“Cross your fingers”
Sometimes there is a best person to call. If you want to know what is happening at a failing reactor, you call Paul Gunter. He runs the reactor watchdog project at Beyond Nuclear and it is named appropriately. I just got off the phone with him after a talk about the berm breaking at the surprisingly under documented story of the flooded Fort Calhoun reactor.
Details are still sketchy. What is known is that last night a piece of heavy equipment fell on the dyke which had been constructed out of rubber walls. A tremendous volume of water flooded into the facility, which is operating under back up generator power. Flood waters are at 1006.4 feet. The plant is at 1004. There are two big dangers, if the water keeps rising:
1) The area now flooded contains the centralized fuel storage for the back up generators. If this fuel source is fowled back up cooling will fail for both the spent fuel pools and the shut down reactor core cooling itself.
2) There is water reported in the turbine room. If the turbines flood there could easily be a fire or multiple fires. There is a single internal fire fighting company at the plant.
Anti-nuclear activists dont hope for accidents. Despite the fact that we all have deep feelings of frustration around having warned of these types of problems and having been assured that these types of problems were not possible. We should not be relying on temporary rubber berms to prevent a serious system failure at a reactor complex. This is a design failure, or more precisely concept failure.
When i got off the phone with Paul after this grim report, he suggested i cross my fingers. I am, but i am hoping against hope that this major warning on the back of the Fukushima disaster will wake up the US and the Obama administration that new nuclear reactors in a time of extreme weather is foolhardy.