Friday, July 1, 2011

Flood in Nebraska: potential disaster for Nuclear Power Plants

oday we will be talking to David Lochbaum, who is one of the nation’s top independent experts on nuclear power. He is also the Director of Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Our topic today is the flooding of the nuclear power stations in Nebraska.

What is the latest update from the Fort Calhoun power station?

Flood waters are close to the building, and the plant has been sandbagging and putting berms up to protect important facilities from damage from flood waters. It looks like, as the floor recedes, things will continue to improve.

It still came pretty close, because just looking at some of the numbers right here, I think the water rose up to 1,004 feet, while the facility is designed to withstand floodwater up to 1,014 feet, so that is just 10 feet of “safety buffer”.

It’s true. In addition, just last year the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s inspectors found that its flood protection measures were not what they needed to be. So a lot of additional protective measures were added, because of the inspectors’ findings last year. I’m not saying that’s making a difference now, but definitely this time we much better prepared for the situations because of those efforts.

But what if it had happened last year? It would have been an entirely different situation.

It would have been much more challenging. The biggest problem is that, if flood water disabled safety equipment as it was more likely to last year, then the workers would have needed more time to use portable generators and portable pumps to go to Plan B. Because we made these efforts last year plant’s natural defences and protection measures were where they should have been, instead of being deficient. (read more)