AOPA is taking strong issue with an article in today's USA Today about nuclear plants near airports.
"Small general aviation aircraft are not a threat to nuclear power plants or spent-fuel pools," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "That's the considered opinion of experts in the industry. USA Today did not—and could not—cite any nuclear expert who would say otherwise."
"The article strung together miscellaneous 'facts' and opinions to create the impression that GA aircraft might be a threat. They're not. Period."
In fact, the article even mentions the AOPA study on nuclear plant safety conducted by expert Robert Jefferson that concluded that if a general aviation aircraft were to crash into any part of a nuclear power facility, the "result of such an endeavor would fail to produce the damage necessary to cause any radiological involvement of the public." (That report is part of the Congressional Record.)
USA Today trumpeted their "analysis" showing that "thousands of airports are within 60 miles of [nuclear power] plants."
"So?" said Boyer. "Distance from the airport is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether the impact of a small aircraft could cause release of radiation. Again, recognized experts have concluded that it wouldn't." Reactor containment buildings are designed to withstand the impact of a large commercial airliner. Experts like Jefferson have concluded that a small aircraft crash into the outbuildings or spent-fuel storage areas wouldn't cause harm to the general public.
Even USA Today reported that a "crash into a spent-fuel pool wall could crush and crack it but not enough to cause a radioactive released into the environment," according to a study commissioned by power companies.
"When you read the article carefully and objectively, there is nothing to show there is a danger from GA aircraft to nuclear power plants," said Boyer. "But the article is filled with innuendo and disconnected facts calculated to stir up public hysteria once again.
"Shame on USA Today."