[FoRK] Plumbing, power, sign posts - getting simple things wrong

mdw at martinwills.com mdw at martinwills.com
Mon Mar 21 05:28:26 PDT 2011

> Re: Japanese power plant:
> Perhaps there was a problem with knocked-out equipment due to being
> submerged.  However it seems like if they would have fired up
> one of the reactors right away, they would have produced enough local
> power to cool the other reactors.  They would have been in
> much better shape.  There's a pretty good likelihood that they didn't just
> out of procedure after a SCRAM...

Having worked in the nuclear field and being certified to run a nuclear
powerplant in the US.  It takes 24-76 hours to restart a nuclear
powerplant after an uncontrolled SCRAM without an outside cause. (It would
take at least a year to examine every pipe, weld, joint, connection if
there wasn't any damage after the 8.9 earthquake.)  It is a giant
apparatus in a building that can hold 3 Boeing 747's with room to spare.
As for redundancy, they had it. They built it for a 9+ earthquake. What
the didn't plan for 40 years ago, was a 33+ foot tidal wave would rush 2
miles inland (these reactors are on the coast and the waves were easily
two stories high (the plants were reported to be 3 stories high).  33 foot
tidal waves pretty much move everything, including diesel generators and

The other problem is the Japanese went with 'boiled water' reactors as
opposed to the 'pressurized water reactors' mandated in the U.S. This is a
significant difference in design and it ultimately doomed their reactors.

The whole plant is 'dead' (all 6 reactors). It will never be reactivated
ever again.  There is so much Boron and seawater involved, it can never be
fixed. It probably wasn't fixable after the seawater anyways.

Also this situation is so different from Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island
that it really irritates me when people try to draw comparisons.  It is
similar to an argument "If a plane would have hit the white house, would
the damage have been the same as if a train would have hit the pentagon
and a blimp would have hit the twin towers on 9/11?"  sheesh.

> How, even in the 70's, do you get simple plumbing so wrong?  They should
> have had 3 redundant systems, one of which included a pipe
> some distance away that simply required input of water.

They were on the ocean, they had plenty of pipes, the problem is that the
tidal wave broke everything.

> Re: Terrible bus accident in NY: The road department has to share some of
> the blame.  Not culpable, but certainly they were
> negligent to some extent for putting an immovable force on the side of a
> major highway.  There is no reason to do this: Either
> anchor signs and lights past a guardrail, or make them shearable.  You
> might notice that most highway and street light poles are
> thin metal sheerable poles.  Whether by design or not, this has probably
> saved many lives by not splitting impacting vehicles in two
> as much.
> Simple principles, zero modern technology, disasters that could have been
> averted with no significant cost.
> Perhaps this is a good opportunity to educate everyone on nuclear science
> while not overly activating the nucular paranoid.
> Hopefully we'll now A) replace our old reactors and B) build a few more
> while we're at it.  And C) get a better plan for disposing /
> recycling of spent fuel.

This will always be a concern. There is an interesting design from Toshiba
found here "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshiba_4S".  Intriguing design
using sodium.  The Russians used sodium in their early submarine reactors
with limited success (they eventually got away from it for technical
reasons).  Now switching to lead as a coolant, that would make this a very
(comparatively) safe design.  it is already buried so there would be
little issues from an earthquake and terror attacks....


> sdw
> --
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