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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Missing Patterns in Corporate News: Project Censored’s Top 10 Underreported Stories of 2020

Posted By on Wed, Dec 30, 2020 at 6:00 AM

Page 10 of 11

9. Rising risks of nuclear power due to climate change

As early as 2003, 30 nuclear units were either shut down or reduced power output during a deadly European summer heatwave in Europe.

But almost two decades later, the corporate media has yet to grasp that "Nuclear power plants are unprepared for climate change," as Project Censored notes. "Rising sea levels and warmer waters will impact power plants' infrastructure, posing increased risks of nuclear disasters, according to reports from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Truthout from September 2019," they explain. Yet "tracking back to 2013, corporate news media have only sporadically addressed the potential for climate change to impact nuclear power plants."

"Nuclear power is uniquely vulnerable to increasing temperatures because of its reliance on cooling water to ensure operational safety within the core and spent fuel storage," Christina Chen wrote for NRDC.

In addition, Karen Charman, reporting for Truthout, noted that "nuclear reactors need an uninterrupted electricity supply to run the cooling systems that keep the reactors from melting down," but this will be "increasingly difficult to guarantee in a world of climate-fueled megastorms and other disasters."

Sea level rise — combined with storm surges — represents the most serious threat. That was the focus of a 2018 report by John Vidal of Ensia, a solutions-focused media outlet, which found that "at least 100 U.S., European, and Asian nuclear power stations built just a few meters above sea level could be threatened by serious flooding caused by accelerating sea-level rise and more frequent storm surges."

There have been more than 20 incidents of flooding at U.S. nuclear plants, according to David Lochbaum, a former nuclear engineer and director of the nuclear safety project at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"The most likely [cause of flooding] is the increasing frequency of extreme events," he told Vidal.

Yet in January 2019, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) decided to weaken staff recommendations to reassess the adequacy of hazard preparations. In dissent, Commissioner Jeff Baran wrote that the NRC would allow power plants "to be prepared only for the old, outdated hazards typically calculated decades ago when the science of seismology and hydrology was far less advanced."

"As of September 2019, 444 nuclear reactors are operating in the world, with 54 under construction, 111 planned and 330 more proposed," Charman reported.

"Many of the world's new nuclear plants are being built on the coasts of Asian countries, which face floods, sea-level rise, and typhoons," Vidal wrote. "At least 15 of China's 39 reactors in operation, and many of the plants it has under construction, are on the coast."

"Nuclear stations are on the front line of climate change impacts both figuratively and quite literally," leading climate scientist Michael Mann told Vidal. "We are likely profoundly underestimating climate change risk and damages in coastal areas."



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