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 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]
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.


Rick Maltese said...

Thanks for the post Charles.

Excellent post and excellent article by Manbiot.
I saw Monbiot on a debate with Helen Caldicott at DemocracyNow website. He was very polite and fair with Caldicott and was pretty effective at revealing her weak baseless arguments. She speaks about what she know from the point of view of being a doctor. Does not set a good example for doctors seeing a conspiracy by neutral nuclear organizations to cover up the truth.

Anonymous said...

Chernobyl exploded because of very strong positive void coefficients combined with a full manual withdrawal of the control rods. This is impossible in a CANDU. First the spectrum is more thermal and void coefficient is less postive, meaning everything happens slooooowly. Second there are two fully independent and redundant shutdown systems: the gravity driven control rods, lowering in the calandria itself which is at low, atmospheric pressure; and the liquid neutron poison injection system which can inject a substance that will gobble up most neutrons and thereby shut down the reactor. Both systems have energy stored already, the first by gravity and the second by being already pressurized. Furthermore you can drain the moderator water away, and have plenty of time to do so, because of the slooow spectrum.

There is no evidence of conspirary; only of responsible redundant independent engineering.

Cheers, Cyril


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