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Climate change threats to coastal nuclear power plants

What are coastal nuclear power plants doing to address climate threats ? As shorelines creep inland and storms worsen, nuclear reactors around the world face new challenges. ENSIA, John Vidal @john_vidal, Environment editor   August 8, 2018 — The outer defensive wall of what is expected to be the world’s most expensive nuclear power station is taking shape on the shoreline of the choppy gray waters of the Bristol Channel in western England.

By the time the US$25 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear station is finished, possibly in 2028, the concrete seawall will be 12.5 meters (41 feet) high, 900 meters (3,000 feet) long and durable enough, the UK regulator and French engineers say, to withstand the strongest storm surge, the greatest tsunami and the highest sea-level rise.

But will it? Independent nuclear consultant Pete Roche, a former adviser to the UK government and Greenpeace, points out that the tidal range along this stretch of coast is one of the highest in the world, and that erosion is heavy. Indeed, observers reported serious flooding on the site in 1981 when an earlier nuclear power station had to be shut down for a week. following a spring tide and a storm surge. However well built, says Roche, the new seawall does not adequately take into account sea-level rise due to climate change.

“The wall is strong, but the plans were drawn up in 2012, before the increasing volume of melting of the Greenland ice cap was properly understood and when most experts thought there was no net melting in the Antarctic,” he says. “Now estimates of sea level rise in the next 50 years have gone up from less than 30 centimeters to more than a meter, well within the operating lifespan of Hinkley Point C — let alone in 100 years time when the reactors are finally decommissioned or the even longer period when spent nuclear fuel is likely to be stored on site.”

In fact, research by Ensia suggests that at least 100 U.S., European and Asian nuclear power stations built just a few meters above sea level could be threatened by serious flooding caused by accelerating sea-level rise and more frequent storm surges.

Some efforts are underway to prepare for increased flooding risk in the future. But a number of scientific papers published in 2018 suggest that climate change will impact coastal nuclear plants earlier and harder than the industry, governments or regulatory bodies have expected, and that the safety standards set by national nuclear regulators and the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), are out of date and take insufficient account of the effects of climate change on nuclear power.

The Problem With Flooding

Flooding can be catastrophic to a nuclear power plant because it can knock out its electrical systems, disabling its cooling mechanisms and leading to overheating and possible meltdown and a dangerous release of radioactivity. Flooding at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan as a result of the March 2011 tsunami caused severe damage to several of the plant’s reactors and only narrowly avoided a catastrophic release of radioactivity that could have forced the evacuation of 50 million people.

The interactive map above from Carbon Brief shows the location of nuclear power plants around the world. According to mapsprepared by the World Association of Nuclear Operators(WANO), around one in four of the world’s 460 working commercial nuclear reactors are situated on coastlines. Many were built only 10–20 meters (30–70 feet) above sea level at a time when climate change was barely considered a threat.

In the U.S., where nine nuclear plants are within 2 miles (3 kilometers) of the ocean and four reactors have been identified by Stanford academics as vulnerable to storm surges and sea-level rise, flooding is common, says David Lochbaum, a former nuclear engineer and director of the nuclear safety project at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Lochbaum says over 20 flooding incidents have been recorded at U.S. nuclear plants since the early 1980s. “The most likely [cause of flooding] is the increasing frequency of extreme events,” he says.

………. The most comprehensive research yet conducted also shows sea-level rises are accelerating as ice caps melt. Such is the speed of ice melt observed since 2007 that even the 2013 IPCC estimates of sea-level rise are thought to be outdated.

…….. Threats From Storms

On top of sea-level rise, the added impact of flooding from storm surges must be considered as well, scientists say. Since 1970, the magnitude and frequency of extreme sea levels (ESLs, a factor of mean sea level, tide and storm-induced increases), which can cause catastrophic flooding, have increased throughout the world, according to the Global Extreme Sea Level Analysisproject. New satellite studies by the U.S. government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA, and other leading scientific institutions all show mean sea level rising and magnifying the frequency and severity of ESLs……….

August 10, 2018 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change


  1. Either planning authorities are recklessly not taking anthropogenic climate change seriously in account in their endeavours to being coastal nuclear reactor facilities, or anthropogenic climate change is a hoax to control the gullible general public and the planning authorities know that sea levels are not going to rise significantly. CO2 concentrations in atmosphere are presently 430 p.p.m., but have been as high as 6000 p.p.m. in past epochs of the Earth’s existence, concurrently with life on Earth being sustainable.

    Climate change is driven by the spatial position of the solar system within its wing of the Milky Way galaxy, wherein the solar system oscillates between a peripheral position of the wing and a more central position in the wing; on account of black holes being present in the Milky Way emitting neutrinos, the neutrino flux experienced by the Sun corresponding varies with time as the solar system moves its relative position, wherein the neutrino flux catalyses fusion reactions in the Sun, and therefore a thermal output from the Sun; such variation has given rise to ice ages on the Earth whose effect has been much more gross than the predicted changes due to alleged anthropogenic climate change.

    However, never in the past Earth’s history has CO2 concentration increased at such a large temporal rate, causing an impulse to the Earth’s climate, that may exhibit oscillatory behaviour, causing major problems for contemporary industrial society. We assume, likewise the London Stock Exchange and Wall Street assume, in its perpetual growth paradigm, that the Earth’s ecosystem can keep sustaining a mature industrial society and billions of humans consuming resources. This assumption may be incorrect, in which case we should expect a catastrophic collapse of human society in the near future, for example as predicted in Dr Richard Duncan’s Olduvai Theory, based on contemplation of the earlier collapse on Mayan civilization.

    Comment by Dr Timothy Norris | August 10, 2018 | Reply

  2. Correction: “being” => “building’

    Comment by Dr Timothy Norris | August 10, 2018 | Reply

  3. For the Radiative Green House Effect to function as advertised, i.e. warming the surface of the earth by 33 C, that surface must radiate as an ideal black body.

    But non-radiative heat transfer processes, i.e. conduction, convection, advection, latent/evaporation/condensation, of the contiguous atmospheric molecules render such ideal BB emission impossible.

    Trenberth says the ocean’s emissivity is 0.97. The turbulent non-radiative heat transfer processes are responsible for most of the heat movement from ocean to air and LWIR emissivity is more like 0.16.

    Without the ideal 396 W/m^2 upwelling BB radiation the 333 W/m^2 up/down/”back” GHG LWIR energy loop does not exist (TFK_bams09)

    and carbon dioxide does no warming

    and mankind does no climate changing.

    Got science? Well, BRING IT!!

    Comment by nickreality65 | September 2, 2018 | Reply

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