GS, the core reactors are designed to withstand major impact but the spent fuel pools which are outside of the core reactor containment vessel are not built to the same standards. Without power, the water will boil away within days and then an uncontrollable radiation event will ensue. I have read that as much as 80% of the rods in spent fuel pools is eligible to be transferred to the much safer dry cask storage, but the utilities don’t want to spend the money and the NRC apparently errs on the side of utility fiscal concerns over general public safety concerns. In this era of terrorism, that is a pathetic abdication of responsibility. My understanding is that nuke plants only have anywhere from a few days to a few weeks worth of fuel on hand for their emergency generators, generators which I understand are not protected from say a jihadi crashing a plane into them.
Years ago we lived at the edge of the 10 mile evacuation zone for the Vermont Yankee nuke plant. Though we lived less than 2 miles due north of an interstate highway exchange, our evacuation instructions were to drive north towards the nuke plant and then take a convoluted route that looped us around to the local community college which was only 3 miles outside of the evacuation zone. Our plan was to drive two miles south instead and get on the interstate heading south, away from Vt Yankee. Their nonsensical evacuation plans is what first make me skeptical of the NRC’s wisdom.
In 2007, one of the cooling towers at VT Yankee collapsed. This collapse didn’t pose a radiation risk but in my opinion it spoke volumes about lax safety inspections. VT Yankee (which sits on the Connecticut River, the largest river in New England) also had a tritium leak into the groundwater for years before it was discovered and disclosed. During the investigations, plant officials denied the existence of underground piping, and guess where the leak was found…. in underground piping. In my simple way, I’m thinking that the people who run nuke plants should know how they are constructed and where all the pipes go.
VT Yankee was shut down at the end of last year and will be in the decommissioning stage for decades. By 2020 they are supposed to have transferred the spent fuel rods into dry cask storage. That will be a major milestone in reducing the risk to that area. VT Yankee is located where VT, NH, & MA meet. Having residents of 3 States in the immediate evacuation zone has long been a complicating factor for emergency management.
So, I don’t particularly trust the NRC to be protecting the interests of the American people.