Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Is Nuclear Power a Terrorist Target?

Not likely.

Nuclear power stations are extremely durable buildings that have been constructed to withstand earthquakes, low flying aircraft, and even dedicated artillery might have a difficult time cracking the containment dome. This is because containment buildings are solid reinforced concrete several feet thick. Concrete is known for absorbing explosive force and can also withstand a high degree of compressive force. Even if the containment dome was breached, it would be extremely difficult to shut down all of the safety systems in order to trigger a nuclear meltdown. Even so, the resulting damage and death toll would be quite disappointing for terrorist purposes.

Terrorists are not stupid and would probably much rather choose a target that was easy to damage or destroy in addition to causing massive collateral damage or a large death toll using limited means. Hospitals are prime targets, and in the energy field, nuclear is not necessarily unique in the destruction that could result if a power station was targeted. As seen in China, a broken dam could cause property to be flooded out for miles leaving thousands of people either dead or displaced like what happened in the infamous Banqiao dam disaster in 1975. This dwarfed the amount of casualties that resulted from Chernobyl yet Banqiao has largely gone unnoticed by the public while we still treat nuclear power as inherently dangerous. Terrorists could just as easily target (As well as being much easier) a hydroelectric facility or even a natural gas plant and it could have major consequences for the surrounding area.

Recently, a natural gas plant in Milford, Connecticut exploded resulting from an accident while workers were doing a routine purging of air from its pipelines. Five people have been confirmed dead and the total damage caused is still being estimated and the rubble is still being cleared from the area. Although this was caused by an accident, an explosion of this nature could just as easily be triggered by a hidden bomb planted by a terrorist.

"This is the most devastating explosion and collapse that I've ever responded to," Zak said. "Some of the structural engineers on our team compared it to the L'Ambiance Plaza collapse in Bridgeport, but that was an entirely different type of incident." That 16-story residential structure, under construction, collapsed in 1987, killing 28 construction workers.

Why is nuclear energy unfairly targeted with labels such as "dangerous" and "unsafe" when examples like this hardly ever become major news stories. Every time there is even a relatively minor incident at a nuclear facility, media sources panic as if it was some sort of impending disaster. Yet a brief glance at energy related accidents world-wide would prove otherwise.

In fact, the annual nuclear-related deaths per terawatt is even lower on average than that of wind power!

Also, look at the statistical difference in impact when looking at coal power and nuclear power side by side.

Why do we need to pick on nuclear power so much?