Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Were the Japanese Engineers Who Built Fukushima Incompetent?

Guest post by NNadir.

David Mabb, British, 2002.

(Cross posted from Daily Kos, along with an amusing poll and with references to diaries therein. Link to the Kos Diary.)

A news item in the June 2, 2011 issue of Nature, (page 10) which may be the most prestigious scientific journal in the world, reports that 2010 carbon emissions have reached a new record level, 30.9 billion metric tons per year, roughly 1,000 tons per second after the world's miraculous "economic recovery."

Um, um, um...

The World Health Organization reports that 2 million people die prematurely each year from air pollution, which is about one person every 15 seconds, with almost all of this pollution resulting from dangerous fossil fuel and "renewable" biomass burning.

In other news:

Approximately 3,700 workers at the Fukushima nuclear complex have been exposed to radiation since the recent 9.0 earthquake and 15 meter tsunami that struck March 11. Of these, 3514 have had medical examinations in which their exposure limits were recorded. Of these, 124 of the workers have exposures exceeding 100 mSv, which is the normal regulatory lifetime load for nuclear workers, although Japan raised the level for this event to 250 mSv. Of these 124 workers who exceeded 100 mSv, 107 had exposures between 100 and 200 mSv, 8 had exposures of 200-250 mSv, and 9 had doses exceeding 250 mSv.

A list of radiation exposures from the 9.0 earthquake and 15 meter tidal wave.

According to the Radiation Health Physics Society, which consists of, um, health physicists, the most aggressive diagnostic medical procedure there is involving radiation (other than radiation treatment for cancer which often can, and does induce radiation sickness) is a Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty, (PTCA) which results in radiation exposures of up to 57 mSv. Radiation Health Physics Society: Common exposures to radiation from medical procedures.

One of the major causes of needing a PTCA is, um, eating cows.

The somewhat familiar effects of radiation sickness are generally observed at 1,000 mSv exposures received over a short interval, and the symptoms include alopecia, nausea, vomiting and severe depression of the immune system (the latter being similar in many ways to full blown AIDS.) The chances are overwhelming that if you have ever encountered someone with radiation sickness - and I certainly have - it was as a result of that person being treated with radiation for cancer.

Of course, anyone receiving successful radiation treatment to treat cancer will face a continual risk of getting a new cancer, but the probability of getting such a cancer is not 100% - not even close - or else radiation treatments for cancer would not be attempted since they would be, by definition, futile.

But let's not talk about medical procedures but say something more about Japan.

The Japanese utility Chubu recently asked for help buying what will ultimately be $31 Billion (US) worth of dangerous fossil fuel to replace its other nuclear plants that have been shut by fear, ignorance, and superstition. All the waste from all those burned dangerous fossil fuels will be dumped into earth's atmosphere, almost certainly killing many thousands of people from air pollution.

Chubu receives emergency loan.

We can estimate how much dangerous fossil fuel waste will be dumped into earth's atmosphere by (with extreme generosity and self delusion) that all of this $31 billion dollars will represent dangerous natural gas, although, in fact, it won't, by looking at dangerous natural gas prices.

Natural gas prices have recently run about $631 per metric ton in Asia.

This suggests about 180 million tons of dangerous natural gas waste dumping for Chubai alone, although the time period is not specified. (Chubai may need this loan for a period of years.)

For the observed record, in April of 2011, Japanese imports of dangerous natural gas rose by 1.25 million metric tons in April of 2011 to 6.65 million metric tons per month. If we assume that this gas was mostly methane and correct for the molecular weight of carbon dioxide (as I did above) relative to methane, we see that the increase for dangerous fossil fuel waste dumping in Japan to shut it's nuclear plants amounts to a whopping 45 million tons for Japan, resulting in a total of around 230 million metric tons just for natural gas annually.

In the last several, in this space, a person argued that the Japanese engineers who built the Fukushima nuclear power plant were "incompetant" because - according to the author of these remarks - they didn't know what he knew about seismology, and built a nuclear power plant near a fault line. The claimant actually had the nerve to say that there are many fine Japanese seismologists, and that these seismologists should have been able to prevent the building of the nuclear plants by "incompetant" nuclear engineers. Also, the author said, since there was evidence that a tsunami had inundated the area within the last millenium, this should have convinced everyone not to build a nuclear plant there, although no mention was made of building any other thing.

Really? Incompetent? Compared to whom?

Predictably, the writer making this judgement about Japanese nuclear engineers had no comment whatsoever about the fact that Japanese built cities near fault lines and in fact, a country near fault lines.

How come no similar remark is attached to fine Japanese seismologists preventing the construction of, um, buildings, or things like the Fujinama dam, or in fact, Japan itself?

How come the author of this precious remark didn't claim that Japanese architects are "incompetent?"

After all, does not the same criteria apply to anything built in the path of a potential tsunami that applies to nuclear plant? Actually the nuclear plant did better than all of the other stuff, since the other stuff killed 25,000 people instantly whereas the nuclear plant - and in saying this, I am only referring to the kinds of deaths that anti-nukes find so damned sexy, radiation deaths - has thus far killed no one, although, as listed above, a many as 3,700 people have a higher risk than you or I of getting a radiation related cancer at some point in their lives, although said risk is nowhere near 100%.

If a single structure is rebuilt in the path of the 2011 tsunami, even one structure of any kind, say a solar PV plant containing oodles of chemicals known to be toxic (in some cases highly toxic), will the builder of said structure be declared "incompetent?"

In 1923, the city of Tokyo was struck by an earthquake which killed roughly between 100,000 and 150,000 people in a matter of about 10 minutes. Almost all of these people were killed as a result of falling buildings - no nuclear power plants were involved since, um, the world class scientists who first built nuclear plants, men like Nobel Laureates Wigner, Seaborg, Fermi, Bethe, etc, were very early in their careers and were, in some cases, um, children. Incredibly, the 1923 Tokyo earthquake produced no internet fetishes about banning, um, buildings. In fact, Tokyo was rebuilt, only to be completely destroyed by dangerous fossil fuels diverted to weapons purposes some 22 years later.

Even more incredibly, the city was rebuilt again and even more incredibly, there were no calls among the Japanese (or anyone else) for phasing out dangerous fossil fuels because they not only could be used to destroy entire cities, but are used to destroy entire cities as the observed destruction of scores of cities in the last 70 years or so has repeatedly demonstrated.

Yet because two cities were destroyed in a period of less than a week more than 5 decades ago by nuclear weapons, everyone wants to talk about the possibility of nuclear war to the exclusion of the day-to-day reality of dangerous fossil fuel war, even though nuclear wars are no longer observed and dangerous fossil fuel wars powered by dangerous fossil fuel weapons are almost continuously observed.


Wasn't it just a few years back that one of cities in one of the oldest civilizations on earth was mostly destroyed - including artifacts almost 5,000 years old - in a dangerous fossil fuel war using dangerous fossil fuel weapons to effect such destruction?

Am I kidding?

Even though some asshole will pipe in to suggest that my remarks are something called "snark", they are no such thing, but merely represent a statement of an irrefutable observation: The criteria applied to nuclear energy - even though nuclear energy is vastly superior to all of its alternatives - is arbitrary inasmuch as it is applied to nothing else.

Let's leave Japan behind for a minute, and talk about the scale of energy disasters.

The largest energy disaster of all time - if one chooses, as many internet fetishists do, to ignore the disaster of air pollution and climate change because they are not the result of accidents or natural disasters but are rather associated with the normal operations of dangerous renewable biomass plants and dangerous fossil fuel plants - was the renewable energy disaster at Banqiao in China in 1975. It is actually impossible to know how many people were killed by this event, but it numbers in the hundreds of thousands. The Wikipedia reference gives a figure of 170,000, many other sources give much higher numbers. According to this same reference, 11,000,000 people were rendered homeless by this event. It was, thus, in these terms, the equivalent rendering 1/3 of the population of Canada homeless in a few hours.

The event involved the serial failure of Chinese dams in a typhoon, despite the internet fetish that so called "renewable energy" is, um, fabulous and without risk.

Heckuva job "renewable" energy industry, heckuva job.

A similar disaster in the United States in 1983 was prevented when the Army Corps of Engineers ran out to a local hardware store to buy plywood to shore up the Glen Canyon dam spillways. Had they not done so, the entire Colorado River system, through the Grand Canyon and most likely including the Hoover dam might have been destroyed. I wrote about this little appreciated fact in a diary in this space.

A Tale of Two Centimeters: The Near Collapse of the Colorado River Dam System in 1983.

How come the intellectual lightweights in that luddite (and still somehow oppressively bourgeois) hellhole Greenpeace aren't publishing all kinds of speculative science fiction like scare stories about the Colorado River system, or worse, Three Gorges, even though they have spent more than 40 years doing exactly that about nuclear energy?

The failure of the Three Gorges dam would probably kill more than 1,000 times (or more) as many people as died at Banqiao, possibly as many people as died in all of World War II, which is not to say that this will happen, but is also not to say that such a failure is impossible. About 400 million people live downstream of Three Gorges, which produces as much electricity as roughly 20 large nuclear plants.

Why no scare stories? Is it because "renewable" - although dams are hardly really sustainable energy if you look carefully at what they do - is spelled with an "R" and nuclear is spelled with an "N?"

However the majority of attention paid to the recent events at Sendai - in the orgy of fear, ignorance, and superstition - surrounds the nuclear plants, and none whatsoever is paid to any of the other events, including the collapse of a dam that killed 8 people in seconds and swept away 1,100 homes.

Now - I'm not saying this will happen but clearly it is hardly impossible - if the Three Gorges Dam collapses - or any of the dams on the Colorado River system collapse, will a blogger pipe in here to inform us that the builders of the dam(s) were "incompetent?"

If everyone exposed to radiation listed above, all 3,700, died from the radiation exposure listed at Fukushima - they won't, but let's play "fetish pretend" - it would not represent even one day's worth of dangerous fossil fuel and "renewable" biomass related air pollution deaths, again, from normal operations.

Not one freaking day.

Thus is anyone who operates any dangerous fossil fuel plant anywhere "incompetent, given that the risk of such a plant killing someone is precisely 100%?

There are many aspects of the stupidity, fear, superstition and ignorance surrounding the selective attention paid to nuclear energy's performance and the criteria, and every single one of them exists in complete - and completely ignorant - isolation from its alternatives. For instance, it is widely claimed - mostly by people who can't think - that nuclear energy, and only nuclear energy, must assure everyone, including abysmally stupid people who have zero familiarity with the contents of science books, that it's so called "wastes" must never injure anyone, anywhere at any time over the next billion years. And so people continue to burn dangerous fossil fuels, producing waste, that cannot be contained for the next ten minutes, and actually kill about 5,000 people a day, every day.

And now we have a new criteria:
Nuclear energy, and only nuclear energy and nothing else must be risk free in a major earthquake and tsunami.
The Fukushima nuclear plants were designed and built beginning in the 1960's and came on line in the 1970's, and operated for decades largely without incident. Dumb people like to lay around day after day after day pretending that wind and solar toys and junk were a realistic alternative to these plants, but when doing this, they're completely full of shit, and were especially full of shit in the 1960's and 1970's, not that they're much less full of shit now.

Suppose the supposedly "incompetant" engineers had built coal plants instead of nuclear plants instead?

The result would have been many tens of thousands of premature deaths, although there would be no fetishists burning lots and lots and lots of electricity to caterwaul about this point.

How do I know?

Because except in the abstract, nobody cares about the fact that many times people have chosen to build coal plants rather than nuclear plants - the Germans are particularly adept at this - killing people outright during normal operations, and few whimpers - never mind hysterics - result.

I showed in this awful space some years back that the external costs for a single large coal plant - just one - represents about 16 billion dollars in external costs, many of these costs represented as health costs for treating the victims of the normal operations of coal plants.

A Calculation: How Many Trillions of Dollars of Environmental Damage Will IGCC Coal Cost?

Nothing else, and I do mean nothing, need meet the criteria that public assumes nuclear plants must meet to have the full oblivious support of humanity, not buildings, not bridges, not cars, not dams. This has become a fetish of vast proportions even though it is not the nuclear plants struck by a tsunami in Japan that will kill people in large numbers, but rather the superstition, fear and ignorance of people commenting on the nuclear plants.

No similar fetishes were created about, um, coastal cities (and the buildings in them), after the tsunami in 2004 which killed about 225,000 people. There was no movement to ban, um, Indonesia. Maybe if there were a fucking nuclear plant involved, someone would remember this event from 7 years ago, but as it is, the world couldn't care less. The world continues to build along coasts and more incredibly is now working over time to raise sea levels at an ever faster rate.

One of the biggest fans of raising sea levels in response to a tsunami - not that they have had or will have any experience of tsunamis - is the august nation of Germany, which shut its nuclear plants after Fukushima, burning natural gas and coal while issuing tiresome oblivious horseshit promises about so called "renewable energy," which after more than a decade of such horseshit, never produced even 10% of German energy, never mind as much energy as nuclear energy produced there until shut by fear, ignorance and superstition.

Now, if you ask me, an argument could be made, and maybe should be made that the entire German nation is incompetent, since they have converted a very remote possibility of energy risk - from an earthquake and tsunami no less, in a country that has experienced neither - into an absolute certainty of premature loss of life.

If one looks, one will discover that recent events surrounding German lettuce actually killed more people than Fukushima's nuclear plants have killed, and German dangerous fossil fuel waste dumping, now expected to rise by 100's of millions of metric tons will kill far more people than even the toxic lettuce.

Now we have people running around saying that the response of the TEPCO engineers and workers after the tsunami struck was incompetent.


Compared to what?

Contained within the confines of the Fukushima plant were operating reactors. Also there were reactors in which all of the used fuel, maybe decades worth of such fuel, although Japan correctly has reprocessed at least some of its fuel. TEPCO engineers addressed a situation in which much - if not most, if not all - of its equipment was destroyed. As was the case with everything else in the country, they had to manage a situation in the presence of a completely destroyed infrastructure. Moreover some of the reactors were built using technology developed nearly half a century ago.

As was the case with every single other bit of infrastructure in the path of the earthquake and tsunami, the events exceeded the design parameters.

Now, the TEPCO engineers did not succeed in making the impact of the extreme damage to their plant zero. Neither in fact did any other industry. Refineries exploded, after all, bridges collapsed or were swept away, semi-conductor plants were destroyed. It is very unlikely that any industry in the highly industrialized nation of Japan was able to prevent injury or the risk of injury to the public from their plants to be zero in an earthquake and tsunami.

Nevertheless the TEPCO engineers were able, within a matter of weeks, to address a situation never before encountered anywhere, easily exceeding any rational design parameters, assess the situation and stabilize it so that the ultimate loss to either the environment, or to human life measures as not even a blip compared to a single day's normal operations of dangerous fossil fuel facilities around the world.

In the last four months, these engineers have built one of the world's largest ion exchange systems, built robots to investigate facilities remotely, moved huge pumps and equipment through a ravaged landscape - destroyed by a, um, natural disaster, dealt with a stupid and hostile media consisting largely of people who have never opened a science book in their pathetic lives. They stabilized the so called "waste" products that represented billions of person years out energy output. The plant has a capacity for water treatment and cesium removal of 1200 m3 (317,000 gallons) per day. The recovered water is reused for cooling the damaged cores. The total volume of water available for such reuse is around 110,000 cubic meters. Thus the engineers at TEPCO, working under difficult circumstances were able to construct a closed system that effectively will extract and concentrate the extracted leachates into easily managed small containers. (If so desired, the properties of these resins allow the collection of pure radiocesium.)

Now, as it happens, I have been around lots of projects involve industrial scale use of functionalized resins - not nuclear applications unhappily - that are similar to the ion exchange resins used at Fukushima - and rapidly scaling them, as been done there, is hardly simple, although it must be said that these resins are now commercially available on relatively large scales. For instance, one can buy 250 gallon drums of a product called "SuperLig® 644" which is a proprietary resin that has high selectivity for the absorption of cesium from aqueous solutions in the presence of potassium and sodium, a situation that is observed in waste tanks at the Hanford nuclear weapons processing facility near Richland Washington.

(cf. Adu-Wusu et al, Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, Vol. 267, No.2 (2006) 381–388)

In actuality TEPCO is using two technologies, the American technology, as well as a technology utilized by France at its reprocessing plants for decontaminating cesium from water.

Even though these types of products are commercially available, it is no small feat to build a plant to utilize them on a large scale, to build connections, pumps, columns, filters, supports, etc on such a scale as to be able to process thousands of cubic meters of water, especially in an area that is largely inaccessible.

Yet the TEPCO engineers have done precisely this and the ion exchange plant is operating. Moreover they did in in four months in a destroyed area, parts of which were radioactive.

I note that American engineers at Hanford are still only operating pilot plants doing this sort of thing, although they have had decades to address this problem in an area with intact infrastructure. (In fairness to the Americans, their research in this area is largely responsible for the commercial availability of such resins.)

Similarly, TEPCO engineers were able to quickly coat the ground surrounding the failed plants with a polymer that prevents the volatilization of dust. This also was a remarkable accomplishment, although probably less remarkable than the building of the ion exchange plant.

Finally, several engineers and workers risked their lives by entering the plant at various times, nine of the receiving very high doses of radiation. Of course, except for the fact that nuclear is spelled with an "N" and building is spelled with a "B" these people are not qualitatively different than the many thousands of Japanese who risked their lives to enter collapsed buildings, even if the duimbells at the New York Times have yet to announce the events associated with the Sendai earthquake as the "death of the construction industry."

While accomplishing these difficult unprecedented acts - some, as the numbers above suggest involved great personal danger - these TEPCO engineers had to endure the oppressive catcalls, insults, vituperation, suspicion, and fear of a largely illiterate and unhelpful international community, some of whom seemed to take a kind of twisted schadenfreud motivated not by concern for humanity, but rather to engage in a resounding chorus that was a paen to fear, ignorance, and superstition.

This suggests Theodore Roosevelt's famous and candidly contemptous remarks - I have quoted them before in other contexts - at the Sorbonne in 1910:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat...

...Still less room is there for those who deride or slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not what they actually are...
And what of the quality of the critics, those who refer to the engineers who built Fukushima and who stabilized it - so that only a very small loss of life, if any, will occur as the result of a vast, natural disaster that hit a plant that produced energy to power millions of homes for decades - as "incompetent"? Are the critics competent to discuss nuclear issues or are they simply talking about things they obviously know little about.

Now, I heard several claims here by persons who know nothing at all about nuclear reactor physics, the properties of nuclear fuels, criticality calculations or any of the like, that the profile of the released isotopes from the damaged nuclear fuels - chiefly the volatile and soluble elements cesium and iodine - suggested that said fuels were about to go "critical," that is that an uncontrolled nuclear fission reaction was sustaining itself in the failed fuels. The argument involved certain kinds of pseudotechnical claims - technically they were garbage but might have sounded reasonable to anyone who was ignorant of the properties of nuclear fuels - surrounding the presence of the isotope I-131, which, having a very short half-life, eight days, is extremely radioactive. Now, for the record, I-131 did leak into the ocean, although the majority of that which did is now non-radioactive xenon-131 in the atmosphere. A spike in the release of iodine-131 that was observed some weeks after the tsunami was offered as "evidence" that the reactor materials were "critical."

Here is one such statement, written in a hysterical diary on May 1, 2011, roughly 51 days after the tsunami struck:
However, inside of the silt fence near Reactor Unit 2 both the absolute levels of Iodine-131 and the ratios of iodine to cesium increase unexpectedly at April 15 and April 25. Less dilution with uncontaminated water could cause the absolute level of Iodine-131 to increase, but it would not likely increase the isotope ratio of iodine to cesium. I can think of actions by TEPCO that could produce that unexpected result, but I think they would have reported such actions because it would have made their data look less concerning. The simplest explanation for these data is that reactor 2 went critical on April 15 and April 25.
The bold is mine. The um, "simplest explanation?" Sigh...

With some regret, here is the reference:

New Fukushima Data: Evidence of Instability & Uncontrolled Criticality

Now, if one actually knew anything at all about nuclear science one would immediately recognize that this is hardly the simplest explanation; it is in fact a tortured explanation at best and pure nonsense at worst.

The evocation of some specious argument about cesium isotopes suggests, perhaps, the latter.

First off, the chemistry of melted uranium/plutonium oxide fuels has been extensively studied around the world. It is very complex, owing to the fact that many hundreds of species are present, things like cesium molybdenates, cesium iodocadminates, molybdouranates, free iodine, cesium iodide (gas, liquid and solid), cesium oxides, even things like cesium metal. To anyone who has studied these things, or is familiar with such studies, it is somewhat unsurprising that only a tiny fraction of the iodine actually escaped, although it must be said that iodine does tend to migrate toward the cooler surfaces of fuels under normal conditions, that is when the fuels are under water. The relative concentration of any species changes the position of the equilibrium of the entire system.

The accumulation of radioisotopes - including fission products - can be estimated closely by use of various types of simulation programs: The technical details surrounding these techniques are beyond the scope of a blog post. Using these types of calculations, TEPCO engineers estimated that the nuclear fuels at the time of the accident contained 81 exabequerels of I-131. An exabequerel is 1018 nuclear decays (represented as atoms) per second. Of this, from the same link NISA, the Japanese equivalent of the US NRC, estimates that 130 petabequerels were released to the atmosphere. A petabequerel is 1015 nuclear decays (represented as atoms) per second. Thus less than 2/10ths of a percent of the total radioiodine-131 were released from the reactor.

(I noted here in a recent diary, these amounts of radioactivity are trivial when compared with the natural radioactivity of the ocean from the presence of potassium alone: How Radioactive Is the Ocean?)

It was thus represented here in this awful space that a momentary increase in the concentration of I-131 in the waters around the reactor was an indication that the reactor must be critical and undergoing uncontrolled fission reactors, because, as the author of the ridiculous claim stated in a kind of scientific malapropism, the half-life of I-131 is 8 days and therefore any increase in the concentration of I-131 in the waters around Fukushima must represent freshly formed I-131 from ongoing nuclear fission in either the used fuel storage ponds or in the melted, failed reactors.

This is pure nonsense.

The scientific malapropism may have derived between the difference in meaning between the more common word "half-life" and lifetime. The radioactive decay law, which should be familiar to any high school physics student is
Nt = N0e-kt
where Nt is the amount of material present at a given time t, and N0 is the amount present initially, in this case, at the time of the earthquake and tsunami. k is a constant determined by dividing the natural logarithm of the number 2 by the half-life, in this case, 8 days, giving a decay constant (days-1) for I-131 of 0.086.

It follows from this equation that it took 74 days, until May 23, for the total amount of I-131 present to equal the amount released earlier, and further that slightly more than 0.1% of the released iodine had already decayed into non-radioactive Xenon-131.

Moreover, the amount released was not released instanteously, but took place of a period of a few weeks. On April 15, the earliest date evoked by the critical criticality claimant, the inventory of I-131 in the entire reactor system was still just shy of 1 exabequerel, almost 8 times the amount released during the entire accident, and was, as the iodine in the sea had been rapidly decaying, roughly 160 times as large as the remaining released iodine. Let's assume that 100 petabequerels had leached by March 18, a week after the accident. It follows from the decay law given above, that about 1.2% of it was still present, and thus a simple explanation, involving no extreme statements whatsoever like the criticality statement, would be that I-131 concentrations might have increased simply via a change in the release rate from the large inventory still available.

But that would not have been as sexy as the nonsense statement that an uncontrolled fission reaction was going on, would it?

Nevertheless it is very clear that changes in the extraction efficiency and/or rate - maybe owing to structural changes in the fuel, changes in fuel temperatures, and changes to the structural components of the failed reactor could easily be evoked to account for momentary increases in the apparent concentrations of I-131 in seawater near the reactor. It is very easy in this context to understand momentary increases in the levels of I-131 (and increases in other isotopes which were even more spectacularly misinterpreted in the caterwauling here).

One may expect of course, that paniced hysterics of the types that engage in continuous nuclear fear mongering - I compare it to yelling "fire" in a crowded theater, where the theater in question is this planet and where the audience consists of some 7 billion people - are probably in no position to apply Occam's razor to questions of subjects they know almost nothing about, nuclear science, but, um, still...

And I repeat, in case anyone missed it, the yelling of "nuclear fire" WILL kill people, since nuclear power plants have been irrationally shut and replaced by dangerous fossil fuel plants which have a 100% probability of killing people even when they operate normally.

Similar arguments apply, by the way, to the hysteria surrounding the used nuclear fuel pools near the reactors. They have been inspected, and despite much panic - some whipped up by illiterate news reporters - they remain largely intact. They did not go critical, and they did not release vast amounts of radioactivity. This should be evidence for the robustness of used nuclear fuel storage, although predictably prehaps, the world will interpret this differently, mostly because humanity is proving itself to be too stupid to live.

I might add that these so called "waste" products would not even be there, were it not for fear ignorance and superstition surrounding the word "nuclear." They would have been recycled (using relatively primitive technology - more sophisticated technology would have been developed in a rational world. (I personally have come up with a fantastic way to recycle hot nuclear fuels, but I'm keeping it to myself right now.)

Nuclear energy need not be perfect, it need not be without risk - even for 40 year old technology - in a massive earthquake and tsunami to be vastly superior to all of the stuff that internet anti-nuke fetishists don't care about.

It only needs to be vastly superior to everything else, which it is.

The decision to close nuclear plants around the world - mostly in bourgeois countries - is, and there's no polite way to put this, is murder, since people will be killed by the use of replacement dangerous fossil fuel plants and irrevocable and irreversible damage will be done to the planetary ecosystem.

It is not the damaged nuclear plants that will kill hundreds of thousands of people in the next few years, but rather it is the superstition, fear and ignorance connected to the hysteria connected to the nuclear plants that will kill people, not because nuclear plants operate, but because don't operate, because they are shut by said superstition, fear, and ignorance.

I hate to say this, but humanity deserves what it's going to get.

Have a nice evening and an nice day tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

When last in Japan (during much happier days) Dr Genichi told power plant tourists that Japanese nuclear power plants were often sited at sea-side to avoid the potential difficulties caused by strikes/protest activity/sabotage by transport unions and others (including by any anti-nuclear elements) affecting their logistics & transport of materials/supplies/workers to and from. He's dead and gone unfortunately so now I can't ask him to elaborate on what he reported back then.


donb said...

Thanks, NNadir, for the righteous anger directed at those opposed to nuclear power. All too often we who want to see more use of nuclear energy are too polite, hoping to convince our opponents by being 'reasonable'. It is refreshing to see a different take on the subject.

Andrew Jaremko said...

Charles - thanks for cross posting from nnadir. I read the post on his diary so I could fill in the poll as well - his polls are always great, though I missed having a lutefisk option in this one. (Lutefisk are a sort of running gag in nnadir's polls.)

All of the points nnadir makes should be things we burn into our memories, to have them ready when someone brings up nuclear energy, Fukushima and Cherynobyl. IMO it's best to be Socratic and question the other person's statements and position, to try to find out why they think they know and where they got their belief from. The only trouble with being Socratic is that it takes a long time - but it may be the only way to get people to change their opinions.

Brooke Gladstone in her book The Influencing Machine cites research that facts and polemic can reinforce people's errors instead of persuading them to change their minds. I heard an interview with Brooke on the July 25th broadcast of CBC Radio's program Q and am now wanting to read the book. I expect it'll help me to be more persuasive, which is very important here in Alberta. Being anti fossil fuel here could get me lynched... ;)

There's a video excerpt from the book on YouTube: The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media

Anonymous said...

There's one reason for all this: humans have been using fire for a million years, and we've known about dams since we first saw a beaver. But we just found out about nuclear so it's scary voodoo.

The North Coast said...

Strangely, no one questions the competence of the BuRec engineers who designed the Glen Canyon Dam, which is still considered to be one of the two most dangerous dams in the United States and which, for reasons obscure to everyone but the wonks at BuRec, has been declared safe by that agency, which declared in 2009 that this dangerous dam will remain in place.

I'm not a civil engineer but you don't have to be one to see how badly designed this dam is. For starters, it was built in an intrinsically unsuitable location, abuted by soft sedimentary rock, the sandstone of Grand Canyon. The abutments are constantly eroding and so the structure has to be "shit-rigged" with massive braces that have to be replaced frequently, to keep it from breaching.

Also, the dam was designed only to withstand a 25-year flood. Why oh WHY would the geniuses at BuRec design such a massive, and massively expensive structure that contains one of the largest impoundments of water in the US, to withstand only a 25 year flood, when such events happen fairly frequently. We can be thankful that the drought of the past decade has kept Lake Powell at low levels, else this dam might have breached by now.

I also have to question using the diversion tunnels through the rock as spillways for the dam instead of building them into the structure, which seems under-engineered as a result, and lacking in the ability to drain enough water at once to prevent overtopping, just as the Banqiao was. It appears to me, at least, that BuRec "cheaped out" on this structure to keep the costs down and the result is a dangerous, underengineered, and badly sited structure destined to fail the next time the Colorado reaches flood stage, with potentially disastrous consequences for the seven dams downriver, including the Hoover.

It seems insane to me to allow this structure to remain in place, but BuRec has no plans to decommission it. Given the hazard and the agency's level of denial, we have to hope that the Western drought persists indefinitely.

The North Coast said...

I must add that this is one of the finest posts I have read anywhere regarding the consequences for humanity of turning our backs on the only fuel that can keep our civilization running in anything like its current form.

Thank you for this wonderful post.

NNadir said...

Thank you NorthCoast, both for your remarks on Glen Canyon and for your kind remarks.

Anonymous said...

The public may hold nuclear professionals to a higher standard bc we hold ourselves to a higher standard. http://bit.ly/nogMPZ

INPO "Principles for a Strong Nuclear Safety Culture" #5: #Nuclear technology is recognized as special and unique. http://bit.ly/p1QuyW


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