The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA, an agency of the United Nations) guidelines for assessing volcanic hazards at nuclear facilities have been revised recently by McBirney and Godoy (2003). Although these guidelines have considered many important criteria and can be applied to broader aspects of hazard assessment to nuclear power plant (NPP), potential hazards from submarine volcanic activities have been overlooked. We would like to provide some feedback to this important document in order to make it more complete.
The IAEA's guidelines for assessing volcanic hazards at nuclear facilities have focused primarily on the potential risks of inland volcanic activities, although the tsunamis hazard was also discussed. While inland volcanic activities are indeed the primary concern for the potential volcanic hazards for nuclear facilities, we would like to point out that the floating pumice particles of submarine volcanic eruptions is also a potential source of volcanic hazard for nuclear facilities.
In general, nuclear power plant (NPP) needs an abundant supply of clean water for cooling. Considering the cost for the operation of a NPP, ocean water should be one of the best candidates of cooling water. Therefore, any pumices, ash particles, and seawater whose chemical compositions have been altered due to submarine volcanic activities (even a small eruption) are sucked into the cooling system; this could deeply affect the cooling system of the NPP, and which may in turn trigger more catastrophic disasters. As a result, both tsunamis and submarine volcanic activities should be considered as the potential sources of volcanic hazards.