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

Damien Morton dmorton at bitfurnace.com
Wed Mar 23 17:14:52 PDT 2011

On Wed, Mar 23, 2011 at 6:09 PM, Stephen Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:

> On 3/23/11 2:40 PM, Damien Morton wrote:
>> On Wed, Mar 23, 2011 at 4:02 PM, Stephen Williams<sdw at lig.net>  wrote:
>>> The main worst case scenario is scaring a lot of people.  In a modern,
>>> practical nuclear plant, it doesn't seem possible under any scenario to
>>> cause more overall damage and cost to people than our currently dominant
>>> energy sources already do every year.
>> http://www.aolnews.com/2011/03/22/chernobyl-cleanup-survivors-message-for-japan-run-away-as-qui/
>> <
>> http://www.aolnews.com/2011/03/22/chernobyl-cleanup-survivors-message-for-japan-run-away-as-qui/
>> >
>> Natalia Manzurova, one of the few survivors among those directly involved
>> in
>> the long cleanup of Chernobyl, was a 35-year-old engineer at a nuclear
>> plant
>> in Ozersk, Russia, in April 1986 when she and 13 other scientists were
>> told
>> to report to the wrecked, burning plant in the northern Ukraine.
> Yes, 60 year old Russian technology, government, and practices were
> horrible.  And Fukushima's mostly-40 year old technology isn't up to modern
> standards either.  What is your point exactly?  Perhaps you'd be just as
> likely to take Soyuz 1, which the astronauts themselves helped find 203
> structural problems with, than the Space Shuttle?  I doubt it.
> http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2011/03/23/134597833/cosmonaut-crashed-into-earth-crying-in-rage?print=1
> Cautionary tales?  Yes.  Demonstration of how things are likely to fail in
> future designs?  Hardly.

Its a clear example of the kind of shit that _can_ go wrong, and the effects
on the people that have to deal with it. 800,000 people doing the cleanup,
all radiation damaged and with shortened and/or impaired lives. A slightly
larger number than the 4000 deaths you attributed to Chernobyl.

>  ...
>> "It'll be like somebody dropped a bomb, and there'll be a big cloud of
>> very,
>> very radioactive material above the ground," Allen said, noting that it
>> would contain uranium and plutonium, as well as the fission products.
>> Should these events happen, the best outcome would be if the winds are
>> blowing east and push the radioactive plume over the Pacific Ocean, he
>> said.
>> "It (the radioactivity) will fall out in the ocean and everything will be
>> fine," he said.
> If the locals let this happen, that would be very bad.  But there are a
> number of ways to prevent and mitigate it.  For one thing, this would be a
> steam "explosion" of limited power.  It ought to be possible to capture and
> filter the "outgassing", given some time.  In any case, even if the worst
> scenario happens, it will likely still not be an actual, rather than
> perceived, major disaster.
> And it is still not indicative a likely failure mode of a modern design.
The locals might not have any choice about "letting it happen". Its one of
the failure modes of most reactors, including modern ones. Yes, unlikely,
but a chain of failures or disasters can cause a meltdown.

This meltdown failure mode isnt a feature of all reactor designs, there are
designs with passive safety features that can never melt down. It appears
that the passive designs rely on less power density in the core, and I guess
are more expensive to make, because they arent being built.

Stephen, you haven't mentioned the storage of waste products from reactors
as yet. We are talking about millions to billions of tonnes of mostly liquid
waste that will have to be isolated from the environment for 10,000 to
1,000,000 years. Lots of solutions to this problem, none very testable.

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