WASHINGTON – What would be the impact of either a natural or man-made electromagnetic pulse event in the United States on the nation’s 100 nuclear reactors?
Is there a way to prevent the escape of radiation that would be generated by the meltdown of each reactor’s nuclear core should its backup generators, which hold at most a few weeks’ supply of fuel, stop functioning?
Ambassador Henry Cooper, former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, in a new report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, said there is a way to prevent such a catastrophic development.
Cooper stressed that he is an advocate of nuclear power, but the U.S. needs to correct the vulnerability of the nation’s nuclear power plants and their interconnecting grid infrastructure.
“In a major, long duration blackout, the challenge is to keep the cooling water and other safety systems operational in our nuclear plants,” Cooper said. “I think accomplishing this feat is our top priority objective in case of a major grid blackout of indefinite duration.”
Cooper, who once headed development of President Ronald Reagan’s space arms control policy and was assistant director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, currently is chairman of High Frontier, an educational program that examines ways to defend the U.S. from a missile attack and an EMP event.
The nuclear meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant in March 2011 due to an earthquake and tsunami gives an idea of the catastrophic consequences of an EMP event at just one plant.
Overheating and subsequent meltdown of the Fukushima plant’s nuclear core created massive radioactive contamination of the Japanese mainland, an area the size of the state of Connecticut.
The initial cost of its impact was upwards of $500 billion. The government created an exclusion zone in which people still cannot return to their homes or possessions. Given its Cesium-137 with a half-life of 30 years, it will take 10 half-lives for the radiation to disappear.
In effect, it could take centuries before human habitation can return to the region where the Fukushima reactor was located.
Uranium cores at three of Fukushima’s nuclear reactors had melted through the bottom of the steel reactor vessels, which continue to produce large amounts of radiation and heat. The process could go on for many more years.
Each day, tons of seawater are poured on the melted cores, making the water highly radioactive. Despite radioactive filtering efforts at the site, the U.S. West Coast has begun to be exposed to the effects of this radioactive water
The U.S. has some 100 nuclear reactors, of which 65 are pressurized water reactors and another 35 are boiling water reactors. The reactors are at some 65 locations across the country and generate almost 20 percent of the nation’s total electrical energy. Another five reactors are slated to come on line by 2020.
If the Fukushima effect is multiplied by 100 reactors at the 65 locations across the United States, the radiation would impact every American, making much of the country uninhabitable.
North Korea threat
Concern over the vulnerability of the nation’s nuclear reactors to an EMP comes as North Korea demonstrates the ability to launch and orbit satellites that daily cross over the U.S. at an altitude of some 300 miles.
According to EMP experts, the communist nation’s satellites are capable of carrying a nuclear weapon that could detonate at a high altitude over the eastern portion of the United States.
Cooper said the focus needs to be on providing for ways to keep systems running in the event of a cataclysmic outage, and well as having ways to power up and restart the reactors.
He said diesel generators provide “precautionary measure power” for some period of time of up to a few weeks, but without fuel they will cease to operate.