Late last week, anti-nuclear gadfly Arne Gundersen took to the Web to attack the safety of Westinghouse's AP-1000 nuclear reactor. It's all part of a larger effort by anti-nuclear activists to delay the certification of the reactor design by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
NEI's Tom Kauffman shot me a note that has asked me to share with our blog audience:
Arnie Gundersen’s claim there was an inadvertent criticality in the one Fukushima reactor is totally unfounded. A criticality is a sustained chain reaction within the nuclear fuel. There is no evidence a criticality occurred in any of the damaged reactors since the accident. Spontaneous fission of uranium atoms naturally occurs, but conditions to support criticality do not exist. The control rods are in fact in the damaged fuel. And boron, a highly effective fission control element, is mixed in the cooling water in all three reactors and all the used fuel pools thereby virtually eliminating the possibility of criticality. Gundersen knows this and is deliberately misleading people.This isn't the first time Gundersen and his allies have attacked the AP-1000. Last April, a group of 12 regional anti-nuclear energy organizations called on the NRC to investigate their claims. Click here for NEI's response to that request.
Gundersen’s claim that loss of the cooling water at the top of the AP1000 containment structure would be the loss of the plant’s ultimate heat sink also is false. Just like the nuclear plants at Fukushima, the ultimate heat sink of the AP1000 reactor is the cooling water source for the plant. If that is lost, multiple emergency cooling water supplies would be used to cool the reactor. If they too are lost, the water at the top of the containment could provide cooling for three days even in the event of a total loss of all electrical power. He also failed to mention that no U.S. nuclear facility faces the sudden flooding that stopped the ultimate heat sink in Japan.
His claim the fuel pool at the #4 reactor at Fukushima “blew up” is absolutely false and is fear-mongering at its worst. Video of the #4 pool and the used fuel in it along with samples of the water in the pool, are irrefutable proof there was no explosion in the fuel pool and fuel is intact. In fact, there were no explosions in any of the fuel pools. NRC Chairman Jaczko publicly confirmed this weeks ago. Likewise, Gundersen’s recent claim that molten fuel is moving into the ground beneath one plant and causing groundwater to change into steam is totally unsupported and irresponsible.
Mr. Gundersen also failed to mention that the AP1000 reactor, designed to be at least 100 times safer than existing plants due to exceptionally large safety margins, is based on 50 years of operational lessons-learned and more than 20 years of research and development. Probably the most highly engineered and analyzed nuclear plant design in the history of the U.S. (if not the world), the Westinghouse advanced passive reactor design underwent the most thorough pre-construction licensing review ever conducted by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Because of the AP1000 design’s huge safety margins, any changes needed in response to the lessons learned from the accident in Japan are expected to be manageable during plant construction.
Mr. Gundersen does not speak for the people of Georgia or South Carolina, nor their governors or public service commissions who support new nuclear facilities. He should respect their right to decide for themselves how to manage their energy supplies.
An artist's conception of the AP-1000 reactor, courtesy of Westinghouse.