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Belgian Royal Palace
Belgian Royal Palace protected by electronic shield from drones

Tihange Nuclear Power Station, apparently not protected from drones
Tihange nuclear with Electrabel logo
It appears vulnerable by land and water too!
Tihange with boat on Meuse

Electrabel, owned by GDF-Suez – the French company which wants to build a new nuclear reactor nearby Sellafield – was seemingly caught in a major bluff. On Tuesday, December 2nd, they reportedly said that they have a drone detection system and watch the air space above their nuclear reactors in Belgium, very carefully, but to have spotted no drones (France, on the other hand, has had around 20 unidentified drone fly-overs). RTL-TVI television decided to enlist a drone start-up company called Dronecam Production to put this to a test, on Wednesday, December 3rd.

The RTL-TVI reporter notes that the Royal Palace and Brussels (Zaventem) airport are protected by an electronic shield, which cannot be penetrated by drones, but that there appears to be none at Tihange Nuclear Power Station. He says that they parked nearby, across the Meuse River, and sent a drone to fly around the Tihange nuclear power station. Police passed them by and didn’t even stop. There was no apparent reaction to their presence, or to the drone, by security for the nuclear power station. The drone operator, Alex, said that they chose not to land the drone in the courtyard of the nuclear power plant nor on the dome, but that they could have.

He further points out that it would by easy to program a drone to target the reactor with explosives from a distance, by entering in the GPS coordinates, and the need for appropriate legislation.
Across Meuse from Tihange
They also interview Stephane Lhomme of the Nuclear Observatory about the drones. He points out that drones can first do reconnaissance flights to test vulnerability, before orchestrating an attack. And, that everyone now knows, since the Gulf War, etc., that drones can be very dangerously armed.

The television anchor and a professor make much of the risk to the external electrical systems and their vulnerability. They state that the reactors themselves are protected by concrete containment structures. See the broadcast in French here: http://youtu.be/DQDGna2sKMU
(More information about Dronecam Production: http://dronecamproduction.be; about the TV station: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RTL-TVI)

That the reactors are adequately protected by concrete containment structures appears fairly debatable and we think false. The concrete structure, known as outer containment, is only 80 cm (31 inches) thick and was recently (ca 2009-2012) found to have damage as deep as 30 cm (12 inches) in spots. In another context, 36 inch (91 cm) thick concrete has been shown inadequate for a direct hit of a domed structure, although obviously many other factors are involved (initial concrete quality, age, rebar, degradation from neutron bombardment, etc.) Many medieval fortifications had walls several times more thick, especially in order to resist cannon fire. Inner nuclear containment is only about 3.8 cm (1 1/2 inches) thick and is subject to degradation due to neutron bombardment and age. More on Tihange containment below.

As far as direct hit by an aircraft, the US NRC stated in 2002, “Ultimately, the capability of a plant to successfully cope with an aircraft crash will depend upon a number of factors, including the plant’s specific design features, the design and flight characteristics of the aircraft, the point of impact, the ability of the licensees’ staff to utilize remaining backup systems, and the response of onsite and offsite resources.http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/petitions-2-206/directors-decision/2002/ml022890031.pdf (Read more at end of post).

Hysterically funny: “Nuclear Security: start of the Belgian IPPAS mission From 24 November to 5 December, a team of international experts will conduct a review of the nuclear security regime in Belgium during an IPPAS mission (International Physical Protection Advisory Service). http://www-ns.iaea.org/security/ippas.asp This service is proposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency to assist Member States in strengthening their national nuclear security regime, i.e. all the measures ensuring the protection of radioactive materials and nuclear facilities and transports against sabotage, theft or any other malicious act. In practice, the international expert team has the task of assessing how adequately our regulation and practices relating to nuclear security meet the international standards. Numerous presentations and question-and-answer sessions are scheduled in the forthcoming two weeks, as well as several visits to nuclear site and a crisis response exercise“. http://www.fanc.fgov.be/fr/news/nuclear-security-start-of-the-belgian-ippas-mission/721.aspx (So, Electrabel/GDF-Suez failed?)

If you go into a public toilet at a truck stop in Belgium, and do not use it because it is filthy, and hence do not pay, be warned, they may chase you for payment! But, if you stand near a nuclear reactor they don’t take notice, it seems. The Reactor owners are French, but the police are presumably Belge.

Tihange 2 and 3 are 89.8% owned by GDF-Suez, who owns Electrabel, and 10.2% owned by an EDF subsidiary [SPE]. GDF-Suez is a 1/3rd French government owned company, which wants to build 3 new nuclear reactors (Moorside, Cumbria) in the UK, as part of the NuGen consortium with Toshiba. GDF-Suez will be operator. The Tihange building, above, says Electrabel/GDF-Suez. Tihange 1 (1975) is half owned by GDF-Suez and half by EDF. EDF is 84.48% French government owned. It owns all but one nuclear power station in the UK and wants to build a new one at Hinkley Point, Somerset, England.

Hah! The French need to keep with safe things that they can’t screw up, rather than nuclear! Mini-windmills, mini-hydro, and poetry for the French! Au Diable GDF-Suez, Areva, EDF and Thales! Leave Belgium, France, and the rest of the world alone!

Regarding damage to the concrete structure at Tihange:
Parliamentary questions, 4 September 2012, E-007824/2012
Question for written answer to the Commission, Rule 117
, Kathleen Van Brempt (S&D)
Subject: Damage to concrete structure at Tihange 2:
Tihange 2 nuclear power station is currently offline and undergoing a thorough inspection because, during a three-yearly inspection, damage was found in the concrete in the containment of the nuclear reactor. The containment consists of reinforced concrete 80 cm thick, and in some places damage was found in it to a depth of 30 cm.

In 2009 there were similar problems, and attempts were made to solve them. However, during the inspection this year it was discovered that some of the repairs did not comply with requirements. At present, an altered remedial plan is being drafted.

Is the Commission — or more precisely, ENSREG — aware of these problems?

As the damage in question affects the containment, which is intended to protect the reactor against external threats, an inspection of the condition of the containment ought to form part of the stress tests.

Was the containment, and the condition of the concrete, also genuinely inspected as part of the stress tests?

If so, were similar defects found then, and was action taken to deal with them?

If not, why were such inspections not performed as part of the stress tests?
Original language of question: NL OJ C 308 E, 23/10/2013

24 October 2012, E-007824/2012
Answer given by Mr Oettinger on behalf of the Commission
1. With regard to the state of the external containment of the Tihange-2 reactor, according to information made available by the Belgian regulatory authority, the results of visual inspections in 2008 led to a program for the repair of the concrete by the operator which is still ongoing. According to the regulator, there is at present no risk to workers, the public or the environment(1).
2-4. As noted in the Commission’s reply to Written Question E-006254/12, EU stress tests dealt with a variety of possible accident scenarios based on a large number of contributing failure events, including failures in containment integrity. The stress tests method, which was designed on the basis of the first lessons learned from the Fukushima accident, focused on the adequacy of existing safety margins of nuclear power plants against the impact from extreme external events, namely earthquakes, flooding and extreme weather conditions. According to the specifications of the stress tests, the reassessements concerned consisted in an evaluation of the response of a nuclear power plant when facing such extreme situations and a verification of the measures chosen following a defence-in-depth logic: initiating events, consequential loss of safety functions, and severe accident management. Therefore, stress tests went beyond safety evaluations during the licensing process and periodic safety reviews. As such, they did not have to assess the state of containments or reactor pressure vessels within normal regulatory conditions to evaluate whether they continue to fulfill their design requirements, nor did they evaluate detailed methods of such inspections(2).
(1) According to this information, the operator will have to demonstrate that the structural integrity of the containment is ensured before the reactor is restarted from its current shutdown.
(2) As also noted in the Commission’s reply to Written Question E-005892/12, stress tests identified amongst the main areas of improvement to be considered the importance of proper performance of periodic safety reviews, the strengthening of defence-in-depth measures against extreme natural hazards, and the implementation of measures to protect containment integrity”
: http://www.ensreg.eu/sites/default/files/EU%20Stress%20Test%20Peer%20Review%20Final%20Report_0.pdf http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getAllAnswers.do?reference=E-2012-007824&language=MT

80 centimeters is 31.496 inches

On risks to nuclear reactors: http://www.wise-paris.org/english/reports/conferences/030102NukeTerrorORGFinalJL.pdf

US NRC in 2002 on risks to nuclear reactors from aircraft: “The staff also acknowledges that nuclear plants were not specifically designed to withstand the direct impact of a large commercial airliner fully loaded with fuel. Prior to September 11, 2001, such a scenario was not considered to be a credible threat. However, the NRC recognizes that nuclear power plant design could contribute to the survivability of the plant in the event of an aircraft impact. The NRC requires that these facilities be designed with a defense-in-depth philosophy to withstand events such as tornadoes (and missiles generated by tornadoes), hurricanes, fires, floods, and earthquakes. This has resulted in nuclear power plant designs that inherently afford a measure of protection against deliberate aircraft impacts because the defense-in-depth philosophy requires plants to have redundant and separated systems in order to ensure safety. Ultimately, the capability of a plant to successfully cope with an aircraft crash will depend upon a number of factors, including the plant’s specific design features, the design and flight characteristics of the aircraft, the point of impact, the ability of the licensees’ staff to utilize remaining backup systems, and the response of onsite and offsite resources.http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/petitions-2-206/directors-decision/2002/ml022890031.pdf