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Power Earth Science

As Sea Levels Rise, Are Coastal Nuclear Plants Ready? (nationalgeographic.com) 302

mdsolar writes with this National Geographic story about the danger of rising sea levels to low-lying power plants across the country. According to the story: "Just east of the Homestead-Miami Speedway, off Florida's Biscayne Bay, two nuclear reactors churn out enough electricity to power nearly a million homes. The Turkey Point plant is licensed to continue doing so until at least 2032. At some point after that, if you believe the direst government projections, a good part of the low-lying site could be underwater. So could at least 13 other U.S. nuclear plants, as the world's seas continue to rise. Their vulnerability, and that of many others, raises serious questions for the future."
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As Sea Levels Rise, Are Coastal Nuclear Plants Ready?

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  • At My Door (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @09:21AM (#51136277)
    I am very close to a nuke that is right on the beach on Florida's Treasure Coast. Apparently to shut down a reactor and clean up everything that is contaminated is a process that takes years. This nuke has only one road that runs along the beach and if that road is swamped access to the plant would be by helicopter or boat, weather permitting. And that road frequently has challenges with hurricanes and spring tides as it is. I wonder if any planning is going on in regard to this situation.
    • Re:At My Door (Score:5, Informative)

      by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @09:27AM (#51136309)

      The one one Hutchinson Island? I used to stay there every summer. This article is (surprise!) alarmist. Read carefully, it claims nothing prior to 2032 - and makes references only to things that could happen in the fairly distant future. Compared to the cleanup costs, shoring up a road or building a berm along the Indian River would be pretty cheap.

      • Re:At My Door (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Zak3056 ( 69287 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @09:44AM (#51136401) Journal

        I'm shocked, shocked, that an alarming article about nuclear power was submitted by a guy named mdsolar.

      • Re:At My Door (Score:4, Interesting)

        by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @10:05AM (#51136509)

        In the U.S. we already have entire cities that are below sea level. Fortunately, we have these things called dikes, levees, and cofferdams that we can build when we need to to protect them from actually being underwater (as long as they're properly built and maintained). So even if sea levels do rise as predicted, these plants aren't going to be flooded unless for some bizarre reason we allow them to be flooded.

        But hey, alarmism sells.

        • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @10:30AM (#51136669) Homepage

          In the U.S. we already have entire cities that are below sea level.

          City, singular: We have exactly one city below sea level, New Orleans, elevation -2 meters.

          Not sure if I'd call that the best example of why it's ok to have levees keeping out the ocean.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        • Yes, *one* city, where the dikes etc. where built over a course of hundred years? What about New York, was't there bizzar damage during the last hurricane? Or Miami?

          So even if sea levels do rise as predicted, these plants aren't going to be flooded unless for some bizarre reason we allow them to be flooded.
          A few years ago a nuclear plant made the news (in the US) in the middle of a flooded river area. For some reason the river was up to the edge of the hand made sand bag wall. So: you obviously are quite of

          • What should probably be looked at more closely is if the plant would be in any kind of danger at a moderate amount of flooding. What are we actually talking about here? A flooded basement where some old filing cabinets and broken office chairs might rust a bit, but the plant can be safely idled until a crew gets on site to pump the overflow out, or a Fukushima catastrophe where the backup generators are underwater and access to the plant is completely severed?

            Also, are these coastal plants designed so tha

            • See, the summary as stated is asking about the projected worst case sea level rise (I quote) "if you believe them". That's clearly doubting the worst case, not reactionary trolling.

              What you're doing is reactionary (writer is an idiot because they didn't think of this mitigation, which actually they did), and trolling (writer is an idiot because they didn't think of even worse cases that don't involve permanent sea level rises).

              You changed the subject, then on the basis of that being a stupid position, you t

        • Re:At My Door (Score:4, Informative)

          by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @02:54PM (#51138667)

          Fortunately, we have these things called dikes, levees, and cofferdams that we can build when we need to to protect them from actually being underwater (as long as they're properly built and maintained).

          Dikes and levees to keep the sea out don't work very well in much of Florida because the underlying bedrock is largely porous limestone. Even if you build a levee the water will just come up through the ground.

          "Conventional sea walls and barriers are not effective here," says Robert Daoust, an ecologist at ARCADIS, a Dutch firm that specializes in engineering solutions to rising seas. "Protecting the city, if it is possible, will require innovative solutions."

          Link [rollingstone.com]

      • by voss ( 52565 )

        I wish we could switch over to molten salt reactor, They can be easily shut off if needed.

        • That, and build them away from areas prone to natural disasters.

          • How exactly do you propose to cool nuclear plants that aren't built on rivers? There is a reason nuclear power plants are built on moving water (or large pools of water), and it is to allow them to run more efficiently, and not require giant cooling towers.

              • The power plant evaporates the water from the treated sewage from several nearby cities and towns to provide the cooling of the steam that it produces.

                So, evaporating water that could be reused while existing in a desert where there is a significant lack of water...poor planning.

                Sure, that will work everywhere, we should get right on building every nuclear power plant to these specs. We could name them thinkwaitfast plants, then when multiple of them go supercritical in droughts, you can get full credit for your idea of using this cooling method.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mdsolar ( 1045926 )
      The NRC has pretty much ignored this in relicensing decisions. And they've made no plan for the waste stored at Humboldt Bay in northern California.
      • Re:At My Door (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @10:38AM (#51136721)
        They had made plans for the storage of nuclear waste, and spent billions of dollars preparing the facility. They were then told that they couldn't do that and had to stop.

        Note, I am not discussing the technical merits of the facility in question, I am merely pointing out that there was a plan.
    • Re:At My Door (Score:5, Informative)

      by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @09:44AM (#51136397)

      You do realize that if the road gets wiped out while they are trying to decommission the plant ... they'll just build one on a bridge, right? As a Floridian, you're probably aware of just how good Florida's construction crews are at rebuilding after the REGULAR hurricanes and tropical that come pretty much every year ...

      Building roads and bridges is pretty trivial and cheap compared to decommissioning a nuclear power station. And do you know how they brought a lot of the construction materials to the site ... probably by barge actually (thats what happened at the Crystal River plant)

      And decommissioning takes years because its cheaper to wait out certain things than to deal with them while hot. You have to shut the planet down, get it into cold shutdown (no need for active cooling measures), remove the fuel, then wait for all that shit to 'cool down' radioactively enough that it doesn't require robots to work on it. During that time you go tear down all the other crap thats not radioactive and wait for 10 years. Then you come back and get the rest of it with men in some radiation suites that cost about 1000 times less than trying to do it with the robots you'd have had to design, build and use if you tried to do it immediately after shutdown.

      But to answer you actual question.

      Yes, thats all been thought of, before the plant was even built, its all part of the initial environmental studies and is public record if you really want to go digging for it. At one point Looked up all that information for the Crystal River plant, so unless the state was thinking completely differently between the studies for the two stations we're referring to, yes, they've thought of all that already. It might no longer apply (environment changes, hence this discussion), but its been considered.

    • At My Door

      The expression is "in my backyard", and this is why a lot of people don't want nuclear power plants in theirs.

    • "On the beach" is the key to the problem. All of Florida is built on sand, so as sea level rises dikes won't be enough to keep the water out, it will simply go under them. You'd need a waterproof basement floor, plus pumps to deal with the inevitable leaks and breaches. You need to turn the whole place into a ship. It is just not going to happen. Florida is doomed, but they're still in denial.
  • Non Issue (Score:4, Insightful)

    by klingens ( 147173 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @09:27AM (#51136305)

    Yes the sealevels will rise, but they already rise with every hurricane or tides of the moon.
    After Fukushima everyone knows that you need big ass dams, flood walls, protected and working backup generators etc.

    If you build a 10m high floodwall or a 11m high one to also protect against global warming induced sea level rise simply doesn't really matter. If someone hasn't already built said 10-15m high flood wall, it's not global warming that is an issue but the regulatory commission in your country. A much more immediate problem too.

    • Yes, sealevels will rise.

      Of course, we're talking a century-plus before they rise as much as a meter.

      Hardly a problem today. Hardly an issue in a century, really. A meter high floodwall doesn't actually require a century to build (more like a few weeks one summer).

      And if worse comes to worst, well, we add a meter to the floodwall every century (that's about four inches a year for the Amis among us), which is hardly a major undertaking....

    • Learning nuclear lessons is so enjoyable.
    • A floodwall is not a permanent dam. No where on Earth has anyone ever successfully held back the sea permanently. And there are many places where they have tried. There is a big difference between knowing how to build a wall a meter high, and knowing how to build a working sea dam.

      • No where on Earth has anyone ever successfully held back the sea permanently.
        Well, as time is open end, and we don't know what the future brings, you are obviously right.
        However I beg to look at the Netherlands or Germany ... our dikes hold quite well.

    • The conventional power plants on the same coast of Japan were destroyed to thier foundations, meanwhile the Fukushima Daini, Just 12km from Fukushima Daiichi suffered almost no damage at all ...

  • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @09:35AM (#51136357)

    We can move them. Yes, it would suck complete and total ass and be ridiculously expensive and environmentally dangerous, but the sea doesn't rise over night without an Earth quake so in the many many many years while the water is creeping up the shoreline towards the plant ... we can decommission it and move the dangerous bits to higher ground.

    Well, in theory we can ... unfortunately the utterly retarded NIMBY anti-nuke crowd will ensure that instead we'll leave it right where it is cause god fucking forbid some accident might happen ... and instead we'll just let it pollute thousands of square miles of sea and destroy our food stocks instead ... because thats way better than moving some dangerous materials in a controlled and actually very safe method.

    So you either move it and don't tell anyone, so that NIMBY morons don't have a chance to stand in the way of the trucks doing the moving (which makes it way more fucking dangerous!) before you get it to higher ground. Remember these are the same morons who would swallow coal dust and get cancer for sure rather than take the risk that if they hang out at the nuclear plant after a major disaster they might have a slightly higher chance of thyroid cancer ... that can't be proven scientifically anyway.

    Besides ... nuclear reactors are water tight from the start, at ridiculously high pressures, if you get them into a cold shutdown state, you can just leave them under water for centuries without anything actually happening. Put a concrete sarcophagus around it so that nothing can easily damage it and forget about it. By the time it actually starts leaking it will have decayed to something we don't care about nearly as much.

  • mdsolar writes.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @10:00AM (#51136479)

    mdsolar writes with another sensationalist article about how we will all die a nuclear death.

    In the mean time I live in a country that is mostly below sea level, yet somehow my feet have kept dry. Is it possible that humans are capable of engineering their way around problems? What does this mean for the future of the human race? We'll explore all of these questions and more at 11.

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      mdsolar writes with another sensationalist article about how we will all die a nuclear death.

      Just remember, that solar is such a great choice. I mean it's not like we haven't had 17 consecutive days of overcast skies or anything in my neck of the woods here in Canada. The solar panel(30x30ft) nearby has reported a grand total of 1.28kWh of generation for that entire period. Which of course is why we have the second largest nuclear generation plants in the world here.

      • by Creepy ( 93888 )

        You're also in late fall, which is a terrible time for solar generation in northern climates. Where I'm at there's also been a massive solar build-out, but nuclear is such a horrible, evil technology they built new coal plants and new natural gas plants instead. Yep, both natural gas and coal emit radiation in their waste, so thanks ignorant dumbfucks.

    • I live below sea level too. Far in the midwest with dry feet. However I remember watching the levy break in New Orleans on live tv so my cynicism of engineering all our lives in to a utopian wet dream remains.

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )

      Your feet won't always be dry. It took a massive tragedy for Dutch sea defences to be as good as they are now, and with every rise in sea level, the amount of work required to hold it off grows massively, as the storm surges will get larger, and the frequency of dangerous storms will increase.

      So yeah - looking at the present is not a great way to evaluate the future. Shocker.

      • It's almost like we need a massive tragedy in the nuclear industry to remind us on the importance of keeping the water out. It's a shame I can't recall of one happening.

    • Yes, and to set it into a right perspective, for centuries the land you live on behind the dikes was kept "dry" by: wind power

  • "Estimates for how quickly sea levels could rise vary widely, from up to 4 feet by 2100 to almost 30 feet anywhere between the next two centuries and 2,000 years from now."

    So in the next 90 years, during which time we'll probably build and retire two generations of nuke plants, we might have a whole four feet of sea level rise.

    Please excuse me if I don't take the title seriously.

    • The fashionable retirement plan for nukes is sixty years in mothballs before decommissioning. Soggy mothballs are an issue for these plants.
  • We can build nuclear submarines. Presumably we could build nuclear power reactors that live underwater from the get-go.

  • In the US alone - 130 natural gas, 96 electric, 56 oil and gas, and 4 nuclear facilities at or slightly above sea level. http://www.motherjones.com/blu... [motherjones.com] Would seem to be a matter of national security !
    • Nukes need a longer planning horizon. First, they are so costly that they need long license periods to hope to break even. Second, they are so radioactive that decommissioning is very dangerous and has to be taken slowly. Yes, we'll lose other coastal infrastructure, but that will shift inland more gracefully than nukes.
  • ...that an energy source that doesn't emit CO2 is being endangered by those that do. So far we've found a lot more "tipping point" mechanisms than buffering mechanisms. Not a good sign.
    • Wind and solar turn out to be so much cheaper, that really it is the opportunity cost of nuclear power that has delayed climate action. The politically promoted and protected nuclear industry has slowed progress for decades.
      • Re:Pitard hoist (Score:4, Interesting)

        by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @12:50PM (#51137765)

        Wind and solar turn out to be so much cheaper, that really it is the opportunity cost of nuclear power that has delayed climate action. The politically promoted and protected nuclear industry has slowed progress for decades.

        Solar power is more polluting, more toxic, less efficient, more destructive of habitat and much less safe than nuclear. Better than coal, sure, but better than coal isn't good enough. Mankind is better off without solar power. It would be much better to focus all of our resources on next gen nuclear power instead of going down the dead end of solar.

        • You just can't do power purchase agreements under 4 cents/kwh with nuclear as you can with solar. http://www.utilitydive.com/new... [utilitydive.com] Nukes are just too expensive.
          • by bigpat ( 158134 )

            You just can't do power purchase agreements under 4 cents/kwh with nuclear as you can with solar. http://www.utilitydive.com/new... [utilitydive.com] Nukes are just too expensive.

            Try doing that in New York, Chicago, Seattle or Boston... and then try doing that without solar panels made with a coal and diesel powered supply and manufacturing chain. You have so many externalized costs and negative effects with solar right now it isn't funny.

            Nuclear builds in every cost and provides a safe, clean and reliable source of energy for decades.

            With nuclear you set up a plant, dig up and refine a relatively small amount of fuel and plug it in to a grid designed for large reliable point sourc

            • Nuclear power is subsidized by the Price-Anderson Act. During the last recession, if Indian Point had had an accident, the federal government would have ended up in receiveship. Nuclear does not have costs covered at all.
  • A matter of Scale (Score:4, Insightful)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @11:37AM (#51137219) Journal

    I understand that the point of the article is really just to spread FUD, but even the terrified masses must understand that "warming" sea level rise is expected to measure a double handful of inches over the next century. Normal daily wave variation is more than that; if your nuclear plant designers aren't planning for bigger variation you have much more serious problems than what's going to happen a 100 yrs from now (and which of these plants is expected to run a century anyway)?

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @12:40PM (#51137693) Homepage
    Global warming is a relatively minor issue by itself. The problem is that certain low lying areas already have major issues and global warming makes it much worse. It's not just a rise in sea level - it's also a huge rise in the ground's water table directly caused by the rise in sea level.

    Miami Beach Florida already has issues with tides - certain high tides of the year flood the city, leaving it deep enough for fish to swim into major roads. In some areas they had to raise the roads a full meter above land level so that at least the roads are clear. Of course this leaves the houses, parking lots, businesses all flooded.

    The main problem with Florida is that the water doesn't come from one direction it comes from all six directions. Rivers flow from the other states into Florida, sea water on 3 sides, rain falls down onto it and finally the land itself is porous limestone that sea water seeps into and UP out of the ground. Basically, most of the state of Florida is not solid land, but a sponge. That's why it has sink holes and why floods are so bad. Florida, unlike Holland, does not have a sealing salt/anihydrite layer that blocks water movement.

    For this reason, unlike the Dutch, merely building a huge dike is not enough. As global warming raises the sea level it invades deeper into the center of Florida's porous, limestone ground. What used to be safe relatively dry land, miles from the dangerous shore, is now wet, eroded limestone. Fresh water wells turn into salt water wells, sink holes open up, new springs suddenly appear where there were none before.

    Some of those new springs will be INSIDE the grounds protected by the dikes built around the nuclear power plants.

    In such circumstances, to truly protect a nuclear power plant, you have to put a solid layer of water proof concrete UNDER it, connect that to the water proof 10 ft wall around the nuclear power plant and then arrange for a pumping station to drain out any rain water that falls into the plant area. Good luck with that.

  • The two Dungeness nuclear power stations (Kent, England) are built on the tip of a huge shingle spit. They employ trucks to move shingle from one end of the spit to the other to try and keep it in place like some labour of Sisyphus. That plan was deemed ok before anybody knew about projected sea level rises. Instead of abandoning the site, the owners are optimistic about getting permission to build a third station.
  • At some point after that, if you believe the direst government projections, a good part of the low-lying site could be underwater.

    Sea levels will have risen maybe a foot by the end of the century. Contrary to the magical thinking of some people, a foot is just a foot. The main area it makes a difference is in the height of dikes and other protective structures: a foot in sea level rise may significantly increase the probability that some water goes over such a structure if it is already marginal. That's ea

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