Doctors doubt safety of nuclear power plants

The disturbing news from Belgium, where the ailing Doel and Tihange catastrophe reactors appear to have been specifically targeted by terrorists, raises awareness of the danger of a "dirty" radioactive bomb or a targeted attack on a nuclear power plant again. Medical peace organization IPPNW uses the occasion to warn of the danger of a terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant. According to the report, the safety of nuclear power plants in Europe must be fundamentally reassessed by the authorities and politicians. Doctors from the IPPNW demand that the Belgian nuclear power plants Doel and Tihange be shut down immediately as a first step and that the German government in Brussels advocate a Europe-wide nuclear phase-out as quickly as possible.

Tihange in particular has recently been the target of several protests from the public. Cracks in the prere vessel repeatedly lead to shutdowns and have already prompted doctors in the nearby city of Aachen to distribute tens of thousands of iodine tablets to the population to at least protect them from thyroid cancer in the event of an emergency. Taking iodine is supposed to build up a so-called iodine blockade in the thyroid gland, which prevents the absorption of the dangerous radioactive iodine.

Doctors concerned about increasing health risk posed by nuclear power plants and their operation. Experts believe it is very likely that radioactive material will be stolen from nuclear industry facilities and turned into a "dirty bomb" with the help of conventional explosives, or that these facilities themselves will become targets for attack. "Ultimately, it is not a question of if, but when and where we will first be confronted with such a situation," says Dr. Alex Rosen, board member of the German IPPNW. "The effort for the terrorists would be relatively small in relation to the catastrophic consequences for the civilian population, as long as further daily vast amounts of radioactive material are crisscrossed through Europe and stored in inadequately secured places. On the grounds of the approximately 200 European nuclear power plants, in interim nuclear storage facilities such as Ahaus or Gorleben, in fuel element factories such as Lingen, in uranium enrichment plants such as Gronau, or in research reactors such as those in Berlin-Wannsee, Garching near Munich or Julich."

In connection with the investigation into the attackers from Belgium, it came to light that they had apparently been monitoring the head of a nuclear power plant by video for weeks and had planned to extort radioactive material from him. Security experts agree that nuclear power plants cannot be effectively protected against terrorist attacks. Precautionary and protective measures against violent attacks and cyberattacks by hackers or computer viruses were not asked about in the EU's nuclear "stress tests". Possible attack scenarios, as outlined in the recent BUND study, range from conventional explosive attacks to attacks with helicopters, portable armor-piercing weapon systems, and the targeted crash of an airplane over the reactor building. "The possible consequence of such attacks would be destruction of the reactor prere vessel, cooling systems or electronic components, resulting in a core meltdown and leakage of large amounts of radioactivity," Rosen said.

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