Protecting nuclear plants from the catastrophic consequences of failure during a natural disaster will take more than higher sea walls and backup generators [“Shutdown of 3 nuclear reactors dubbed a ‘wake-up call,’ ” news story, Oct. 31]. Even if diesel generators keep reactors running in the event of a loss of off-site power, the fuel pools have no such backup. Spent-fuel pools across the United States hold hundreds of tons of irradiated nuclear fuel. Without power, water-circulation pumps stop operating. If the pool water then boils down to the tops of the irradiated nuclear fuel assemblies, the assemblies could catch fire once exposed to air, causing radioactivity releases.
It is not nuclear plants that need protecting from nature. It is humanity that needs protecting from nuclear plants. Rather than risk such a disaster, the United States should shut its nuclear reactors, remove the fuel to fortified casks and begin to implement wide-scale renewable energy and energy-efficiency measures while emphasizing conservation.
Linda Pentz Gunter, Takoma Park
The writer is an international specialist with the group Beyond Nuclear.
Nuclear energy facilities are built to withstand flooding and hurricane-force winds beyond the levels that are historically reported for their local area — and then some. The facilities incorporate multiple backup safety features that, combined with extensive training of their personnel and regular emergency-preparedness exercises, have successfully managed the impact of severe weather events. The nuclear facilities mentioned in the article all performed safely, as expected, with backup diesel generators providing electricity to maintain safe operations or orderly shutdowns due to high water levels on rivers or electrical grid disruptions.
Hurricane Sandy tragically wreaked devastation on countless families and businesses. But as they did during hurricanes Katrina and Irene, the professional crews that operate nuclear energy facilities met these extreme challenges.
Scott Peterson, Washington
The writer is senior vice president of the Nuclear Energy Institute.