Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nuclear safety and George Monbiot

Becky has gone off to Atlanta and left me to fend for myself. I have written a couple of good posts this week, but now ideas are arriving faster than I can sort them out and I am starting to flounder. I googled the words nuclear safety and discovered that the wikipedia article on nuclear safety belongs in the wickedpedia category. (Note: Googling "wickedpedia" produces no hits. Now it cannot be that I am the first person to come up with the term. If I had any ambition and desire for money i would copy write "wickedpedia," but alas I have none. Poor Becky is doomed to die impoverished in her old age. At any rate the wikipedia article on nuclear safety begins with a quote from that great expert on Nuclear safety, Mark Z. Jacobson. I kid you not, the clown prince of the renewable energy circus is putting in a guest appearance as an expert on nuclear safety on the wikipedia.

The Wikipedia Nuclear Safety Article features guest appearances by Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen, Benjamin K. Sovacool, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, as well as an attack by the Stuxnet worm. The words passively safe link to a wikipedia article on auto safety. David Hahn, "The Radioactive Boy Scout" gets mentioned, but defense in depth doesn't, although the discussion indicates that defense in depth was once included in the article and thus were removed by a deliberate editorial choice.

A comment in the artcle discussion notes,
The article currently contains the statement "All reactors built outside the former Soviet Union have had negative void coefficients, a passively safe design." This is untrue--the conventional CANDU reactor design has a small but positive void coefficient; see http://www.nuclearfaq.ca/ for details.
The safety issue behind the term negative void coefficient is not explained, one of many information gapes in the "Nuclear Safety" article, yet according to the same article there is a conspiracy involving the government and the nuclear industry to withhold information from the public:
According to Stephanie Cooke, it is difficult to know what really goes on inside nuclear power plants because the industry is shrouded in secrecy. Corporations and governments control what information is made available to the public. When information is released, it is often couched in jargon and incomprehensible prose, which makes it difficult to understand.[32]
and,
Kennette Benedict has said that nuclear technology and plant operations continue to lack transparency and to be relatively closed to public view:[33]
In short the new "wickedpedia" article on nuclear safety runs a close second to the famous Onion satire, Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence. The most significant difference is that the Onion's humor was deliberate.

The writers of the wikipedia "Nuclear Safety" parody should read George Monbiot, the latest environmentalist to under go a Damascus road conversion to nuclear power. (Jesse Jenkins, the target of my Letters to Jesse has been making it increasingly clear that he is another new convert.) Monbiot has wasted no time kicking the green opponent of nuclear power in the groin. Monbiot accuses the Greens of having a double standard. That is one standard for nuclear power, and a second and very different standard for renewable generation of electricity. Monbiot has quite a good time whipping the floor with the ever so inconsistent Greens.

Monbiot's entire essay is a tour de force, and rather than quoting it, i will suggest that my pronuclear readers read it with pleasure, and that my anti-nuclear readers, read it as a call for repentence before it is too late.

I will mention Monbiot's subheadings as a hint of the treat my readers have in store. They are:

Double standard one: deaths and injuries

Double standard two: the science

Double standard three: radioactive pollution

Double standard four: mining impact

Double standard five: costs

Double standard six: research

Double standard seven: timing
Double standard six is a gem:
Last week I argued about these issues with Caroline Lucas. She is one of my heroes, and the best thing to have happened to parliament since time immemorial. But this doesn't mean that she can't be wildly illogical when she chooses. When I raised the issue of the feed-in tariff, she pointed out that the difference between subsidising nuclear power and subsidising solar power is that nuclear is a mature technology and solar is not. In that case, I asked, would she support research into thorium reactors, which could provide a much safer and cheaper means of producing nuclear power? No, she told me, because thorium reactors are not a proven technology. Words fail me.
Aussie Green, Jim Green is appropriately appalled. As are, no doubt, many others of the faithful.

Does Nuclear Grade Graphite Burn?

Does Nuclear Grade Graphite burn?

The Union of Concerned Scientists's Ed Lyman never met a reactor he liked, despited his profession that he is not prejudiced against nuclear power in principle. Are Lymans concerns about nuclear safety sound? Or is Lyman trying to lead us off the deep end? Is Lyman trying to convince us that a safe reactor is not possible? Take for example the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, a reactor that seemingly is safe. Unlike Japan's ill fated GE Mark 1 reactors if you shut down the coolant system of the PBMR, nothing bad happens. The PBMR is melt down proof. Now isn't that a safer reactor? "No way," Lyman tells us:
The PBMR has been promoted as a “meltdown-proof ” reactor that would be free of the safety concerns typical of today’s plants. However, while the PBMR does have some attractive safety features, several serious issues remain unresolved. Until they are, it is not possible to support claims that thePBMR design would be significantly safer overall than light-water reactors.
You see there Lyman is ready to rescue us from our nuclear safety illusions. What is wrong with the PBMR is simple,
A second unresolved safety issue concerns the reactor’s graphite coolant and fuel pebbles. When exposed to air, graphite burns at a temperature of 400°C, and the reaction can become self-sustaining at 550°C—well below the typical operating temperature of the PBMR. Graphite also burns in the presence of water. Thus extraordinary measures would be needed to prevent air and water from entering the core. Yet according to one expert, “air ingress cannot be eliminated by design.”
Rainer Moormann, a German reactor scientist argued that,
graphite burning caused by a huge air ingress may lead to massive fission product releases into the environment.
Genera Atomic says Lyman is wrong because nuclear grade graphite does not burn. It is often incorrectly assumed that the combustion behavior of graphite is similar to that of charcoal and coal.
Numerous tests and calculations have shown that it is virtually impossible to burn high-purity, nuclear-grade graphites. Graphite has been heated to white-hot temperatures (~1650°C) without incurring ignition or self-sustained combustion. After removing the heat source, the graphite cooled to room temperature. Unlike nuclear-grade graphite, charcoal and coal burn at rapid rates because:
* They contain high levels of impurities that catalyze the reaction.
* They are very porous, which provides a large internal surface area, resulting in more homogeneous oxidation.
* They generate volatile gases (e.g. methane), which react exothermically to increase temperatures.
* They form a porous ash, which allows oxygen to pass through, but reduces heat losses by conduction and radiation.
* They have lower thermal conductivity and specific heat than graphite.
In fact, because graphite is so resistant to oxidation, it has been identified as a fire extinguishing material for highly reactive metals.

The oxidation resistance and heat capacity of graphite serves to mitigate, not exacerbate, the radiological consequences of a hypothetical severe accident that allowed air into the reactor vessel. Similar conclusions were reached after detailed assessments of the Chernobyl event; graphite played little or no role in the progression or consequences of the accident. The red glow observed during the Chernobyl accident was the expected color of luminescence for graphite at 700°C and not a large-scale graphite fire, as some have incorrectly assumed.
Is this true? The New Scientist published a discussion of the General Atomic claim in its November 4. 1989 edition. The New Scientist investigation pointed out that the graphite in the Windscape fire was inpure, while the relatively pure graphite at Chernobyl contributed little to the that fire's heat. General Atomics in the past offered a demonstration to skeptics who wanted further convincing of their "Graphite does not burn," claim. A block of graphite would be brought out and heated to a red hot temperature. Then oxygen would be blow ovr the red hot graphite which would not catch fire. Needless to say Ed Lyman did not attend one of those demonstrations. The New Scientist did not entirely support the General Atomics Graphite does not burn claim, but the analysis came down on the side of a graphite does burn reluctantly, and is not very dangerous conclusion, pointing to Peter Kroeger's research for support.

Peter Kroeger of Brookhaven National Laboratory used a compluter simulation to check on General Atomic's claim. He found that if openings developed at two opposite ends of a graphite reactor containment structure, air could flow through the core, and graphite structures would burn some, but not very much, and certainly not enough to release radioactive materials embedded in the graphite. Kroeger remarked,
Air ingress into the primary loop requires prior depressurizatlon with significant subsequent air inflow. Scenarios that have been considered are, for Instance, a primary vessel leak such that during decay heat removal via a
main loop or an auxiliary loop, significant amounts of gas can be exchanged between the primary loop and the RB, while the operating loop forces the re- sulting gas mixture through the core [34]. (It may be hard to conceive signi- ficant air ingress and combustible gas discharge from a single break; butonly with such a large break or with several separate breaks and with simultaneous forced flow conditions can significant amounts of air be forced through the core.) Order of magnitude computations indicate that natural circulation can only result In about .1 to .3 kg/s of gas circulation through the core of a typical modular pebble bed reactor. The initial RB air Inventory of about 80 kg mol (even if none were lost during the Initial blowdown) can only cause the burning of about 400 kg of graphite. Thus, air Ingress consequences under natural circulation conditions appear to be less severe than those under the above forced cooldown scenarios.
Four hundred kilograms? That is less than a thousand pounds, hardly a roaring confligration.
Kroeger found that,
Separate code applications for air Ingress with auxiliary loop cooling [34,43,44] generally indicate that fuel temperatures are only raised slightly due to local burning, at most reaching 1200 C for a core with 1000 C design temperature. Thus, fuel failure from excessive temperature is not to be ex- pected. With auxiliary cooling the oxidation stops after 4 to 96 hrs, depend- ing on the assumed air ingress rate and the number of loops operatlij^. The maximum burn-off (averaged over a pebble) ranges from 100 to 350 mg/cm , which represents about 10 to 40% of the total exterior graphite coating of the fueled pebbles. (It should be noted that the higher values are obtained for extremely large assumed air ingress rates, which may not be realistic.)
A further review of the Lyman's (and Moormann's) claim that graphite fires an PBMR are serious nuclear safety issues, is the composition of the Pebbles of Pebble Bed Reactors. The Pebbles are complex manufactured objects. Each pebble contains an inner coat of silicon carbide a nonflamable material that is designed to contain radioactive fission products within the pebble. Any fire on the graphite surface of the pebble would be stopped by the SiC coat, and thus would not lead to a dangerous release of radioactive materials.

Needless to say, Ed Lyman forgot to mention any of Peter Kroeger's research, the General Atomic's argument, or other arguments that makes his simple "Graphite burns" statement less than a serious enditement of pebble bed reactor safety.

Even less so, does the "graphite burns" statement a serious safety objection to the use of graphite in the core of Molten Salt Reactors. It should be noted that the presence of liquid fluoride salts would be a serious inhibitor of any graphite fire, and in the event of salt drainage from a MSR core, a graphite fire would not be a safety issue, because both fission products and nuclear fuel would drain out of the core along with the coolant salt. Thus even if we reject the General Atomic's contention that Nuclear Graphite does not burn, the graphite burns objection does not appear to raise a serious concern about Molten Salt Reactor safety.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fukushima Dai-ichi: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Fukushima Dai-ichi crisis is like a horror movie, in which a very bad man, the very embodiment of evil goes on and on committing evil deeds. Nothing the victims and potential victims do to stop him is in the slightest effective. Yet despite the almost the insatiable deprivations of the bad guy, almost no one dies, although the victims are quite frightened and are constantly seen running away from the bad guy and screaming in fear. Our story features the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Dai-ichi workers have emerged as the heroes of the story. They are the good. They represent the best in the Japanese national character. They have been brave, resourceful, intelligent, and tireless. They have been quite literally prepared to die rather than to admit defeat. The Japanese engineers and technicians who are struggling to bring the Dai-ichi reactors under control have improvised because they face problems that their manuals and training never prepared them for. Despite a seemingly unending series of setbacks, the Japanese workers remain resolute. They appear prepared ready to die rather than accept defeat, although they are not taking unnecessary risks.

The good, paradoxically enough include the Japanese nuclear plants, which performed up to specifications, and would have lived out their useful lives had they not been subjected to an unusual event, a 500 year tsunami. Even at their worse, they have not produced large scale casualties. The nearby Fukushima dam performed far worse, it burst during the March 11th earthquake, 5 houses were washed away in the insuing flood, and 8 people turned up missing. Four bodies were subsequently recovered. In contrast the Dai-ichi reactors shut down properly during the earthquake, and would have survived, largely intact had not their emergency electrical system been overwealmed by the effects of the earthquake on the grid, and the tsunami on the emergency electrical system. Power for the emergency electrical system was clearly the weak point of the GE Mark 1 reactor design, but GE designers never considered the possibility that one of their Mark 1 reactors would have to face a 30+ foot tsunami.

The good should include both Westinghouse and GE, which are committed to designing and building safer reactors, although whether their safest reactors could have withstood the Dai-ichi tsunami is open to question.

The good also includes China, a nation that appears committed to the development of nuclear technology that is not just safer, but safe. China is committed to the development of at least two melt down proof reactor types, as well as other nuclear safety innovations.

The Good also include members of the Nuclear Blogging community including the usual suspects Barry Brook, Dan Yurman, Meredith Angwin, Rod Adams, Margaret Harding, and many others who have worked tirelessly to give the public accurate information, in the face of the mounting hysteria coming from the mainstream media. Nuclear bloggers have not sugar coated the bad new, but they have told the story in perspective.

In further defense of the GE Mark 1 reactor, it must be said, that nuclear safety is the product of an evolutionary process in science. As insights grow, new safety features are added to reactors, but nuclear safety is not perfect. Reactors have proven to be far safer than conventional fossil fuel energy sources and indeed far safer than renewable energy sources. The public, however, fails to appreciate the objective evidence of nuclear safety, and sees every nuclear accident as an unleashing of the nuclear boogyman. The media positively loves nuclear boogyman stories.

The bad in our story include the Japanese corporate culture which managed to ignore known safety issues with the Dai-ichi site. The Japanese Pacific coast has been repeatedly subjected to tsunamiss, and a major Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 should have given Japanese safety planners pause. The discovery, announced in 2009 that the northeastern coast of Japan is subject to 10 + meter tsunami's every 500 years or so, and that it probably had been about 500 years since the last one, appear to have not drawn Japanese safety planners attention. The Tokyo Electric Power Co., clearly failed to develop a safety culture that penetrated to the highest levels of management. They were no doubt good at operating their reactors precisely as the GE safety manuals proscribed, but they were asleep to threats that were not included in the manuel.

The bad also include the Light Water Reactor. The Light Water Reactor is far from the safest reactor design. It was attractive to the United States Navy because it represented an evolution of the boiler, a technology the Navy understood. A boiler is a closed pot which contains water. The pot can be heated and as it heats up the water will change to steam. When heated under pressure, water will remain a liquid at a temperature that is higher than the atmospheric boiling point of water. A boiler becomes more efficient as the water in it is heated past its natural boiling point, but high pressure boilers are dangerous and can explode. Thus the use of water as a coolant inside a reactor is a two edged sword. It can serve as a useful source of motive power and generating power, but it requires containment.

When atoms split inside a reactor they leave two atoms of residue. The residue is made up of isotopes of various elements. Most of those isotopes are readioactive, and radioactive means potentially dangerous, and potentially hot. Confined within a shut down reactor, radioactive isotopes continue to radiate, not hurting any one, but with the radiation comes heat, that needs to be removed from the reactor core, or the core willl heat up, till it reaches the melting temperature of the materials contained in it. If that ever happens inside a light water reactor it will go bad.

Thus a shortage of coolant water after an emergency shutdown is the worse thing that can happen to a reactor. It can change a good light water reactor into a bad light water reactor. But how bad is our light water reactor at its worse? In terms of human casualties the answer is not very. So far two workers are missing, and must be assumed dead. One of the workers reportedly died of a heart attack. A number of workers were injured, most not seriously, a numer of workers were exposed to radiation, again in most cases the radiation exposure was not serious.

Compared to the Fukushima dam failure, the casualty picture at Fukushima Dai-ichi is less grim, the media concern is highly disproportionate to the problem. Considering the amount of damage that has occurred to the Fukushima reactors, the casualty figures are remarkably light.

In addition to producing radiation and heat, Light Water Reactors can produce hydrogen gas if their emergency cooling systems braak down, and the core starts heating up. This happened at Three Mile Island, although the hydrogen remained within the containment vessel. In the Dai-ichi accidents, hydrogen gas was vented several times, and the vented hydrogen exploded inside containment buildings, damaging containment buildings and in at least one case, the spent fuel pool of another reactor. The hydrogen management system of the Mark 1 reactors proved unsatisfactory, to say the least.

The media performance during the Dai-ichi accident has been disgraceful. The media has been almost uniformly ill informed. Reporters who know nothing have done very well as panic mongers. The media has turned a industrial accident that occurred as the result of a truly horrible natural disaster, into a major story that has diverted attention away from the real story, the damage the earthquake/tsunami has done to Japan, and the thousands of casualties, and focused global attention on one aspect of the story, the Dai-ichi accident. Even worse, the media has spread an enormous amount of panic around the world concerning almost entirely harmless amounts of radioactive material. The performance of the media thus truly belong in the bad category.

Now we come to the ugly. We have a hugh mess at Dia-ichi that will probably take years to clean up. Radioactive materials have escaped into the atmosphere, and drained by now into the sea. At least small amounts of theoretically dangerous plutonium have escaped the shattered core of at least one Dai-ichi reactor. All of this is very ugly, but probably far more ugly than bad. Few if any Japanese are likely to end up suffering illnesses related to radiation exposure or to exposure to radioactive materials. Don't get me wrong, the escape of radioactive materials is not at all desirable, but it is far less dangerous than the media portrays it to be. Most of the escaping materials are likely to be nobel radioactive gases, that are quickly dispersed in the atmosphere. In addition nobel radioactive gases are not biologically active and don't stick around if even the slightest breeze is blowing. Thy are just not very dangerous except when they enter the imagination.

The volatile fission products are a little more dangerous than the radioactive nobel gases, but not a great deal more dangerous if exposed people take their potassium iodine pills. Radioisotopes are seen by the public and the media as the main feature of the nuclear horror show, but they are a vastly overhyped menace, far more ugly than dangerous.

The public relations performance of the nuclear power industry continues to remain ugly. It has historically failed to address public fears about nuclear safety, even though by conventional standards it builds and uses a safe product. The Dai-ichi crisis has caught the reactor manufacturers - many of them Japanese - flat footed, and they have yet to come up with a well thought through account of their commitment to public safety.

The performance of the de facto anti-nuclear Union of Concerned Scientists, an organization that never misses a trick to spread nuclear-phobic panic, has been consistently ugly. Along with the anti-nuclear Greenpeace, the Union of Concerned Scientists has aided the media in creating and spreading public radiation panic. Neither organization wants to develop safe reactors. The goal of these organizations is to remove nuclear power from the public list of tools to fight global warming. If they succeed their classification should be changed from ugly to bad.

Finally in the ugly category we must place the United States Government with its 40 year effort to impede the development of safer reactor designs. Unlike China, which is willing to look at safety potential as a valuable component to reactor development, the United States Government has put the development of radical improvements in nuclear safety in the back of the bus.

Finally, we must include in the ugly category a public which has allowed nuclear-phobic fears to interfere with its own best interest. We have a public that fears nuclear power far more than it fears its automobiles despite the tens of thousands of automobile casualties it experiences every year. In coming years the American public may pay a very high price for its unwillingness to take any risk at all on nuclear generated power. The future will not belong to cowards.

Monday, March 28, 2011

There will be great noise and confusion and the earth will shake

In effect I pointed out yesterday that there are as of yet no credible critics of thorium/LFTR/MSR technology. Many of our colleagues do not understand the technology that is represented by the LFTR brand, and they are a whole lot more likely to understand than nuclear critics, whose agenda is not exactly strong on technological sophistication. Even less do most of my colleagues understand why I think the the LFTR is so important.

More intelligent criticism is likely to come from nuclear supporters than nuclear critics. But these unfriendly pro-nuclear but anti-LFTR critics may not be so well informed. For examplethe 'New Scientist' has just posted a generally positive article on thorium and the LFTR. In the middle of the article a negative view is reported,
Pavel Tsvetkov, a nuclear engineer at Texas A&M University in College Station, points out that many of the claimed safety advantages of LFTRs must still be proved in more detailed studies. "Safety research is yet to be done," he says.
It would be nice to know more about Tsvetkov views. We know from ORNL research documents that a good deal of MSR safety research that would directly apply to the LFTR was done. What are Tsvetkov views on that research? When I Googled Pavel Tsvetkov's name, I found that he teaches nuclear engineering at Texas A&M,but no links to his views onMSR/LFTR safety. What does he view as the significant gaps in MSR/LFTR safety research?Tsvetkov would, for example, be accorded an opportunity to lay out his views on the Energy from Thorium discussion pages, but he has not done so. And as far as I can tell, he has not written a paper on MSR safety issues. Well thought out criticism can be painful, but it can also be helpful.

If Tsvetkov wishes to set out his views in an informal setting, he is welcome to post them on Nuclear Green. But as matters currently stand Tsvetkov has not told us anything helpful.

We do need nuclear safety. but we also need to find answers, because we face a crisis that threatens our existence as a civilization. We need a new source if energy to keep our civilization going.

In 1942 my uncle Robert Barton as a book keeper for a coal mine in the Cumberland Mountains of Western Anderson County, Tennessee. He lived in the small Cumberland Mountain town of Fork Mountain. Periodically mu uncles job required him to drive to Knoxville on Tennessee highway 116 to Tennessee Highway 62 and then passed through a gap in Waldens Ridge at Oliver Springs then drove past the small Anderson County communities of Robertsville and Scarboro, and eventually to the Solway Bridge and on into Knox County. The scenery on he journey is beautiful, and the mountain and ridge roads winging. One day probably in October, 1942, Uncle Robert finished his business in Knoxville, and headed back home, but he found Solway Bridge blocked by an Army Roadblock. Guards at the road block told him to find an alternative road home. My uncle did not drive on highway 62 between Oliver Springs and Solwayagain until 1949, and by that time he lived in a different world. Robertsville and Scarboro had disappeared along with the communities of Wheat,Bethal, Edgemoor and Elza. The vision of local Prophet John Hendrix had amazingly come to pass.At the beginning of the 20th century Hendrix had told his fmily and friends,
“Bear Creek Valley some day will be filled with great buildings and factories and they will help toward winning the greatest war that will ever be.”

“There will be a city on Black Oak Ridge and the center of authority will be on a spot middle-way between Sevier Tadlock’s farm and Joe Pyatt’s Place.”

“A railroad spur will branch off the main L&N line, run down toward Robertsvilleand then branch off and turn toward Scarbrough.”

“Big engines will dig big ditches and thousands of people will be running to and fro. They will be building things and there will be great noise and confusion and the earth will shake.”
In 1949 the new City of Oak Ridge emerged from behind its gates, and with it the world of atomic energy. In 1942 my uncle had witnessed the end of world of business as usual. I witnessed its return in 1949 with the opening of the Oak Ridge gates.

A few days more than a year after my uncle encountered an Army road block as Solway Bridge, an amazing thing happened, the second nuclear reactor built in all human history was turned on in Bethel Valley. The reactor called X-10 or the graphite pile was one of the earliest accomplishments of the Manhattan project. Far larger projects emerged in Bear Creek Vally where tens of thousands of workers toiled to build a great factory and at the former site of Wheat, where tens of thousands more workers toiled to build a second great factory. These two factories, the products of so much human toil were eventually to produce enough of a substance called Uranium-235 to build weapon to be dropped on a city called Hiroshima in Japan.

One of those huge factories was called K-25. It was built in a huge U shaped building a half mile long that was built in less than two years at a cost of over $6 billion 2011 dollars. When K-25 construction began, the engineers and scientists who were designing its production process were far from sure how its production process would work. The desperation of an all out war and the fear that the enemy would uncover the secret of the process first, motivated national leaders to throw caution to the wind, and to take risks that the best scientists in the world come up with the answers. They did.

A society like individuals can under go existential crises. When a society undergoes an existential crisis, business as usual may no longer seem important, and the pace of change may greatly speed up. Tasks which might require a generation at a business as usual pace, may require a year or two. My uncle's world changed in 1942 because a society and its leadership believed that the nations existence was threatened, and that the nation must take action to insure its survive. It will happen again.

I believe that one day our society will get most of its power from the LFTR. Visions will come to pass, as they have in the past. New technologies will emerge, seemingly overnight. There will be a period of great confusion and a period of excitement, and then business as usual will return.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

45th Nuclear Energy Carnival

The 45th Nuclear Energy Carnival has been posted on Dan Yurman's blog, Idaho Samizdat: Nuclear Notes. This is perhaps the largest Carnival yet. I won't attempt to detail individual posts, but the the carenival does offer assessments of the status of nuclear energy durung the critical period after the Fukushima Dai=ichi accident.

Branding alternative nuclear technology

Kirk Sorensen should be given credit for establishing a new nuclear brand, the LFTR (for Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor). Kirk coined the phrase and brought the term into regular use in discussions of nuclear power. The old Oak Ridge term was the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor (MSBR), and while Kirk's term is somewhat more specific, the MSBR was a LFTR, and all LFTRs will be MSBRs. So when Kirk decided to to go with the LFTR brand, he was introducing new language but not a new concept.

Ostensibly the term Molten Salt Reactor had a negative connotation. The word Molten suggests the Hawaiian Goddess Pele, to whom virgins were allegedly sacrificed. It is hard to imagine Oak Ridge scientists sacrificing a virgin to a Molten Salt Reactor, but if they did so, it might now be regarded as cool. If we really need sacrifices to nuclear power how about popcorn rather than virgins.

One of the ironies of the LFTR brand is that now that it has been established, it now becomes possible that the first commercial Molten Salt Reactors may use the uranium rather than the thorium fuel cycle.

If you think that this discussion so far has been silly and trivial, you ain't seen nothin' yet. As I pointed out in my last post, the media is so hungry for "nuclear experts" who can bring the LFTR down, that even clowns like Norm Rubin, who have never done a lick of research can call themselves the nuclear research directors for this or that organization and get quoted by journalists, and anti-nuclear clowns who lack even an earned BS in physics, can call themselves physicists, and chief scientist, and despite making repeated scientific errors which they have never acknowledged or retracted, regularly get quoted by the mainstream media. Look for one such clown making silly pronouncements about thorium and the LFTR and getting quoted by the mainstream media in the near future.

With the increasing media attention to the potential of thorium and the LFTR, more anti-nuclear opponents are pretending to be thorium/LFTR experts and hoodwinking the oh so willing to be hoodwinked journalists who write about nuclear matters. A couple of such experts areArjun Makhijani and Michele Boyd who wrote a very poorly informed fact sheet about thorium last year. Dr. Alexander Cannara wrote a letter to the organizations that published the Makhijani and Boyd fact sheet, pointing out some of its more glaring errors,
I’ll begin at the heart of the inaccuracy and misleading nature of the piece – it considers only solid nuclear fuels. As a result, it achieves three major failings: 1) it displays the authors as unaware of nuclear-reactor designs that are indeed safer than present LWR/BWR solid-fuelled systems; 2) it suggests PSR and/or IEER don’t have proper review procedures; and 3) it illustrates the danger of bias in content that gives the appearance of motivation to mislead readers. None of the above are excusable, especially not for any organizations using the words “Responsible“ or “Resource Service” in their names. In other words, the result of the report’s failings is to mark it as an example of exactly the kind of misleading document we need less of today and in the future. Perhaps it’s served as a lobbying tool, but we have far too much of that everywhere today, as well. So, in the interest of responsibility to our fellow citizens across the globe, here are comments you say you “encourage”:

a) Paragraphs 2, 9, 10 & 13 are mutually inconsistent as to the danger of natural Thorium (isotope 232), apparently attempting to strike fear in the reader about a mildly radioactive metal that’s still half here because its half life is the age of the known universe. By definition, such a long-lived nucleus is hardly a danger. In fact, about every cubic meter of rock on Earth, Moon & Mars has 12 grams of Th232, which turns out to be enough to feed a reactor that meets an American’s energy-consuming needs for about a decade.

b) In additional sentences you refer to Th232 mining as “posing long-term hazards”, yet you fail to mention that mining for it is unnecessary, because Thorium is a byproduct of most “rare-earth” mining around the world and with a 14-billion year half life, constitutes not only no danger when treated properly, but has been stockpiled by DoE in sufficient pure-metal quantities to obviate any mining to meet all US energy needs for about a decade. How is it that the authors didn’t report this?

c) By the way, the company you list as “advocating for Thorium fuel” is no longer under the name you list, but is now LightBridge.

d) Again in the 2nd paragraph, the authors evidence ignorance of the liquid-fuel cycle successfully developed and used at ORNL between 1954 and 1974 – discontinued because it could not be used for weapons. So, saying: “Thorium doesn’t solve the proliferation, waste, safety…problems and still faces major technical hurdles…” simply underscores ignorance, intentional or otherwise, of the well-documented successes of Alvin Weinberg’s team at Oak Ridge over 40 years ago. They used liquid (molten-salt) fuel cycles, of which Th232-U233 is most relevant & promising today. So the generalizations of paragraph 2 are specious.

e) The 3rd paragraph continues the error above and fails to mention that not only can Th232 be easily bred to U233 in molten salt, but the resulting U233 (which doesn’t occur in nature) fissions far more completely than other U or Pu isotopes, leading immediately to lower waste production. See reaction diagram attached summary (your authors could easily have found this).

f) The 4th paragraph is irrelevant for the same reason – the authors for some reason are unaware of the very safe, successful, anti-proliferation fuel cycle invented by Weinberg. The reason we should respect him is not least that he stood up for nuclear safety, despite having patents on the light-water reactors we’ve been deploying, and which he rightly considered dangerous in operation as well as in waste. In other words, we should all be grateful and study what his team did, in service to the oath scientists, engineers & doctors make for benefit to all.

g) The 5th paragraph is oddly wrong, even manipulative of the facts – “U233 is as effective as PU239 for making bombs”. Later in the same piece the authors warn of the natural coexistence of U233 & 232, the latter being highly radioactive (gamma). It can’t be had both ways – if a bomb is attempted with U233, enough U232 will naturally occur such that not only will workers be killed very soon, any successfully-constructed weapon would be so radioactive in penetrating gammas that its surrounding controls & delivery mechanisms would be ruined. And, it would be extremely hard to hide & easy to detect. U233 is in no way a military or terrorist weapon, rather it would eliminate any terrorists foolish enough to try to use it. But again, this paragraph is irrelevant because it assumes existence of solid U233 fuel, which is exactly not the Wienberg MSR design. The authors should know this.

h) Paragraph 5 continues the odd ignorance of ORNL’s MSR program and talks about enriching Uranium to start “existing reactors using thorium fuel”. This is, of course, not at all the issue relating to Thorium & MSRs. In fact, DoE also has a U233 stockpile, which could be used to start a Th232-fed MSR, but there would never be any “enriched fuel” sitting around for theft – it would all exist as, say, Fluoride salts, dissolved into the simple MSR chemistry. The Th232-U233 transmutation can even be started with a medical proton-accelerator, as the Japanese have done. This again is a surprising hole in the authors’ writing that proper review would have corrected. We all like our medical procedures & drugs to be properly developed & reviewed, but apparently this has not been PSR’s or IEER’s objective.

i) The paragraphs from here through 8 are equally irrelevant to Thorium use in MSRs. But, paragraph 7 contains the relevant U232 information cited in g) above.

j) The 8th paragraph is singularly misleading, because there’s no “spent fuel” in an MSR – all Th232 & U233 are consumed, and there’s never a scheduled shutdown for refueling, because of the very nature of the design – an unpressurized,liquid. ThF4 or UF4 (or even higher U & Pu isotopes as salts) are simply added into the molten mix as it’s pumped around the reactor & heat-exchanger plumbing. It’s what every chemist understands & loves: liquid, unpressurized chemistry. And, since all fuel is consumed, an MSR can be used to reduce nuclear wastes down to any level desired, even on the site of a de-commissioned U/Pu reactor. This is exactly the kind of ability responsible scientists, engineers, doctors, politicians and citizens care about. PSR/IEER proliferation of this paper hides what is perhaps the most important knowledge we need today to pursue a weapons-free world — MSRs can consume them all. Why the authors say nothing of this deserves intense scrutiny. For details…

www.thoriumenergyalliance.com/downloads/TEAC2_LarsJorgensen.pdf

k) The 11th & 12th paragraphs continue on the irrelevant tack of “reprocessing” and loose, solid U232/233. The MSR has none of this outside an 800degC molten salt.

l) Paragraph 13 makes an oddly unscientific guess that a “thorium fuel cycle is likely to be even more costly” that a Uranium one. As any nuclear engineer or physicist knows, the enrichment process for Uranium fuel is very expensive. Since Thorium is a common byproduct of such mining as for “rare earths” (ignoring our decade stockpile), and 100% of Thorium supplied to an MSR is consumed over its years of operation, then it’s indeed incredulous that anyone would try to say a far less abundant element, whose isotopic concentration must be strenuously altered from its natural state, and which, in solid-fuel form, can only be under 1/10 consumed, is less “costly”. For use in an MSR, Thorium simply needs to be Fluorinated to a salt that gets dumped into a pot of sister molten salts sitting aside a reactor.

In summary, it’s not a bad deal to have a byproduct of strategic materials mining serve to safely provide power around the world, even in space, at about $2/Watt, with no proliferation risk, 0.1% of current Pu waste, and about 50lbs of other wastes per GW-year. Of course, that’s what the liquid-salt reactor gives us, when using Thorium as the fertile input. But the same liquid process can even be used to consume all existing and future wastes, as desired. These all exactly result from Alvin Weinberg’s sense of honest dedication & responsibility.

Rather than attempting to mislead the world about Thorium in narrow uses, PSR & IEER, and all who passed around, unquestioned, the Makhijani & Boyd paper as gospel, owe the world’s citizens an apology and a rewrite of Thorium as a likely useful tool to environmentally meet our energy and fresh-water needs via molten-salt reactors.

To date, neither of the publishing organizations, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Nuclear Information and Resource Service, have published a revision of Thorium Fuel: No Panacea for Nuclear Power,” let alone a retraction.

Kirk Sorensen has recently added another critique of the Makhijani and Boyd fact sheet. kirk concludes,
Makhijani and Boyd fail to consider the implications of the liquid-fluoride thorium reactor on all aspects relating to the benefits of thorium as a nuclear fuel. They fail to consider its strong benefits with regards to nuclear proliferation, since no operational nuclear weapon has ever been fabricated from thorium or uranium-233. They fail to consider how LFTR can be used to productively consume nuclear weapons material made excess by the end of the Cold War. They fail to consider the reduction in nuclear waste that would accompany the use of LFTR. They fail entirely to account for the safety features inherent in a LFTR—how low-pressure operation and a chemically-stable fuel form allow the reactor to have a passive safety response to severe accidents. They fail to account for the improvement in cost that would be realized if LFTRs were to efficiently use thorium, reduce the need for mining fossil fuels, and increase the availability of energy.

Mr. Makhijani and Ms. Boyd should retract this statement in its entirety as flawed and deceptive to a public that needs clear and accurate information about our energy future.
Of course, Makhijani and Boyd will not either retract their errors or revise their fact sheet. Why should they? Green advocates will repeat everything they say, and the mainstream media will continue to fall for the Makhijani and Boyd hoax, just like the media falls for the erronious claims of the green chief scientists whose many scientific mistakes have been repeatedly pointed out, and for the unsubstantiated claims of Director of Research Norm Rubin who has never published a research report. Kirk has zealously and rightly defended the LFTR brand from stories told by fools. Hopefully the media will not fall off the deep end on this one.

The "Nuclear Energy Experts" and the Canadian Media

Norm Rubin is an expert on nuclear energy. I know this because the Mainstream Canadian media has made this assertion several times, the latest by Antonia Zerbisias, in the Canadian National Newspaper, the Toronto Stat. Zerbisias reports that Norm Rubin is
Energy Probe’s director of nuclear research and senior policy analyst.
But what does that mean? First Energy Probe is just a web page is a Canadian anti-nuclear franchise. Secondly the Energy Probe Research Foundation states that,
Norm Rubin is a highly sought-after public speaker and has more than 500 public speaking engagements under his belt. He has been with EPRF for more than 20 years, working as a researcher in the nuclear field, and is now one of Canada's leading critics of the nuclear industry. He has appeared at many hearings and court proceedings as an expert witness and has written extensively on the nuclear industry. Mr. Rubin has also made a number of appearances on radio and television shows.
Rubin is quoted by the The Star as saying,
“Thorium doesn’t eliminate the problems,” . . . “If the nuclear industry’s problem was affording uranium, then switching to thorium might solve their problem. But that’s not their problem. The fuel cost in today’s reactors is a tiny fraction of the total cost. That’s not what is giving the Ontario government sticker shock about the next two reactors at Darlington. They’re solving a non-problem by substituting a cheaper fuel for uranium. Unless they solve the big problems, they’ve got a curiosity there instead of a practical solution to anybody’s problems.”
Note that Rubin does not say what "the problem" is, or what he means by "the big problems." Rubin talks about practicle solutions, but how do we know that he has the slightest idea what he is talking about?

When I tried Googling Norm Rubin I found that he is listed as a staffer by the Energy Prob, but has only two posts to the Energy Probe pages to his credit. Two posts is not very much for someone who has carried the fancy title of Research Director for many years. Neither of Rubin's posts relate to thorium. His staff duties for the Energy Probe are not specified. He has no papers or essays on thorium or the LFTR listed on Google. The Energy Probe has not published any essays or research papers on thorium or the LFTR. He is not listed among the 950+ participants on Thorium/LFTR related discussions on Energy From Thorium. So who is this guy? A Google search has uncovered the fact that he once testified before the Ontario Energy Board's about the Integrated Power System Plan (IPSP), and reportedly he is so afraid of radiation that he has never been inside a nuclear power plant. Where is the work product that would serve as evidence of his expertise? Yet Canadian Media accepts him as an expert on Nuclear power. So much the worse for the quality of the Canadian Media.

Ok so Rubin is a talker, not a researcher. He is an anti-nuclear brand spokesperson. His title makes what he has to say seem more credible, but does not establish that there is any research at all behind Rubin's public pronouncements. The Canadian media accords Rubin expert status, because they wish to accord some balance to their stories which suggest that there is a valid scientific controversy about the safety and usefulness of nuclear power. But are we talking here about good journalism, or are we talking about journalists collaboration in a hoax that is contrary to the public interest?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Nuclear Accidents and Public Perception of Nuclear Safety

Nuclear safety is both about public perception, the viewpoint of the enemies of nuclear power, and about actual industrial design and practice. Relative to other industries the safety practices of the nuclear industry are very good. This assessment can be made even though the nuclear industry has just gone through its second worst accident. An accident which involved not one but 4 reactors. There were significant releases of highly radioactive fission products, although the total public exposure was small. Workers at the Fukoshima Dai-ichi nuclear plant were exposed to higher levels of radiation, although not enough to toast them. Several reactors were destroyed, and explosions destroyed several containment buildings.

The Dai-ichi accident was due to a planning failure. The reactor site plan did not allow for a 10 + meter high tsunami, ands important reactor safety equipment was overwhelmed and taken out of service by a 10 + meter tsunami. Beyond the failure of the emergency back up generators, the Dai-Ichi reactors were were designed utilizing the nuclear safety science of the day, and while reasonably safe, they were not the safest reactors possible. Indeed the term "safest reactor possible" is ambiguous, because there is a history of nuclear safety, and the history of nuclear safety demonstrates that not every choice that was made regarding nuclear safety was made with the idea of developing the safest possible nuclear technology in mind.

Unfortunately the goal of the United States Atomic Energy Commission in the 1960's was not to create the safest possible nuclear technology, it was to promote the expansion of still very weak nuclear manufacturing and energy production industries to a position of dominance in electrical production. This can be illustrated by a document which Kirk Sorensen has recently drawn attention too. A 1962 report by the AEC to President Kennedy titled, "Civilian Nuclear Power."

This report was signed by a Nobel Prize winning scientist, who was also the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Glenn T. Seaborg. The word safety appeared only once in the report. One page 60 the report contained the suggestion that future licensing reviews should concentrate
on those features which have an effect on the health and safety of the general public.
the report added,
This will be easier to accomplish as reactors become more standardized.
Thus the attitude of the AEC and of Seaborg appears to have been to let nuclear safety take care of itself without further research. Nor did the AEC consider the safety potential of various nuclear technologies important enough to note in its Report to President Kennedy. This neglect was not by accident. Rather it reflected a fundamental attitude of the leadership of the Washington nuclear establishment, which included Seaborg, fellow AEC Commissioner James T. Ramsey, Congressman Chet Hollifield, and AEC bureaucrat Milton Shaw. Within a few years this neglect of nuclear safety would serve as a back drop for the development of a powerful anti-nuclear movement, and a split within the AEC's own research establishment, that would see research scientists testifying against the AEC before Congressional committees.

The Washington nuclear establishment appears to have jointly held a broad set of beliefs about nuclear technology which included:
* The safety of Light Water Reactor (LWR) technology had been established by the United States Navy
* Reactor safety could be assured by adhering to United States Navy nuclear safety practices
* Of all advanced nuclear technologies, Liquid Metal Fast Breeder (LMFBR) technology was the most promising
*Like LWR technology, LMFBR technology was mature
* Other nuclear technologies were less promising, and there for future AEC programs should focus on LWR and LMFBR technologies
* LWR technology simply needed to be implemented, and obstacles should be moved out of that path
* The next step in the development of nuclear technology was the construction of a LMFBR prototype
This set of beliefs was to have an extremely unfortunate effect on the development of nuclear power in the United States, and globally.

It should be noted that scientists within the AEC's own research establishments did not accept the Washington Nuclear Establishment's consensus. Scientists at the AEC's national Laboratories were by no means satisfied with the safety of Light Water Reactors. In particular scientists at the AEC's reactor research facility in Idaho, as well as at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, were concerned that not enough was known about reactor safety, to judge the safety of Light Water Reactors. In addition a continuing series of accidents involving LMFBR prototypes, suggested that the maturity of LMFBR technology had not reached to level of safety that would justify a description of that technology as mature.

One particular problem troubled early nuclear safety researchers,
Because of the scarcity of useful information on fission-product release from fuels, it was necessary, in order to evaluate the safety of early nuclear reactors, to assume that 100% or a large percentage of the fission products would be released to the containment systems in nuclear reactor accidents.
Thus early on conceptual evaluations of nuclear accidents began to paint dark pictures of huge numbers of civilian casualties. Unfortunately, these dark pictures. though not justified by research, still influence public concerns over nuclear safety. The Washington nuclear establishment, focused as it was on the development of a nuclear industry, did not understand the extent to which the public perception of nuclear power would be influenced by the concerns of reactor scientists. Thus by the late 1960's as the nuclear establishment's project was taking shape, the public's perception of the danger of that project was also growing. The nuclear establishment's opposition to further nuclear safety research, which had emerged during the 1960's, became item one in the case against nuclear power presented by a powerful and growing anti-nuclear movement.

In addition to its mistaken beliefe that the safety of light water reactors was established beyond reasonable doubt, the nuclear establishment had concluded that the liquid metal fast breeder reactor wasw by far the prefered line of development for the future of nuclear power. Yet scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory had been able to demonstrate that reactors cooled by liquid salts had the potential to offer numerous advantages over water or liquid metal cooled reactors. Not the least of those advantages lay in the relm of nuclear safety. Molten Salt nuclear technology has superior safety potential, but since the Washington nuclear establishment underestimated the importance of the nuclear safety problem, it did not considered MSR safety potential to be an important attribute.

I personally have no doubt that in most situations that reactors are extremely safe when judged by conventional industrial safety standards. Those standards, however, have not penetrated public perception of nuclear power, and we still face both a public and political leadership, which still believes that the consequences of a nuclear accident may be far worse, than is rationally possible, and hens reactors are far less safe, than experience suggests they are.

It is clear that LWRs are not 100% safe. The Fukushima Dai-ichi accident (or accidents) has demonstrated that at least some safety features of older reactors can be overwealmed by natural disasters. To date the consequences of the Dai-ichi accident have fallen far short of a catastrophy. But whether the public is aware of the distinction between an accident and a catastrophy is open to question. For the enemies of nuclear power, acident and catastrophy are the same thing.

It is clear however, that reactors that could have withstood the natural events that brought about the Dai-ichi accidents are possible. It is clear that better nuclear safety is possible. Better public information on nuclear safety is also possible. It is urgently important to move forwards with the development of safe, low cost and scaliable nuclear technology will be of vital importance for the future of sociate. We now have lss than 40 years to accomplish this. The nuclear safety issue must be resolved, and the public reassured that a nuclear future wqill be a safew future.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How the LFTR would have survived the Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami

Future nuclear safety tests should include capacity to survive the events which lead to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant crisis. The real survival test would require the same flawed backup generator system that was destroyed by the tsunami that struck the plant. Of course, we are not going to talk about every conceivable tsunami. For example, it is highly likely that the island of Oahu will rupture someday, dropping a large part of it into the Pacific Ocean, creating a huge tsunami. That would be a megatsunami. Since megatsunami can be up to 1000 meters high, we need not worry about a coastal reactor surviving all tsunami. No one will be around in the vicinity of a 1000 meter megatsunami to worry about a subsequent nuclear accident.

This leads us to the question of acceptable nuclear risks, a fit topic for another post. At any rate we are looking, right now, at how well the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) or any otherMolten Salt Reactor (MSR) would have survive the natural disaster that overwhelmed the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

First it should be noted that Molten Salt Reactors do not require water cooling at all. Hence the loss of the emergency cooling generator system would have not been a serious problem by itself. Lets explore an accident scenarios that is at worst remote possibility, a key pipe ruptures triggering a loss of coolant accident. Say the entire content of the core coolant system - a liquid salt mixture - drains on to the floor of the reactor chamber. and forms a puddle. Since the nuclear fuel is dissolved in the coolant salts it will be deposited into the puddle. Now the interesting thing about a puddle is that its geometry is not at all conducive to a chain reaction, so the loss of coolant in turn triggers a withdrawal of nuclear fuel from the core, which in turn triggers a termination of the chain reaction, so the reactor automatically stops functioning.

Now the puddle, even though we can expect it to be short lived, might be a problem because radioactive gaseous fission products, dissolved in the fuel salt, are likely to bubble out along with volatile fission products.

Our puddle will not stay on the floor - it quickly drains into a pipe leading into a set of emergency coolant tanks, which are intended to hold the fuel mixture until the reactor can be repaired and restarted. The geometry of the tanks would be intended to prevent a chain reaction from occurring, but the fuel salt would include some radioactive fission products capable of generating the sort of post reactor shutdown heat that created so many problems in the Japanese reactors. Is there any way to insure that the liquid salt in the emergency coolant tanks does not start boiling and releasing a lot of nasty stuff? There turnout to be several passive solutions to this problem.

One: Draw air over a simple heat exchange system designed to dissipate some of the heat in the emergency tanks. Not too much heat, since we want the coolant liquid to remain hot and well, liquid. The heated air can be directed to a chimney, through which it flows into the atmosphere. The system thus requires no power, no controls and no operators. It works automatically, relying on the laws of nature to function.

Two: Rely on a thermal sink, most likely a molten or solid salt, such as the salt that carries the fuel. The inner emergency coolant tanks could be surrounded by an outer thermal sink tank. Or the coolant tank could be shaped like a donut, with inner and outer thermal sink tanks removing heat. A large enough thermal sink would probably be sufficient to dissipate heat without requiring any further heat transfer system. There is a cost for a large thermal sink salt tank system. The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR), for example, relies on this thermal inertia to prevent the reactor from overheating during an emergency shutdown, but this approach is likely to add considerably to IFR costs. However, a thermal salt vault approach combining energy storage with the safety function of decay hear dispassion, would probably would add minimally to reactor cost, while offering a source of reserve electricity.

Three: One proactive LFTR safety approach would be to remove some or even most of the fission products from the reactor. Removal of radioactive gases would be very desirable for a number of reasons. For example. as Uri Gat, and H.L. Dodds pointed out,
The source term, which is the inventory of radioisotopes in the reactor available for dispersion to the environment, contributes two-fold to an accident. The source term is the measure of the radiation which needs to be contained from reaching any sensitive location or target. The energy contained in the source term also provides the driving force for the dispersion of the source term as it is also a measure of the after heat, or the energy, to damage a reactor in the event of heat-removal failure or loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA). For an MSR, as for any fluid fuel reactor, on-line fuel processing can be applied. The on-line processing, at the least, removes the gaseous and volatile part of the source term. This part is the most likely to be dispersed when there is a breach of containment. Fuel processing also reduces the inventory of longer and long-lived isotopes as their accumulation is time dependent. The MSRs processing can be adjusted to have a small source term. The safety advantages of this small source term are many fold: The driving force for dispersion is reduced; the gaseous and volatile components, which are the most likely to disperse, are essentially all but eliminated; the long half-life isotopes (elements) are reduced such that the long-term effect of even the most unlikely accident is not severe; and, the short-lived isotopes require a proportionately short-term protection time till they decay. Thus, even a hypothetical severe accident is ameliorated a priori.

A properly designed processing facility quickly removes the separated radioisotopes from the purview of the reactor. This makes them totally unavailable to the reactor source term even under the most extreme hypothesized circumstances.
In addition to removing fission product gases, and volatile fission products, removal of nobel metals would be highly desirable from an operational point of view. Gat and Dodds state,
The source term, which is the inventory of radioisotopes in the reactor available for dispersion to the environment, contributes two-fold to an accident. The source term is the measure of the radiation which needs to be contained from reaching any sensitive location or target. The energy contained in the source term also provides the driving force for the dispersion of the source term as it is also a measure of the after heat, or the energy, to damage a reactor in the event of heat-removal failure or loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA). For an MSR, as for any fluid fuel reactor, on-line fuel processing can be applied. The on-line processing, at the least, removes the gaseous and volatile part of the source term. This part is the most likely to be dispersed when there is a breach of containment. Fuel processing also reduces the inventory of longer and long-lived isotopes as their accumulation is time dependent. The MSRs processing can be adjusted to have a small source term. The safety advantages of this small source term are many fold: The driving force for dispersion is reduced; the gaseous and volatile components, which are the most likely to disperse, are essentially all but eliminated; the long half-life isotopes (elements) are reduced such that the long-term effect of even the most unlikely accident is not severe; and, the short-lived isotopes require a proportionately short-term protection time till they decay. Thus, even a hypothetical severe accident is ameliorated a priori.

A properly designed processing facility quickly removes the separated radioisotopes from the purview of the reactor. This makes them totally unavailable to the reactor source term even under the most extreme hypothesized circumstances.
Removing all radioisotopes from a Molten Salt Reactor removes the protection that those isotopes afford. As long as the salt contains radioactive fission products, it will be far too dangerous to handle for nefarious purposes, such as the eternal bogeyman of nuclear proliferation. Salt processing can be conducted by automatic equipment inside the reactor core hot cell. The heat and radiation inside the hot cell would prevent anyone having near real-time access to a MSR.

One way of managing a reactor situation that is likely to lead to an accident, is to design a built in failure point, analogous to an electrical fuse or other weak link, which will fail before anything else. One such deliberate failure point in the MSR is the freeze valve; if a LFTR or other MSR begins to overheat, the freeze valve is designed to melt as Gat and Dodds explained,
The MSR can utilize freeze valves in critical locations or where desired. Freeze valves can be ordinary sections of pipe which are exposed to a cooling stream of environmental gas to the extent that it creates a frozen plug that blocks the flow and acts as a valve. Where such a valve has a safety function, as in draining the fuel to the storage tanks, it is prudent to design it such that the required flow is
gravity-driven. The frozen valve itself can be designed such that when the salt rises above a certain predetermined temperature the heat overrides the cooling, melts the frozen plug and opens the valve. Such an arrangement is passive, inherent and non-tamperable (PINT-safe).

Furthermore, the properly sized external cooling of the freeze valve cooling drive, such as an electric driven fan, will cease with any failure of the power and release the valve to melt and perform its safety function. This mode of operation is again PINT-safe.
Once the freeze melts, a MSR will simulate a total loss of coolant accident, with fuel/coolant salts dumped into a tank or tanks that are designed with a criticality inhibiting geometry. In his paper 2006 paper, Molten-Salt-Reactor Technology Gaps (Proceedings of ICAPP ‘06, Reno, NV USA, June 4–8, 2006, Paper 6295), MIT nuclear scientist Charles Forsberg stated,
Under emergency conditions, the liquid fuel is drained to passively cooled critically safe dump tanks. By the use of freeze valves (cooled sections of piping) and other techniques, this safety system can be passively initiated upon overheating of the coolant salt. MSRs operate at steady-state conditions, with no change in the nuclear reactivity of the fuel as a function of time. Last, the option exists to remove fission products online and then solidify those radionuclides into a stable waste form. This minimizes the radioactive inventory (accident source term) in the reactor core and potential accident consequences.
In addition to the very useful freeze plug, the capacity of molten salt to freeze at a still relatively high temperature is directly responsible for another MSR, its automatic leak control. As hot salt leaks from reactor piping, it begins to cool on contact with hot cooler air, and as it cools, it freezes, blocking further escape of coolant salt. Reportedly this mechanism is very effective in stopping leaks if they occur.

At this point I have established the case which I have sought to prove, the tsunami that destroyed the back up generators of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, would have left the safety systems of the LFTR in tact.

This is not the only MSR advantage. According to a group pf French nuclear scientist from the University of Grenoble, the MSR does not simply offer a high probability of safety, it offers an
excellent level of deterministic safety,
That is, safety depending only on the laws of nature and thus safety that is beyond doubt. The MSR is uniquely stable. It can be designed to safely operate without any human intervention, until such time as repairs or parts replacement is required. Thus, MSRs do not require on site operators, and indeed the stability and load following ability of the MSR are such that operators would have quite literally nothing to do. The absence of human operators would probably add to MSR safety, rather than inhibit it. that is safety that depends on the laws of nature and thus safety that is beyond doubt.

It is probably true that the safety systems of the AP-1000 and the ESBWR would have survived the Dai-ichi tsunami. But compared to the simple safety features of MSRs, the safety systems of even advanced LWRs are complex and expensive. Molten salt nuclear technology offers many potential cost saving advantages, and if all of them are employed, MSR costs could be substantially lower than the costs of LWRs. Part of the MSR advantage is higher safety at lower cost.

Carnival Time

The 44th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs - FUKUSHIMA EDITION is up on Cool Hand Luke. In addition to blog posts by yours truly, Posts from Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, Yes Vermont Yankee, Casa Cabrones, Plain English Nuclear, Pop Atomic, Nuke Power Talk, CNN Blog Post: In the Arena, and ProPublica are up. In addition to blog posts, media links to Tim Mitchell, The Charlie Rose Show, A New York Public Radio presentation, Fox News, CBS New,and the Hannity Show are featured. Unlike previous Carnivals of Nuclear Energy, new posts will be added to the Carnival as they are written, so check back frequently.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lessons from Dai-ichi

Last Saturday, I began to form the opinion that one or more of the Dai-ichi reactor cores had experienced a partial melt down. I was by no means sure of this view because it assumed that the explosion had been a hydrogen explosion. My study of reports concerning the Three Mile Island accident had led me to speculate, that if the explosion had been a hydrogen explosion, the most likely source of the hydrogen was a chemical reaction between coolant water, and overheated core materials. I assumed that some core water might have boiled off, uncovered, uncovering the upper part of the core, which then overheated to the extent that it would begin to melt.

When Japanese technicians injected water into the reactor, it came in contact with the partially melted core, and a chemical reaction between Zirconium in the reactor fuel cladding and the oxygen in water molecules, had released hydrogen in the core. The Japanese technicians had vented the hydrogen from the core, and it vented along with hot steam, and then exploded when it recombined with oxygen in the air. This assumption indicated that the Dai-ichi crisis was at least as bad as Three Mile Island, if not worse. The Japanese, given my speculation, would have sacrificed parts of the reactor building, in order to protect the steel containment vessel from rupture caused by excessive gas pressure.

The reality of at least a partial core meltdown in Dai-ichi 1, 2, and 3 could explained by the release of radioactive gases from fuel pellets. When the core was subsequently vented, the release of the radioactive fission product gasses would explain why many spikes of radiation during the Dai-ichi event have occurred. The radioactive gasses, likely to be encountered during a core meltdown are not very dangerous in practice. They are noble gases, very radioactive but chemically inactive. They are dispersed by natural process in air, and very quickly become so diluted, that they pose no danger to human beings. Since noble gases do not form chemical bonds, they do not linger in the human body, thus do not pose health risks. When scientist looked at the human health consequences of the Three Mile Island accident, the realized that the radiation level of air down wind from Three Mile Island was simply not high enough to cause cancer and other radiation related illnesses.

In addition to radioactive gases, some easily vaporized radioisotopes were released by the Three Mile Island accident. Of these Iodine-131 is the most dangerous. Unlike the noble gases, Iodine-131 does form chemical bonds, is solid rather than gaseous at ordinary temperatures, and likely to enter the human body from the food chain. Iodine-131 forms volatile chemical compounds, that vaporize at high temperatures. Iodine-131 does stick around, but only for a short while. It has a half life of a little more than 8 days. Thus if people can be kept out of contact with Iodine-131 for a couple of months it ceases to be dangerous. In addition potassium iodine tablets offer some protection against iodine-131 forming chemical bonds with body tissues.

Three other potentially dangerous radioisotope are in danger of escaping a reactor core during a reactor accident. They are:
Sr-90
Cs-137
Cs-134
We ar talking about some very nasty stuff here, the stuff that keeps people out of the Chernobyl exclusion zones for nearly 25 years. Fortunately not much of these undesirables escaped during the Three Mile Island accident, so the good citizens of Pennsylvania were able to return to their homes. The difference between TMI and Chernobyl was that inChernobyl the core exploded, destroying all containment, and then caught on fire, and quickly began discharging copious amounts of volatile fission products

What the Japanese tecnicians appear to be doing at Dai-ichi is struggling to prevent the sort of fire that would release large amounts of volatile fission products. There has bee some release. How do we know this? Because when an NBC news man came back from Dai-ichi, he had radioactive material on his shoes. Not a lot, but too much to be tracking around.

The same story suggests that maybe not a lot of volatile fission products have escaped yet, just enough to be picked up on the shoes, by newspeople walking on soil that has been lightly dusted with radio-iodine and other nasties., but not at a level yet to be really dangerous.
It is now fairly clear that that some level of meltdown has happened, but that we are not yet at the China Syndrome by any means, but yesterday Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said,
We believe that secondary containment has been destroyed and there is no water in the spent fuel pool and we believe that radiation levels are extremely high which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures.
Is not clear that all of the water in the spent fuel pool is gone, but Jaczko's fears may not be entirely unjustified.

The New York Times has quoted a spokesman for Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Yoshitaka Nagayama, as saying,
Because we have been unable to go the scene, we cannot confirm whether there is water left or not in the spent fuel pool at Reactor No. 4.
If the Japanese don't know, how can Jaczko? The answer might be computer accident simulation. I don't know if such a simulation exists, but if Jaczko was not being irresponsible, he needed to be able to point to some back up to his assessment.

There are still dangers here, the crisis is my no means over, but the decay of fission products is already begin to slow down, and with it both the radiation and the heat that that decay produces. While it is too soon to imagine that the crisis is over, the fact that the first week of the crisis has passed is a signal that the hope that a disaster will be prevented is fully justified. We cannot be sure that the worst is over, but the odds are beginning to move in that direction.

Nuclear power will survive the events in Dai-ichi. This accident will be studied for some time to come for lessons about nuclear safety. The first lesson, and this is obvious, is to assume that the worst earthquake or tsunami ever recorded for an area is possible again, and build accordingly. The Dai-ichi reactor complex was not designed to withstand a 10 meter plus tsunami, while it probably should have been built to withstand at least a 10 meter tsunami. Earlem College Geologist Wesley Nutter found evidence in 2009 that 10 meter (or even higher) waves had repeatedly pounded the coast of northern Japan over the last 3000 years. The geological record suggests that the tsunami of 2011 was a once in every 500 year event. For most people, once in every 500 years is never. Americans have built the cities of Memphis and St. Louis in a zone in which evidence suggests episodes of multiple great earthquakes - up to magnitude 8 - occure every five hundred years or so. Should people live, let alone build reactors in such a dangerous area? Should people live, let alone build reactors in Japan, California, or anywhere eles along the 24,000 mile Pacific ring of fire?

The second lesson has to do with reactor design. Some new reactors, most particularly the the Westinghouse AP-1000, and the GE ESBWR feature gravity powered emgency water tanks above the reactor core. In the future, reactors designs may be subject to the Dai-ichi test. Could the reactor design survive the Dai-ichi event without core melt down. In the case of the AP-1000 the answer is possibly yes, while in the case of the ESBWR he answer is very likely yes. The ESBWR design sets the new bar for reactor safety, and that bar his high.

A third lesson is that the Dai-ichi demonstrated an impressive seismic performance. They survive an earthquake of a far greater magnitude than they were designed too. No doubt this seismic performance will be the subject of further research.

A fourth lesson is that reactor safety design, should include a method of mitigating any China syndrome incident, in the event of a emergency coolant failure. Devices such as steam explosion proof core catchers will be researched,and perhaps modifications to existing reactor designs considered.

A fifth set of lessons, as of yet largely undefined, will come about as the result of studying what actually happened inside the cores of Dai-ichi reactors.

Finally, I would argue, that the day of the Light Water Reactor is drawing to a close. Several Generation IV reactor technologies would have survived the Dai-ichi incident without a serious incident. These include Pebble Bed Modular Reactors, and Molten Salt Reactors. In the case of Molten Salt Reactor Technology, the safety technology appears to be consistent with lowering nuclear costs. The PBMR can be shudown without core melting, while if a MSR begins to overheat, a plug will automatically melt and the reactor core will drain into a series of tanks that uses a well understood simple and natural technology, the chimny effect, to keep the fuel cool.

I have, in Nuclear Green, repeatedly pointed to the issue of nuclear safety, and the need to develop radical high safety nuclear technology. It is not that reactors are unsafe, but rather that safer reactors are possible without increasing nuclear costs, and we ought to build the safest reactors possible, within our financial limits. Not only are safer reactors possible, but they will be superior to Light Water Reactors in many other respects, including the long term sustainability of their fuel sources, and their scalability. If the Dai-ichi crisis fails to teach us the importance of moving forward on the implementation of a more advanced and safer nuclear technology, it would be a tragedy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Father's Last Report (Revised and Updated)

I originally wrote this post hours before my father's death in January 2009. It was followed in the Nuclear Green sequence of posts by a notice of my father's death and then by his obituary. Of all Nuclear Green posts, this is more relevant to the current situation. in Japan. I have revised it in order to focus on my father's contention that the worst case consequences of worst possible nuclear accidents are not all that bad. The relevance of the current situation in Japan should be obvious.
harwell
This photograph was made during a June 27, 28. 1963 visit by my father, Dr. C.J. Barton, Sr., to the Atomic Research Establishment at Harwell. Seated is Alan E. J. Eggleton of the Health Physics and Medical Division of Harwell. Eggleton investigated radiation released by the Windscale reactor fire. No doubt he and my father had a long conversation about the radiation release following reactor accidents.

During my father's (C.J. Barton, Sr.) last 18 months before his retirement much of his time was spent preparing a report for the National Academy of Science. The report encountered many objections from peer reviewers. The main objections fell on Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) research that served as a basis of many of the reports conclusions. The topic of my father's report was the movement of radioisotopes in the environment, and ORNL research was clearly pointing at some of the potentially adverse human consequences for the energy policy choices of the Ford and Carter Administrations.

By the mid 1970's my father probably knew as much as anyone in the world about radio-isotopes in the environment. Indeed his knowledge of the topic was undoubtedly the reason why he had been chosen to write the report for the National Academy of Science. During the years my father was George Parker's research partner in nuclear safety research (1960-1964), Parker specialized in the study of how radioisotopes escaped reactors, while my father focused on what happen to them once they got into the environment. Even after he returned to Molten Salt research in 1964, my father was asked to study the movement of radioisotopes that had been released into the environment during cold war operations of the Oak Ridge facilities. Thus the study of radio isotopes in the environment, either from human sources or later from natural sources was my father's entry into the Health Physics and later the Environmental Studies Divisions, as the Reactor Chemistry Division of ORNL fell apart.

My father, although close to retirement, was very enterprising in promoting the study of radiation from natural sources. It appears that he was one of the pioneer researchers on the problem of natural radon in the home. In addition to Radon from subsurface sources, my father noted that natural gas was a source of radon in the home. Indeed studies of the transport of radon into American homes through natural gas pipe lines does not appear to have progressed much beyond the point my father left it in the mid 1970's. Bob Moore was associated with my father in his study of radioactive radon in natural gas. In addition Moore was also involved in a better known ORNL research project that investigated radio isotopes in coal ash. My father would have been very interested in that line of research. These lines of ORNL research were perhaps what troubled the National Academy of Science reviewers.

My father defended his report vigorously and eventually the reviewers signed off on it, but the National Academy of Science appears to have never published it. At the very least my father was never told of its publication and it is not listed among my fathers professional papers listed on the Energy Bridge. Thus the report disappeared and I suspect was suppressed. Why you might ask?

The reason might be found in a couple of my father's post retirement papers which I believe reflected some of the thinking that went into his National Academy of Science report. What was on my father's mind was simple. People were and are far more likely to be exposed to radio isotopes from the burning of fossil fuels, coal and natural gas, than they were to be exposed to radio-isotopes from power producing reactors. The "Linear (No-Threshold) Hypothesis," holds that there is no lower limits to the damaging effects of radiation. Critics of nuclear power using the Linear Hypothesis often hold that even a tiny amount of radiation that escapes into the environment from power producing reactors has an adverse impact on human health. What my father, Bob Moore and other Oak Ridge scientists had shown was that far more radiation coming from radio isotopes like radon, was escaping into the environment and entering the bodies of people from fossil fuel use, than was coming from nuclear reactors.

My father's research had shown that radioactive isotopes like radon were being transported through natural gas pipelines into homes all over the country. Other researchers had shown the presence of radioactive isotopes in coal fly ash, that was entering the lungs of people who lived in surrounding areas. From this information it was not difficult to calculate exposure rates and given the "Linear (No-Threshold) Hypothesis," the effects of radiation exposure from fossil fuel burning would be very predictable in terms of its health and mortality consequences.

The Linear (No-Threshold) Hypothesis, is itself questionable. There is powerful evidence when people are exposed to radiation from natural sources, there is a threshold below which no adverse health consequences can be observed. It is irrational to argue that radiation from natural sources is somehow different than radiation from reactors. Radiation is radiation. Thus my father's conclusion would have been that given the facts and the "Linear (No-Threshold) Hypothesis" radiation exposures from burning fossil fuels killed tens of thousands of people. The implications of my father's report then would have been to show that a transition to nuclear power could have a positive consequence for human health and might save the lives of tens of thousands of people every year.

In effect my father would have turned the reasoning of the enemies on its head, by showing that given their own beliefs about the health consequences of radiation , a far more serious radiation problem was caused by not turning to nuclear power and continuing to burn fossil fuels. Needless to say the coal barons, the natural gas producers and anti-nuclear leaders like Ralph Nader, Helen Caldicott, Amory Lovins and Joe Romm had an interest in seeing my father's report suppressed.

My father's conclusion would have been unacceptable to the fossil fuel lobby and their
political allies, the anti-nuclear movement. There would have thus been a powerful political interest in suppressing my father's National Academy of Science report, and as far as I can determine it was in fact suppressed. To say the least, my father's conclusions were buried.

My father's research also raised questions about how dangerous radioactive fall out from nuclear accidents, such as the current accidents in Japan really are. In a post-retirement essay my father wrote with the assistance of George Parker, they reviewed the consequences of three major reactor accidents in which significant amounts of radioisotopes had been released. The three accidents involved the Windscale Pile No. 1, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. The Windscale accident which my father investigated is far less known, but it resulted in a significant release of radioisotopes. My father and George Parker stated,
The second myth that we will discuss is that, because operating reactors contain large quantities of radioactivity, they are inherently unsafe. One nuclear power critic stated in the wake of the Chernobyl reactor accident : ‘There is tremendous uncertainty. mi reactors have a severe accident potential. I’ This potential was recognized in the early days of the the development of nuclear reactors and a tremendous effort has been made to minimize the likelihood that reactor accidents will result in loss of life or extensive property damage. We will discuss the three accidents in operating reactors that resulted in release of significant quantities of radioactivity: Windscale Pile No. 1, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Of these, only the latter resulted in deaths and large—scale property damage. We will compare these accidents and give reasons for our belief that loss of life from accidents in modern light—water nuclear power producing plants is unlikely.

Windacale Pile No. 1. The Windscale reactor was used to produce plutonium. In October 1957, during use of a procedure to release energy stored in the graphite moderator, the temperature in part of the reactor became high enough that some of the metallic uranium slugs and the nearby graphite moderator began to burn, releasing fission products through the stack that discharged air used to cool the reactor. effort to quell the fire with carbon dioxide was unsuccessful and it was finally quenched by the introduction of a large quantity of water. The accident made this reactor unusable.

Three Mile Island (TMI-2). This reactor located near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is the site of the most serious US. reactor accident to date and the only major accident in a large light—water reactor to date. Early on April 28, 1979, a series of events at this reactor began that resulted in a loss—of--coolant accident. (LOC).. Early report characterized the accident as a unique combination of failures, design deficiencies and operator errors. The critical error was the action of an operator who shut down the high—pressure injection of water that started automatically two minutes after the reactor shut down. If this water injection had been allowed to continue, the reactor core would have remained under water and serious core damage would have been avoided. Steps have been taken to eliminate the design deficiencies and operator errors revealed by this accident.

Chernobyl—4. This accident occurred about 80 miles north Kiev, Ukraine, in April and May, 1986. Russian report that was published several months later stated that the accident took place because of a variety of poorly conceived actions and procedures related to an experiment that was being conducted during an otherwise routine shut down of the reactor. Human errors compounded by a lack of proper procedures resulted in overriding of safety protection systems and to react.or failure evidenced by two explosions, one after the other, apparently caused by a prompt critical reactivity excursion (a sudden increase in the rate of fissioning in the reactor resulting in production of a large amount of heat in the reactor core) and steam or hydrogen explosion. The explosions blew the top off the reactor core container and the top off the the building in which the reactor was housed. The very hot reactor core released fission products directly to the atmosphere as the hot graphite moderator continued to burn until large quantities of boron carbide, lead, dolomite, sand and clay (5000 tons total) were dumped on the core by helicopters hovering over the reactor.

A report published in 1987 listed the known human casualties of this accident as 203 persons hospitalized and 31 deaths. It seems unlikely that we will ever know all the human consequences of this accident which include an unknown number of deaths from over—exposure to radiation and disruption in the lives of thousands of people who were relocated on very short notice.

My Father and Parker added,
The point of this comparison of the three reactor accidents is to make it clear that the potential for accidents is much greater for the Windscale and the Chernobyi reactors than in light water reactors. More important, however is the design and construction of these reactors which includes a very thick steel core container and a thick steel—reinforced building around the reactor. Multipie safeguards are provided, some of which have been greatly improved as the result of the lessons learned from the TM1-2 accident.

A comparison of fission products relesed in the three accidents reveals some important differences. Radioactive iodine (1—131) is a particular hazard in reactor accidents because it concenrates in the human thyroid through drinking contaminated milk or eating contaminated vegetables. The amount of this fission product released in the three accidents is (in curies):
Windocale, 20,000; T1il—2, iS to 30 Chernobyl—4, 7.3 million. The low level of iodine release from TMI—2 is believed to be due to the solubilty of the iodine in water, possibly because it combines with cesium, another fission product, to make cesium iodine. The noble gases have a very low solubiity in water and the release of these gases from TI’lI—2 is estimated to be in the rarnge 2.4 to 17 million curies as compared to 340,000 from Windscale and about 46 million from Chernobyl—4. These gases are not retained by the human body and their principal hazard is skin exposure. in the TNI—2 accident, no one received a greater dose from exposure than the average U.S. citizen receives annualy from natural radioactivity. Significant quantities of other fission products were released only in the Chernobyl accident (estimated total 22 million curies). t. TNI—2, the solubility of these fission products in water probably helped to minimize trieir release and filters in the hot air discharge tower apparently caught most of the solid materials produced by the partial burning of the Windscale reactor core.

Information Handling it TMI—2. Mental stress among the people living in the vicinity of TI1I—2 was judged to be the principal health effect of this accident. This has been ascribed in large measure to poor information handling. Initially, the plant operators were slow to recognize the seriousness of the accident and when higher authorities became involved, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, their lack of preparation for handling both the accident and relations with the news media became evident. The latter proceeded to fan the public’s already strong fear of radiation. The unneeded action of the governor of Pennsylvania in ordering the evacuation of children and pregnant women living within five miles of the plant accentuated these fears. It appears that. regarding the mishandling of news from TNI—2, there was more than enough blame to to around.
Over 20 years ago, my father and George Parker stated,
Plans for second generation nuclear power plants designed to be even safer to operate than those now in use are presently available. If the U.S. public could be convinced that the myths discussed in this article are untrue, it would expedite progress toward demonstrating the feasibility of expanding use of nuclear power generating plants. The desirability of reducing the amount of sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from coal burning plants is well recognized and nuclear power is at present the most environmentally acceptable alternative for meeting our expanding need for electricity. There is a need for U.S. citizens to look beyond the media hype on the danger of reactor accidents such as that which surrounded the TMI—2 accident and for experts in the nuclear industry to make greater efforts to communicate facts to the public to replace the information being supplied by anti—nuclear groups and uninformed or poorly informed media writers and TV personnel.
No doubt this assessment would not have pleased the anti-nuclear ideologues who were given much power during the Carter Administration, and who would have been in a position to surpress my fathers report. Charles J. Barton, Sr.

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