The worst-case scenario – what could happen in a terrorist attack on a nuclear plant?

Over the years, many governments worldwide have considered using nuclear energy as the safest and most powerful way of producing reliable electricity. It comes with its own challenges, though. They will have to build a nuclear power plant, which can be a prime target for most terrorists, and provide quality radiation ppe for the workers in the facilities.

A report given by the 9/11 Commission in the USA suggests that Al Qaeda had thought of attacking one of the nuclear plants in the USA. They had maps of different nuclear maps. However, they did not find such an attack newsworthy as they really wanted. They, therefore, decided to crash the planes on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the White House.

Why wasn’t crashing the plane on a nuclear plant a good option?

When terrorists think of launching an attack, they think of causing a disaster that can be newsworthy. As the terrorists planned the 9/11 attacks, they knew that crashing a plane on a nuclear power plant would have been impossible to achieve.

Normally, most of the plants in the USA are low-lying and not visible, and the airspace around is normally under strict restrictions. Hence, there’s a chance that the army would have shot it down before impact. Another reason why attacking a nuclear plant wasn’t viable was that it didn’t carry as much symbolic value as the Twin Towers or the Pentagon did.

What would happen if terrorists attacked a nuclear plant?

When a terrorist group chooses to attack a nuclear plant, they will target the key safety systems that protect the reactor core and spent fuel pool. They can use several ways that terrorists can reach it. For instance, they can launch a cyber-attack, crash an aircraft on the containment structures, launch ground-based attacks on equipment using bombs, or break into the nuclear facility to get to the nuclear core.

If the terrorists succeed, the result is catastrophic. It leads to premature release of gases and radioactive emissions, leading to injuries and numerous deaths. On the other hand, if terrorists decide to crash an aircraft on one of the structures, there’s less chance of destruction. Most containment structures have a thick wall, which is not easy for any aircraft to break.

A bad scenario will only happen if the aircraft hits the middle of the structure, gets through it, and damages the reactor core in the process.

How governments stay ready for such events

Since nuclear plans came into existence, governments normally built them to withstand such attacks and extreme conditions such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural events. They also carry out Force on Force drills, which involve testing the safety and security of these nuclear plants.

They also ensure that they have evacuation facilities large enough around major nuclear plants to cater to the population around these facilities. Governments also use major accidents to increase the awareness and safety of these facilities.

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