Why a Likely Natural Event Could Cause Nuclear Reactors to Melt Down and Our Grid to Crash
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There are nearly 450 nuclear reactors in the world, with hundreds more either under construction or in the planning stages. There are 104 of these reactors in the USA and 195 in Europe. Imagine the havoc it would wreak on our civilization and the planet's ecosystems if we were to suddenly experience not just one or two nuclear meltdowns, but many more of them. How likely is it that our world might experience an event that could ultimately cause multiple reactors to fail and melt down at approximately the same time? Unless we take significant protective measures, this apocalyptic scenario is possible.
Consider the ongoing problems caused by three reactor core meltdowns, explosions and breached containment vessels at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi facility, and the subsequent health and environmental issues. Consider the millions of innocent victims who have already died or continue to suffer from horrific radiation-related health problems ("Chernobyl AIDS," epidemic cancers, chronic fatigue, etc.) resulting from the Chernobyl reactor explosions, fires and fallout. If just two serious nuclear disasters, spaced 25 years apart, could cause such horrendous environmental catastrophes, it is hard to imagine how we could ever hope to recover from hundreds of similar nuclear incidents occurring simultaneously across the planet.
Since more than one third of all Americans live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant, this is a serious issue that should be given top priority. In the past 152 years, the Earth has been struck by roughly 100 solar storms causing significant geomagnetic disturbances (GMD), two of which were powerful enough to rank as "extreme GMDs." If an extreme GMD of such magnitude were to occur today, it could initiate a chain of events leading to catastrophic failures our world's nuclear reactors, quite similar to the disasters at both Chernobyl and Fukushima, but multiplied many times. When massive solar flares launch a huge mass of highly charged plasma (a coronal mass ejection, or CME) directly toward Earth, colliding with our planet's outer atmosphere and magnetosphere, the result is a significant geomagnetic disturbance.
Since an extreme GMD last occurred in May of 1921, long before the advent of modern electronics, widespread electric power grids and nuclear power plants, we are for the most part blissfully unaware of this threat and totally unprepared for its consequences. The good news is that relatively affordable equipment and processes could be installed to protect critical components in the electric power grid and its nuclear reactors, thereby averting this "end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it" scenario. The bad news is that even though panels of scientists and engineers have studied the problem, and the bipartisan congressional EMP commission has presented a list of specific recommendations to Congress, our leaders have yet to approve and implement a single significant preventative measure.
Most of us believe something like this could never happen. If it could, certainly our "authorities" would do everything in their power to prevent such an apocalypse from ever taking place. Unfortunately, the opposite is true.
Nuclear Power Plants and the Electric Power Grid
Our global system of electrical power generation and distribution -- "the grid" -- upon which every facet of our modern life is utterly dependent, in its current form is extremely vulnerable to severe geomagnetic storms of a magnitude that tends to strike our planet on an average of approximately once every 70 to 100 years. We depend on this grid to maintain food production and distribution, telecommunications, Internet services, medical services, military defense, transportation, government, water treatment, sewage and garbage removal, refrigeration, oil refining and gas pumping, and to conduct all forms of commerce.