Originally created 11/27/01

N-power plants safe from attacks



Robert Alvarez made misleading statements in his Nov. 1 guest column, " A nuclear disaster waiting to happen."

He falsely claims that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has conceded that large airliner attacks on a nuclear power plant could cause thousands of fatalities and render large areas uninhabitable.

Even though nuclear plants have not been analyzed for such attacks, they are still the most hardened facilities in this country, adroitly designed to withstand earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes.

Mr. Alvarez points to possible attacks on the reactor spent fuel storage pools as having the greatest vulnerability. However, what's not said is that these basins are built of six feet thick reinforced concrete and if breached, considerable time (10 to 24 hours) is available for cooling water to keep the fuel from melting and releasing radioactive gases. Also, reactor personnel are trained to respond to such events to ensure that no significant release occurs.

The hardened nature of the facilities provides assurance that only a direct hit could possibly cause significant damage. The likelihood of a ground target (reactor or spent fuel storage building) being hit directly is very small.

Alvarez concludes with a call for action to safely store the potentially vulnerable spent nuclear fuel. Although his call for action lacks insight, his conclusion has merit.

We have long delayed dealing with nuclear waste issues because of political indecision. Yet, the nuclear power industry has been taxed more than $15 billion since 1979 to build a permanent waste repository.

The events of Sept. 11 should serve to emphasize the need to reduce even unlikely hazards and threats. In the words of Mr. Alvarez, this program must become a top security and public safety priority. Stop the political hand wringing and get on with it now.

Mel Buckner, North Augusta, S.C.



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