A very disturbing but important report was recently published in Bloomberg Businessweek on the unwillingness of the US nuclear industry and its “regulator,” the NRC, to own up to failings at US plants to prepare for the inevitable challenges of climate-change flooding. While plants were required to carry out flood risk evaluations after the Fukushima disaster, these evaluations were merely self assessments by the plant owners and used outdated sea level rise projections. Adding insult to injury, the NRC made all recommended infrastructure improvements voluntary, and they eliminated the requirement for plants to run drills training employees on what little flood mitigation equipment they do have.
In a supplemental article to the report, Andrea Germanos of Common Dreams summarizes just a few of the issues where power plants were found lacking:
According to a Bloomberg review of correspondence between the commission and plant owners, 54 of the nuclear plants operating in the U.S. weren’t designed to handle the flood risk they face. Fifty-three weren’t built to withstand their current risk from intense precipitation; 25 didn’t account for current flood projections from streams and rivers; 19 weren’t designed for their expected maximum storm surge. Nineteen face three or more threats that they weren’t designed to handle. – Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams
Seabrook Station is Vulnerable
Climate disruption has a huge impact on the safety of nuclear power. Sea level rise and increasingly violent storm surges threaten to cause further damage to plant foundations, to knock out critical offsite power, and to affect plant access in coming decades.
The Seabrook plant is at risk of being inundated by storm surges as soon as 2030. At SAPL, we have followed this issue at the local level for many years now, and have pointed out the vulnerability of the Seabrook plant repeatedly at NRC public meetings. But they tell is there’s no need to worry! Seabrook folks say they can meet the climate flood risks by simply waterproofing a few doors and deploying strategically-placed sandbags when severe weather is announced!
With the Seabrook plant now re-licensed for an additional 20 years (into 2050), we have the additional concern of climate impact and new level of risk these vulnerabilities pose to our health and safety.
- Read the Bloomberg report: US Nuclear Power Plants Weren’t Built for Climate Change
- Common Dreams discusses this report further: Watchdog Sounds Alarm Over Regulatory Capture as New Reporting Shows Nuclear Plants Unprepared for Climate Crisis
- View our list: 6 Reasons Why Nuclear Power is Not Sustainable
(#3: Nuclear power plants are uniquely threatened by climate change.)