“The worst nuclear near-disaster that you’ve never heard of came to light in 2002, when inspectors at Ohio’s Davis-Besse nuclear power station discovered that a slow leak had been corroding a spot on the reactor vessel’s lid for years (PDF). When they found the cavity, only 1 cm of metal was left to protect the nuclear core. That kind of slow and steady degradation is a major concern as the US’s 104 reactors get older and grayer,says nuclear researcher Leonard Bond. U.S. reactors were originally licensed for 40 years of operation, but the majority have already received extensions to keep them going until the age of 60. Industry researchers like Bond are now determining whether it would be safe and economically feasible to keep them active until the age of 80. Bond describes the monitoring techniques that could be used to watch over aging reactors, and argues that despite the risks, the U.S. needs these aging atomic behemoths.”
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