Thu Nov 1st, 2012 at 02:08:25 AM EST
It is hardly surprising that we have heard so little about this in the media.
Here is a transcript of Arny Gunderson on Democracy Now on the concerns about nuclear plant safety in the storm:
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what you feel needs to happen right now? And talk about nuclear power plants in Connecticut, in Vermont, your main concern.
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: Yeah. The biggest problem, as I see it right now, is the Oyster Creek plant, which is on Barnegat Bay in New Jersey. That appears to be right about the center of the storm. Oyster Creek is the same design, but even older than Fukushima Daiichi unit 1. It's in a refueling outage. That means that all the nuclear fuel is not in the nuclear reactor, but it's over in the spent fuel pool. And in that condition, there's no backup power for the spent fuel pools. So, if Oyster Creek were to lose its offsite power--and, frankly, that's really likely--there would be no way cool that nuclear fuel that's in the fuel pool until they get the power reestablished. Nuclear fuel pools don't have to be cooled by diesels per the old Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations. I hope the Nuclear Regulatory Commission changes that and forces the industry to cool its nuclear fuel pools, as well.
This time of year, there's a lot of power plants in refueling outages. And all of those plants will be in a situation where there's no fuel in the nuclear reactor; it's all in the fuel pool. Systems have been shut down to be maintained, including diesels, perhaps even completely dismantled. And in the event that there's a loss of offsite power from the high winds from this hurricane, we will see the water in the fuel pools begin to heat up.
AMY GOODMAN: Neil Sheehan, a representative of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said, "These plants have to be able to withstand all sorts of natural phenomena: earthquakes, severe flooding, tropical storms, lightning storms, tornadoes. They need to be able to deal with all of that. We like to say they're very robust structures, they can deal with a lot of punishment, but at the same time they have procedures in place to guide them through this." So then, Arnie Gundersen, what is your concern?
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: You know, this isn't like--like the Big Bad Wolf. They can huff and puff, and they won't blow this plant down, especially a hurricane that's only 85-mile-an-hour winds. It's not a question of the winds from this hurricane blowing the plant down. It's a question of the loss of offsite power. That's exactly what happened after Fukushima Daiichi. The earthquake destroyed the offsite power. At that point, the nuclear plant relies on its diesels. And my big concern is diesel reliability and the fact that nuclear plants don't have to cool their nuclear fuel pools off their diesels per NRC regulations. I think those are the two big concerns for Hurricane Sandy.
AMY GOODMAN: What are the most important issues we can learn from Fukushima right now in the United States? And how does climate change fit in with both, Arnie Gundersen?
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: Well, climate change has affected nuclear plants this year. Quite a few had to reduce power in the summer because river flow rates had dropped and there wasn't enough water to cool them. And that happened in France and around the world, as well. So we portray nuclear power as a way to eliminate climate change, but in fact we need to solve climate change before we can have nuclear power plants, because there's just not enough cooling water to cool these plants in the event of hot summers.
Well now, in the fall, and the lesson from Daiichi, is that the nuclear fuel pools are a major liability. There's more nuclear--more cesium in the fuel pool at Vermont Yankee than was ever exploded in all of the 700 above-ground bomb testing. I think the most important lesson we can take out of the Fukushima Daiichi and climate change, and especially with Hurricane Sandy, is that we can't expect to cool these fueling pools. We need to remove the fuel. We need to put it in dry casks and get it down from these high fuel pools, get it down onto the ground in dry cask storage. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not insisting on that, because it's going to cost a couple billion dollars for the industry.