CLIMATE ADAPTATION

I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.


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TVA piles sand bags on top of dams to try to prevent flooding. Nuclear Regulatory Commission balks at shoddy, temporary fix with high stakes nuclear power plants. The first climate-related nuclear power plant shut down occurred very recently, only in 2007(!). Since then, there have been, by my count, five more climate related nuclear power plant shut downs in the US.

These shut downs occurred for two reasons, drought and floods. Nuclear power plants depend on a large water source to cool the reactors down. When the water source, usually a lake or big river, runs too low and too hot, the power plant has to shut down. Same precaution occurs when there is a flood - the plants have to shut down for safety purposes.

These climate issues were not anticipated in the original designs of the plants. Now the plants are vulnerable to climate impacts, threatening human health and the environment with a serious radiation disaster. See my previous posts on nuclear plant shut downs in the U.S. here, here, and here

The TVA manages several nuclear power plants in the southeast U.S. They’ve begun to try to control droughts and flooding with what seems to be a patch work or short-term fixes, such as sand bags. The Tennessean newspaper reports

Sand baskets that the Tennessee Valley Authority installed at dams to protect its nuclear plants from a worst-case flood could fail, according to a federal nuclear oversight group.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the baskets are not capable of standing up to the impact of debris barreling down the Tennessee River in a massive flood.

"There is potential for this debris to damage the baskets or push the individual baskets apart, causing a breach," an NRC letter dated Wednesday to TVA says. "There would be no time to repair the baskets because the flood would already be in progress."

Still, the baskets are considered adequate for the short term.

The sand-filled, wire mesh baskets were placed around Cherokee, Fort Loudon, Tellico and Watts Bar dams and earthen embankments to raise them a few feet after it was determined.”

The Tennessean