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Old 08-04-2013, 03:24 PM
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Default Nuclear Power Plants



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I'm quite certain this has been discussed before many times, but apparently my search skills aren't the best, because I can't find it. /end disclaimer

I've been watching several videos of panels on EMP threat, and it has been brought up that if we did suffer an EMP, either from a foreign country or from the sun, we would be in big trouble because of nuclear meltdown of our facilities if the power grid went down. (Let's toss in the grid going down for any reason.)

My questions are:

If we lose the grid, are those plants are going to go?

If they melt down (or even a fraction of them do), there isn't really anywhere in this country that will be safe, is there?

Even if one did have some type of NBC shelter, wouldn't the fallout last a long time, making it impossible to live above ground?

Even when the threat from fallout passed, wouldn't the topsoil across the entire country be so contaminated that it would be impossible to raise food?

I'm one of those folks who believe we should prepare as best we can, but also that there are some things humanity simply will not survive. I don't bother worrying about those, because there isn't much that can be done. I'm just trying to get a feel for just how catastrophic an EMP would be (outside the usual, unprepared masses).

Thanks for your input.
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Old 08-04-2013, 03:32 PM
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A meltdown doesn't produce fallout like a bomb; I think water contamination is the bigger threat. But there is an airborne threat.

Further, these things would go on for a while. Google "Fukushima" to get a real world example of what could/would happen.

While one can't completely generalize, IMO being upwind of prevailing winds is obviously best; next is more than 50 miles downwind. And you don't want to be downstream or downwater from such plants.
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Old 08-04-2013, 03:38 PM
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You have some good questions, but you should research the answers yourself.
I can tell you my opinions, based on my research, but there will be others who will disagree. It just turns into a big argument.
The more you find out about the whole nuclear power thing, the more you will want to know.
Wikipedia is your friend.
Old 08-04-2013, 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by hebegbz View Post
You have some good questions, but you should research the answers yourself.
I can tell you my opinions, based on my research, but there will be others who will disagree. It just turns into a big argument.
The more you find out about the whole nuclear power thing, the more you will want to know.
Wikipedia is your friend.
I'm a big believer in research, but I do not believe it precludes a person from asking for opinions and the thoughts of others. I posted this here because I am interested in discussing it. Yes, I am interested in *your* opinion. If you don't want to play, that's fine. I hope others will.
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Old 08-04-2013, 04:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 13ella View Post
... If we lose the grid, are those plants are going to go?
Where would you like them to go?

Space? China? Mexico?

Without a great deal of work, they are not going anywhere.



Quote:
... If they melt down (or even a fraction of them do), there isn't really anywhere in this country that will be safe, is there?
Cher is not a Nuclear physicist.

American designed reactors all shut-down when they have problems.

If there were some form of attack, where the attackers blew-up a reactor or disabled it; then radiation will flow down wind. Not across the entire nation, just downwind.



Quote:
... Even if one did have some type of NBC shelter, wouldn't the fallout last a long time, making it impossible to live above ground?
If you live downwind of a Nuclear power plant, and if it did get blown-up by someone, then that fallout would be nasty in that area. Best pack-up and leave before the cloud gets to you.



Quote:
... Even when the threat from fallout passed, wouldn't the topsoil across the entire country be so contaminated that it would be impossible to raise food?
Have you seen photos of Hiroshima?

It is a beautiful city, full of thriving people.



Quote:
... I'm one of those folks who believe we should prepare as best we can, but also that there are some things humanity simply will not survive. I don't bother worrying about those, because there isn't much that can be done. I'm just trying to get a feel for just how catastrophic an EMP would be (outside the usual, unprepared masses).

Thanks for your input.
EMP ?

It is rude to change the OP in mid-post.

Are we discussing Nuclear Power Plants? Or EMPs?

Generally Nuclear Power plants are very well shielded. If an EMP was really close to a power plant, and if it was able to over-power the shielding, and if it fired the circuitry, then the core would shut down [no circuits to keep it going].

Lots of 'if' statements here.

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Old 08-04-2013, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by ForestBeekeeper View Post
Where would you like them to go?

Space? China? Mexico?

Without a great deal of work, they are not going anywhere.





Cher is not a Nuclear physicist.

American designed reactors all shut-down when they have problems.

If there were some form of attack, where the attackers blew-up a reactor or disabled it; then radiation will flow down wind. Not across the entire nation, just downwind.





If you live downwind of a Nuclear power plant, and if it did get blown-up by someone, then that fallout would be nasty in that area. Best pack-up and leave before the cloud gets to you.





Have you seen photos of Hiroshima?

It is a beautiful city, full of thriving people.





EMP ?

It is rude to change the OP in mid-post.

Are we discussing Nuclear Power Plants? Or EMPs?

Generally Nuclear Power plants are very well shielded. If an EMP was really close to a power plant, and if it was able to over-power the shielding, and if it fired the circuitry, then the core would shut down [no circuits to keep it going].

Lots of 'if' statements here.

Did I start chasing a different squirrel in the middle of my original post? LAUGHS! That would not surprise me. Anyway...as I thought I was saying in my original post, some of the panelists discussing EMPs that I have been watching commented on failing nuclear power plants should the grid go down (from an EMP, or the sun, or from a gang shooting AKs at the transformers).
From what I can tell, though, even if ALL of the power plants in our country went down, outside of a 50 mile radius from those plants should be okay.

No, I haven't seen the pictures of Hiroshima. I'm going to go look at some now. Thanks!
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Old 08-04-2013, 05:42 PM
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After much reading about the aftermath of Chernobyl, contamination has been my biggest worry. That stuff is persistent!

The reactors themselves are not as big of a worry as they would seem. They have all sorts of auto scram features that shut them down. And of course their workers aren't just going to abandon them to let them go critical.

What worries me the most is the spent fuel rod storage. I never paid much attention to that until after the Fukushima disaster. The spent fuel rods continue to generate great heat and require constant water to remain cool. If that water isn't supplied, they can melt down. This of course requires maintenance, power, and a reliable water source.

Fallout from nuclear weapons tends to decay fairly quickly, and life goes on. The Japanese after WWII are an example. And today's bombs burn cleaner than they did back then. But raw fuel being aerosolized and spread about can takes hundreds or even thousands of years. Downwind from Chernobyl entire towns and cities had to be evacuated. They will long have crumbled into rubble before they're safe to live in again.

I forgot to mention that those cooling ponds contain far more fuel than the reactor itself. Which makes the threat of contamination even greater if they melt down.
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Last edited by MikeK; 08-04-2013 at 06:35 PM..
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Old 08-04-2013, 06:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 13ella View Post
... From what I can tell, though, even if ALL of the power plants in our country went down, outside of a 50 mile radius from those plants should be okay.
'Going down' means they shut off.

50 yards away they are safe.
Old 08-04-2013, 06:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 13ella View Post
Did I start chasing a different squirrel in the middle of my original post? LAUGHS! That would not surprise me. Anyway...as I thought I was saying in my original post, some of the panelists discussing EMPs that I have been watching commented on failing nuclear power plants should the grid go down (from an EMP, or the sun, or from a gang shooting AKs at the transformers). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=de_SYxw9ttE

From what I can tell, though, even if ALL of the power plants in our country went down, outside of a 50 mile radius from those plants should be okay.

No, I haven't seen the pictures of Hiroshima. I'm going to go look at some now. Thanks!
FBK and MikeK's answers seem to have helped you regarding nuclear power plants. Here's the EMP Commission's report (it's 208 pages in .pdf format, so might take a bit to load):

http://empcommission.org/docs/A2473-...ission-7MB.pdf

It was very enlightening for me when it was first released. As for a CME (solar flare), there was a really good thread here awhile back. I'll see if I can find it.
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Old 08-04-2013, 06:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 13ella View Post
If we lose the grid, are those plants are going to go?
Yes, many of them will. Fukushima did, and there were trained people actively trying to save it. If we had an EMP or similar emergency, all those trained people will be trying to save their families from chaos, not worrying about their jobs.

What most don't realize is that while reactors have auto-shutdown features, it can take months for the fuel rods to cool down. If the grid goes, the reactor shuts down and the generators automatically kick in. Great, but how much diesel fuel do they have on hand? In the USA, it's from 1-2 weeks worth, then it's batteries. After an EMP, you can expect both the generators and the batteries to be inoperable, but even if they work perfectly, you've got maybe 2-3 weeks before everything starts melting down.

Quote:
If they melt down (or even a fraction of them do), there isn't really anywhere in this country that will be safe, is there?
It depends on weather conditions, but over time, most places would be pretty nasty. Remember, there are over 100 active reactors in this country. There is not going to be any rescue crew like Fukushima, who sacrifice their lives to mitigate the damage -- everyone is going to be dead or fighting to survive, so all the reactors will melt down catastrophically -- far worse than Fukushima.

Quote:
Even if one did have some type of NBC shelter, wouldn't the fallout last a long time, making it impossible to live above ground?
Some places will be uninhabitable for many lifetimes. The good places will just have a decreased life expectancy, much higher rates of cancer, infant mortality and birth defects, but otherwise lives will be somewhat normal in those lucky areas.

Quote:
Even when the threat from fallout passed, wouldn't the topsoil across the entire country be so contaminated that it would be impossible to raise food?
Again, in some places, the damage will last lifetimes. Much animal life will die, much farmland will be unusable. All this will contribute to a bleak forecast, but over enough time (not your lifespan) things will improve.
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Old 08-04-2013, 06:32 PM
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My bad, it wasn't a thread, it was two specific posts:

TMcArthur linked to a PowerPoint presentation on Geomagnetic Storms:

http://www.midwestreliability.org/00..._Dec1_2009.pdf

And (imho) Jerry D. Young had a great post in a different thread:

http://www.survivalistboards.com/sho...4&postcount=22
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Old 08-04-2013, 06:59 PM
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Originally Posted by ForestBeekeeper View Post
'Going down' means they shut off.

50 yards away they are safe.
Ah, I see the problem. Let me clarify. By "going down" I mean melting down. If they melt down, I doubt 50 yards would be safe, but if I'm wrong, please educate me. I know very little about this technology. I hold some clearly erroneous beliefs about what could happen, but am working to resolve that.
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Old 08-04-2013, 07:07 PM
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There are no nuclear facilities in my state. I am in the central part of the state. I'm trying to figure out if there is anything worth preparing for beyond maybe the tons of iodide pills I have on hand. (I used to live about 10 miles from a nuclear power plant...the village gave them away.) If things are going to turn into "The Road" and I can't grow a garden and raise chickens, then I figure I'll see ya'll in another life.
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Old 08-04-2013, 07:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 13ella View Post
There are no nuclear facilities in my state. I am in the central part of the state. I'm trying to figure out if there is anything worth preparing for beyond maybe the tons of iodide pills I have on hand. (I used to live about 10 miles from a nuclear power plant...the village gave them away.) If things are going to turn into "The Road" and I can't grow a garden and raise chickens, then I figure I'll see ya'll in another life.
I've seen fallout maps online. Google should turn them up fairly easily and they have been posted here too, I just don't remember where offhand. Anyway, they showed the locations of the reactors and the likely fallout zones if they melted down. There were some areas that would glow for centuries and a lot of other places that would be untouched.

It's all about prevalent wind patterns and such. They have a lot of experience predicting the paths after all the test detonations in Nevada. They created a "cancer belt" with those tests.
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Old 08-04-2013, 07:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 13ella View Post
Ah, I see the problem. Let me clarify. By "going down" I mean melting down. If they melt down, I doubt 50 yards would be safe, but if I'm wrong, please educate me. I know very little about this technology. I hold some clearly erroneous beliefs about what could happen, but am working to resolve that.
Many over-lapping backup systems prevent American reactors from over-heating. The circuits can all be fired that still does not allow it to over-heat.

If a terrorist were able to get inside and somehow force it to melt. It is still inside containment.

I served on three different vessels that were nuclear powered. All three had mechanical linkages that would melt if the core ever exceeded a set temperature. If those linkages melted then control rods were dropped. No circuits were needed. That part was mechanical.

So, a terrorist group gains access into a power plant. They try to over-heat the reactor. The links melt dropping control rods and it all stops.

Once the control rods are down, no outside source of heat can possibly cause the core to go critical again. That is entirely outside of the laws of physics.

A core with control rods down, could be melted to liquid by some outside source, like a nuclear bomb within 100 foot.

A nuclear bomb detonation in the parking lot of a power plant, is an entirely different problem.



I do not follow how you plan to force a power plant to 'melt down'.
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Old 08-04-2013, 07:27 PM
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I've seen fallout maps online. Google should turn them up fairly easily and they have been posted here too, I just don't remember where offhand. Anyway, they showed the locations of the reactors and the likely fallout zones if they melted down. There were some areas that would glow for centuries and a lot of other places that would be untouched.

There are also over hundred other nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons launch platforms, nuclear weapons storage facilities, and old worn-out nuclear core storage facilities, that are not shown on any of the maps that have been shown and discussed since I have been on this forum.





Quote:
... It's all about prevalent wind patterns and such. They have a lot of experience predicting the paths after all the test detonations in Nevada. They created a "cancer belt" with those tests.
Correct.

Hanford did a long series of atmospheric releases in the 50's for the purpose of studying the effects on civilian cities as fallout contaminated those cities. Funding was later cut, so no follow-up was ever completed.
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Old 08-04-2013, 07:47 PM
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I do not follow how you plan to force a power plant to 'melt down'.
By denying the core access to cooling.

This is what happened in Fukushima (and fully 1/4 of the reactors in America use Fukushima I Plant's General Electric Mark 1 reactor design ). From the Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushi...ear_disaster):

"After the [cooling] pumps stopped, the reactors overheated due to the normal high radioactive decay heat produced in the first few days after nuclear reactor shutdown"

Quote:
Originally Posted by ForestBeekeeper
Once the control rods are down, no outside source of heat can possibly cause the core to go critical again. That is entirely outside of the laws of physics.
Perhaps for the reactors with which you are familiar, but this is not true for all reactors. Again, from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_meltdown):

"in a reactor plant such as the RBMK-1000, an external fire may endanger the core, leading to a meltdown."
Old 08-04-2013, 07:55 PM
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There is nothing rational to fear from nuclear power plants in the United States.

What happened in Japan and in the Soviet Union, isn't going to happen here. It's inherent in the design of the reactors. In fact, it wouldn't have happened in Japan 4 weeks later as the oldest plant was being shut down.

US Nuclear plants have what is called a negative coefficient of temperature core reactivity. This means the hotter the fuel rods become the less efficient they run, thus cooling themselves down. It is not the most efficient design.

Many plants around the World have a positive coefficient of temperature core reactivity so reactors get more efficient with temperature.

If everyone at a US nuclear power plant walked away, the plant would shut itself down. That's because the plant's inherent design is such that it needs intervention simply to keep the reaction critical. Other plants around the World need intervention to keep the plant from getting too hot.

This doesn't mean that errors can't happen at a US plant, such as at Three Mile Island, but let's put that into perspective. The most radiated person at Three Mile Island received less radiation than the AVERAGE person living in Denver does every year, or the average person does simply flying from Los Angeles to New York.

Radiation is a fact of life, eat bananas, you get radiation, measurable radiation. Go outside, live at a higher altitude, live in certain States, fly, all these increase measureable background radiation.

Because people don't understand radiation, they find it scary. You hear, half-life in millions of years. Half-life isn't a measure of how radioactivity, it's a measure of stability. Oxygen has an infinite half life, because it never decays into another element.

Long half life doesn't mean dangerous, and the type of radiation and exposure matters greatly. Most can't penetrate your skin, but you don't want to inhale small particles.
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Old 08-04-2013, 08:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by speedrrracer View Post
By denying the core access to cooling.
Loss of cooling slows cooling.

Loss of cooling does not cause core melting in American reactors.

There are multiple over-lapping systems which can each shutdown a reactor.



Quote:
... This is what happened in Fukushima (and fully 1/4 of the reactors in America use Fukushima I Plant's General Electric Mark 1 reactor design ). From the Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushi...ear_disaster):

"After the [cooling] pumps stopped, the reactors overheated due to the normal high radioactive decay heat produced in the first few days after nuclear reactor shutdown"
Going outside of normal daily temp range may be seen as over-heating, but that is not melting.



Quote:
... Perhaps for the reactors with which you are familiar, but this is not true for all reactors. Again, from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_meltdown):

"in a reactor plant such as the RBMK-1000, an external fire may endanger the core, leading to a meltdown."
I think I did mention outside sources of heat.
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Old 08-04-2013, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by speedrrracer View Post
By denying the core access to cooling.

This is what happened in Fukushima (and fully 1/4 of the reactors in America use Fukushima I Plant's General Electric Mark 1 reactor design ). From the Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushi...clear_disaster

"After the [cooling] pumps stopped, the reactors overheated due to the normal high radioactive decay heat produced in the first few days after nuclear reactor shutdown"



Perhaps for the reactors with which you are familiar, but this is not true for all reactors. Again, from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_meltdown

"in a reactor plant such as the RBMK-1000, an external fire may endanger the core, leading to a meltdown."
Beekeeper is correct, I quickly scanned the links you provided, and while some of the information is technically correct, the understanding of the physics of the person who edited the article is limited.

There is residual heat once the reactor has been shut down, but the reactor cannot become critical. Criticality means the reaction is self sustaining.

If you hear about a reactor going critical, that means it's operating as normal.

For a reactor to maintain the chain reaction, it has to be moderated. That is, slowed down. For example, a light Water Reactor (LWR) means that light water is the moderator. Water doesn't burn. Some reactors use graphite, which can burn.

What happened in Japan is that the residual heat from the non-moderated reactions was not dissipated, and the increased heat reacted with casing materials to cause explosions. That was in the oldest of the plants.

US plants do not use the same casing materials, there is nothing to catch fire from residual heat. They are specially designed this way.

If a US nuclear sub sinks, the reactor will literally do nothing but shut itself down. It's the same for reactor on land.

What can happen, and is what happened at Three Mile Island, is that workers can affect cooling while the reactor is critical, this can be dangerous as cooling is required during this phrase. What can happen if suddenly all cooling is lost, is the reactor will vent secondary cooling water into the air, the amount of radiation released is exceedingly small.

BTW, at Three Mile Island, if workers hadn't messed up, there would have been no radiation leak. Same at Chernobyl. It was workers mucking around that caused the problem.

Japan was caused by nature, but the reactors shut down as expected, but the casing materials were of an older type that could catch fire, and the design did not have safety features in more modern reactors.
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