How Safe Are We?

March 16, 2011
By

The events in Japan, where three out of four nuclear reactors at a power producing plant are apparently ruptured and spewing radiation, are a reason to look closer at Everett’s relationship to danger.

This isn’t meant as an indictment of the LNG people who manage the two largest tanks of the gas on the East Coast outside of New York. It isn’t even meant as a slap or a backhanded slight.

Everett’s LNG depot is professionally run, has several redundant features capable of maintaining safety at all times and the depot is well manned with security as well as video cameras scanning the entire area.

In Japan, where the 8.9 Richter scale earthquake followed by the 23 foot high tsunami, destroyed nearly every city and town on the northern part of the island nation taking the lives of more than 10,000 men women and children, there was the feeling that the nuclear reactors, like our LNG tanks, were well protected and built, could not rupture and even if they did rupture, not much would happen.

After the earthquake and tsunami, all of that speculation is out the window.

The reactors are leaking. The radioactive heating rods have melted. There have been explosions and now fire and one of the reactors has a core that has apparently opened up a hole with radiation spewing out of it.

Bottom line, the Japanese felt satisfied before the disaster that all the support systems would work in the event of a major failure at the nuclear reactors.

However, the earthquake took out the electricity and the deep and fast moving water of the tsunami took out the generators intended to run the nuclear plants if the electricity went out and now the plant operators have gone to using seawater to cool the superheated nuclear rods lest there should be a complete meltdown – and by every appearance, a meltdown is what is going on right now.

There is a great deal of sentiment around here that seems to imply: it can’t happen here.

That’s a bad attitude to have just because we aren’t hosting a nuclear reactor.

We don’t have nuclear reactors in Everett. We have the biggest LNG storage tanks in Northern New England.

What if … what if the LNG tanks themselves became compromised?

What if one of them blew up or everything around it blew up?

What could be done to stop the ensuing fireball and to stop as well a public safety catastrophe?

We have been repeatedly assured the LNG is too heavy in its frozen state to ignite, that the tanks can’t explode, that fire systems and security are such that we don’t really have to worry.

But watching the unraveling of the nuclear reactors in Japan gets a person to thinking that what has happened there could just as easily happen to us here.

It would probably be a good idea for the city to ask state officials to meet with LNG officials to discuss all the possibilities that could lead to a catastrophe and whether or not there is anything more to be done to avert it.

Had that discussion taken place in Japan before the earthquake and tsunami, that nation wouldn’t be plunging into a disaster as it is today.

  • Anonymous

    The Japan disaster was a Black Swan event (something inconceivable until it happens). The problem with placing dangerous facilities near the public — regardless of how safe they seem to be at the time — is that a Black Swan may eventually occur.

    The Distrigas LNG terminal siting in Everett, with terminal and ship route so close to the public, is tempting a Black Swan event — something even the world LNG industry (SIGTTO) recognizes and warns about in its terminal siting best practices (see http://www.LNGTSS.org for more).

  • Bem656

    June 25, 2012 Everett Lng Tank fire after being hit by lightning.  On the very top of the tank a fire rose high up in the sky. Thought that would never happen think twice. It did.

  • RobertGodfrey

    What news stories reported such an incident?