7 October 2004 | childoferna
Impossible - many times over
This movie is a real stinker. I studied nuclear engineering in college and if they would have had me on the set I would have slapped the writer of this screenplay. Some of the major problems as I remember them:
The plant seems to have been built in the last few years, with a new computerized control room and satellite phones and all this silliness - no new nuclear plant has been built in the U.S. in 25 years (sadly).
A tornado would do absolutely no damage to a nuclear power plant, or at least no damage to any of the critical components. The critical components of a nuclear power plant (the core itself, coolant pumps, the primary coolant loop (in a PWR), backup generators) are located inside a containment dome that is METERS thick - even an F5 wouldn't touch them - in fact, the people inside would have no idea they had been hit.
The control room and the important components of the plant are run on the power the plant produces and in the event of a shutdown by backup diesel generators. The backups have backups which have backups. The possibility of a strong enough tornado hitting the backup gens and knocking them out is nil.
The plant did not shut down as it would have done automatically. Whenever a nuclear power plant is damaged in any way the computer shuts it down with absolutely no operator input required in a matter of seconds. In the movie the lines that took power from the plant to homes were knocked down - this would have resulted in a load rejection to the generators which would have "tripped" (automatically shutdown) the turbines and the reactor. There is never any need to communicate with the NRC while running a reactor and the NRC has no remote control room. They don't control reactors at all - the companies that own them control them. The NRC licenses and inspects for safety.
At the end of the movie the spent fuel pool is being uncovered and the firefighters have to pump water into it to save the town. Bull. Spent fuel just isn't hot enough to continually boil away water. And the pumps that cool the reactor also cool the pool (in most cases). In any case, the spent fuel pool and it's entire cooling apparatus are INSIDE the enormous containment dome and could never have been damaged by a twister - much less have had a gaggle of firefighters standing over it with a door to the outside just a few yards away.
IF the pool would have gotten as close as it did to being uncovered (I believe a few inches) the firefighters would have received a lethal dose of radiation from the spent fuel because there would not be enough of a water barrier to stop the gamma rays produced by decaying Uranium and other "nuclear ash".
Running a nuclear reactor with four people is impossible. Period. Reactors don't run on "skeleton crews".
Things like electric cooling pumps just can't be turned off willy-nilly. No reactors use diesel cooling pumps as their primary system.