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Tornadoes and Nuclear Power: Dangers of Extreme Weather

BA University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) Geography & History

The Fujita Scale

F5 tornado (upgraded from initial estimate of F4) with wind speeds of 261 to 318 viewed from the southeast as it approached Elie, Manitoba on Friday, June 22nd, 2007.

F5 tornado (upgraded from initial estimate of F4) with wind speeds of 261 to 318 viewed from the southeast as it approached Elie, Manitoba on Friday, June 22nd, 2007.

Rare twin wedge tornadoes in Nebraska in June 2016. The United States is the only country in the world that experiences such a high frequency of tornadoes.

Rare twin wedge tornadoes in Nebraska in June 2016. The United States is the only country in the world that experiences such a high frequency of tornadoes.

Joplin F5 Tornado 2011

The April 1974 Tornado Super Outbreak

Kentucky 2021

Local residents walk past the scene of a train derailment after a devastating outbreak of tornadoes ripped through several U.S. states in Earlington, Kentucky, U.S. December 11, 2021.

Local residents walk past the scene of a train derailment after a devastating outbreak of tornadoes ripped through several U.S. states in Earlington, Kentucky, U.S. December 11, 2021.

Bridge Creek Tornado

The Moore- Bridge Creek Tornado May 3, 1999

Because of the high number of reported events, the United States has become known as the "tornado capital of the world".

The United States has the most favorable geography for the formation of tornados. The elongated region in the Central Plains known as "tornado alley" encompasses a high percentage of all tornado development in the United States.

Tha Alley is a battleground for the clash of widely differing air masses most often during the change of seasons.

Approximately 1300 tornadoes occur in the United States every year.

The 1999 Bridge Creek–Moore tornado was a large and exceptionally powerful F5 tornado in which the highest wind speeds ever measured globally were recorded at 301 ± 20 miles per hour by a Doppler on Wheels radar.

This tornado is considered the strongest tornado ever recorded to have affected a metropolitan area in the United States, the tornado devastated southern portions of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, along with the surrounding suburbs and towns to the south and southwest of the city during the early evening of Monday, May 3, 1999.

The massive quarter mile wedge wide tornado covered 38 miles during its 85-minute existence, destroying thousands of homes, killing 36 people, and leaving $1 billion dollars in damage, ranking it as the fifth costliest on record not accounting for inflation.

A Ticking Time Bomb

The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis is undeniably the worst nuclear disaster in the history of human civilization and continues to this day.

The nuclear crisis in Japan has been described as "nuclear war without war."

In December 2013, record radiation was found in an area near a steel pipe that connects reactor buildings at Fukushima, the amount of radiation detected could kill an exposed person in less than twenty minutes.

All land within 12 miles of Fukushima, a total of 230 square miles, has been declared too radioactive for human habitation, these areas have been declared permanent exclusion zones.

Radioactive cesium has taken up residence in the exclusion zone, replacing all human inhabitants.

Cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years, and since it takes about 10 half-lives for any radionuclide to disappear, the exclusion zone will remain for centuries.

The most frightening scenario is what would happen to nuclear power plants in the United States if they were to experience a long-term blackout from a natural disaster such as an earthquake, flood, or even a tornado.

Because of the high number of reported events, the United States has become known as the "tornado capital of the world".

The United States has twenty-three nuclear power plants with the same design as the Fukushima plant in Japan.

Years before the nuclear emergency at the Fukushima plant in Japan, the Atomic Energy Commission knew that a power failure lasting for days at an American nuclear power plant whatever the cause could lead to a release of radioactive materials.

Regulators have required that the 104 aging nuclear reactors in the United States develop plans for dealing with blackouts lasting up to only eight hours, based on the assumption that power could always be quickly restored in the event of an emergency.

A complete loss of electrical power poses a major problem for a nuclear power plant. The cooling systems that replenish the reactor core with water require massive amounts of power to work effectively.

A nightmare simulation staged by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission revealed that it would take less than a day after electrical power was knocked out for radiation to escape from a reactor at a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.

There is a real possibility of a catastrophe if operators can't keep the reactor cool, the gases emitted during the melt-down of a reactor can cause an explosion similar to what happened at the Fukushima power plant in Japan in 2011.

The New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12 lasted over three months and were felt as far away as Boston, some earthquake fissures were as long as five miles. Needless to say, a melt-down would be a real possibility and would only complicate the recovery from such a disaster.

On April the 28, 2011, the second largest nuclear power plant in the United States was shut down by a line of thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Due to widespread transmission grid damage from the tornadic thunderstorms, Browns Ferry was unable to produce power for the grid and significant blackouts occurred throughout the Southeastern United States

The three-reactor 3,274-megawatt Alabama plant was the same design as the Fukushima power plant and can power up to 2.6 million homes.

The Browns Ferry power plant didn't receive a direct hit from a tornado, but it was shut down because the transmission lines to the plant were in the tornado's path.

It the plant would have taken a direct hit a disaster on an epic scale would have taken place.

At Browns Ferry more than 1,415 metric tons of spent fuel rods were just lying in three pools on a massive concrete pad above the plants three reactors.

The power plant at Browns Ferry had as much radioactive fuel as all six of Fukushima's reactors.

All that enclosed the pools of radioactive waste was a heavy garage with a metal roof and walls. It a large tornado would hit such a structure; those rods would have been strewn over a wide area causing an enormous release of radiation.

Many nuclear power plants in America follow these same guidelines, it is surprising that we haven't experienced a nuclear disaster yet.

I once watched a tornado hit a huge commercial greenhouse full of flowers, it turned pink.

I wouldn't want to be around to see a large tornado after it picked up 1,415 metric tons of spent fuel rods. It would be a scene out of a disaster movie, but it would be real life. The tornado would glow in the dark like the dial of a watch.

Brown's Ferry Nuclear Power Plant

Browns Ferry 2nd largest nuclear power plant in the United States located on the Tennessee River near Decatur and Athens, Alabama, on the north side of Wheeler Lake.

Browns Ferry 2nd largest nuclear power plant in the United States located on the Tennessee River near Decatur and Athens, Alabama, on the north side of Wheeler Lake.

Transmation towers crumpled by a tornado on April 28, 2011, near the Brown's Ferry Nuclear Power Plant. Alabama averages 44 tornadoes yearly.

Transmation towers crumpled by a tornado on April 28, 2011, near the Brown's Ferry Nuclear Power Plant. Alabama averages 44 tornadoes yearly.

Corium -----The Most Dangerous Lava on This Planet

A half-century ago the nuclear industry let the genie out of the bottle. Currently today, 440 nuclear power plants are operating across countries around the world and many of them are located in earthquake zones which enhance the chance for a meltdown, and a massive release of radiation.

Corium is a lava-like molten mixture made up of portions of a nuclear reactor core, which formed during a nuclear meltdown, the most severe class of nuclear reactor accident.

Corium is a very rare thing only produced in a nuclear meltdown. Corium lava was produced both during the Chernobyl and Fukushima Dai-ichi accidents, also along with Three Mile Island.

Even long after the flow has stopped, corium lava will remain highly radioactive for centuries.

We don't have pictures of the corium lava flow from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant because of the very high levels of radioactivity near the reactor.

At Fukushima Dai-ichi, three or more corium melted out of the containment buildings into the ground. Government officials have discovered nuclear material has been flowing into the ground for months at Fukushima.

Nuclear engineers know it's a very serious catastrophe if melted fuel burns into the ground.

After Chernobyl's reactors melted down the Soviet Union threw close to one million people into trying to stop the corium there from melting down to groundwater.

Experts believe that a huge water-corium explosion would occur if it was allowed to just burn down, creating the so-called China Syndrome.

It was feared that this massive explosion would make the original Chernobyl explosion seem tiny in comparison. Thanks to the heroic efforts by the Soviet military, which would cost many their lives, and along with the vast resources from the government they stopped the corium from leaving the building at Chernobyl.

By comparison, in Japan, they did nothing to try to stop the corium from melting out.

The corium lava flow at Fukushima consists of fifty to a hundred tons of melted down reactor fuel.

At Fukushima only fifty people remained on site during the crisis, and they were very close to evacuating everyone, just letting it continue to burn, until the government ordered TEPCO to stay and fight.

So, fifty brave men and women did what they could, compared to close the one million at Chernobyl.

At Chernobyl, nuclear engineers studied the corium, at great personal risk to themselves. They found this corium fairly quickly, where it has stopped and cooled in the basement below the reactor.

In Japan, by comparison, no one seems very interested in discussing anything about the three piles of corium that lay beneath the plant, much less doing anything to find these ticking time bombs.

Nuclear Power Plants in the United States

Nuclear Power plants in the United States and the potential for accidents related to earthquakes.

Nuclear Power plants in the United States and the potential for accidents related to earthquakes.

Fukushima and Chernobyl

The leaders of Germany have announced that their country will be nuclear free by 2022, their plan calls for the phasing out of all Germany's 17 nuclear reactors and replacing 23% of the nation's electricity that nuclear energy currently provides with renewable resources.

The commission in charge of spear heading the transition determined the alternatives would be wind, solar, and water, as well as geothermal energy, and the so-called biomass energy from waste.

Germany will be a kind of laboratory for efforts worldwide to end nuclear power in advanced economies.

No other nation in the world is taking such steps forward in wake of the Fukushima disaster, Germany has decided the risk is too great to use nuclear energy as a source of electricity.

Germany not only wants to renounce nuclear energy by 2022, but they also want to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% and double their share of renewable energies from 17% today, to 35% by 2022.

Fukushima has hands down has become the worst nuclear disaster in the history of nuclear-powered electricity.

The cumulative amount of radiation released from Fukushima already exceeds the infamous 1986 Chernobyl disaster which released enough radiation to equal 400 Hiroshima type atomic bombs.

The implications of this are astounding as Chernobyl has long been regarded as the worst nuclear disaster in history.

The exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl is still mostly deserted and will be for the next six hundred years give or take a century, having displaced hundreds of thousands of people, readings still show dangerously high levels of radiation near the plant.

Nearly thirty years after building four exploded in those early morning hours in 1986, the fallout continues to cast a dark shadow over Europe.

A study by the Norwegian Institute for Air Research revealed that smoke from forest fires in the exclusion zone released cell damaging radioactive materials, distributing it all over eastern Europe, as far south as Turkey and as far west as Italy and Scandinavia.

The study has determined that the forest around the Chernobyl site is more vulnerable to retaining the radioactivity because the ions in dead leaves fall to the ground and re-enter the soil.

A United Nations study states 4,000 people died when the nuclear reactor at building four exploded, and from the subsequent radioactive fallout, but the total cost will never be known.

Not only is Fukushima a much greater threat to civilization due to its direct proximity to the ocean, enabling Fukushima to spread far more radiation across the planet than Chernobyl ever could.

The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis has already released more than one hundred and sixty-eight times the radiation than was released from the detonation of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

The total price for the Chernobyl disaster can never really be determined, it has been estimated as many as 200,000 people have died from cancers associated with the radiation released during and after the crisis on April 26, 1986.

For over seven months 500,000 men waged hand to hand combat with an invisible enemy, their efforts prevented a possible worse second explosion ten times more powerful than Hiroshima that could have wiped out all of Western Europe only just revealed 20 years after the accident.

nuclear-disaster-in-america

Sources

Lochbaum, David. Fukushima: The True Story of a Nuclear Disaster. The New Press. 120 Wall Street, 31st floor New York NY 10005. 2014

Mogil, Michael. Extreme Weather. Black Dog & Levithan Publishers Inc. 151 West 19th Street New York NY 10011, 2007

Parker, Vic. Chernobyl 1986: An Explosion at a Nuclear Power Station. Raintree a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Chicago IL USA. 2006



Comments

Garrett Newton on January 12, 2017:

Very good Mark I am impress, looks like you did a lot of home work!

Mark Caruthers (author) from Fayetteville Arkansas on February 15, 2015:

Thanks, its nice it caught your eye.

jgshorebird on February 15, 2015:

Great information. Scary as hell.

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