Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant: How Bad Can It Get?

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant, NE

Radiation, at minimum in the form of tritium, and more likely other particles and radionuclides, are leaking into the Missouri River from the Fort Calhoun nuclear generation plant in Nebraska.

I do not have proof.  What I do have is the knowledge that every reactor is susceptible to small leaks at any time.  Typically they are undiscovered and thus unreported – they are a few drops here and a few drops there from an improper weld or a stressed fitting – maybe the last one of the day before pau-hana time.  And he intended to check it later, but never did.  New baby, vacation, other things to think about.  So thirty years later there are a couple gallons of it sitting under a pipe somewhere, not visible from the inspection point – and hey, this is all sealed up anyway….except for that pesky water leak the NRC is upset about…but a little water can’t hurt….

Until the plant gets submerged — or nearly so by a fast-running river which doesn’t cover the top (yet) but sure washes out all the leaky lines and the incomplete repair jobs which we didn’t care much about at the time because the river would never go that high.

So we are all standing on top of the buildings watching water pour in one side and out the other.  Sandbags are sandbags.  One million gallons of water a second washes sandbags away and all the cute little plastic pipes full of water – supported by sandbags and chain and not designed to hold 8 million pounds of water a second.  Tomorrow it might be 150 million gallons of water a minute.  If the dams hold.  But we all know they aren’t going to — they are are right at the top of the US DAM potential failure list.  The ‘domino’ dams.

Let’s skip that.  At least we know why there is a no-fly zone around the plant.  Workers are being brought in by helicopter and boat — to the roof and to SECOND STORY windows — maybe third story by tomorrow.

So….it’s a sand castle and the tide is coming in.  Once the water washes out the underpinnings, the whole thing may happily slosh downstream until it hits the next one…

Is that all?  Not hardly.  The Cooper nuclear plant can’t discharge sludge and it’s partially submerged just like Fort Calhoun. We don’t require any special knowledge to grasp what is going on.  The plants have windows and doors and control rooms and pumps and heat exchangers and expended fuel pools.  And they are all going underwater – but not like Fukushima where the water washed in and washed out.  This is just going to get worse through August.

But it isn’t all bad.  The Missouri river is cold enough to keep the pools and cores cool all by itself.  And it’s also powerful to pull the fuel out and irradiate half the country.

And about that time, the hemp ropes are gonna come out.

 

Dr. Tom is a retired scientist who is now farming on the Big Island of Hawaii.

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