Nuclear power stations as targets in war-time

For some reason very little has been written publicly on this very important subject. More than thirty nations have operating nuclear power stations at the time of writing.

A nuclear power station would be susceptible to attack by conventional or nuclear bombs or missiles.

This page written 2017/01/18, modified 2019/12/14 – ©
Contact: David K. Clarke

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It is fortunate that, to the present, no nation with a well developed nuclear power station network has been involved in an all-out war. A bombed nuclear power station would cause radioactive contamination similar to that following the Chernobyl or Fukushima disasters.


Bomb proof?

I've heard it claimed that the containment vessels of nuclear power stations are too strong to be damaged by bombs. I find this quite unbelievable.

In any case, the cooling ponds in which spent fuel is kept until its radioactivity decreases sufficiently for more permanent storage would be very easy targets. They also contain huge quantities of highly radioactive material.

Gentleman's agreement?

I've heard it claimed that there is some sort of agreement between nations to not target each other's nuclear power stations. Even supposing that such agreements exist between all those nations with nuclear power stations, how likely is it that, in an all out, desperate war, the agreement would be broken?
The radioactive contamination from a bombed nuclear power station would be far worse than that from a nuclear bomb. The nuclear material in a bomb is measured in kilograms, that in a nuclear power station is measured in tonnes.

A nation with half a dozen or more nuclear power stations destroyed by bombing would suffer huge contamination and crippling containment costs. In December 2016 the ABC reported that the Fukushima clean-up would cost Japan Aus$250 billion. (The Japan Center for Economic Research, a private think tank, has estimated that the cleanup costs could mount to some $470 billion to $660 billion.) The Japanese people were going to face increasingly large electricity bills to cover the costs, and it was expected to be a significant burden on the Japanese economy for many years.

So why does there seem to be so little written in the public domain on this subject?

Why write about it?

Why write this page and frighten people? Because people who live anywhere near where a nuclear power station has been proposed have a right to know the risks involved.

The factor that moved me to write the page was a proposal by a man who has been suggested as a future Premier of my state, South Australia, Sean Edwards that the state build the first nuclear power station in Australia.

In late 2019 the federal Liberal/National coalition government under Prime Minister Scott Morrison was pushing for the development of nuclear power in Australia (probably because of their irrational and unethical opposition to renewable energy).

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Why use nuclear power?

Pros and cons of generation methods

Australia's proposed low-medium level waste repository, a storm in a teacup.