A full sized nuclear power plant that has been running for a few months has enough radioactive material in it to kill all life on Earth. It’s also a very complicated and sensitive piece of technical equipment. It’s also, basically, a glorified steam engine, with intense heat and pressure forces balancing on a fine edge of containment.
In other words, a nuclear power plant is a catastrophe waiting to happen, and a PERFECT magnet for someone who would want to cause major damage to the society.
After the horrendous events at Fukushima, and the subsequent explosion of public anger , the European authorities were forced to acknowledge the risks of nuclear power, and to conduct a series of “stress tests” to gage the level of these risks. The results were, to say the least, worrisome. Here in Sweden we were shocked to hear, for example, that if electric supply to 2 of our 10 reactor were to fail, a major disaster would be practically guaranteed. While another 3 of them would not be able to withstand a major snowfall. Right, a snowfall. In Sweden.
What was also a major shock, was what the stress tests were NOT checking: the level of preparedness for malicious human intrusiuon. A terrorist, like that Breivik crazy who opened fire on a youth camp in Norway, or even just a simple psychopath in a bad mood — what would happen if they decided to take out their ire on the society via a nuclear reactor?
Given this glaring omission on the part of the authorities we decided to stress test it ourselves. This morning around 70 Greenpeace activists paid an unannounced visit to two of the three nuclear power plants in Sweden. They didn’t break down the fence, or drive a tank through. They simply biked, walked and climbed in on household ladders. Within minutes they spread throughout the power station campuses, coming within stone throw of the reactor buildings themselves. It took the police more than an hour to start removing the people. Hours later, there were still people inside. My friend Sofia, for example was inside the Forsmark power plant area for over 4 hours.
This is far from the first time – after all we have been protesting against nuclear power in Sweden and elsewhere for decades. In 1996 we biked into the Ringhals plant and climbed the reactor building, and in 2010 our activists were on the roof of the reactors in Forsmark. Each time the operators and the authorities swore up and down that this was a fluke, and that any holes in their security arrangements have now been eliminated.
So I am not surprised that the operators failed the stress test. What IS surprising though, is that this blatant failure inherent in the nuclear technology has not led to action on the part of the politicians. When will they learn?