At left: The Oconee Nuclear Station is right around the proverbial corner from me, so now I am damn nervous.
There is also the fact Duke Energy is run by money-grubbing liars and it is therefore impossible to trust anything they say. (This has been true since... well, when HASN'T it been true?)
In a report on Huffington Post, the vulnerability and instability of the Oconee plant has been outlined, thanks to a letter from whistleblower Richard Perkins, an engineer. Perkins was one of the authors of a report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, detailing the problems at Oconee and similar plants.
Oconee was singled out as particularly vulnerable.
According to the above-linked Huffington Post piece:
[The] vulnerability at one plant in particular -- the three-reactor Oconee Nuclear Station near Seneca, S.C. -- put it at risk of a flood and subsequent systems failure, should an upstream dam completely fail, that would be similar to the tsunami that hobbled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan last year. That event caused multiple reactor meltdowns.According to the report, dam-failure occurring upstream from these plants "may result in flood levels at a site that render essential safety systems inoperable." All power sources (including backup batteries, generators and grid power) could be compromised by high floodwaters.
In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Huffington Post, Richard H. Perkins, a reliability and risk engineer with the agency's division of risk analysis, alleged that NRC officials falsely invoked security concerns in redacting large portions of a report detailing the agency's preliminary investigation into the potential for dangerous and damaging flooding at U.S. nuclear power plants due to upstream dam failure.
Perkins, along with at least one other employee inside NRC, also an engineer, suggested that the real motive for redacting certain information was to prevent the public from learning the full extent of these vulnerabilities, and to obscure just how much the NRC has known about the problem, and for how long.
"What I've seen," Perkins said in a phone call, "is that the NRC is really struggling to come up with logic that allows this information to be withheld."
Perkins was the lead author of the report, which was completed in July of 2011 -- roughly four months after an earthquake and subsequent tsunami flooded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, cut off electric power to the facility and disabled all of its backup power systems, eliminating the ability to keep the reactors cool and leading to a meltdown.
In addition to the Oconee facility, the report examined similar vulnerabilities at the Ft. Calhoun station in Nebraska, the Prairie Island facility in Minnesota and the Watts Bar plant in Tennessee, among others.
In response to the report, the NRC launched an expanded investigation, which is ongoing. It also folded the dam failure issue into the slate of post-Fukushima improvements recommended by a special task force formed in the aftermath of that disaster. But in a press release dated March 6 of this year, the agency said the report "did not identify any immediate safety concerns."Very rare events! Nothing to worry about!
The NRC made a heavily redacted copy of the report publicly available on the NRC website the same day.
"Nuclear power plant designs include protection against serious but very rare flooding events, including flooding from dam failure scenarios," the agency release noted.
And where have we heard THAT before?
"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff may be motivated to prevent the disclosure of this safety information to the public because it will embarrass the agency," Perkins wrote in his letter. "The redacted information includes discussion of, and excerpts from, NRC official agency records that show the NRC has been in possession of relevant, notable, and derogatory safety information for an extended period but failed to properly act on it. Concurrently, the NRC concealed the information from the public."What is darkly humorous is how many rich people live up on Lake Keowee. Maybe THAT will force them to act? They are right in the line of this possible future-disaster.
In a conversation with The Huffington Post, Perkins elaborated on the redacted material. "My estimation is that if people saw the information that we have, and if they knew for how long we've had it, some might be disappointed at how long it's taken to act, and some might be disappointed that, to date, we haven't really acted at all."
At the least, their property values have just plummeted.
Will their GREED railroad the NRC into action, if nothing else? Will property-owners and real-estate developers succeed where other mere humans (and concerned engineers) have failed?
Meanwhile, [Perkins] is among several nuclear experts who remain particularly concerned about the Oconee plant in South Carolina, which sits on Lake Keowee, 11 miles downstream from the Jocassee Reservoir. Among the redacted findings in the July 2011 report -- and what has been known at the NRC for years, the engineer said -- is that the Oconee facility, which is operated by Duke Energy, would suffer almost certain core damage if the Jocassee dam were to fail. And the odds of it failing sometime over the next 20 years, the engineer said, are far greater than the odds of a freak tsunami taking out the defenses of a nuclear plant in Japan.I've been sleeping well lately, but tonight? Don't know if I will.
"The probability of Jocassee Dam catastrophically failing is hundreds of times greater than a 51 foot wall of water hitting Fukushima Daiichi," the engineer said. "And, like the tsunami in Japan, the man‐made 'tsunami' resulting from the failure of the Jocassee Dam will –- with absolute certainty –- result in the failure of three reactor plants along with their containment structures.
"Although it is not a given that Jocassee Dam will fail in the next 20 years," the engineer added, "it is a given that if it does fail, the three reactor plants will melt down and release their radionuclides into the environment."
David Lochbaum, a nuclear expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said a key concern was that the NRC has failed to appreciate and tackle this risk for so long. "NRC can, or may, resolve the flooding issues," Lochbaum said. "But if it doesn't step back and review when those problems could have been exposed sooner, it won't make the programmatic fixes needed to become a more effective regulator.