Compiled by Steven Dolley

Nuclear Control Institute


September 24, 2001


Claims that nuclear power plants CAN withstand direct hits from airliners


Turkey Point, 1998

FP&L officials insist that Turkey Point's two reactor containment buildings are constructed to withstand the impact of an airplane crash. "It would be no one's favorite day," says corporate manager [Don] Mothena, "but there would be more deaths from the crash than anything else." A June 1994 FP&L study concluded that the reactors have "no significant vulnerability to aircraft crashes." But there is no mention of airplanes in the plant's original safety analysis report, which lists the flying objects the reactor containment buildings are designed to withstand. Under the heading "tornado-generated missiles," the heaviest object is a passenger car traveling at a velocity of 50 miles per hour and weighing 4000 pounds.

[Quoted in Jacob Bernstein, Miami New Times, January 29, 1998.]

Three Mile Island, 1999


Mary Wells, manager of communications, Three Mile Island nuclear plant, 1999:


Three Mile Island is designed to withstand an earthquake of 6.5 on the Richter Scale. Now I would think that a plant in California would be rated higher than that, and that is the case. And we are also designed to withstand a hurricane or a tornado with 200-mile an hour winds and a direct hit from an airliner loaded with fuel. So, we're designed to withstand extraordinary attack, whether natural or manmade.


[Quoted in Center for Defense Information, Nuclear Power, Nuclear Weapons?, February 25, 1999.]


Seabrook, September 2001:

A speaker at an international watchdog agency warned Monday that few of the worlds nuclear plants could withstand an attack like that on the World Trade Center last week. But a spokesman for Seabrooks nuclear plant said the plant could handle such an attack.

"We have the utmost confidence that Seabrook Station would have been able to contain an attack like that," Alan Griffith said. "Our containment structure is incredibly strong."

He said the plant was designed to repel a direct hit from a bomber plane.

[Quoted in Steven Frothingham, Seabrook could withstand attack like last weeks, spokesman says, Associated Press story, September 18, 2001.]


Diablo Canyon, November 2000:

The elaborate housing for the core's fuel rods had been raised from the pool and stood near one of the dome's 3-foot-thick concrete walls -- strong enough, one is told, to withstand a direct impact from a commercial jetliner. [David Lazarus, Diablo Canyon Quandry, San Francisco Chronicle, November 7, 2000.]

Pebble-Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) Design, September 19, 2001:


For example, the Chernobyl-type reactors were built with no containment buildings, whereas all Western reactors are housed inside containment buildings which, generally, are designed to withstand a direct hit from a large wide-bodied jetliner - the PMBR has been designed with such a containment. [Laura Clancy, Engineering News, citing Dr. Kelvin Kemm, press release on PBMR Ltd. Website.]


U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, September 19, 2001:


William Dricks, NRC spokesman, September 19, 2001:


Dricks said it is "unlikely that a large commercial plane would penetrate the containment structure" of a plant. Redundant safety procedures would "limit the consequences of any accident," he added. [Quoted in Matthew Quinn, Security at Nuclear Plants Increased to Highest Level, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 20, 2001.]


Admissions that nuclear-power plants CANNOT withstand airliner crashes


International Atomic Energy Agency


David Kyd, International Atomic Energy Agency, September 18, 2001:


If it were successful, which is a very extreme scenario, then the containment could be breached and the cooling system of the reactor could be impaired to the point where radioactivity might well be set free. [Quoted on CNN Moneyline, September 18, 2001.]


David Kyd, International Atomic Energy Agency, September 19, 2001:

Most nuclear power plants were built during the 1960s and 1970s, and like the World Trade Center, they were designed to withstand only accidental impacts from the smaller aircraft widely used at the time, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said as it opened its annual conference. "If you postulate the risk of a jumbo jet full of fuel, it is clear that their design was not conceived to withstand such an impact," spokesman David Kyd said. [Quoted in William Kole, Associated Press Wire Story, September 19, 2001.]

Southern California Edison, September 17, 2001:

"I am confident in saying that San Onofre's containment buildings are the strongest structures in all of Southern California,'' said Ray Golden, San Onofre business manager for Southern California Edison."They are designed to withstand earthquakes, floods and mudslides. But they are not designed to protect against the type of aircraft used in last week's terrorist attacks.'' [Quoted in Chris Knap, Orange County Register, September 18, 2001.]


U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, September 21, 2001:

Q: What would happen if a large commercial airliner was intentionally crashed into a nuclear power plant?

A:. Nuclear power plants have inherent capability to protect public health and safety through such features as robust containment buildings, redundant safety systems, and highly trained operators. They are among the most hardened structures in the country and are designed to withstand extreme events, such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. In addition, all NRC licenses with significant radiological material have emergency response plans to enable the mitigation of impacts on the public in the event of a release. However, the NRC did not specifically contemplate attacks by aircraft such as Boeing 757s or 767s and nuclear power plants were not designed to withstand such crashes. Detailed engineering analyses of a large airliner crash have not yet been performed.

[NRC Press Release, NRC Reacts to Terrorist Attacks, September 21, 2001.]

"Nuclear power plants aren't explicitly designed for the crash of large commercial aircraft of the type involved in this week's events," William Beecher, the director of public affairs for the NRC, conceded Friday. [Quoted in Mark Golden, Power Point: Airplane Attack Exposes Nuclear Power Myth, Dow Jones News Service, September 14, 2001.]

Nuclear Energy Institute, September 14, 2001:

Even the nuclear power industry's association moderated its assurances in light of this week's attack.

"I'm not going to tell you that we can guarantee that the sites are impervious to every single scenario that can be envisioned," said Steven Kerekes, spokesman for the association, the Nuclear Energy Institute.

The NRC has no tests for airplane crashes. Tests for terrorist attacks have always simulated attempts by a few people to breach a plant on foot. [Quoted in Mark Golden, ibid above.]