Foreign Affairs magazine
August 28, 2017
North KoreaSouth Korea
North Korea’s Other Nuclear Threat
Why We Have More to Fear Than Just Bombs
By Bennett Ramberg
“As the world grapples with the nuclear threat emanating from North Korea, it is not only bombs that should concern us. It is also the dozens of nuclear power plants in Japan and South Korea that are vulnerable to attack should war break out in the region. Commercial nuclear reactors were never designed to survive volleys of missiles that could breach reactor containment buildings, sever coolant lines, destroy the reactor core and spent fuel pools—all of which could cause a nuclear meltdown. Moreover, many of the reactors in Japan and South Korea were built in clusters, which means their destruction could lead to levels of contamination greater than in Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Historically, nations at war have tended to attack nonoperational reactors rather than live ones because of radiation concerns. When Israel bombed Iraq’s Osirak and Syria’s Al Kibar plants in 1981 and 2007, respectively, it was before the suspected weapons reactors had commenced operations. During the 1980s Iran–Iraq war, Iraq struck two Iranian nuclear power reactors that were still under construction. But this cautionary approach changed when the United States hit a small, live research reactor complex outside Baghdad at the start of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, even though the reactor’s core remained untouched. Then there were Saddam Hussein’s 1991 Scud attack and Hamas’ 2014 small rocket strikes on Israel’s Dimona reactor—but both failed. …” end short quote. source as above.
A bit gloomy in the event of a global war. Time for a song.
Would make the dam busters raid on the Ruhr Valley industrial and electricity centre look like a beach side picnic.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35qsu9HsYos A declassified film of the dam busters raid. 1 hour.
Hitting a reactor or fuel pools or High Level waste dumps or radium slag heaps at uranium mines would a simple undertaking in any war where such attacks were deemed useful. Normal and current weapons, from cruise missiles to bunker busters would create mayhem, mass evacuations and denial of massive amounts of electrical power per reactor attack.
I don’t know how many people drowned as a result of the British attacks on German dams in World War 2.
I have no idea how many people would die, either immediately or over the following decades, as a result of an air attack on a Western or Chinese power plant or upon the plutonium reactor Dimona.
It would like somewhere between zero (if one asked Ben Heard or Channel 9) or perhaps dozens, hundreds or millions, depending on how many facilities were attacked. I think.