Nuclear power plant failure…options?
So I was perusing the beginner prepper guide and was thinking about things I should start with to better prepare me and my family for emergency situations. I live in Kentucky and happened to see the map for nuclear power plants and wondered about the fallout should the ‘world go dark’ scenario – government collapse etc. So what I was wondering was…how far could you live in a place near a nuclear powerplant and not have to worry about things like fallout or radiation poisoning in the water and air? At least not enough to have to move… I’ve included an image that shows the current location of nuclear power plants and the link (Global Map of Wind, Weather, and Ocean Conditions) to a website that shows the real-time wind/weather patterns (quite beautiful actually). I obviously don’t know much about nuclear power or what their procedure is should they need to power down but I imagine it wouldn’t be pretty if they had to be shut-off permanently? I do know that in the event of a power failure they recommend everything outside of a 100mile radius to evacuate. Any references would be greatly appreciated as I really enjoy a good research rabbit hole but a starting point does help. I guess I’m just not sure how much energy and resources should be spent in a place that would prove unlivable when nuclear power fails and starts affecting the environment.
Dragoon - January 28, 2021
Great topic and certainly something that many of us living near a nuclear plant need to think about. Or even if we live near somewhere that could be a potential target for a nuclear attack and fallout could drift over to us.
From the map, it looks like I need to move to North West Colorado. That looks like the safest area in the US from nuclear plant failures.
To answer your question, I think the best thing we can do is look to the past for answers. Most recently with the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. I’ll just give a short summary here of what I remember since it was almost 10 years ago and many may have forgotten some of the details.
A magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred 80 miles off the coast of Japan. It created multiple tsunamis with the largest being 100 feet tall. The plant detected the earthquake and immediately shut down its reactors. The electrical grid went down and the normal pumps to cool off the cores had to be run by diesel generators. A tsunami came in and damaged the generators and stopped the cooling process of the cores. This caused three nuclear meltdowns and three hydrogen explosions.
Wikipedia says the following that I think helps give you some idea of your question:
“In the days after the accident, radiation released to the atmosphere forced the government to declare an ever-larger evacuation zone around the plant, culminating in an evacuation zone with a 20 km radius. All told, some 154,000 residents evacuated from the communities surrounding the plant due to the rising off-site levels of ambient ionizing radiation caused by airborne radioactive contamination from the damaged reactors.
Large amounts of water contaminated with radioactive isotopes were released into the Pacific Ocean during and after the disaster….
… World Health Organization projected no increase in miscarriages, stillbirths or physical and mental disorders in babies born after the accident. An ongoing intensive cleanup program to both decontaminate affected areas and decommission the plant will take 30 to 40 years, plant management estimated”
Here is another good article, since you said you like research rabbit holes, that talks about how large the evac zone should have been. It goes into seawater contamination, local area contamination, and prevailing winds. Some things to highlight in this second article –
“What [the Japanese] are saying is that within so many kilometers in our opinion the radiation dose given to the population is acceptable to us in the circumstances,” he says. “They wouldn’t disagree with the international calculations on what the damage is, but the question is ‘is that acceptable’ [for Japan’s interests]?” So it looks like the evac zone was based on what they thought was acceptable.
I also liked this:
“Most have elected to remain and live normally while trying to cope with the radiation. They drink bottled water because the tap water exceeds safety limits and they wear gas masks outside because the air is also hazardous.” Sounds like prepping huh? Have your water and gas mask before the plants have meltdowns
P.S. – I liked that link you sent about the wind patterns. You are right, it is beautiful.
Conrad B - February 1, 2021
The Fukushima disaster really shook me up. It made me realize how fragile nuclear power is. Sure an earthquake followed by a tsunami is quite the combination and it’s hard for any building to survive something like that, but still, it was vulnerable and nuclear power is pretty dangerous. I hope that nuclear plants everywhere have improved their safety precautions and things like this are less and less likely to happen as time goes on.
Bradical - January 28, 2021
I actually watched a video about how to survive a nuclear attack the other day. Around the 3:05 mark it talks about the radiation and fallout, but watch the whole thing. It’s good.
The video talks about a nuclear attack, which is much different than a nuclear power plant failing, but some things still apply.
Another AMAZING video about a nuclear attack that I watched years ago is from the short TV series Surviving Disaster. If you have 40 minutes and want to really visually see the steps of how to survive a nuclear disaster, watch this! Much of it applies to fallout and radiation from a meltdown. https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x54sxft
Conrad B - February 1, 2021
GracedChip, are you going to prep differently according to what you have learned about nuclear plant failures?
GracedChip - February 1, 2021
Well, I was just concluding my research! I’ve learned that there is a plant called Spiderwort that you can plant around your house whose leaves will actually turn purple when exposed to radiation! That’s neat stuff just in and of itself. So while I don’t plan on moving too far from where I live now, probably further into the Appalachian mountains I’m going to try and be more mindful of nuclear plants going forward.
Everyone has provided some pretty good information.
hikermor - February 1, 2021
I live a good sixty miles or so downwind from the Canyon Diablo Power Plant near Point Conception, which is probably far enough in relatively normal conditions. But you never know….
Also in the point Conception are is Vandenberg AFB, which launches missles regularly, usually successfully, but not always. on one such occasion, a missle exploded on the launch pad, fouling the atmosphere that Park Service employees on San Miguel Island, a good forty miles distant, were advised to return to the ranger station and seal windows and doors with duct tape until a plane could retrieve them.
I was personal witness to another launch failure from Vandenberg, this time on Santa Rosa Island, immediately east of San Miguel. Ironically we were retuning from recording a WWII underground complex when there was a loud noise and we watch a fireball splash into the sea well to the southwest. This explosion scattered debris over both San Miguel and Santa Rosa. Life in never dull.
Just think of the rail cargoes that go through communities every day, to say nothing of semis………
Roland - February 1, 2021
You reminded me that I need to get some more duct tape. I like to store a few rolls of tape as well as a couple painters drop cloths in case there ever was fallout. I’ll have the grandkids tape up all the air vents and doorways to try and keep the junk from gettin in.
I ain’t gonna be breathin in that radioactive dust!
RedneckContributor - February 4, 2021
I received my missile training at Vandenberg back in 1979 and a couple years prior to that I had my ROTC summer camp there. That area is beautiful & my wife & I enjoyed the beaches and all the great restaurants in the area. I remember a place called Mattei’s Tavern, which was an old stagecoach stop, that had incredible food. Was able to take a helicopter flight over all the colorful flower fields… and a nearby nude beach. 🙂
In 1981, while stationed in Minot, ND, my crew was selected as one of the launch crews for one of our Minuteman III missiles. They did a random number generation & selected a missile from out in the field. They pulled it up, removed the nuclear component from the warheads, installed telemetry & self destruct capability in its place, and shipped it to Vandenberg. After a few weeks of bringing the missile back on line, my crew was the first to turn keys for the launch. Since a Minuteman requires 2 crews to turn keys, the 2nd crew had to install new launch panels prior to them turning keys. While they were doing that, my commander & I went aboveground and were able to watch the missile launch. That was amazing. The warheads were sent out into the test range in the Pacific. We aimed at a building & actually hit it, which was pretty damn good back then in using ICBMs.
Seasons4 - February 5, 2021
What an amazing experience!
pnwsarahContributor - April 19, 2022
@Redneck — Did you see the last link in yesterday’s news update blog post? Carlotta included a link to a WaPo article about an MT rancher with one of those Minuteman III missile silos on his place, and a launch crew in a nearby bunker. Would be curious to hear your thoughts!
RedneckContributor - April 19, 2022
Yes I saw the article. That part of the country, the northern tier states, have many such missile sites… but not as many as when I served. Each base would have 150 such missile sites spread out all around the base. None are very close and the some well over an hour’s drive from base. The missile sites are rather small and somewhat easy to miss. Very little is aboveground. Your would have a chained link enclosure with the concrete blast door on top of the missile itself. There was several doppler radar antennas and they would set off an alarm in the launch control center if they detected motion. For every 10 missiles, there would be one launch control center… not a bunker. 🙂
This was a larger facility that housed several service members… a facility manager, a cook and several sets of security police. They would stay out for several days at a time. Underneath this building would be the launch control center, which is constantly manned by two launch control officers that normally serve a 24 hour shift. Minot had 150 missiles and 15 launch control centers.
Bob - February 2, 2021
The worry is legitimate but geographic distances would not be a determining factor re the dangers like fallout/radiation poisoning.
South of here near colonial Jamestown, Virginia is a commercial nuc generator. Their pamphlet – and calendar – has the NRC info in case of citizen evacuations. There’s a 10 mile radius and a 50 mile radius. Within that 50 mile radius zone are some big cities: Newport News, Norfolk, Virginia Beach. In summary, a nuc mishaps extends well beyond the nuc mishap.
The private citizen preparedness is about the same as the other perils; be prepared to shelter in place, to evacuate, to have a place to temporarily relocate to unless caught up in the timing problems of “GOOD” – “Get Out Of Dodge”.
Had glanced at the above map. The USN has some research reactors in Idaho – believe for nuclear propulsion and not ordnance research. The other “empty” states on the map-especially the “out West” states, still have nuclear use with the safety programs being used.
I live within a geographic corridor loaded with nuclear materials. The biggest overall danger here is motor vehicle driving dangers. The current specific lockdown dangers are people refusing to practice hygiene like mask wearing, getting a flu shot, drinking a couple of bears while driving.
The nuclear emergency pamphlets are just too pro forma to post. Place emphasis on the other perils. They address what needs to be prepared for.
Conrad B - February 3, 2021
Bob, you talk about their pamphlet and calendar, is this a pamphlet on their website, or have you gone to the plant and gotten a pamphlet from them?
Can you schedule a tour of a nuclear power plant? Wonder if it would be safe…
Bob - February 3, 2021
Conrad, I don’t know about their website.
I got their handouts at an Emergency Operations Center.
Can’t answer about tours of facilities but this has got to be relatively easy to check on. A call or email to your pertinent utility company’s public affairs office (Here in Virginia it’s mostly Dominion Energy) is a first step. Even if negative news – especially nowadays with the COVID-19 restrictions – I’m confident you’ll get some pulp or cyber handouts.
Bob - February 4, 2021
Above is an addendum to my post. It is loaded with reading material to keep one busy.
South of me at Hampton Roads, Virginia, there are more nuclear reactors than elsewhere throughout the fruited plain. The USN’s power plants in many boats are nuclear.
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