January 23 News: U.S. Warned About Multiple Nuclear Meltdowns Years Before Fukushima

Four years before the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission was warned about the possibility of a plant suffering simultaneous meltdowns due to a natural disaster. [NYTimes]

The accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011 alerted the American nuclear industry and its regulators to the possibility that operators at plants with more than one reactor might have to deal with more than one meltdown at a time in a flood, earthquake or other catastrophe. Officials are now working to assure that they could master that situation.

But documents uncovered by a group that is critical of nuclear safety show that a high-level safety analyst at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission posed the possibility to his superiors in July 2007, about four years before the earthquake and tsunami that led to three simultaneous meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi. The documents also show that in August 2008, the commission staff formally acknowledged the issue.

But until Japan’s disaster, progress in the American nuclear industry was glacial….

The warning, which now seems prophetic, predicted “common cause failures,’’ meaning single events that disable different pieces of equipment that are supposedly independent and nearly invulnerable to failing simultaneously on their own. The risk analyst, Richard Sherry, wrote that flooding or earthquakes could disrupt both normal grid power and emergency backup power.

China is trying to get a leg up on clean energy transportation by getting into the patent wars. The country has filed over 2,000 patent applications — 8 percent of the world’s total — placing China third globally. [ChinaDaily]

Greenpeace released a report yesterday warning of various fossil fuel projects around the world that could serve as “carbon bombs,” driving the planet still closer to disastrous levels of global warming. China and Australia topped the list. [The Guardian]

A global and legally-binding agreement to reduce mercury emissions was reached in Geneva over the weekend. But it still faces ratification by over 140 countries, even as studies show mercury levels around the world continue to rise. [LA Times]

The unusually cold temperatures across America’s northern Plains and New England could be due to a combination of a warming event in the upper atmosphere over the Arctic, and fluctuations in a natural cycle of tropical rainfall near the equator. [ClimateCentral]

Ikea will double its investment in renewable energy — including wind farms and solar parks — to $4 billion by 2020, as part of an effort to bring down costs for more cash-strapped consumers. [Bloomberg]

7 Responses to January 23 News: U.S. Warned About Multiple Nuclear Meltdowns Years Before Fukushima

  1. fj says:

    China would get a much better leg up by focusing its patents, research, and development on carbon zero transportation rather than carbon intensive cars.

    . . . which would also accelerate poverty eradication.

  2. prokaryotes says:

    OT – Something totally different..

    If you want some distraction you could join in 4hrs the launch of PoE, an ARPG “Game” (free to play). This game has the potential to become a milestone in gaming history…

  3. prokaryotes says:

    Re Nuclear Plant safty..

    Because many Nuclear Plants are situated at the ocean – at the coast, they pose a growing threat because of abrupt SLR or increasing storm surges.

  4. prokaryotes says:

    should read “safety”…

  5. Ric Merritt says:

    About “unusual” cold in northern US: I’m in Wisconsin. Yes, it’s cold here. If you go out, you’re wise to wear a coat and hat.

    But it’s not unusual, it’s winter. Far far milder than many cold snaps in the 80’s and 90’s.

  6. prokaryotes says:

    Arctic snow cover shows steep decline

    The blanket of snow that covers Arctic regions for most of the year has been shrinking at an increasing pace over the past decade, researchers say.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  7. David B. Benson says:

    Actually quite well defended against storm surges.