Rep. Mark Cojuangco of Pangasinan and Dr. Carlos Arcilla of the National Institute for Geological Sciences of the University of the Philippines (NIGS-UP), in their Feb. 2 presentations at the Congress hearing on the Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP), both claimed that the BNPP site had already been hit by an earthquake greater than magnitude 6 without any damage. On this basis, they assure the public that the BNPP can withstand powerful earthquakes.
Their logic has one major flaw: the BNPP was not operational when the earthquake hit.
An operational nuclear plant would have a huge pool of cooling water around the reactor core, and would also have in storage hundreds, perhaps thousands, of drums of radioactive waste water which are susceptible to accidental spillage, especially during an earthquake.
Such an accident is not only a possibility. It has already happened.
The biggest commercial nuclear power facility in Japan, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility, was hit by a magnitude 6.8 earthquake in July 2007. Officials originally claimed that 100 drums in one of the several NPPs in the facility tipped over, but later admitted that 400 drums had actually tipped over and spilled their entire contents on the plant floor. The plant has been shut down since then. One of the plant’s video cameras also recorded one-meter waves in the pool of water around the reactor core, spilling some of the water on the floor.
For details, just search “earthquake hits nuclear plant“.
The earthquake that hit the BNPP site was of a similar magnitude, which gives us a good idea what could have happened had the BNPP been operational when the earthquake hit.
If the quake causes cracks in the pool or breaks pipes and leads to a loss-of-coolant accident, it could even be worse.