Skip to comments.An Atomic 9/11?
Posted on 02/01/2007 6:02:22 AM PST by Schnucki
SINCE Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have maintained an understandable preoccupation with securing sensitive sites against airborne attack. Hence the appeal of the petition an advocacy group filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that, among other things, asks the federal nuclear authority to require plant operators to build protective "beamhenges" -- basically tall (and expensive) steel barriers -- around their power stations. This week the NRC's commissioners rejected the request, saying that there are far more cost-effective measures to secure such targets that plant owners and federal authorities have already applied.
It's a controversial decision. After all, without physical barriers to thwart airborne attacks, couldn't a hijacked plane smashing into a nuclear plant produce a widespread catastrophe?
That's not likely, says commission member Jeffrey S. Merrifield. After a $20 million study on the possible effects of an attempted airborne attack on a nuclear power plant, the NRC concluded that the chances of neighboring communities being exposed to radiological materials are extremely low -- the actual number is classified -- because of the strength of the containment domes that seal nuclear fuel from the outside world and because the chances of an errant plane even having the opportunity to approach a nuclear power plant are small.
Such assurances do not convince long-time critics of the NRC such as Daniel Hirsch, who says that a dangerous meltdown is still possible if terrorists on the ground manage to disrupt reactor cooling systems before a plane crash. It's fair to worry about a worst-case scenario, even if the NRC insists that Mr. Hirsch wildly overestimates the chances of any meltdown occurring. And it is difficult to fully trust the NRC's calculations as long as the study it touts remains classified.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
I think the greatest deterrant to hijacking is now the passengers. After 9/11 I think passengers will stand up and beat any would be hijacker to death.
I was in College in 1979 during a brief hiatus from the Navy, and was studying Mechanical Engineering. We had the opportunity to go tour the Perry Nuclear Power Plant that was then under construction on the shore of Lake Erie in Northeast Ohio.
I remember specifically being told that the containment structure was engineered to withstand a direct impact from a passenger liner, without failing. They had a scale model that was about three feet in diameter, and five or six feet high, of just the rebar for the containment, (without the concrete to hide it...) and it was impressive. As I recall they were using various sizes of welded rebar up to six inches in diameter, and the model showed all of the sizes in different colors. You could barely see through the welded mesh of rebar, even without the concrete to fill in.
So the question is why are the containments suddenly so vulnerable to attack from the air? I have no doubt that a crashing jet would inflict serious and disabling damage to a nuclear power plant, but I believe that this scenario was foreseen long ago, and engineered into the critical structures right from the start in order to minimize an obvious hazard from the air.
A plane hitting a containment dome pits aluminum against reinforced concrete. The engines might cause some damage but the fuselage will crumble. Personally, I think the CWIS systems from our ships would serve nicely there.
Since this article is from the Washington Post one must consider what unstated agenda it serves. I'm thinking anti-nuke power plant radical environmentalism. Defending against every low probablility worst case scenario makes nuclear power generation uneconomical.
True. But I'm pretty sure the "airliner" was the biggest one available in that era, (727, I think) not the jumbo's of today. Still, one wouldn't expect massive damage. After all an airliner isn't a hardened projectile. Look at the damage to the Pentagon.
Pork Money from "Homeland Security" funds and liberal Nuke Energy bashing.
There is not enough money to "Place a cop on every corner" but politicians use "HS" funds as a slush fund for political favors.
Maybe. I recall watching a program about the Twin Towers in NYC, and why they fell. There was a comment about how when the building was engineered they considered the possibility of a plane hitting the tower. They were focused on the forces that a Boeing 707/727/737 would produce. At the time the Twin Towers were designed, 747's and other wide-body jumbo jets were unknown to the public.
They also stated that their focus was on 'what would happen if a plane accidentally hit a tower'. They NEVER gave consideration (as most people) to what would happen if a modern jumbo jet, fully loaded with fuel were intentionally flown into the structure.
It was the fuel load and resulting fires that brought the towers down.
American nuclear plant containment buildings are built to withstand a Boeing 707 being driven into them. Sounds stout enough.
Every day I look out of my window and see a large facility that a handful of determined men could attack in the same sort of way that was used in Oklahoma City, and seriously cripple our economy in one hit. And when I say "cripple" I mean in a literal and not hyperbolic way. Knowing from personal experience how lax the security there is even more disturbing.
The truth is, terrorists don't need to smuggle nukes, explosives or even guns across the border. They just have to get themselves here, and once here, use our resources against us.
9/11 is the perfect example. Trained in our flight schools, bought some box cutters at a local hardware store, and then turned airplanes into massive missiles within a matter of minutes. Given the number of people that worked in the WTC, the casually total could have been more than tenfold what is was.
That makes me think our two best ways to defend ourselves are (a) stop them in their own countries and/or (b) make damn sure they can't get here.
Plus, the planes apparently were on full throttle as well, which significantly increased their kinetic energy over a moving much more slowly during a normal takeoff or landing.
I remember reading and hearing this also many, many years ago.
"Personally, I think the CWIS systems from our ships would serve nicely there."
I think a remotely controlled Stinger battery on the top of every reactor would be a better idea - lots more standoff range.
Personally, I think the CWIS systems from our ships would serve nicely IN MOST PLACES, INCLUDING SAN FRANCISCO PEACE PROTESTS.