The nuclear power plant in Byron, Illinois.
The nuclear power plant in Byron, Illinois.
(Photo: Michael Kappel/flickr/cc)

Analysis Warns Climate Crisis Threatens US Nuclear Reactors

"Climate change is expected to exacerbate natural hazards—including heat, drought, wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, and sea level rise," the report reads.

The nation's nuclear reactors may be at risk due to the climate emergency, according to a report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office on Tuesday.

The report claims the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) needs to consider these risks as it regulates nuclear power plants going forward. There are currently 94 nuclear reactors in the United States that could be affected.

"Climate change is expected to exacerbate natural hazards—including heat, drought, wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, and sea-level rise. In addition, climate change may affect extreme cold weather events," the report reads. "Risks to nuclear power plants from these hazards include loss of offsite power, damage to systems and equipment, and diminished cooling capacity, potentially resulting in reduced operations or plant shutdowns."

The report notes that many new reactors are currently being developed, which increases the need for the NRC to properly regulate those reactors.

It says that the NRC has mostly used historical data to "identify and assess safety risks," which would not account for the climate risks that are likely to threaten reactors in the future. The report claims most reactors could be negatively impacted by future climate risks.

Beyond Nuclear, which advocates against nuclear power and weapons, said in a statement that that GAO's findings and recommendations confirm what the group has been litigating with the NRC—that "the agency cannot continue to ignore the safety impacts on nuclear power plants from the worsening climate crisis."

"These risks include a worsening of natural hazards and encompass heat and cold, drought, wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, and sea-level rise, according to the GAO, all of which could seriously jeopardize the safe operation of the nation's current fleet that is going through extreme license renewals—and any future new... nuclear reactors if not properly safeguarded," the group said.

Plans to triple the amount of nuclear power in 22 countries by 2050 that were announced at the most recent United Nations climate summit have been denounced as "dangerous" and not a realistic solution to address the climate emergency.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.