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Plane crashes pose threat to nuclear plants

The Local · 17 May 2011, 15:06

Published: 17 May 2011 15:06 GMT+02:00

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Announcing the results of an investigation by the Reactor Security Commission (RSK) into Germany’s nuclear security, Röttgen said four reactors – Biblis A and B, Brunsbüttel and Philippsburg I – had “no demonstrable security measures” against being struck by even a small plane.

This information would play a key role in the political decision-making about whether and when to close certain plants, he said. These four plants did not meet even the lowest of the three possible levels of security.

That said, there was a “basic soundness” to Germany’s nuclear facilities, he said, adding that their vulnerability to plane crashes was already known.

The long-awaited RSK report, released on Tuesday, generally gives Germany’s 17 nuclear reactors good grades, though it found none was sufficiently protected against damage caused by a large passenger plane.

Opposition groups slammed the report as insufficient.

Seven older plants were either not protected or protected insufficiently against damage from a small plane. However Röttgen said that overall the problems were not so serious as to require a quick exit from nuclear power altogether.

Chancellor Angela Merkel asked the commission to assess the safety and security of the nation's reactors after the Fukushima plant in Japan suffered a partial meltdown in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami there in March. She also announced a three-month moratorium on plans she’d previously made to extend the lifespans of the nuclear reactors.

She made the announcements while facing a public backlash against her previous support for nuclear power and later announced she’d had a change of heart.

The results of the report released on Tuesday will feed into a final report from the Ethics Commission on Energy Supply, which Merkel established in March.

The commission is considering whether Germany should make an exit from nuclear power by 2021 and immediately close eight plants that are currently on hold. The government will make the final decision on June 6.

The RSK considered the impact on nuclear plants of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and storms, and man-made disasters such as plane crashes, explosions, terrorist attacks and cyber-attacks.

Commission chairman Rudolf Wieland said none of the German nuclear plants achieved the highest grades on all criteria.

However, the kinds of deficiencies evident at the Fukushima plant were not found at the German reactors. On the whole, the German plants acquitted themselves well on the critical issues of emergency power and emergency cooling.

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“In summary I can declare: yes, there is a great degree of robustness in the facilities that we have assessed here,” Wieland said.

Röttgen concluded that despite the flaws identified in the report, an immediate exit from nuclear power was still clearly not the responsible course.

“It is no argument to say we have to get out in a mad rush by tomorrow,” he said. But he added: “It is still the belief that we should find a way as quickly as possible to get out of nuclear energy.”

DAPD/DPA/The Local/djw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

18:06 May 17, 2011 by derExDeutsche
psssst. hey, Terrorists, yeah, like, don't fly any airplanes into our vulnerable nuclear plants ... we would really hate to have to shut them all down and start charging an arm and a leg for green alternatives ::wink:: ::wink::

ps. could you wait until we've sold at least a million e-cars?
18:08 May 17, 2011 by c12dat
Reduce the threat by installing anti-aircaft battery around the nuke power plant.

How about the threat of runaway train?

Just so y'all know, there is a no fly area around all nuclear power plant in Germany. This is such a non-story.
18:10 May 17, 2011 by dcgi
... maybe just introduce a strict no-fly zone around them -_-
19:12 May 17, 2011 by krautrock
Nothing on Earth is protected against a plane crash.
19:38 May 17, 2011 by finanzdoktor
@Krautrock: How true. 9-11-2001 proved that to us.
20:30 May 17, 2011 by c12dat
There are managable risks in our daily lives. The issue here I believe it to be nuclear power. There are those who are against nuclear power and will use what ever position to shut down these power plants.

@ krautrock and finanzdoctor .... Nothing on Earth is protected against a fanatically committed person(s) who is determine on killing on 9-11. The planes just happen to be their weapon of choice.

Modern aircraft don't just happen to fly by a nuke power plant and crash uncontrollably in to the reactor building. Most pilots; including myself, try to belly it into a nice open area.

Don't fall for the scare tactic.
01:00 May 18, 2011 by taiwanluthiers
If the environmentalists have their way, we would go back to living in huts like the old days. That is the most environmentally friendly way to live!

If they were so afraid of planes flying into nuke plants, maybe some Patriot missile batteries around nuke plants will protect them.
01:52 May 18, 2011 by rwk
Build nuclear power plants underground. Newer designs, such as the LFTR, can be built in such a manner, and have many other advantages besides. But Germans have decided that they would rather be a vassal of the Russian Energy Empire, by shutting down all German nuclear power plants and not building any new ones.
17:05 May 19, 2011 by Thorsten
It is only propaganda of the powerful environmentalists, which also want our decline.
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