Dragons, Meteors and Nuclear Power

In a previous post I wrote about how far back we need to look to have a reasonable chance of seeing rare events such as large floods and why it is much longer than the 150 years of data for Sizewell if we want to know the size of a 1 in 10,000 year event. I started to write this follow-up post (about why I am not as confident about the risks of flooding at Sizewell as EDF are) when the meteorite exploded over Chelyabinsk Oblast in Russia1. It just happened that meteor impacts was going to be the topic of this post.

Looking back at the historic record such events are not always described the same as they are today. For example in 793AD:

This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and whirlwinds, and fiery, dragons flying across the firmament1

An in the Bible we have a dragon

“And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth”3

There is a small probability that a meteor could strike a nuclear power station. However, they are much more likely to land in the sea or ocean than on land since about 70% of the Earths surface is covered by ocean.

Such impacts can result in large tsunamis4 which would dwarf the one seen in Japan that lead to the ongoing emergency at the Fukushima plants. So do we have anything talking about a great flood?

“And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.”5

There are similar flood myths in cultures across the world6.

Is there any evidence that some of these  ‘mythical’ flooding events could be related to meteors hitting oceans and the answer is yes7.

More recent flooding events such as the one in Britain in 1014AD

This year, on the eve of St. Michael’s day, came the great sea-flood, which spread wide over this land, and ran so far up as it never did before, overwhelming many towns, and an innumerable multitude of people.8

may have been due to a meteor impact9. Other possible meteor induced tsunamis include North East America in 300BC10 and Australia and New Zealand in 1500AD11.

A study by DEFRA in 2005 looked at threats posed by tsunamis in the UK ‘but excluding oceanic meteorite impact’12.

All the events that I have talked about are now forgotten except for myths and legend. People living in New York or Australia are not affected by what happened so long ago. But people back then did not have nuclear power stations and they did not store enough radioactive material in one spent fuel store to contaminate the UK forty times over13.

Sizewell Blockaders Banner - used a month before Fukushima (http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/02/473232.html)

Sizewell Blockaders Banner – used a month before Fukushima (http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/02/473232.html)


1 2013 Russian meteor event, Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Russian_meteor_event)

2 Anglo Saxon Chronicles, A.D. 793, (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/medieval/ang08.asp)

3 Revelation 12:4, King James Bible (http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Revelation-12-4/)

4 Gusiakov, V.K. 2007. Tsunami as a destructive aftermath of oceanic impacts. In: P.Bobrowsky, H.Rickman (eds.) Asteroid/Comet Impacts and Human Society. Springer Press, Berlin. 247-263 (http://tsun.sscc.ru/hiwg/PABL/Gusiakov_2006.pdf)

5 Genesis 16:7 King James Bible (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+6:17&version=KJV)

6 List of flood myths, Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flood_myths)

7 Did a Comet Cause the Great Flood? The universal human myth may be the first example of disaster reporting. Discover Magazine November 15, 2007 (http://discovermagazine.com/2007/nov/did-a-comet-cause-the-great-flood#.USHyCPImRI8)

8 Anglo Saxon Chronicles A.D.1014 (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/medieval/ang11.asp)

9 The case for significant numbers of extraterrestrial impacts through the late Holocene, Mike Baillie, JOURNAL OF QUATERNARY SCIENCE (2007) 22(2) 101–109 (http://tsun.sscc.ru/hiwg/PABL/Baillie_2007_JQS.pdf)

10 Evidence For A Tsunami Generated By An Impact Event In The New York Metropolitan Area Approximately 2300 Years Ago, Katherine T. Cagen, (http://www.hudsonriver.org/ls/reports/Polgar_Cagen_TP_01_08_final.pdf)

11 Cosmogenic mega-tsunami in the Australia region: are they supported by Aboriginal and Maori legends? E. A. Bryant, G. Walsh, D. Abbott (http://ro.uow.edu.au/scipapers/42/)

12 The threat posed by tsunami to the UK, Defra 2005 (http://archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/flooding/documents/risk/tsunami05.pdf)

13 Cs-137 Inventories in Spent Fuel, This Blog (http://www.plux.co.uk/cs-137-inventories-in-spent-fuel/)



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