- The Washington Times - Monday, December 23, 2002

Tests using engineering models support the nuclear industry's arguments that a reactor could withstand a direct hit by a jetliner, an industry-sponsored report says.
While the tests by engineers independent of the industry provide valuable data, federal regulators briefed on the findings say they are waiting for completion of their own tests before drawing conclusions.
The vulnerability of the 4-foot-thick concrete containment domes of reactors to an airborne strike has been of major concern since the September 11 attacks.
Reactors are designed to withstand many natural disasters, including hurricanes and earthquakes. They never were designed specifically to be protected against a direct hit by a large aircraft such as the planes flown into the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
Findings to be released this week conclude that if a Boeing 767-400 jetliner, fully loaded with 28,980 gallons of fuel, were flown directly into the center of a reactor at 350 mph, the plane would not penetrate the structure.
"The analysis indicates that no part of the engine, the fuselage or the wings nor the jet fuel entered the containment building," says the report prepared by two consulting firms for the Electric Power Research Institute at the request of the nuclear industry.
The computer analysis evaluated a direct impact on the containment structure of one of the plane's engines and "the global impact" of the entire aircraft mass on the structure.
The analysis concluded that damage would be limited to "some sprawling," or crushing of material, of the concrete but with minimal penetration.
A summary of the report, provided to the Associated Press yesterday by industry sources, produced no detailed test calculations but said conservative assumptions were used.
For example, the computer runs assumed a fuel-loaded aircraft, making a direct hit at the center of the containment building where impact forces would be greatest.
It assumes use of a Boeing 767-400 because that wide-bodied jet best represents the commercial aircraft fleets, and the report used a speed of 350 mph because that is believed to be the speed at which two jetliners hit their targets on September 11.
Higher speeds would make an aircraft too hard to control at low altitude and a hit on a reactor difficult, the study said.
The tests were conducted by ABS Consulting, which specializes in quantifying losses from natural and man-made hazards such as fires, earthquakes and missile impacts; and Anatech Corp., a San Diego engineering firm that specializes in evaluating structural failures.
The sponsoring Electric Power Research Institute, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is a nonprofit energy research consortium of the electric power industry. After the September 11 attacks, the Nuclear Energy Institute asked the consortium to develop the study.
Separate tests on reactor vulnerability to an aircraft crash, details of which are classified, are under way at the government's Sandia National Laboratory and elsewhere, said a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Spokesman William Beecher said he could not comment on the industry tests without referring to classified information involving the government tests. He said commission officials have been briefed on the industry findings.



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