Nuclear Safety: Materials Science and Boys with their Toys.

That is a decommissioned and cleaned F-4 Phantom fighter jet attached to a rocket sled and slammed into an 11-foot thick concrete/steel/lead wall at 500 MPH. It is also the reason that I have never felt insecure about anything bad happening to a nuclear reactor due to an external force. Whether it be a hurricane, earthquake or crazy person makes no difference.

The wall used in this test is supposed to be the same design wall as any external or containment wall on a nuclear plant. Meaning the concrete used can sustain compressive stresses of at least 50 MPa (~7250 psi for our American, Liberian, and Myanmarese friends) and is pre-tensioned which helps to increase it’s tensile strength to several times that of non-reinforced concrete. It also possibly contains several slabs of 5 cm+ thick lead. If that slab followed the requirements of the concrete used in the Hinkley Point reactors then it masses at least 140 lbs per cubic foot (2242 kg/m^3 for the rest of us).

If those numbers don’t really mean much to you then I think we should fall back on the old adage of “a picture is worth 1000 words”.

This is the engineering equivalent of Wile E. Coyote trying to run through the mountainside he painted a tunnel onto that the Roadrunner just ran through.

That is basically an aluminum shadow of the F-4 Phantom. Notice how the chunk of wall is still basically flat other than a small chipped section in the middle and two chunks missing at the sides? The center damage is from the steel and high strength alloys in the engine and the edges are from where the wings were wider than the block, sheared off and pulled some concrete with them.

Nuclear plants are designed to handle the absolute worst of anything that us or mother nature can throw at them. And since scientists and engineers do try their best to learn from past mistakes, we’ve only gotten better at making the parts that keep these complex and impressive machines safe and working for the benefit of everyone. What use is a power source that works 24/7 if it can get shut down when people will need it most?

2 thoughts on “Nuclear Safety: Materials Science and Boys with their Toys.

Add yours

  1. But containment structures are not designed against military grade explosions. Advanced Unitary Penetrator can penetrate 11 foot thick reinforced concrete.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bunker_buster

    Please don’t mistake me as anti-nuclear. A dam explosion can be more dangerous, and dams will be first targets during a war. “Renewable” hydroelectricity is also not safe.
    Just to prove I’m not anti nuclear, there is a solution for absolute safety of nuclear energy. Molten-salt reactors are safe even if a military grade explosive detonates directly on the reactor vessel. Chemical containment of fission-products is extremely effective. They demonstrated this safety feature during “Aircraft Reactor Accident Evaluations”.
    Dr. David Holcomb :
    34:15 “In 1955 folks did irradiate fuel salt, mixed it to dilute it, but, then just poured it out in an open pit, and then with a whole bunch of detectors around it and essentially didn’t see any radiation releases”

    Liked by 1 person

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