Nuclear Regulatory Commission Report Reveals Greater Flood Risk to 34 Nuclear Plants

The uncensored NRC report finds that upstream dam failure and the resultant flood risk to nuclear reactors is higher than previously reported.

| October 19, 2012

This article is posted with permission from The Union of Concerned Scientists.

The Huffington Post published an article today revealing details of a censored Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) report showing the risk of a flooding accident at U.S. nuclear power plants appears to be greater than previously thought.

Thirty-four nuclear reactors — one-third of the U.S. fleet — could face flooding hazards greater than they were designed to withstand if an upstream dam fails, according to the report, which was written by NRC staff member in July of last year. The NRC has known about these risks for at least 15 years and has failed to adequately address them.

The report generated attention a month ago when its lead author, Richard H. Perkins, accused the NRC of deliberately whiting out passages before releasing the report in response to a Freedom of Information Act request to avoid embarrassment. In a letter submitted to the NRC inspector general on September 14, Perkins suggested that the NRC censored his report because it reveals “the NRC has been in possession of relevant, notable, and derogatory safety information for an extended period but failed to properly act on it.”

The flooding threat is due to the fact that nuclear reactors are built adjacent to rivers, lakes and oceans because they require vast quantities of cooling water. Many U.S. nuclear plants that are sited along a river have one or more dams located upstream. If a dam failed, the ensuing flood waters could overwhelm a plant’s protective barriers and disable critical safety equipment, causing an accident that could release a large amount of radiation, just as it did at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan in March 2011. In that case, the flooding was caused by a tsunami, not a breached dam, but the result could be similar. (For more information on flooding risks, see the Union of Concerned Scientists’ new fact sheet, “Dam Failures and Flooding at U.S. Nuclear Plants.”)

The Huffington Post provided a link to the unredacted NRC report and described some of what was excised by NRC censors.

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