Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Three U.S. Nuke Plants At Risk to Wildfire and Floods

Anti-nuclear activists are having the biggest "We told you so moment" since the earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors earlier this spring as Mother Nature puts scare intro three U.S. nuclear facilities.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico will be closed for a second day today as a raging wildfire remains a threat, while floodwaters from the Missouri River are keeping two nuclear power plants under siege in Nebraska.

As of now authorities in both states say the natural disasters do no pose a threat to the public at any of the three nuclear facilities.

About 12,000 people have been evacuated from the area surrounding Los Alamos nuclear weapons testing and developments facility since Sunday, authorities said. The site was home to the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb in 1945.

"No other fires are currently burning on lab property, no facilities face immediate threat, and all nuclear and hazardous materials are accounted for and protected," the Los Alamos National Laboratory  said in a statement.

The combination of brisk winds and scorching hot weather are the main concerns at this point  for firefighters battling the blaze around the lab. 

The Las Conchas fire burned across nearly 44,000 acres and came within about a mile from the lab last night. A one-acre spot fire ignited on  lab land, but was knocked down by airborne firefighters, CNN reported.

"Air crews dumped water at the site within the Lab's Technical Area 49 and brought the blaze under control," a statement from the lab said.

In Nebraska, workers at the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant raised catwalks to access the facility after two feet of  water surrounded the site. The floodwater has not reached any radioactive materials, the utility company said. An 8-foot temporary berm protecting the plant collapsed over the weekend.

"There is no possibility of a meltdown," the Omaha Public Power District's CEO Gary Gates told The Associated Press. "The floodwaters are outside of Fort Calhoun, not inside."

The biggest threat is a loss of power that would keep the plants from cooling the nuclear materials, triggering a meltdown, as was the case in Japan.  There are at least nine backup power sources in place in Nebraska, including two diesel generators.

The other threat to public safety are lies and deceptions, as was also the case in Japan as the utility company's executives continuously lowballed the thereat of radioactivity.

"Not everything is fine," said Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s energy program. "We’re inches away from a nuclear plant being flooded. It’s already an island. And we still have a very real possibility of flood levels rising."

Slocum told The Progressive, "There’s always the possibility of the situation escalating, especially when we don’t control all the variables. That’s what happened in Japan."

Floodwaters are slowly creeping toward the Cooper nuclear power  plant, but that facility sits on higher ground and the wrath of Missouri River so far is being kept at bay.

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