock energy beneath the United States – especially in the West:

– See more at: http://energytomorrow.org/blog/2012/august/fracking-and-a-geothermal-energy-revolution#sthash.cWETf0Zs.dpuf

Current U.S. Drought Map by Region

Entire U.S.
High Plains
Midwest
Northeast
South
Southeast
West

 

Current U.S. Drought Map by State

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota

 

Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Puerto Rico
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington State
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

Source: The National Drought Mitigation Center

 

For a more detailed view, click on the map to view a large PNG file.

 

 

Related:

High Resolution Maps: U.S. nuclear reactor power plants and tornadoes from 1950 through 2008. G.E. BWR Mark I like Fukushima in the U.S. Nuclear Reactors in the U.S. with inadequate spent fuel rod cooling power backup.

Fukushima May Soon Dwarf Chernobyl When Meltdown Hits Groundwater.

U.S. Nuclear Reactor Power Plant, Seismic Hazard and Historical Earthquakes ArcGIS Shapefile Maps, Images in TIF, PNG and PDF Form

 

Resources:

 

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