Yellowstone Supervolcano may lead to nuclear disaster

Posted on 2 Jan 2009


Update 1-6-09: Only 1 quake today. It seems the super volcano god has been appeased … for now.

Update: Small quakes at Yellowstone continue, I count 13 so far…no, make that 14 today.

An eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano could cover 1/2 of the USA with ash, and cause extreme global cooling. The disaster might be unmatched in known history, but worse, it may trigger  nuclear melt downs according to Tom Lakosh at newsblaze. Ash may cause a few decades of damage, but nuclear meltdowns due to ash-clogged cooling systems could cause damage that lasts hundreds of years, Tom warns.

As I looked at the maps, I noticed that the states most damaged may be those that previously supported Bush. Just an odd coincidence, I’m sure.

According to this educational link, most of California could eat dust too.

We have learned some things about cleaning up volcanic ash. Wet sawdust helps, for example.

The Yellowstone eruption damage predictions range from billions dead around the world to no casualties at all because we will have decades, even centuries of warnings, and plenty of time to prepare.

The mega-eruption, if it happens, could be *hundreds of thousands* times bigger than Mount St. Helens. The last super volcano was 75,000 years ago. Light was blocked out all over the world. 35 centimeters of ash fell *2500 miles* away. The global temperature plunged 21 degrees. Mankind was almost extinguished, cut back to only a few thousand. This one…could be *ten times bigger*.

… The Toba eruption is generally thought to have been larger than any of the Yellowstone eruptions. The largest Yellowstone eruption was pretty close, though. Source: [] – slashdot

Here is more information on the nuclear meltdown danger:

It’s not that there’s been ~ 300 quakes since Saturday or even that they’re all within a mile or two of each other, the worrisome part is that they are all within a few hundred yards of each other vertically, extending from the surface down to 7.2 km potentially defining a single “chimney” under high pressure causing hydraulic fracturing along its entire length, (link).

The National Park Service reports the magma chamber is as shallow as 8 km and if the major chamber is that close to the chimney reaching to 7.2 km, we may be in for an eruption.  …

The safety of containment of radioactive materials is threatened because nuclear power plants will not have sufficient clean water reserves to maintain extended cooling of reactor cores and spent fuel pools after ash deposition contaminates all surface waters. All downwind plants will have to immediately suspend operation of their secondary cooling loops to prevent disabling erosion of all moving parts and piping by the ash in their normal water supply.

The remaining ~7% of reactor thermal output retained in the latent heat of radioactive decay in fuel rods will require use of reserve water supplies for emergency core blow downs that were never intended to supply enough water for the extended periods of time that ash could fall and otherwise contaminate surface cooling water from rain runoff.

Moreover, these reserve water pools are already providing cooling for spent fuel rods which could also melt if their water is consumed for blow down steam replacement. The use of ash-contaminated water for primary loop cooling poses the same problems of pump and pipe erosion and accumulation of sediments in the core would cause water circulation problems that could lead to fuel assembly overheating. The air filtration systems in containment buildings were also not designed to stop release of nuclides under near continuous and extended blow down circumstances.

It is imperative that the NRC immediately coordinate with DHS/USCG for emergency acquisition of all available water tankage to store uncontaminated water, or settle and filter contaminated water, for extended use by nuclear facilities. DHS should also consider seizure of all drilling equipment, (operation of any engine in ambient ash will be limited), to supply ground-filtered water to power plants and the public, (ash is so fine that filtration of any type will be very limited, particularly where air and water filter replacement will be limited).

This will also necessitate insuring that all required tank trucks, transport trucks, barge tugs and tank vessels have sufficient spare air filters, water pumps and pump impellers. While prior lack of planning may be excused due to the improbability of such an event, the ongoing events at Yellowstone Lake demand immediate attention to this potential catastrophe beyond anything experienced in recorded history, which could be devastatingly compounded by our failure to stockpile sufficient clean cooling water for reactors. … – newsblaze

Unrelated to the nuclear threat, here are some recommendations from the army  regarding what you should do at home in the event of an ashfall:


  • Close doors, windows and dampers. Place damp towels at door thresholds and other draft sources; tape drafty windows.
  • Dampen ash in yard and streets to reduce resuspension.
  • Put stoppers in the tops of your drainpipes (at the gutters).
  • Protect dust sensitive electronics.
  • Since most roofs cannot support more than four inches of wet ash, keep roofs free of thick accumulation. Once ash fall stops, sweep or shovel ash from roofs and gutters. Wear your dust mask and use caution on ladders and roofs.
  • Remove outdoor clothing before entering a building. Brush, shake and pre-soak ashy clothing before washing.
  • If there is ash in your water, let it settle and then use the clear water. In rare cases where there is a lot of ash in the water supply, do not use your dishwasher or washing machine.
  • You may eat vegetables from the garden, but wash them first.
  • Dust often using vacuum attachments rather than dust cloths, which may become abrasive.
  • Use battery operated radio to receive information.

Wet ash is heavy! Got a ladder and a shovel for your roof? Battery powered radio? (I just got this one because it can charge my cell phone from solar or the crank in addition to battery power, short wave, am, fm, etc.).

A Yellowstone super volcano eruption could make us wish for the good old days when terrorists destroying a few big buildings in New York was our biggest problem. Then again, it may not happen for a million years. No one knows.

Posted in: Earth, Radiation