At least twelve operating nuclear reactors are in the predicted path of Hurricane Florence, which has been upgraded to a category 4 storm as it surges toward the U.S. East Coast. According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which offers an interactive map of active nuclear reactors, two plants are vulnerable to both heavy rainfall and the expected storm surge which could bring a surge of up to 20 feet of ocean water pouring into coastal areas.
Those two reactors, located NE of Myrtle Beach, North Carolina, are known as “Brunswick Steam Electric Plant, Unit 1” and “Brunswick Steam Electric Plant, Unit 1.”
Each unit produces nearly 1,000 MWe of electricity, and they are both built on the General Electric “Type 4” power plant design, which is almost identical to the GE nuclear power plant design used in the Fukushima-Daiichi reactors in Japan. All of these reactors are designed and constructed as “boiling-water reactors” or BWRs. The designs are decades old, and they are subject to catastrophic failures and even core meltdowns that release radioactive isotopes directly into the atmosphere and surrounding areas.
According to current forecasts, these nuclear power plants appear to be in the direct line of Hurricane Florence. Here’s the current forecast from the NOAA, which brings the hurricane directly into North Carolina’s coastline:
The Brunswick plant is a “Boiling Water Reactor” just like Fukushima
As this link from the U.S. NRC shows, the Brunswick Steam Electric Plant, Unit 1 is also a “Boiling Water Reactor.” It was originally authorized for operation in 1976 and it licensed to continue operating through 2036. The following diagram shows how BWRs operate, using heat from the nuclear reactions to turn water into steam that drives steam turbines which generate electricity:
Boiling Water Reactor plants must sit at low elevation near rivers or lakes in order to have access to cooling water
BWR nuclear power plants rely on cooling designs that use large bodies of local water (rivers or lakes) to transfer heat from the nuclear power plant to the atmosphere. This heat transfer is necessary to prevent nuclear fuel rods from overheating and melting down in a runaway nuclear reaction. Importantly, this cooling operation relies on electricity to run the cooling pumps that circulate the water.
For this reason, U.S. nuclear power plants are equipped with multiple redundant cooling systems and backup generators that can run the pumps even if the local power grid is cut off. At the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power facility, both backup diesel generators and battery power systems were present.
You might wonder, then, how the electricity failed on all accounts, causing the cooling pumps to stop operating, ultimately leading to “criticality” of the fuel rods — i.e. a meltdown. (For the record, the entire U.S. media lied about the Fukushima meltdown, claiming no meltdown had occurred. Only now, years later, does the media admit a nuclear meltdown took place. But in their original reporting, they universally claimed there was no meltdown. Just another example of how the media relentlessly lies about everything, not just politics.)
The answer is found in the storm surge — a massive wave of ocean water that swept through the Fukushima facility, drowning the diesel generators, coolant pumps and backup batteries. In effect, Fukushima was inundated with ocean water, and everything stopped functioning. But the physics of the fuel rods was still operating, and you can’t stop fission reactions just by hoping and wishing. So the fuel rods melted down and a nuclear meltdown took place, producing the Fukushima catastrophe we’re all still suffering under today.
As the Nuclear Regulatory Commission explains on this page:
The reactor’s core contains fuel assemblies that are cooled by water circulated using electrically powered pumps. These pumps and other operating systems in the plant receive their power from the electrical grid. If offsite power is lost, emergency cooling water is supplied by other pumps, which can be powered by onsite diesel generators. Other safety systems, such as the containment cooling system, also need electric power. BWRs contain between 370-800 fuel assemblies.
What the NRC doesn’t explain, however, is what happens when all the electrical power and backup generators fail.
The Brunswick power plant sits at a very low elevation, near the ocean
The concern among observers today is that the Brunswick Steam Electric Plant sits at a very low elevation in Southport, NC, just a few feet above sea level. The power plant sits directly on Cape Fear River, which was artificially modified to be used by the nuclear power facility so that coolant water could be drained into the ocean, just to the East. (Notably, Archer Daniels Midland also sits about half a mile away from this facility.)
To the East of the Brunswick power plant is Zeke’s Island, a thin barrier between the Brunswick power plant and the Atlantic Ocean. Zeke’s Island will of course be instantly under water if the expected 20′ ocean surge achieves a direct hit on this area.
A 20′ ocean surge would, without question, threaten the Brunswick nuclear power plant. To what extent, we can’t say. Presumably, highly qualified technicians are preparing the power plant for the coming hurricane. Then again, Fukushima was also run by highly qualified technicians and really smart nuclear engineers who claimed a meltdown could never possibly take place. Take all official assurances with a healthy dose of skepticism (and perhaps a dosimeter as well).
Nuclear meltdowns release radioactive Iodine-131
What’s the big deal about nuclear power plants melting down and release radioisotopes into the atmosphere? The problem is found in the toxic mix of radioisotopes released in such catastrophes. Various isotopes are released, most notably including Iodine-131 and Cesium-137 (along with some other isotopes of uranium and plutonium, depending on the elemental composition of the fuel used).
Iodine-131 and Cesium-137 are extremely dangerous because of their relatively short half lives. In the realm of physics, a shorter half-life means the element is giving off radiation more quickly, releasing more energy into surrounding ecosystems or organisms (which could include you). In fact, the safer radioisotopes are those with very long half-lives, since they release relatively little radiation in any given time period.
Iodine-131 has a half-life of roughly 8 days. For purposes of simplifying things, we’ll call it a week.
Cesium-137 has a half-life of roughly 30 years.
Note: As a matter of establishing some qualifications here, I’ll remind readers that I’m the patent holder of a patent called Cesium Eliminator, a dietary supplement that was approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2014. You can read the patent here.
You can read about the invention, how it works, and the lab tests proving its efficacy at this link:
Cesium Eliminator is not for sale to the public. I am stockpiling the ingredients for Cesium Eliminator in Texas, where I have around 10,000Kg of the raw materials, ready to manufacture. I will only offer it (or donate it) to organizations when needed in a nuclear emergency.
I developed Cesium Eliminator as a way to remove cesium-137 from the digestive tract so that people who drink cesium-contaminated water or eat cesium-contaminated food can have a safe, effective way to eliminate cesium from their bodies. This avoids having the cesium absorbed into the bloodstream, where it circulates to internal tissues and irradiates the body from the inside, causing cancer, immunosuppression or death.
As the U.S. EPA testifies on its own website:
Cesium-137 that is dispersed in the environment, like that from atmospheric testing, is impossible to avoid… People may ingest cesium-137 with food and water, or may inhale it as dust. Like all radionuclides, exposure to radiation from cesium-137 results in increased risk of cancer.
It takes ten half-lives for radioisotopes to fall to a “zero”
Here’s what you need to remember in all this: It takes about ten half-lives for radiation to fall to a level considered “zero.”
For Iodine-131, that means 10 weeks. Here’s how the physics works, roughly speaking:
Week 1: You’re exposed to the FULL DOSE of Iodine-131 radiation
Week 2: You’re exposed to 1/2 the dose
Week 3: You’re exposed to 1/4 the dose
Week 4: You’re exposed to 1/8 the dose
… and so on.
Iodine-131, of course, gets absorbed into the body through food and beverages (including cow’s milk), where it tends to accumulate in the thyroid gland. This causes the irradiation of the thyroid gland from the inside, essentially “burning out” this gland, leading to lifelong health problems that can include cancer and death.
For this reason, U.S. government officials strongly encourage people to have supplementary Iodine available as a dietary supplement. When iodine is consumed as a supplement, the non-radioactive iodine elements are deposited onto the thyroid gland, “locking up” all the iodine receptor sites there (plus covering other iodine-ready organs such as breast tissue and prostate tissue), causing radioactive iodine to have nowhere left to go except to leave the body through normal elimination.
Thus, when people take supplementary iodine, they may prevent radioactive iodine from lodging in their body. This reduces total exposure time to the radioactive iodine, since it is naturally eliminated from the body over time. (Iodine and other elements have something called a “blood half life” which means how long it takes the body to eliminate them from circulating blood. Do not confuse this with the “physics half life” which refers to the transmutation of elemental mass into energy, over time.)
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