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Tags Japan earthquake , Japan incidents , nuclear power issues

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Old 13th March 2011, 04:31 AM   #1
Nosi
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nuclear power safe?

Many people on this forum believe nuclear power to be safe, clean, efficient energy. If it is done right and built well, a nuclear power plant should stand well against what is thrown at it.

Others believe there is no such thing as safe nuclear. Nuclear power plants are simply accidents looking for a date to happen.

The Japanese were very much "the for want of a nail" school when it came to building nuclear reactors. They made them tough and resistant to earthquakes, storms, cold to hot weather. Tough didn't cut it March 11. A 9.0 quake followed by a tsunami slapped their islands around like half chilled Jello, overwhelming the performing specs of the nuclear reactors. We are now looking down the jaws of serious consequences of having such dangerous sources of energy on a jumpy, jittery Earth.
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Old 13th March 2011, 04:48 AM   #2
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Well, a good start would be "don't build them where there's a lot of earthquakes".


They were also of an old model, I think the same as the 3 Mile Island one?
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Old 13th March 2011, 04:49 AM   #3
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I’m never sure what people mean when they ask whether it’s safe. Safe relative to what? Compared to not having enough power?
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Old 13th March 2011, 04:57 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Nosi View Post
Many people on this forum believe nuclear power to be safe, clean, efficient energy. If it is done right and built well, a nuclear power plant should stand well against what is thrown at it.

Others believe there is no such thing as safe nuclear. Nuclear power plants are simply accidents looking for a date to happen.

The Japanese were very much "the for want of a nail" school when it came to building nuclear reactors. They made them tough and resistant to earthquakes, storms, cold to hot weather. Tough didn't cut it March 11. A 9.0 quake followed by a tsunami slapped their islands around like half chilled Jello, overwhelming the performing specs of the nuclear reactors. We are now looking down the jaws of serious consequences of having such dangerous sources of energy on a jumpy, jittery Earth.
So far any possible damage to the environment from the nuclear power station seems to me to pale into insignificance when compared with say the recent oil leak and spillage in the Gulf of Mexico.

In the UK it has proven (this is from a radio programme I heard) it's very difficult to clean up a site that an old coal powered power-station occupied because of the years of pollution - the land may never be be declared safe for domestic use.

For some reason we seem to fear pollution from nuclear power stations disproportionately when compared to the pollution caused by other forms of energy production.
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Old 13th March 2011, 05:03 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
For some reason we seem to fear pollution from nuclear power stations disproportionately when compared to the pollution caused by other forms of energy production.

I suspect itís because nuclear power is arbitrarily deemed a more egregious example of meddling with Godís plan or disrespecting the Gaian earth mother or something equally daft.
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Old 13th March 2011, 05:16 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Par View Post
I suspect itís because nuclear power is arbitrarily deemed a more egregious example of meddling with Godís plan or disrespecting the Gaian earth mother or something equally daft.
I think you might be right.

We shouldn't be complacent about the dangers that can effect nuclear power plants at all but the alternative is to resign ourselves to living in caves.

[/ok slightly my haipa bowl]

We're simply going to have to keep learning from setbacks like this but I'm still a fully paid-up fan of nuclear power. If anyone has a better idea then I think we'd all love to know what it is.
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Old 13th March 2011, 06:14 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Par View Post
I suspect itís because nuclear power is arbitrarily deemed a more egregious example of meddling with Godís plan or disrespecting the Gaian earth mother or something equally daft.
And it shares a word with nuclear weapons so I think that adds to the fear it seems to engender. Thinking about it a tad more the most recent newsworthy stories regarding nuclear power have all been about Iran's nuclear ambitions and that has constantly linked nuclear power to nuclear weapons.
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Old 13th March 2011, 06:21 AM   #8
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"Safe" is entirely relative. How many people die in coal mines? How many in oil refinery accidents? How many people die from lung cancer caused by coil and oil soot? How many people died in 3 mile island? How many from Chernobyl?

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Old 13th March 2011, 06:26 AM   #9
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nuclear power is very safe....until there is a massive earthquake and/or massive power failure that even kills its fail-safe systems.

then...nuclear power is the most dangerous kind.
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Old 13th March 2011, 06:28 AM   #10
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Deaths per TWh for all energy sources: Rooftop solar power is actually more dangerous than Chernobyl


Quote:
Coal – world average 161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
Coal – China 278
Coal – USA 15
Oil 36 (36% of world energy)
Natural Gas 4 (21% of world energy)
Biofuel/Biomass 12
Peat 12
Solar (rooftop) 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)
Wind 0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)
Hydro 0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
Hydro - world including Banqiao) 1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
Nuclear 0.04 (5.9% of world energy)
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Old 13th March 2011, 06:31 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
And it shares a word with nuclear weapons so I think that adds to the fear it seems to engender. Thinking about it a tad more the most recent newsworthy stories regarding nuclear power have all been about Iran's nuclear ambitions and that has constantly linked nuclear power to nuclear weapons.
True. Plus, people who fancy themselves fashionable postmodernists might be inclined to look askance at the very idea of power. But perhaps Iím being intellectually parochial.
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Old 13th March 2011, 06:31 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Thunder View Post
nuclear power is very safe....until there is a massive earthquake and/or massive power failure that even kills its fail-safe systems.

then...nuclear power is the most dangerous kind.
No. Not even then. Nothing is 100% safe of course.
Check out how many people die from coal each year.
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Old 13th March 2011, 06:34 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Thunder View Post
nuclear power is very safe....until there is a massive earthquake and/or massive power failure that even kills its fail-safe systems.
then...nuclear power is the most dangerous kind.

Yes, yes, yes. Itís very dangerousÖ relative to nothing. Similarly, Jupiter is moving northwards and I am the most purple of all the things too purple to exist.
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Old 13th March 2011, 06:41 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
And it shares a word with nuclear weapons so I think that adds to the fear it seems to engender.
Nail. Hammer. Hit. That in a nutshell is exactly why people don't like it. Infact it's so bad that when Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging was developed they dropped the "nukular" from the title to give MRI because it was highly likely people simply would not stick themselves in the machine.

"Nukular" = mushroom-cloud. And that's how people see it. Fear plays an enormous role. Radiation is invisible, a bit like the plague and because there is a complete lack of education with regard to what radiation is then people just think it kills you. They don't understand dosage.

I've been watching NHK World, the Japanese news in English. It's been extremely informative - they even had the designer of the reactors on to explain what the reactors were designed to withstand and what the issues are with the cooling systems. They have done their job well considering that they designed them to withstand scenarios they predicted at the time. Unfortunately you can't know everything, there is a risk, but that's what engineers do - we minimise the risk as much as possible within constraints.

1/5th of all reactors are in earthquake zones. Fear-mongering has set us back decades. I find it bizarre that a tsunami has killed thousands, may be tens of thousands and people are concerned about nuclear power.
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Old 13th March 2011, 06:41 AM   #15
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I've struggle to find the facts in amongst the hyperbole and scaremongering. I know that there have been severe problems with at least a couple of nuclear reactors in Japan but exactly how much if any damage has been done and what, if any, is the impact of this damage on human health/life.

On the face of it, it would appear that its significantly more dangerous to build homes, roads, buildings, etc near earthquake zones than it is to build nuclear power stations. Would I be correct in thinking this?
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Old 13th March 2011, 06:54 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Thunder View Post
nuclear power is very safe....until there is a massive earthquake and/or massive power failure that even kills its fail-safe systems.

then...nuclear power is the most dangerous kind.
I can't say about the earthquakes, but power failures aren't a problem.

It's been many years since I took a tour of a nuclear power plant, but among the things I remember where the power generators they had on site - each of them would be sufficient to supply a small city with electricity, apparently. (They were diesel engines the size of a garage each.)

So even if for some reason they couldn't get any power *from* the grid (and assuming that they can't use the power they are generating themselves for some reason) they would remain operational.

Should that not work, it the fuel run out for the generators or something else cut the entire power supply the plant would most likely not explode but simply shut down. I believe that if the automatic shut down fails they still have options of doing it manually.

The things are not only build to not explode on you under the worst of conditions they are build to keep going under pretty bad conditions, too.
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Old 13th March 2011, 06:56 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Last of the Fraggles View Post
On the face of it, it would appear that its significantly more dangerous to build homes, roads, buildings, etc near earthquake zones than it is to build nuclear power stations. Would I be correct in thinking this?
Difficult. It depends on how you look at things a lot.

If given the choice I'd much rather be in the nuclear power plant than any home or office building when the earthquake happens.

Of course, if they build the roads and homes to the same standards as the nuclear power plants, I'd much rather be in on of those homes far away from the power plant.
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Old 13th March 2011, 06:58 AM   #18
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David Aaronovitch mentions a lot of paranoid conspiracy theories that were spawned in the UK during the Eighties due to nuclear power. I think some of it took its cue from Karen Silkwood's death and Three Mile Island and was re-inforced during this age by the Chernobyl incident.

Aaronovitch points out that some of the anti-nuclear stuff also came about at a time when Davros-lookalike and All-Round Evil One Thatcher was closing down mines and all the entire economies of towns. It also happened at a time when it was clear that US nuclear weapons were stationed in the UK and also when the atomic clock was at something like two minutes to midnight at most.

There were some conspiracy theories according to Aaronovitch involving one old lady called Hilda Murrel who was murdered in 1984.

There were also a lot of movies about nuclear war such as Threads and When The Wind Blows.

And there were also the conspiracy dramas such as Defence of the Realm and perhaps the most artistically accomplished of them all, Edge of Darkness.

Indeed, Edge of Darkness's main point does seem to be that Man has turned its back on the fruits of Gaia and will be destroyed for it. And unfortunately the show seems to rejoice in this possibility with the "optimistic" idea being that once humans are all dead the Earth can get back to doing whatever it was that makes Gaia's life worthwhile. The moral message is piffle but the soundtrack is great.

Click here for the soundtrack.
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Old 13th March 2011, 07:00 AM   #19
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nuclear power is very safe until hundreds of thousands of people have to evacuate their homes in fear of radiation poisoning.
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Old 13th March 2011, 07:04 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Thunder View Post
nuclear power is very safe until hundreds of thousands of people have to evacuate their homes in fear of radiation poisoning.
And when an oil refinery goes up in flames that happens, there was an area in Manchester that had quite a few evacuations over the years because of a dye factory (Clayton Aniline Company). It's a standard practice to evacuate an area when there may be some safety issue.
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Old 13th March 2011, 07:04 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Rasmus View Post
Difficult. It depends on how you look at things a lot.

If given the choice I'd much rather be in the nuclear power plant than any home or office building when the earthquake happens.

Of course, if they build the roads and homes to the same standards as the nuclear power plants, I'd much rather be in on of those homes far away from the power plant.
Going off on a tangent a bit maybe, but its going to be commercially and economically unviable to build homes to the standard of nuclear power stations but, obviously, not to build nuclear power stations to that standard.

If we are talking pure risk management then it seems to me to be more risky to build a town of X thousand people near the coast of a tsunami-risk area that it does to put the nuclear station there.

As another aside, part of the issue here seems to have been lack of power for cooling....had they kept the plant running would that have averted this issue? If so, what new risk would it have introduced?
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Old 13th March 2011, 07:06 AM   #22
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We have known how to build reactors safe from cooling system failure for 20 years.

But how old are the reactors in service?

New designs such as we will be building in the next couple decades would be safe even in a tsunami zone.
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Old 13th March 2011, 07:08 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Thunder View Post
nuclear power is very safe until hundreds of thousands of people have to evacuate their homes in fear of radiation poisoning.
I'm not sure you can equate precautionary measures taken in 'fear' of something with the actual risk of the event.

You wouldn't measure the safety of air travel by the number of people who are too scared to fly, for example.
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Old 13th March 2011, 07:11 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Last of the Fraggles View Post
I'm not sure you can equate precautionary measures taken in 'fear' of something with the actual risk of the event.

You wouldn't measure the safety of air travel by the number of people who are too scared to fly, for example.
Or the number of people grounded to prevent terrorist attacks a la 9/11.

If we were to say, "flying is fine until you find you have to ground 757s with engine trouble then you realize it is really dangerous" or other variations you might be thought of as a bit of a crank.
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"Evolution and Ethics" T.H. Huxley (1893)
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Old 13th March 2011, 07:13 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Last of the Fraggles View Post
I'm not sure you can equate precautionary measures taken in 'fear' of something with the actual risk of the event.

You wouldn't measure the safety of air travel by the number of people who are too scared to fly, for example.

The dark would rank as positively hazardous.
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Old 13th March 2011, 07:21 AM   #26
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Japan suffered at first-hand appalling devastation caused by nuclear weapons. It didn't stop them from developing a nuclear power industry. That has to take a certain amount of balls.
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Old 13th March 2011, 07:23 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by MrQhuest View Post
How many people die from lung cancer caused by coal
Ten years ago, coal fired power plants accounted for 40% of all the mercury introduced into the air from man-made sources in the U.S. (50ish tons).


ETA: Also, people fear nuclear more than conventional power for the same reason they (falsely) believe that airplanes are more dangerous than cars: when there are deaths they can be linked to a single, dramatic, newsworthy event rather than a daily toll that accumulates steadily and incessantly.
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Old 13th March 2011, 07:25 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Last of the Fraggles View Post
I'm not sure you can equate precautionary measures taken in 'fear' of something with the actual risk of the event.

You wouldn't measure the safety of air travel by the number of people who are too scared to fly, for example.
Exactly, it shows how thunder's argument fails.

Thunder - do you consider crossing the road dangerous? If not then is it dangerous when you get hit by a truck?

Quote:
In fact, 530 British people attended casualty in 1999 following eye-watering encounters with their zips (figures from the DTI home and leisure accident surveillance system second annual report).

According to Rospa, trousers are responsible for more accidents than any other garment: "In the UK around 3,695 people attend hospital every year as a result of an accident with trousers," says spokeswoman Karen Blanchette. Among the incidents she recounts are "accidentally tripping because of a wide-flared trouser" and "putting your trousers on too quickly, losing your balance, and falling over".
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandsty...shion.shopping

I'd advise Thunder not to put any trousers (pants) on either.
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Old 13th March 2011, 07:31 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by Thunder View Post
nuclear power is very safe....until there is a massive earthquake and/or massive power failure that even kills its fail-safe systems.

then...nuclear power is the most dangerous kind.
Originally Posted by Thunder View Post
nuclear power is very safe until hundreds of thousands of people have to evacuate their homes in fear of radiation poisoning.
So what you are saying is that something is safe until it isn't.
That's deep, man.
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Old 13th March 2011, 07:38 AM   #30
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Quote:
nuclear power is very safe until hundreds of thousands of people have to evacuate their homes in fear of radiation poisoning.
Planes are very safe, until hijacked and flown into highrise buildings.
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Old 13th March 2011, 07:39 AM   #31
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Current update

Quote:
Fukushima Daiichi

Unit 1
- 439 MWe BWR, 1971
- Automatically shut down
- Water level decreasing
- Pressure release implemented
- Explosion observed

- Containment believed intact
- Seawater injection has started
- Radiation levels did not rise after
explosion
Unit 2
- 760 MWe BWR, 1974
- Automatically shut down
- Water level lower but steady
- Preparations for pressure release
Unit 3
- 760 MWe BWR, 1976
- Automatically shut down
- Preparations for pressure release
Unit 4
- 760 MWe BWR, 1978
- Shut for periodic inspection

Unit 5
- 760 MWe BWR, 1978

- Shut for periodic inspection
Unit 6
- 1067 MWe BWR, 1979
- Shut for periodic inspection

Fukushima Daini
Unit 1
- 1067 MWe BWR, 1982
- Automatically shut down
- Offsite power available
- Water level stable
- Preparations for pressure release
Unit 2
- 1067 MWe BWR, 1984
- Automatically shut down
- Offsite power available
- Water level stable
- Preparations for pressure release
Unit 3
- 1067 MWe BWR, 1985
- Automatically shut down
- Offsite power available
- Water level stable
- Preparations for pressure release
Unit 4
- 1067 MWe BWR, 1987
- Automatically shut down
- Offsite power available
- Water level stable
- Preparations for pressure release
http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS...s_1203111.html
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Old 13th March 2011, 07:43 AM   #32
Java Man
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Originally Posted by BenBurch View Post
We have known how to build reactors safe from cooling system failure for 20 years.

But how old are the reactors in service?
I think you've nailed it. Nuclear power isn't safe or unsafe by itself. It's when you bring the CEOs and businessmen on the table that it becomes inherently unsafe. If we can build reactor cores who's cycle doesn't produce positive feedback and cause a core meltdown in case of cooling failure. Why haven't we replaced the old designs with the new? Because it costs money.

So we are basically gambling here. Betting that the old design will hold true until the end of life of the plant. Guess what, seems like the Japanese are losing the gamble this time.
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Old 13th March 2011, 08:15 AM   #33
Par
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Originally Posted by Java Man View Post
I think you've nailed it. Nuclear power isn't safe or unsafe by itself. It's when you bring the CEOs and businessmen on the table that it becomes inherently unsafe. If we can build reactor cores who's cycle doesn't produce positive feedback and cause a core meltdown in case of cooling failure. Why haven't we replaced the old designs with the new? Because it costs money.

So we are basically gambling here. Betting that the old design will hold true until the end of life of the plant. Guess what, seems like the Japanese are losing the gamble this time.

Sure. It still might have been a perfectly – and perhaps the only – sensible option, though.
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Old 13th March 2011, 09:10 AM   #34
Debaser
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Originally Posted by BenBurch View Post
We have known how to build reactors safe from cooling system failure for 20 years.

But how old are the reactors in service?

New designs such as we will be building in the next couple decades would be safe even in a tsunami zone.
I watched a TV program called the Politics Show on the BBC this lunchtime. The presenter posed the question what detrimental effect the events in Japan would have on the UK's plans to build several new nuclear power stations in the next decade(s).

My flippant (and obviously unheard) shouts at the screen were 'when did the UK become as seismically active as Japan', and 'why would we, in the C21st want to build Japanese/US designs from the 1960s/70s'?

This is also my stock answer to the 'Chernobyl question'. Are we now going to build a Soviet reactor design from the 1950s? Somewhat eccentric, even for us.

No-one would think to automatically use 60 year old Soviet, or 50 year old US/Japanese technology, in most other walks of life if they were building something from scratch. They may, of course, use descendants of that technology, containing all the lessons learned over 40 to 50 years of operation.

And AFAIK, nuclear reactors are the only structures designed/built in the UK which are subject to seismic design codes. I've heard some comments that suggest people think these things are thrown up and are no better than pre-fabs.
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Old 13th March 2011, 09:49 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by commandlinegamer View Post
Japan suffered at first-hand appalling devastation caused by nuclear weapons. It didn't stop them from developing a nuclear power industry. That has to take a certain amount of balls.



I hope they continue to believe this and their faith carries over onto other countries. Somehow I suspect it will not (for others).

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Old 13th March 2011, 09:58 AM   #36
marplots
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So, the expectation was that advances in science and engineering would lead to safer nuclear reactors. I think it's been done:

http://energyfromthorium.com/joomla/...d=64&Itemid=63

Time to dump the light water reactors and move to this design. No more China Syndrome, almost complete elimination of long-term waste and much, much more.
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Old 13th March 2011, 10:07 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by Nosi View Post
Many people on this forum believe nuclear power to be safe, clean, efficient energy. If it is done right and built well, a nuclear power plant should stand well against what is thrown at it.

Others believe there is no such thing as safe nuclear. Nuclear power plants are simply accidents looking for a date to happen.

The Japanese were very much "the for want of a nail" school when it came to building nuclear reactors. They made them tough and resistant to earthquakes, storms, cold to hot weather. Tough didn't cut it March 11. A 9.0 quake followed by a tsunami slapped their islands around like half chilled Jello, overwhelming the performing specs of the nuclear reactors. We are now looking down the jaws of serious consequences of having such dangerous sources of energy on a jumpy, jittery Earth.
IIRC this is the oldest reactor in Japan, it's hardly state of the art design.
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Old 13th March 2011, 10:11 AM   #38
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Just mining coal is an ecological disaster, and it's unavoidable. Using it for power is even worse. It may be "cleaner" now than before, but it still puts soot in the air and causes acid rain.
Oil spills are enormous ecological disasters. When there's a spill, it's never just a few thousand gallons - it's hundreds of thousands to BILLIONS of gallons!
Hydro requires having a nearby natural waterfall big enough and has a major environmental impact.
Other forms of generating power are good for individual use (if you can afford it), but totally impractical on a large scale.
Nuclear power, on the other hand, has a minimal impact and generates enormous amounts of electricity. It's only when something goes wrong that things get bad, and that's thankfully quite rare.
The problems Japan is facing are not due to the inherent risks of nuclear power, but the fact they just got by the biggest earthquake ever.
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Old 13th March 2011, 10:29 AM   #39
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Perhaps we should ban earthquakes?
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Old 13th March 2011, 10:33 AM   #40
Par
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Originally Posted by Soapy Sam View Post
Perhaps we should ban earthquakes?

Have them confiscated by Customs and Excisemic.
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