Nuclear energy is not all it’s cracked up to be. According to The Ecologist, as many as 16,000 cracks have been found in two Belgian nuclear reactors. The cracks were found in the steel reactor pressure vessels at the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 nuclear reactors in Belgium. The vessels contain highly radioactive cores, and their failure could result in catastrophic nuclear accidents involving a massive release of radiation.

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According to Professors Walter Bogaerts and Digby MacDonald, two leading materials scientists, the cracks could be related to corrosion that develops during normal operation. The potential consequences from the cracking would not be pretty.

“The consequences could be very severe… like fracturing the pressure vessel, loss of coolant accident, ” MacDonald said on Belgian television. “This would be a leak before break scenario, in which case before a fracture of a pipe occurred… you would see a jet of steam coming out through the insulation. My advice is that all reactor operators, under guidance of the regulatory commissions, should be required to do an ultrasonic survey of the pressure vessels. All of them.”

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“If I had an estimate,” added Bogaerts, “I would really be surprised if it… had occurred nowhere else… I’m afraid the corrosion aspects have been underestimated.”

Jan Bens, director general of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control, the country’s nuclear watchdog, said the problems with Doel 3 and Tihange 2 could be a problem with the nuclear industry worldwide, and the only solution is to carry out a careful inspection of all 430 nuclear power plants around the world.

Via The Ecologist

Images via maol, Flickr Creative Commons