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  1. You labelled the y-axis of your graph “barrels of oil per day” — is it actually meant to be “millions of barrels of oil per day”?

  2. “Chernobyl was a major industrial accident that killed several dozen unfortunate souls who were ordered into areas that were known to be very dangerous. ”

    The sad part about this is that if these unfortunate souls had just locked the door behind them and gone home, the severity of the accident may have been less. Some of the efforts to put the fire out actually resulted in heat being retained in the core, causing the graphite to anneal releasing even more energy into the fire.

  3. Well, your four points of “technical lessons that can be learned” are – if thought to the final consequence – a loud call for quite strict regulation of the nuclear power industry. This is kind of surprising to me as I usually read about the opposite here.

    Also, if I look into other industries, e.g. aviation: a lot of mistakes are done of course by not to-the-standard trained people, however, it is particular striking that for some of the worst aviation disasters a key factor was the error of very senior and experienced pilots of the particular arline (see the KLM/PanAm Tenerife accident). People have bad days, unfortunately – even the well-trained. So the the first of your points is probably wishful thinking.

    1. @msit – there already is quite strict regulation of the nuclear industry.

      The operators at Chernobyl did not make a mistake. Under the direction of a political appointee they purposely made a series of decisions that violated a number of procedures and operational principles.

      If I were a suspicious type, I would almost think that their goal was to destroy the plant in a spectacular fashion in order to enhance the wealth and power of a certain sector of the Soviet elite.

      1. I know there is quite a strict regulation of the nuclear industry already – but here on Atomic Insight one might gain the impression it is already way too strict.

      2. @It is not that the regulation is “strict” but that it is so bogged down that it fails to achieve one of its main goals – enabling the safe use of nuclear energy. Suppose the FAA approval process was so convoluted and expensive that the airlines were still operating DC-9s as their primary workhorse?

      3. Mhh, I am not sure if a DC-9 would pass a FAA certification process easily nowadays – I would guess, the requirements to certify a new type today is quite a bit higher than during DC-9 times.

      4. The DC-9 was a better build aircraft than anything built today. Like the DC-3 it will be flying long after the current fleet is dust.

      5. @DV82XL: Did I say against this? From a engineering stand point it was/is a very fine piece of work at that time (and still is). From economically stand point it is over-engineered and too heavy which makes it a gas guzzler and “CO2 bomber” compared to modern jet designs (and particular the CO2 part is something you don’t seem to like much if I read your comments here and in other places). By that and noise requirements it would be probably hard to get certified nowadays.

      6. The DC-9 fleet has been re-engined for fuel ecconomy twice, and hush-kits are also on all flying in North America. The MD-80 is a modern DC-9 in everything but name.

        I understand the point you are making, and I will drop this now, but the ‘9’ is a great bird, that I worked on for years, and I get a bit defencive when people bad-mouth it.

      7. @msit

        The DC-9 analogy flew right over your head. The point was that DC-9 wouldn’t meet new regulations. Even though it would still be the only plane used because all the designs that can meet new regulations are sitting on the desk at the regulatory body.

        The point is that without a steady stream of new planes(each an improvement over the last) to replace the DC-9 we would be forced to keep using the old tech and extending licenses because we can’t afford to have no planes flying.

      8. @Jason: … which is exactly not the case, i.e. there are many improved and approved new types albeit stricter regulations in aviation today.

        Actually my comment was not meant totally seriously, i.e. although I understood Rod’s analogy my intention was to just add the little side note that also the aviation industry had to actually deal with stronger regulations since the DC-9 was initially certified (next time I will add an smiley). And well, after DV82XL outed her/himself as a DC-3/9 lover, I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t my intention to put his favorite plane into a bad light.

  4. from what I understand of it, the accident had two factors it.

    a few design flaws coupled with poor understand of the reactors they were controlling.

    I don’t really blame the staff at Chernobyl for the accident. I world blame the system that did not train them correctly and did not give them the understanding of the possible outcome of by-passing the safely systems.

    I live 4 miles away from an British advanced gas cooled reactor. Though they lost out to water cooled reactors still think they have the edge for safely.

  5. @ Mist,
    I’m sure Rod’s point is that the nuclear indutries in western countries already have achieved those four requirements and that no additional levels of regulation are required. In fact, there probably exist levels of regulation that do not contribute to those points that could be removed with no reduction in the level of safety.

    1. I don’t want to know, how often point 1 and 2 were violated in western county nuclear industries because of time pressure, economically pressure etc during the last 25 years.

      Point 3 we don’t need to discuss – it was of course inherent of the reactor design used in Chernobyl.

      I am not sure about point 4: if somebody has to decide about building a plant in the economically most viable way, how much does he care about “sufficient defense”? I think that strongly correlates with the level of regulation. I am pretty sure Chernobyl’s “defense lines” where built according to accepted regulation guidelines at that time in the Soviet Union.

      1. @msit – the analysis of economic viability includes the ability to withstand all conceivable impacts and remain capable of future operation and revenue generation.

        The economics of nuclear energy – with a great deal of capital intensity and low operating costs due to very low fuel costs – leads an analyst to compute that a few extra dollars worth of protection of the asset are a good investment. Cutting corners on protection is for gas turbines where the fuel cost is 90% of the total cost of electricity generation.

        Losing a generator is just not that big a deal – look at the impact of the explosion at Middletown, CT last January on the industry.

      2. Well, I hope so – and I am sure that you personally would do so – but I am pretty sure there will be always people who think some “shanty” will be good enough (well, Chernobyl is kind of a example for exactly this).

        1. Remember, Chernobyl was a reactor that was built by a country where there was no private enterprise and no profit motive. The choices made there were often driven by political goals. The RBMK was a dual purpose design that was configured to all production of both electricity and weapons grade material by products. Short cuts are often taken when the political leaders make the decisions.

          The US has a constitution that is infused with the concept of checks and balances. The government has a legitimate questioning role for protecting health and safety and general good; private enterprise has a legitimate role in making investment decisions that will continue to pay off long after the specific decision makers have moved on. I will grant that there have always been perversions of the role of private investment by some who seek quick returns, but I am confident that there are few to none of those kinds of people making nuclear energy investments. The returns, though potentially very solid, do not happen quickly.

          That is one reason why “Wall Street” has little interest in financing nuclear energy – another primary reason is the recognition by some hard nosed number crunchers that success in nuclear will spell losses in fossil. There is a LOT of capital at stake, but I cannot help it if they were too short sighted to read the technical writing on the wall.

      3. Well, I agree with that – although one might argue it is a very idealistic view and unfortunately turn out differently in reality. Probably one of the motivations for strict regulation of something by the state/government (not specially only the nuclear industry) is to compensate for this – and admittedly it quite often turns in over-compenstation – to balance this is probably very hard.

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