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Tuesday
Jun212011

Fukushima's "evil twin," the Cooper atomic reactor in Nebraska, also at risk from Missouri River flood

Photo of flooding at Cooper on Monday, June 20thNot only Fort Calhoun's pressurized water reactor is at risk from rising Missouri River flood waters in Nebraska. Joe Jordan at NebraskaWatchdog.org reports that the General Electric Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor named Cooper, just south of Omaha on the Missouri River, will have to shut down if the flood waters rise just two more feet. Although Beyond Nuclear has warned that such a flood, combined with a threat to the primary electric grid, such as a thunderstorm or tornado, could plunge Cooper into station blackout and meltdown, the nuclear utility NPPD downplays the risks. NPPD assures that the reactor can be shut down within 3 seconds if need be. But the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's Units 1, 2, and 3 did automatically SCRAM within seconds of the earthquake on March 11th. However, the unavoidable radioactive decay heat still needed to be cooled for days, so the earthquake and tsunami destruction of the primary electrical grid and even the back up emergency diesel generators plunged Fukushima Daiichi into station blackout, with no cooling, resulting in full-scale meltdowns of Units 1, 2, and 3's reactor cores within as little as several hours, or at most a few days. Whereas Fukushima Daiichi had emergency back up batteries that lasted 8 hours, Cooper's may last as little as 4 hours. And Cooper's storage pool very likely contains vastly more high-level radioactive waste than Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4's, which may have boiled dry, allowing the waste to catch fire, generate hydrogen gas, and explode, which severely damaged the secondary containment building, allowing direct radioactivity releases to the environment. NRC, which regards them as non-safety related, does not require US reactors' high-level radioactive waste storage pools to be connected to emergency back up power supplies. Several newspapers, including the New York Times, the Washington Times, the World Nuclear News, and the Omaha World-Herald, have also reported on the flood risks at Cooper and Fort Calhoun. KETV mentions that the floodwaters overflowing levees near Cooper have closed highways, roads, and bridges, even complicating nuclear workers' travel to the atomic reactor. It failed to mention the potential impacts that could have on radiological emergency evacuation for the surrounding population, however.