Info about the "what if a plane crashes into a NPP"-question

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Info about the "what if a plane crashes into a NPP"-question

Postby Ivofex » 19 Aug 2012, 22:12

Hi,

One question/fear often expressed is what would happen if a commercial airliner crashes into a nuclear power plant. What can be said about this topic? Is it of major safety concern?
Ivofex
 
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Re: Info about the "what if a plane crashes into a NPP"-ques

Postby Michael » 20 Aug 2012, 01:03

Ivofex wrote:Hi,

One question/fear often expressed is what would happen if a commercial airliner crashes into a nuclear power plant. What can be said about this topic? Is it of major safety concern?


In what aspect?

1) In the "nuclear meltdown" aspect, not really no. You could get really unlucky and they manage to make a sweep through all the backup-generators and knock out the switch yard which might cause a station blackout for one reactor. That is why new requirements after 9/11 seeks to crash-harden them.

2) Causing damage to the containment and/or reactors? Again: rotten luck might come into effect... but it's highly unlikely an airliner could crack a containment, much less make it through to the reactor vessel and puncture that.

Here's an image I took of a PWR containment cross section. click for a big version. The chap-stick I put there for comparison is 7 cm.

Image

Never say never... but any terrorist seeking to do any actual damage, or if there is a civilian accident, would have a very hard time cracking the containments since an airplane is essentially a thin aluminium tube with wings. The only really solid parts that can punch hard against the containment are the engines, and they are spaced far enough apart that they will impact at different locations.

Here's an example of plane vs nuclear testing...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xM8E-CogkYE

3) Knocking the power plant offline and causing havoc by causing a shortage? Yes... that is a big concern. Being dependant on electricity is one of modern societies major weaknesses.

/Michael
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