By Peter Galuszka

Super-storm Sandy raises more issues about nuclear power, the internet and also about global warming.

As the storm struck the New Jersey coast and flooded New York City, three nuclear rectors were shut down because of problems with high water levels and electricity. Another reactor went on standby “alert” because its water intake levels were abnormally high.

The reactors were Salem Unit 1 owned by utility PSEG on the Delaware River in New Jersey and Nine Mile Point 1  and Indian Point in New York. Another reactor, Oyster Creek in New Jersey, went on alert because of high water.

This raises questions about how nuclear power stations can respond to natural events. Dominion’s North Anna units “tripped” and shut down after a rare earthquake a year ago in August. The station was down for three months. Also, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission surveyed all U.S. reactors after an earthquake and tidal wave swamped the Fukushima power station in Japan in March 2011, causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. The NRC found that hardly any of the U.S. reactors were built to withstand what was the maximum flood level on the site at the time they were built.

That, unfortunately, is making things different.  Climate change caused by man-made pollution is melting icecaps and raising ocean levels. It is also creating warmer ocean waters and breeding more powerful storms. The combination spells danger for aging nuclear reactors.

Hurricane Sandy was an extremely late season storm and was fed on 70 degree ocean water that seems to have been farther north than usual for late October. The strong possibility is that this is part of the climate change package since most hurricanes along the U.S. East Coast tend to die off after early October although the hurricane season technically runs until Nov. 30.

Downed reactors is just another technology problem. Flooding and power outages in New York affected the World Wide Web and some sites, such as Huffington Post, went blank for hours. In Richmond, for instance, independent radio WRIR could not stream its broadcasts because of the New York problems.

These problems are real and cannot be explained away in their usual way by climate change doubters. We really don’t have the time anymore to indulge their fantasies.

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  1. DJRippert Avatar

    The problem with climate change adherents is that they lack a plan that seems practical to most people.

    Fossil fuels are bad, nukes are bad, windmills kill migratory bats …

    Meanwhile, political discussion has fallen to the level of playground banter. The only noteworthy aspect of energy policy discussed in the context of the current political elections involves Obama’s supposed “war on coal”. And, in my opinion, that “discussion” only happened because Ohio is a critical state in the election and a coal state.

    America lacks an “honest broker” of facts. Nobody with any sense trusts either of the political parties to tell the unvarnished truth. MSM is a disaster with so-called journalists like Rachael Maddow debating Republican Party officials on behalf of the Democratic Party. The internet is hugely polarized with almost all blogs taking one position or another.

    Who is today’s Walter Cronkite?

    BaconsRebellion encourages discussion from both sides of the political spectrum which is very, very rare. However, it’s just a blog. There is no research department, paid researchers are not compiling databases full of facts and figures. It’s a great blog but it’s a blog.

    America needs a well funded “honest broker” research organization. This could take the form of a third political party, “the honesty party”. It could be the output of a charitable endowment. It could be result of a university’s research.

    I know there have been efforts to make this happen in the past. However, it seems those efforts either failed or worked for a while and then failed.

    Global climate change is a perfect example of the ill effects of our polarized society. Hard core adherents believe that time is running out and every storm is a harbinger of the impending apocalypse. Hard core deniers believe that weather moves in cycles and this cycle is being used by “statists” and “new world order – ists” to impose draconian rules on everybody.

    Meanwhile, nobody seems to have a plan that can be explained to the average voter – taxpayer. Therefore, consensus doesn’t get built and two opposing groups try to recruit others to their points of view by spitting venom into each others’ eyes.

    This must end if we are to make any progress.

  2. In PeterWorld, people who disagree with him about climate change aren’t just doubters, they indulge in “fantasies.” Their views are so worthless as to be not worth a moment’s consideration.

    It might help if Peter consulted actual scientists who specialize in climate change before making such grand pronouncements. That’s what Andrew Revkin, author of the New York Times’ “Dot Earth” blog did here. Revkin, by the way, is not on the payroll of the Koch Brothers.

    While Revkin did find some scientists who believe that Hurricane Sandy confirms the Global Warming connection, he finds just as many, if not more, who see no connection. One of them is Martin Hoerling, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As I recall, Peter has described NOAA as a credible source on the climate change issue. Writes Hoerling:

    Great events can have little causes. In this case, the immediate cause is most likely little more that the coincidental alignment of a tropical storm with an extratropical storm. Both frequent the west Atlantic in October… nothing unusual with that. On rare occasions their timing is such as to result in an interaction which can lead to an extreme event along the eastern seaboard. As to underlying causes, neither the frequency of tropical or extratropical cyclones over the North Atlantic are projected to appreciably change due to climate change, nor have there been indications of a change in their statistical behavior over this region in recent decades (see IPCC 2012 SREX report).

    So, while it will rain like “black cats and Frankenweenies” over the midatlantic, this is not some spell conjured upon us by great external forces…. unless you believe in the monster flicks of Universal Studios fame!

  3. What is normal? Are we warming from normal? Or are we warming to normal? The Middle Ages were extremely warm, while Medieval times were much colder. Is either the norm? Is something else the norm?

    When we take our body temperatures, we compare what the thermometer shows to the agreed upon normal – 98.6 degrees F. If the temperature is higher, we might take something to break the fever, if high enough, seek medical attention. If the temperature is lower, we might drink something warm, lie under several blankets, or if extremely low, seek medical attention.

    I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask people who want to change my way of life and give them more of my money to provide a supported answer to this question.

  4. if there is climate change and it does result in increasing ocean levels and bigger, stronger storms…

    this is how it will play out.

    instead of one storm per century, we’ll start to see them more frequently and they’ll come ashore a devastate an area.. and we’ll try to rebuild it and it will get hit again in a couple of years destroying what was re-built and taking out more stuff.

    this is how it will play out.

    the insurance companies will double, triple rates or just leave… and things will slowly but inevitably go to hell in a handbasket.

    Did ya’ll forget the Derecho already?

    re: changing your way of life

    maybe it is already changing … due to what we’ve already done…
    would you blame those that may have caused climate change as much as those whom you doubt?

  5. Google “biggest hurricanes.” There were many huge storms in the early part of the 20th Century. As I understand the data, the world was cooler then.

    What is the norm? And how do we know it? These seem like very reasonable questions to me.

  6. re: what’s the norm?

    well…you’d have to be looking for it rather than dismissing out of hand.

    for instance, how many 500 year floods would you have within 100 years before you’d recognize that something has changed?

    how about the dollar value of storm damage over the last 100 years?

    If we get another storm like this next year and it does the same level of damage to New Jersey, New York.. would that cause you to still dismiss it?

    the trouble with the skeptics and deniers is that they want to see actual damage before they believe. right?

    is it too late then?

  7. Breckinridge Avatar

    Long before billions of people burned oil and coal by the trainload, somebody warned people not to build their houses “upon the sand.” And I remember reading after the Japanese tsunami that the countryside of Japan is dotted with monuments posted to remind people where a previous high water mark had been, and prohibiting them from building any closer to the ocean. But people love the ocean and if the insurance lets them rebuild, back they will come. Nothing new here. Move along.

    1. Well stated. How much damage is caused by building in flood plains?

  8. re: flood plains – they are expanding. in areas where there is ocean the size and extent of the flood area is dramatically expanding and along rivers what used to be 100 year flood boundaries are being inundated several times per decade now.

    so the problem is not only existing flood plains.. what used to be outside the boundaries are now inside them and what used to get flooded once a century are seeing “100 year floods” multiple times in a decade.

    Some of the latter is the result of more and more development with impervious surfaces. Every acre of trees cut is usually another acre of impervious surfaces.

  9. Storm water management is important and becoming more important every day.

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