What NASA’s article on the 2012 near-miss didn’t take into account was that over 100 nuclear reactors in America would also melt down as a result of a CME bull’s-eye hit of Earth. After the scant emergency fuel generators and batteries at these sites give out, nuclear reactor cores overheating and melting wouldn’t be the only nuclear nightmare that would unfold.
Even with the low blow-out pizza prices that it would take, per capita, to remedy America’s vulnerable electric grid and expedite dry casking spent nuclear fuel rods, active nuclear reactor cores would remain vulnerable. Removing the active rods threat means scrapping nuclear power entirely, which would be hugely expensive and politically impossible with the current industry-influenced government.
The estimate of the extraordinarily high cost of canning nuclear plants once and for all is exorbitant. The price of decommissioning the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) will be $4.4 billion according to a September 23 plan submitted to the NRC by majority owner of the plant, Southern California Edison.
There are “62 commercially operating nuclear power plants with 100 nuclear reactors in 31 states in the United States,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Extrapolating the SONGS expense to extend to shutting down and demolishing all of these plants would leave taxpayers with a $272.8 billion bill. Internationally, the cost would exceed $1 trillion at these prices which doesn’t include the cost of lost power generation.
America’s nuclear power industry isn’t about to shut down anytime soon so this aspect of securing the population against CME-induced meltdowns is still unsolved. Rods pulled from a reactor need at least five years in a SFP before they are cool enough to transfer into a dry cask.
Nevertheless, the amount of radiation in SFPs dwarfs that in active rods still producing power in operating reactors. That safeguarding spent fuel rods through expedited dry casking would cost but $3.8 billion is hugely important because it’s relatively cheap and SFPs are far more dangerous and radioactive than nuclear reactor cores themselves.
There are fewer government rules mandating adequate backup power for SFPs which make them incredibly perilous especially when the Big One CME scorches Earth with billions of tons of Sun plasma. The crucial radiation water buffers and heat diffusers risk becoming burning pools.
Once the power was cut off and emergency generator fuel exhausted, spent fuel pools would cease circulating with cool fresh water and within a matter of days begin to boil off the liquid. Once the tops of the nuclear fuel rods were exposed to the air, radiation would become so intense that no one could approach the impending infernos. Once the rods’ zirconium cladding inevitably caught fire, nothing would be able to put out the radiation blaze.
Millions of tons of highly radioactive fuel and spent fuel releasing unmitigated radiation into the environment suggests mortality rates in the United States approaching 100 percent, a figure that would be matched worldwide as enormous amounts of lethal radionuclides like cesium-137, strontium-90 and plutonium-239/240 spew into the air, rain, soil and sea.
Yet barely a month after NASA released its sobering report, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the government agency in charge of insuring that America’s nuclear power plants are safe, signed off on a plan that will leave spent fuel pools essentially in place permanently, rather than speeding up plans to move cooled spent nuclear fuel rods into dry casks.
These spent fuel pools aren’t just susceptible to catastrophic failure due to solar activity; they are lightly protected sitting ducks as EnviroReporter.com exposed in Black Swan SONGS.
But not only did the NRC blindly ignore the cautionary NASA CME report, it has ignored man-made magnetic threats with destructive results identical to those threatened by CME’s, electromagnetic pulses or EMPs.
Long considered a major threat, an EMP could overload a vast area of America if a terrorist group or a rogue state could manage to detonate a nuclear device over the country using rockets as relatively simple as Scuds. Such an attack leveled at the U.S. could be more deadly than nuking a city. A nuclear magnetic pulse or high altitude magnetic pulse would cause voltage surges that would blow the electrical grid much like a coronal mass ejection.
The NRC decision to leave lightly protected spent fuel pools as is for its stated periods of 60, 140 and 240 years up to and including indefinitely assures an avoidable catastrophe. It ignores intelligence that revealed that an EMP nuclear war strategy is foremost with the Chinese and Russian militaries. Yet the NRC hears and sees no evil.
Instead the NRC blew off the threat of something extraordinary even happening to the hundreds of spent fuel pools across the U.S. in the footnotes of its recent decision saying it was “so unlikely that it is a remote and speculative occurrence.”
A twelve percent chance in the next ten years of a Carrington Event-level CME is anything but “remote and speculative.” What is remote and speculative is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s take on reality.
“In the wake of the Japanese reactor problems, there has been much attention given to the question of how a solar storm-driven power grid failure might affect North American nuclear plants,” Prof. Baker told EnviroReporter.com August 28. “This is a very important issue.”
Scientists postulate that a Carrington Event-level CME smashes into Earth about every 150 years. By that measure, we are already due. Even with that relative certainty – and it is certain – looking for solutions has been illusory.
“Yes, safeguarding nuclear reactors and other key components of our society’s infrastructure should be a huge priority for US policy makers,” Baker told EnviroReporter.com. “We have been trying in every way we can to get these issues elevated to a proper level of attention. I and my colleagues try to avoid the “Chicken Little” Syndrome, but also want to make sure people understand how important this issue really is.”
Of course even if the United States government took the threat of CME’s and EMP’s seriously enough to make it a national priority to armor plate the electric grid immediately, hundreds of nuclear plants globally, and their associated spent fuel pools, would remain vulnerable to catastrophic failure. The odds of getting the 31 countries worldwide that have nuclear reactors to fortify their national electric grids against CME catastrophe is probably near zero.
The EnviroReporter.com investigation Fukushima – The Perfect Crime? exposed how media and public reactions to the ongoing triple meltdowns in Japan have been treated with derision and disbelief, leading to a completely lackadaisical reaction to one of the greatest environmental catastrophes ever caused by humans.
It is likely that the multitude of warnings about the impending nuclear holocaust that could be triggered by a CME or EMP will be greeted with similar incredulous disdain. No matter. Previous studies bear the burden of proof and calm reasoned logic portends a very hot and nasty time in store for planet Earth in just a blink of geologic time. Humanity, and indeed all mammals, stand in the crosshairs of the gun mankind has built all about the globe and aimed at itself.
Lights Out in The City that Never Sleeps
When the inevitable coronal mass ejection fires up the New York City skyline plunging the Big Apple into darkness, it will be just a matter of time before the two reactors at the Indian Point Energy Center, 38 miles north of Manhattan, begin to melt down and their spent fuel pools boil off and catch fire.
New York City is the second most populated metropolitan area in the world after Tokyo, Japan. Over 23.5 million work and live with 50 miles of Indian Point.
In The Unforgettable Fire, EnviroReporter.com showed how the spent fuel pool at Fukushima Dai-ichi’s Unit 4 could collapse, destroying Tokyo in the process. Just one spent fuel pool crashing to the ground could, in this case, make Tokyo and the middle third of Japan uninhabitable for humans and other mammals.
Indian Point has three spent fuel pools packed tight with highly radioactive spent fuel rods. Its catastrophic failure could unleash far more misery than Fukushima’s Unit 4 SFP.
Assessing Indian Point’s potential to make New York City and its surrounding area a potential hot zone has already been done in a September 2004 report by Edwin S. Lyman, PhD, of the Union of Concerned Scientists. In his study, Chernobyl on the Hudson? The Health and Economic Impacts of a Terrorist Attack at the Indian Point Nuclear Plant, Lyman investigated the consequences if one of the two reactors were wrecked causing a full meltdown.
“We find that, depending on the weather conditions, an attack could result in as many as 44,000 near-term deaths from acute radiation syndrome or as many as 518,000 long-term deaths from cancer among individuals within fifty miles of the plant,” Lyman wrote. “These findings confirm that Indian Point poses a severe threat to the entire New York metropolitan area.”
Lyman’s report cites a Sandia National Laboratories’ 1982 study positing that a single core meltdown at Indian Point could cause 50,000 “near-term deaths from acute radiation syndrome.” Logically, if both cores melted down, that figure would double to 100,000 near-term deaths from anywhere from ground zero at the plant itself “as far as 60 miles away in the worst case evaluated.”
“The economic damages within 100 miles would exceed $1.1 trillion for the 95th percentile case, and could be as great as $2.1 trillion for the worst case evaluated, based on Environmental Protection Agency guidance for population relocation and cleanup,” the report concluded. “Millions of people would require permanent relocation.”
Of course this is based on one Indian Point reactor being successfully destroyed and melting down with none of the spent fuel pools on fire. The next Carrington Event-level CME or an EMP strike would take out both reactors and all three spent fuel pools. The cost in lives and capital exceeds any of the previous estimates many times over.