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  1. So, in this passionate devotion to nuclear safety, the safety of people thousands of years into the future completely outweighs the safety of those living today and in the near-term future that live near the greater than 100 current interim spent fuel storage sites in America?

    How is that at all logical?

    NOTE: My above comment is not intended to imply that I see any huge danger posed by the current means of storing spent fuel in America. I simply find it completely disingenuous to obstruct the completion of Yucca Mountain in the name of safety, when the current means of storing spent fuel puts a whole lot more people (millions and millions) a whole lot closer (well within an arbitrarily selected 50 mile radius) to the danger that would be posed if they were somehow exposed to the high levels of radiation contained in irradiated (but far from fully spent) fuel. Yes, irradiated nuclear fuel could kill a person exposed to it in close proximity, but that is why nuclear workers focus their entire jobs around protecting themselves and the public from coming into contact with elevated levels of radiation.

  2. Maybe a revolution is not the route to go? Just let the blood letting take place as each department head and Chairman is called into account for political pandering. However, this pales into just and administrative oversight by our elected representatives. Whilst the deals spun via diplomatic circles in matters concerning nuclear license to UAE power generation ambitions are cloaked in secrecy, It becomes apparent that the Executive branch abuse of office should be brought to light by the press so that more direct action can be taken by the voters. Our right to transparentcy by the Obama Administration should be impressed upon White House Staffers by more ciritical review in the “FREE PRESS” so the voters can vote intelligently.

  3. Is the Chairman of the NRC one of those positions where the person holds at office “At the Pleasure of the President”? Or, is it one where, in the name of making it independent from politics, it’s almost impossible to get rid of the Chairman, even if he’s doing a lousy job?

    If he serves at the pleasure of the President, I really have to wonder if Obama is still “Pleased” with this fellow, Jazcko? Since he’s still serving, I guess so. I have to wonder how a President who advocates nuclear power can *possibly* be pleased with an NRC Chairman who abuses his position like he has, and is so obviously on a mission to disrupt the successful functioning of the NRC?

    I also wonder about the folks who are both Anti-nuclear AND anti-Yucca Mountain. They don’t want us to build nuclear reactors like Fast Breeders or LFTRs, which can dispose of the waste. They don’t want us to bury the waste in what is probably the best long-term geological repository in the USA (even if it isn’t a “perfect” site, no “perfect” site is likely to exist on a geologically active planet like Earth).

    What do they want us to do with our spent nuclear fuel? Keep it in dry cask storage on the surface at nuclear plant sites forever? How is that possibly better than Yucca Mtn? Hope really, really hard that a pack of wild Unicorns comes along and will take the casks into space and drop them in the Sun?

    These people strike me as utterly irrational – they complain about the nuclear waste “problem”, then block every possible solution to deal with the problem. I guess they don’t want it fixed because they’d have one less thing to #!@%& about?

    1. Is the Chairman of the NRC one of those positions where the person holds at office “At the Pleasure of the President”?

      Well, yes and no. NRC Commissioners are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Chairman is designated by the President, but he or she has to come from the already confirmed Commissioners.

      Here’s the problem. The only recourse against a rouge NRC chairman — aside from the President simply removing him — is for the House of Representatives to impeach this person. While this is not impossible with the current House, it is very unlikely and almost definitely futile, since only the Senate can actually remove the fellow, and I don’t think that any Senate under the leadership of Harry Reid will do that.

      Speaking of “folks who are both Anti-nuclear AND anti-Yucca Mountain,” have you seen the latest nuttiness from the loony left at Think Progress?

      Here they attack a NYT op-ed piece penned by a “disinformer,” who just happens to recommend natural gas and (in just one sentence) nuclear power over unreliable “renewable” energy. Their beef is that he briefly quoted economist E. F. Schumacher near the end of his article to argue that “Small is beautiful.” The punchline is that Schumacher is known for serving for two decades as Chief Economic Adviser to the UK’s National Coal Board and argued vehemently that coal should be used to supply future energy needs for the world’s growing population.

      The impression given by the Think Progress clap-trap is that Schumacher was some sort of radical proponent of wind, solar, etc., but even the quotes that they chose to highlight his writings belie this idea (emphasis mine):

      Whether to build conventional power stations, based on coal or oil, or nuclear stations, is being decided on economic grounds, with perhaps a small element of regard for the ‘social consequences’ that might arise from an over-speedy curtailment of the coal industry.

      Some days they defend the gas industry; other days they defend the coal industry. As long as it’s not nuclear power.

    2. Jeff – come over to my way of thinking and you will be less confused – but perhaps more angry. Many who fight nuclear energy seem, on the surface, to be fighting all reliable forms of energy in the vain and absurd hope that mankind will return to some kind of mythical past society where everyone lived in harmony with nature. For some very odd reason, many nuclear advocates believe what those seemingly loony (to us) folks SAY as the reason that they fight against new energy sources that just might be even cheaper than the existing energy sources if allowed to flourish and take advantage of well known economies associated with steady series production and learning curves.

      However, there is another more rational, powerful and wealthy group that also hates the idea of mankind finding a cheap, clean and reliable energy source. It is that greedy group of people who is quite happy making several trillion dollars per year by selling mankind dirty, expensive, explosive, and toxic fuels that are currently reliable for about 25% of the world’s population because they are in somewhat adequate supply for that portion of the population who can afford them. Because only 25% of the world’s population can really afford the fuels required for moderate to abundant living, and because the fuel sources have natural limitations on production rate, the entities have decided that a low price strategy of sufficient fuel for everyone is not as profitable as a high price strategy.

      They HATE the idea of mankind actually making full use of the cheap, clean, abundant and safe fuels discovered about 70 years ago because allowing those fuels to flourish would drive much of the profit out of their business. They would not go out of business, but their markets would be vastly smaller and limited to those few applications like personal automobiles and aircraft that are simply not very adaptable to using nuclear energy with currently known technology due to the mass of the shielding required to protect people who are close to a fission reactor.

      Those seemingly irrational fighters are not “utterly irrational.” Some are misguided or have been seduced by the oily voices of people like Lovins and Romm, but many of the leaders know the score – a low cost, reliable, emission free power source will completely disrupt the established economic power structure. They resist that because they are a part of that establishment. I want the disruption even though I have done okay, live a prosperous life, and have had access to many of the benefits associated with the current economic order.

      I have also had the benefit of meeting and working with many people who have not been so lucky as to have had access to sufficient energy sources for moderate prosperity – they are pretty fine people who might do wonderful things if allowed access to clean, cheap, abundant power for creative action. Many of the disadvantaged that I have met are far nicer people than the rich and powerful that I have also met and worked for.

      1. Pointing out that fossil fuels are only even capable of sustaining an “abundant” standard of living for about 25% of the world’s current population really sticks out.

        Nuclear energy could be the building block to enable an “abundant” standard of living for a much, much higher percentage of the world’s population if allowed to flourish in a safe environment.

        Past advances in advancing knowledge of how to utilize energy have helped end slavery in the developed world.

        In many ways, it seems morally wrong to obstruct the advancement of world-wide nuclear knowledge for peaceful energy uses.

        The following blog posting has really stuck with me, even though I read it almost 3 months ago (maybe the morning of Fukushima, actually).


      2. Small side comment. Electric Cars are coming fast. There is a momentum behind battery research now (finally) that will see big improvements in the near future. So, nuclear really can take the place of virtually all fossil fuel use (could even use synthetic fuels for planes if we wanted to do so).

      3. Do electric cars currently have the capabilities of gasoline-powered vehicles? I just made a 500-mile trip on one tank of gasoline, running the A/C the entire trip. It took me maybe five minutes to re-fuel when I got home. Is there an EV with that kind of range, environmental control, and recharge time? If not, then maybe there will be a niche market for short-range EVs with no heating or A/C, but not too much else. Even those will be just playtoys for rich people. I’m just a working stiff who doesn’t have $40,000 to shell out for a commuter-type vehicle.

  4. And here is what AEP is doing because of EPA “rules.” (Because legislation Obama wanted did not get passed) As he said “Energy prices will necessarily skyrocket.”


    If that doesnt work try http://www.powergenworldwide.com/index.html

    and then pick the article “AEP says EPA rule will …

    There are several other articles on the impacts of the rule changes also listed.

  5. So now that the Japanese government has admitted that the fuel at the damaged Fukishima reactors 1, 2 and 3 has melted through their respective pressure vessels, aren’t you going to update your recent article about what a meltdown does look like? In particular what does it imply regarding ground and ocean water contaminations, and the timeline for the site cleanup?

    1. That article is full of ambiguities. For example:

      “The fuel appears to be stable at present as it is being cooled by water pumped into the vessels, although it will complicate the emergency recovery plan put forward by the government.”

      So, if the fuel “burned through” (there is no “burning”) the pressure vessels, how is it being cooled by water pumped into the vessels? It should be cooled by water pumped into the containment space, not the vessels, if it has escaped the vessels. Which is it?

      I’m not going to believe anything published in the mainstream media. I want to see firm evidence presented by credible sources, things like pictures taken by credible investigators. Until them, everything is speculation, IMO, and as I learned in grad school, engineers generally take a dim view of unsupported speculation.

    2. So many reports and ‘admissions’ have turned out to be false I think I would wait a bit to find out the real story. Melted through may not mean the entire bottom of the pressure vessel has melted (that is the impression that is given and you seem to believe), but could mean that seals around some points of entry into the pressure vessel melted. Which makes the ‘hole’ a lot smaller than you imagine.

      I do not know the truth of this, but I think you should wait a bit before jumping to a conclusion.

      1. There was a study done at ORNL (or some other national lab) that indicated the most vulnerable points in the BWR PV were the instrument tube feedthroughs and the associated weld points. Those would go first. I can believe that. Those would be small penetrations. Not much other than highly non-viscous material (coolant, perhaps melted cladding) would get through. Intact fuel pellets would probably be too large.

        But the other thing to remember is, this is why we have containment. Loss of pressure vessel integrity is a possibility and included in the accident analysis. Containment is designed for these kinds of things. It adds another barrier to direct release of the material to the environment. So while the anti-nukes types will be turning handsprings and giggling in delight over the possibility of PV breach, I’m not going to go off the deep end myself, because we have the ultimate barrier, containment, still in place.

    3. @Chris – the other replies to your question beat me to most of my answer. Another part of the story is that the only isotopes that have been found in any relevant concentration outside of the reactor buildings have been either noble gases (which quickly dissipated) or water soluble I-131, Cs-137, and Cs-134. Essentially all of the I-131 is now gone by the inevitable process of radioactive decay of a material with an 8 day half life.

      The 30 year half life of Cs-137 means that it will be measurable in some places for many years, but the health effects of that isotope after Chernobyl were determined to be so small that they could not be measured. In a world full of reasons to worry, this one needs to be put near the bottom of the list of things to worry about.

      I would fully support enacting laws to prevent building any more BWRs with MK 1 containment structures. (The chances of anyone trying to build such a machine are about as high as them deciding to try to market a 1971 Maverick.) However, as demonstrated by the reactors at Fukushima Daini, even slightly improved versions of those machines would most likely survive the same earthquake and tsunami events that led to core melts at Daiichi units 1-3.

      Now – allow me to change the subject. Do you care to enlighten me about the impact of the tsunami on the fossil fuel infrastructure in Japan? How many people have died or had their lives shortened by exposure to the residues of damaged facilities associated with fossil fuel power or fossil fuel production?

      1. I’m not sure about damage to the fossil fuel infrastructure, but I do know there was a renewable energy disaster in Japan following the March earthquake. The Okura dam in Sendai province collapsed and washed away an entire village of 1800 people. That is 1800 casualties more than have been caused by the Fukushima Daiichi event. The renewable energy catastrophe didn’t make the papers, as far as I know.

        1. do you have more info about that? any links?
          the only information I could find was about the Fujinuma Dam break following the March earthquake. Even on the japenese wikipedia no info about a dam break.

  6. @Rod
    Why throw the Mark I’s under the bus? The anti-nucs are already doing such a good job throwing Mark I’s under the bus without any help. The thing is, nobody can offer an objective explanation of how a BWR Mark II, Mark III, or PWR dry containment would have fared any better in a similar SBO event. Chances are, they would have fared about the same, or worse (for PWR). The containment is not the reason Fukushima had the problems they did. Any LWR with no core cooling for an extended period of time would likely have a similar fate. Failing to depressurize containment when it exceeded it’s design pressure likely exacerbated the situation, but that was an operational issue, not a design issue. Having hydrogen leak into the building (instead of out the vent) is a design question regarding the specific hard-pipe vent design, and not something you can broadly attribute to a whole class of containment designs.

    1. @Christopher – Without all of the technical details and analysis in, I can only point to the difference in releases between the BWRs with MK 1 containments upon a total loss of core cooling compared to the minimal amount released at the one PWR with a large dry containment that experienced that phenomenon at Three Mile Island. However, I will admit that my view might be simplistic because there were many other complicating factors. The control room at TMI never went dark and the operators had sufficient indications of core conditions to enable them to take the proper operational steps to keep the containment from being overpressurized.

      However, I am not going to waste any time defending the MK 1 containment as adequate as a final barrier to fission product release in the case of a station blackout that lasts several days without having adequate backup power. It makes sense to me to ensure that the remaining nuclear plants using Mk 1 containments spend some time making sure that they have adequately resilient backup generation systems so that they have an extremely low probability of experiencing a total loss of coolant flow.

      If MK 1 containments were perfectly adequate, GE would have kept building them. Instead, they modified and improved the design. That is the way technology is supposed to work – you learn, you improve, and you take a little bit of extra precautions to prevent the consequences of known weaknesses in the obsoleted designs. I am not advocating any early shutdowns by a long shot, just a reasonable effort to ensure that core melts with substantial fission product release into the environment are avoided.

  7. Hi all,

    I’ve been a silent follower of the blog for awhile, and thought I might add a comment or two. I hold a BS and (shortly) and MS in nuclear engineering, and have found myself equally frustrated with the severe lack of good information on Fukushima (as provided by the media). This might nor be exactly the right place for it, but since discussion inevitably keeps returning to the ongoing events at the Daiichi plant, I thought I might share an interesting resource I found digging around the TEPCO website:


    The format isn’t the friendliest, but there are a ton of pictures and short clips pertaining to the tsunamis and ongoing work at the site. It appears to be updated pretty regularly, and gives a far better impression of what the workers are really contending with.

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