Making ominous comparisons to what the tsunami caused at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, CNN has reported on the collapse of the Aqua dam at Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant north of Omaha on the historically flooded Missouri River, when a worker punctured it, leading to loss of electric grid power and the need to fall back onto emergency diesel power. It has also reported on the situation at Cooper atomic reactor -- a Fukushima Daiichi twin, General Electric Boiling Water Reactor of the Mark 1 design -- including the need to shut the plant down if the water rises much more. (A couple errors in the report: Fort Calhoun is already shut down, and has been since April; and the collapsed Aqua dam has previously been reported as 1/3rd of a mile long, not 3/4ths of a mile long). Meanwhile, NRC has established an incident response center at Fort Calhoun, in the wake of the berm collapse and loss of offsite power. NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko is due to visit the site today; NRC has boosted its onsite presence at Ft. Calhoun, which it now staffs 24/7.
An Associated Press article reporting on the collapse of a flood wall protecting the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant against historic flood waters on the Missouri River mentions that "The berm's collapse didn't affect the reactor shutdown cooling or the spent fuel pool cooling, but the power supply was cut after water surrounded the main electrical transformers, the NRC said. Emergency generators powered the plant Sunday while workers tried to restore power." (emphasis added) If the emergency diesel generators were also to fail (as by being submerged under flood waters), the final line of defense, in terms of running vital reactor cooling systems, would be the direct current (DC) emergency batteries. At most U.S. atomic reactors, such batteries only have 4 hours of life.
The Omaha World-Herald reports that the "Aqua dam" protecting vital areas at the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant against the historic flood on the Missouri River 20 miles north of Nebraska's largest city has collapsed. The 8 foot tall, berm shaped rubber wall, filled with water, has failed. It had been looked to as a major last line of defense to protect vital "systems, structures, and components" at the atomic reactors and its auxiliary buildings -- including the high-level radioactive waste storage pool. But even worse flooding is expected in the future. Meanwhile, as reported by Reuters, the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Greg Jaczko, was scheduled to visit the Cooper atomic reactor south of Omaha today, followed by a helicopter survey of flooding on the Missouri and countermeasures upstream of the two Nebraska nuclear power plants. Jaczko is scheduled to visit Fort Calhoun on Monday. As the Nebraska Watchdog reports, just last year NRC busted Omaha Public Power District for vulnerability to flooding on the Missouri River; this likely has enhanced response capability in the current crisis, but as flood waters continue to rise, and with the failure of the Ft. Calhoun anti-flood rubber berm, the question remains, did it do so well enough?
The Omaha World-Herald reports that Omaha Public Power District admits that the anti-flood water filled rubber berm (the "Aqua dam") failed "due to on-site activities." It is not clear yet, however, what type of utility activities caused the berm's accidental failure.
The New York Times reports that "Fort Calhoun...came under increased pressure for a brief period on Sunday. Before dawn, a piece of heavy equipment nicked an eight-foot-high, 2,000 foot-long temporary rubber berm, and it deflated. Water also began to approach the electric switchyard, where grid power enters the complex, which prompted operators to cut themselves off from the grid and start up diesel generators." The article also reports on NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko's site visit to Cooper atomic reactor, to view the labyrinthine flood defenses hastily put in place in recent days; Jaczko visits Ft. Calhoun tomorrow.
The Mainichi Daily News of Japan has posted an online animated simulation of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe catching the winds and blowing over not only North America, but even Europe -- circling the northern hemisphere. The paper explains "The computer simulation by researchers at Kyushu University and the University of Tokyo, among other institutions, calculated dispersal of radioactive dust from the Fukushima plant beginning at 9 p.m. on March 14, when radiation levels around the plant spiked."
In an article entitled " ‘Safety Myth’ Left Japan Ripe for Nuclear Crisis," the New York Times reports that Japan's widespread embrace of nuclear power as "absolutely safe" didn't happen by accident -- it has been nurtured through vast public relations expenditures by the nuclear establishment in government and industry, most often deliberately targeted at children and young mothers. As a popular Japanese musician, Kazuyoshi Saito, has put it in a song that has gone viral on YouTube, “It was always a lie, it’s been exposed after all/It was really a lie that nuclear power is safe.” The song has become an anthem at growing Japanese anti-nuclear street protests.
One Japanese nuclear power plant, for example, created an elaborate pro-nuclear "Alice in Wonderland" display in its "P.R. building," apparently oblivious to the fact that the U.S. anti-nuclear power movement had already laid claim to the theme. Inspired by John Gofman's "Alice in Nuclear Blunderland" essay in his classic 1979 book of political cartoons Irrevy: An Irreverant, Illustrated View of Nuclear Power, in 2006 Don't Waste Michigan scripted an "Alas, in Atomic Blunderland" street theater skit, complete with colorful costumes, to satirize the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's rubberstamp of the 20 year license extension at the risky Palisades reactor on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Humpty Dumpty, portrayed by Michael Keegan of the Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, provided satirical commentary on such "Nukespeak" as calling nuclear meltdowns "energetic excursions," hydrogen explosions "gaseous ignition events," and high-level radioactive waste "an untapped energy resource." (see image at left) Similarly, atomic watchdogs in South Carolina donned Alice in Wonderland costumes and crashed the very first "Tea Party" in 2009, pointing out the Mad Hatter irony of supposedly fiscally conservative "Tea Party" activists and political leaders remaining neutral, or worse, about vast nuclear power subsidization at taxpayer and ratepayer expense.