Carnival of nuclear energy bloggers #303
It’s time for another weekly roundup of the best of the pronuclear blogs.
Last week included the fifth anniversary of the March 11, 2011 twin natural disaster that included a 9.0 earthquake and a 15 meter tall tsunami. Those two closely linked forces of nature resulted in widespread infrastructure devastation over a 150 km long swath of the northeast Japanese coast. As of February 10, 2016, authorities in Japan have identified 15,894 bodies while 2,562 people remain unaccounted for.
Of those victims, not a single one came as a result of the small amount of radioactive contamination spread over a relatively narrow wedge of territory inland from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. That station, located on the devastated coast, survived the earthquake and mostly survived the tsunami.
Three of the six nuclear power units on the site, however, were operating at full power before being shut down at the time of the earthquake. They slowly succumbed to the effects of internally generated heat after the earthquake and tsunami knocked out the electrical power needed for their primary and secondary means of cooling and because the operators at the station had been trained to wait for permission before releasing high pressure steam and gases inhibiting the use of a tertiary means of providing some cooling.
The fuel cores of three large nuclear reactors ended up melting to a still unknown extent, three hydrogen explosions severely damaged significant parts of the reactor buildings, and the power plant site is undergoing what will be a multi-decade long clean-up. Outside of the plant boundaries, the maximum first year radiation dose avoided by any member of the evacuated public was on the order of 20-50 mSv, about half as much as has ever been proven to cause a slight increase in the lifetime risk of contracting cancer.
Because the world’s attention was rapidly realigned from focusing on the victims of the natural disaster to fretting about the far less consequential events at the power station, far too many people around the world remember 3-11-2011 with the single word of Fukushima. It is unfortunate in the extreme that the Fukushima Frenzy overshadowed the real catastrophe and caused an enormous misalignment of resources.
Many of the entries in this week’s 303rd Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers look back on the frenzy and the events of the five subsequent years to elucidate available lessons that can and should be learned.
ANS Nuclear Cafe
Japan Moving Forward – Needs Nuclear
Margaret Harding writes about the impact of the earthquake and tsunami on Japan, and explains why the island nation needs nuclear energy if it is to ever regain its place as the leading industrial manufacturer and exporter that it once was.
Atomic Power Review
Five Years from Fukushima – Where Are We Now?
In this post, Will Davis takes a look back at what has transpired since the Great Eastern Japan (Tohoku) Earthquake in 2011, compares what’s going on now to what we might have expected, parallels earlier accident events and looks toward the future.
Fukushima Commentary 3/11/16 – Fukushima at Five Years: Rampant Radiophobia Ham-strings Japan’s Recovery
Rampant radiophobia infects millions of Japanese citizens, and it is allowed to fester virtually unabated. Its impact has reached the point of national catastrophe… not one caused by Mother Nature. But rather, a calamity fostered from fear itself.
Forbes – James Conca
After Five Years, What Is The Cost Of Fukushima?
The direct costs of the Fukushima disaster will be about $15 billion in clean-up over the next 20 years and over $60 billion in refugee compensation. Replacing Japan’s 300 billion kWhs from nuclear each year with fossil fuels has cost Japan over $200 billion, mostly from fuel costs for natural gas, fuel oil and coal. This cost will at least double, and that only if the nuclear fleet is mostly restarted by 2020. Since 2011, Japan’s trade deficit has become the worst in its history, and Japan is now the second largest net importer of fossil fuel in the world, right behind China. Strangely, the costs that never materialized were the most feared, those of radiation-induced cancer and death.
Why haven’t world leaders learned the most useful lessons from Fukushima?
Of all of the costs identified by Jim Conca in his excellent summary of the costs of Fukushima after five years, more than 2/3’s could have been avoided by a more risk informed response to the event from a public health point of view. Moving people from their homes and shutting down unaffected nuclear plants for extended periods of time have imposed enormous, virtually unrecoverable costs on the people and the communities affected.
As a society, we must learn how to more effectively and efficiently deal with radiation as a hazard with known effects. That effort must include learning how to avoid overreacting.
Canadian Energy Issues
Accurate and inaccurate predictions, garbage dumping, and death threats: an easy lesson about nuclear power, still not learned after 1,827 days
Amongst the horrendous destruction in northeast Japan caused by an earthquake so strong it knocked our planet off its axis, was a predictably innocuous event that should have been recognized as a non-event. This was, of course, the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi generating plant. The earthquake raised a 10 meter tsunami which when it collided with the coastline, moving at about 100 kilometers an hour, killed nearly 20,000 of our fellow human beings and made half a million homeless. It also flooded and rendered useless the backup pumps that circulate cooling water through F-D’s reactors. This caused the meltdowns.
Having studied the outcomes of other nuclear meltdowns, notably the Chalk River incident (1952), and Three Mile Island (1979), Steve Aplin quickly realized that while the destruction of three nuclear reactors would be a major problem for the company that owned them and the millions of people who relied on their power, it was little more than a local issue. The real problem at the time, as he saw it from Ottawa Canada, 13,000 kilometers away, was helping the survivors of the tsunami.
Nuke Power Talk
NRC Principles of Good Regulation: Compliments and Critiques
At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus reflects on a session at NRC’s Regulatory Information Conference (RIC) this past week (March 8-10) highlighting 25 years of the Principles of Good Regulation (PGR). The speakers at the session both complimented and criticized the PGR, sometimes for the same principles! What was clear from the session and from other discussion during the meeting is that the concept of the PGR has spread and continues to spread, both in the US and abroad.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Marcus is too modest. You have to read the full article before finding out that she played a major role in writing the internationally influential Principles of Good Regulation when she was serving on Commissioner Rogers’s staff.
Yes Vermont Yankee
The Oddness at the Heart of RTO (Regional Transmission Organizations)
Meredith Angwin summarizes some of the increasingly complicated rules that have been developed to ensure reliable electricity supplies in the differently regulated “markets” that no longer have integrated monopoly utility suppliers.
James Conca responded to Rod Adams:
Hindsight is fine, but you really had to evacuate for two months as I-131 died away and you figured out what was going on and stabilized the reactors, as they did. You could not have predicted at that time that so little radioactivity would be dispersed. But most should have returned at that point.”
First, the IAEA guideline of evacuating a 5 km / 3 mi radius would have made much more sense than the 20 km /12 mi radius evacuation adopted by the Japanese government. Second, I think one should have known based on the type of reactors that radiation releases would be very low, at least within an order of half a magnitude.
Plus the Japanese leadership could have avoided much of the damages had they not had a say in venting the hydrogen. All these chain of events subsequent to the tsunami itself that could have reduced damages and harm; key wrong decisions made that stemmed from radiophobia.
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