Women. Power. Peace.

Amanda Hill-Attkisson: Nuclear Reactors Are Susceptible to Climate Disruption…..and Jellyfish

Los Alamos Nuclear Weapon Complex is on fire in New Mexico, the Ft. Calhoun and Cooper Station nuclear power stations in Nebraska are underwater, Fukushima Daichi plant nuclear meltdown - earthshaken beyond repair in Japan - what is it going to take for the nuclear industry to admit that nuclear reactors for weapons or commercial power are extremely susceptible to unanticipated, uncontrollable natural disasters.

Today, a wildfire rages dangerously close on the boundary of Los Alamos, a US nuclear weapons research facility in New Mexico. The site had to close as fire fighters continue to battle the flames threatening to triple in size before it is through, resulting in a significant threat for a major nuclear contamination accident involving plutonium waste.

Last week, I watched in fear each day as the water flooded from the Missouri River threatening to submerge two nuclear power plants. One of the more dangerous issues not being reported was the rising water jeopardizing the intake structure where the emergency service water pumps cool the water that runs through a heat exchanger that cools the nuclear core and the spent fuel pool ...coming dangerously close to a Nebraska nuclear nightmare say by 2 feet?

And recently, our enemy has a new face…the jellyfish are coming; the jellyfish are coming!! …. an invasion of jellyfish have forced the Scottish nuclear power plant, EDF Energy’s Torness to bring its nuclear reactors offline due to masses of jellyfish obstructing cooling water filters.

The current nuclear industry position is to assure the public that existing US reactors are safe and regulated to withstand natural disasters (i.e. earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, wildfires, etc.) The sobering reality of what is required to stave off a human and environmental tragedy is two-fold - the reactor sites first need to be able to maintain their structures (keep the waste/radiation contained) and second to sustain their operation (keep everything cool).

These unpredictable disasters as of late have not been ‘playing by the nuclear industry rules’ - wrecking the facilities that house the reactors and spent fuel waste, releasing radiation and waste in to the air, land, and water as well as creating long term power blackouts which caused the ‘cascading’ core meltdowns in Japan. The ‘cascading’ affect (if one reactor melts down, how it affects the one next to it) is not even considered in the nuclear licensing safety regulations today.

In the United States, most reactors have back-up safeguards in place that would only provide battery generator power for about four hours, a few can sustain eight hours. That is, of course, if the backup generators actually kick on during the event, assuming they are not damaged, displaced, or destroyed by whatever climate disruption is occurring.

We must learn to adapt to the changes due to climate disruption. Let’s not waste any more time and money on antiquated nuclear technology. It is time to embrace the ‘renewable’ revolution. Do we really need to feel the sting of the nuclear tentacle - a Fukushima-like accident here in the United States - before we realize the nuclear risks far outweigh the gain in our ever-changing world?

Amanda Hill-Attkisson serves as the Managing Director of Georgia WAND.  She is an experienced organizer on environmental justice and women's empowerment issues and a dedicated anti-nuclear and peace activist. She brings a strong technical background to her work, as an electrical engineer who was previously employed by NASA.

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