[FoRK] Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Wed Mar 23 09:32:18 PDT 2011

On 3/23/11 7:14 AM, Gary Stock wrote:
> On 3/22/11 7:57 PM, Stephen Williams wrote:
>> an indestructible series of systems
>> fail-safe systems
> [boggle at the scope of hubris revealed]

[boggle at the scope of irrational paranoia revealed]

Nice.  I obviously did not mean an absolutely indestructible system since I followed that sentence with "work toward fail-safe 
systems and aggressive remedial issues".

Of course nothing is indestructible, but things can be made much more indestructible than that 1970's design.  The failings have not 
been related to atomic induced microfractures or other exotic reactions.  The problems have been simple heat, pressure, and water 
management.  And management of poisonous chemicals, which we do all the time.  There is a level of engineering that could do far 
better than we've done so far.

Of course it is a difficult problem with bad consequences.  But hardly as difficult or with as bad as consequences as fixing a well 
head at the deep bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.  And more people died on that drilling platform....  And more people were negatively 

> Please keep us posted on when such fantasies become ~theoretically~ possible.

It seems that some modern designs are already far, far better.  With hardly anyone working on creative engineering since the market 
has long been practically non-existent.  Contrast: Now that green energy is hot, we almost daily have interesting discoveries and leads.

> Then, when someone actually implements such a thing at some meaningful scale.

Widespread belief that it can't or shouldn't happen is the biggest obstacle.
> Then, when some community exists that actually permit that unit within sight.

See above.
> Then, when any corporation exists that is not corrupt, to build the real one.

All nuclear related companies are corrupt?  References?  People who tend toward corruption are drawn to a dead industry with heavy 
education requirements, deep investment, and years of patience?

> Then, when a government exists that enforces clear standards, to validate it.

The NRC does not have clear standards?  Security and safety knowledge has become fairly advanced.  (I've been a CISSP for 6 years, 
and someone near me is about to take the exam.  Not nuclear related per se, however I'm sure they use many of the same risk analysis 

> Then, when an economy exists that can afford the inevitable costs of failure.

There will always be some kind of failure.  Catastrophic failure?
Recently, I was only 20 miles away from a significant natural gas pipeline explosion that killed 4.

> Coz, when ~that~ happens -- when most of physics changes, and most of human nature changes, and most of society changes, and most 
> of business changes, and most of government changes, and most of economics changes -- a lot more of us will be a lot more willing 
> to embrace nuclear power.

For the most part, those are changes that have to happen in people's heads.  The perception gap with reality is very wide.  It is 
fine to set engineering and operating standards high.  Just don't require the industry to fight too many imaginary dragons.

> People are only human.  We're screw-ups.  We screw things up.  Things we touch get screwed up.  Things we do screw us up.  
> Pretending otherwise is utterly delusional.
> The "foolishness" coefficient of requiring utter perfection far exceeds that of seeking mere consistency.

I assume both of these things.  However, we can overcome impossible complexity and need for near-absolute perfection by the right 
process.  The space shuttle is fantastically complex.  Each launch cycle requires perfection in many details.  There were two 
failures, but there were not caused by failures in any of the complex systems.

> GS 


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