Safety Concerns with Nuclear Power in Ohio

Wesley Olmsted
March 3, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: The Perry Nuclear Power Plant viewed from Headlands Park, Ohio. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Ohio has two main nuclear power reactors, and both have had various incidents in recent memory. It is important to understand the safety concerns associated with these reactors.

The Perry Nuclear Power Plant

The Perry nuclear power plant (PNPP), shown in Fig. 1, is located by Lake Erie, northeast of Cleveland. One of the main issues with nuclear power plants in this area, is that the area is historically known for having seismic activity. In this region, twenty-four earthquakes were reported since 1823. [1] Besides being a seismically active region, studies have shown that there could be increases in earthquakes due to human activities. There are two injection wells near this power plant that are used to deposit hazardous waste into the Earth. [1] These wells inject byproducts of manufacturing agricultural fungicides. There was a 4.6 magnitude earthquake in 1986 that was only 17.0 km away from the PNPP and 12.0 km from the injection wells. [1] This earthquake caused some malfunctions in some of the instruments at the PNPP so there is reason for concern. A study in 1988 concluded that the deep liquid waste disposal is weakening the rocks and could be making the earthquakes worse in the area. [1]

The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant

The Davis-Besse nuclear power plant has had its fair share of incidents. In 2002, there was a serious issue with acid-laden cooling water eating a large hole through its holding vessel. [2] The nuclear regulatory commission (NRC) notified the owner of the Davis-Besse plant that its design was susceptible to corrosion. The owner of the plant prolonged the inspection a few months because shutting down the plant would cause large costs. When the NRC inspectors finally conducted the inspection, they found the large hole in the cooling vessel. Luckily, the plant was shut down for the inspection because a reactor vessel rupture could have occurred in the near future. [2] Besides this incident, the following year in 2003, the Davis-Besse plant was infected with a computer virus called the "slammer worm," which led to a monitoring system being shut down for 5 hours. [3] Luckily, the plant was shut down for unrelated reasons. Both these incidents were caused by human error, so it is important to acknowledge that humans will make mistakes when considering the safety implications of nuclear reactors.

© Wesley Olmsted. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] M. U. Ahmad and J. A. Smith, "Earthquakes, Injection Wells, and the Perry Nuclear Power Plant," Geology 16, 739 (1988).

[2] P. Behr, "Three Mile Island Still Haunts U.S. Nuclear industry," New York Times, 27 Mar 09.

[3] B. I. Korner, "In Computer Security, a Bigger Reason to Squirm," New York Times, 7 Sep 03