26 March, 2003: A Warm Glow

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Well, I went and bought my anti-terrorist supplies -- contrary to rumour, shops here have not run out of mineral water, so al-Qaeda may succeed in making a yuppie out of me yet. I haven't managed to find a convenient UK source of potassium iodide yet, but I'm working on it....

There was a programme on the radio yesterday about `nuclear terrorism', which was slightly alarming. It touched on the issue of crashing aeroplanes into nuclear facilities, but not in as much detail as I'd like. I thought I'd do some more research, but the major result of this is that the web is full of contradictory information. The major conclusions so far are:

  1. Reactor containment facilities may be OK, but probably aren't, since the original design specs typically considered incidents on the basis of their probability of occurence, which was assumed to be small as appropriate for accidental crashes.

  2. The high-level waste storage facilities at Sellafield and Cap La Hague in France are probably not OK, since they were not designed to cope with an air crash. The inventories of radioactive materials in these facilities are very large.

  3. The French have deployed anti-aircraft missiles around their reprocessing plant at La Hague; the UK has not, although there are contingency plans. The air exclusion zone around Sellafield is presently small -- 2 nautical mile (3.7km) radius, extending to 2,200 feet (670m) altitude -- taking about 15--20 seconds to traverse at airliner cruising velocity. At La Hague the exclusion zone is 10km and 5,000 feet (1,524m). RAF interceptors apparently take about 10 minutes to get to Sellafield.

On a lighter note, the Gulf War Drinking Game:

Drink when:

Copyright (c) 2003 Chris Lightfoot; available under a Creative Commons License.