The Miami Herald has published a story titled Hole found in nuclear plant containment building. The article is about a rust-caused hole the size of a quarter that was found in the containment liner at one of the Turkey Point nuclear units during a recent routine refueling outage inspection.
The story is rather typical “he said, she said” journalism with reassuring quotes from the plant spokesman and scary quotes from the ever present opponents like Mary Olson from the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and Arnie Gundersen, a man who has made a name for himself as someone who will give expert antinuclear testimony for a generous fee.
Here is a comment that I added to the story.
There is no way that a small hole in a nuclear reactor containment building can cause any harm to the public. In contrast to the statements quoted by Arnie Gundersen and Mary Olson, here is a quote taken from a September 20, 2002 article published by the respected journal “Science” and signed by 19 highly qualified nuclear professionals:
Excerpted from Science vol 297 September 20, 2002
“Well, the TMI meltdown caused no significant environmental degradation or increased injury to any person, not even to the plant operators who stayed on duty. It has been said that this lack of public impact was due primarily to the containment structure. But studies after the accident showed that nearly all of the harmful fission products dissolved in the water and condensed out on the inside containment surfaces. Even if containment had been severely breached, little radioactivity would have escaped. Few, if any, persons would have been harmed.”
Nuclear power plant containment buildings are merely a very expensive additional boundary in a defense in depth approach taken by the industry and its regulators. The first boundary is the fuel cladding itself. Then there is the high quality pressure vessel and piping system. Then there is the physical distance between those boundaries and the containment walls. Then there is the predictable chemical and physical behavior of the fuel materials. Then there is the thin shell inside the containment building and the very thick outer boundary.
There are many good reasons why nuclear power plants have produced an admirable safety record during the past 50 years. There are also many financial reasons why people like Olson and Gundersen continue to be paid to fight against its growth – every day that a nuclear plant operates it takes a million or so dollars out of the pockets of people who sell coal, oil and natural gas. They can afford to spend money to pay professional hit people to kneecap their competition.
Due to space limitations on the Miami Herald commenting system, I did not list the authors of that Science article, but I have no such limitations on Atomic Insights. Here is the list of the people who performed contributions to the research indicating that even a “severe breach” of a nuclear reactor containment building for a light water reactor produced to American design standards would not harm the public.
Douglas M. Chapin, Karl P. Cohen, W. Kenneth Davis, Edwin E. Kintner, Leonard J. Koch, John W. Landis, Milton Levenson, I. Harry Mandil, Zack T. Pate, Theodore Rockwell, Alan Schriesheim, John W. Simpson, Alexander Squire, Chauncey Starr, Henry E. Stone, John J. Taylor, Neil E. Todreas, Bertram Wolfe, and Edwin L. Zebroski
The article was titled Nuclear Power Plants and Their Fuel as Terrorist Targets. Individual copies can be purchased from Science. I highly encourage you to purchase a copy of that important article, put it in your library and quote it widely in discussions with people who try to spread unjustified fear in an attempt to restrict access to one of the most important products in the world – clean, emission-free electricity.
Update: (Posted at 0443 on October 27, 2010) I thought you might be interested in hearing what Ms. Olson thinks she knows about the health effects of radiation and about the economics of producing electricity.