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31 Comments

  1. Average people can be made to understand, and make informed choices about nuclear energy when they are given the facts. More importantly, they can sort out the truth from the hyperbole; the surveys have proved that.
    What our opponents will do is use the old trick of claiming to speak for the majority, and in this they must be constantly challenged. This is because there are a lot of people out there that will support nuclear energy, even in the face of what has just happened, but are constantly being told that their opinions are in the minority. The onus is on us to keep the heat on the antinukes to prove that they are speaking for more than just themselves.
    We also have stop taking a defensive position on the Japanese incident, and take the offence. This incident proves the safety of nuclear power plants under the worse conditions possible. It demonstrates that even with most of the control systems broken, and no auxiliary power to speak of, and with the whole damned country reeling from a huge disaster, they were able to bring things under control in the two or three plants out of fifty-five that actually failed. This is a triumph, and it needs to be treated as such. But absolutely no apologetics

    1. I agree. If only people knew that things were under control to make that argument. If you had watched the initial reporting the impression you would get was that it was already Chernobyl. I saw them show burning refineries on more than one broadcast while they were talking about the reactors. I knew what I was seeing was BS. but the soccer moms of the world don’t. And they are the ones that like to lay on the tracks when groundbreaking time comes for a new reactor.

    2. The end result will very likely validate that by and large the conservative design requirements behind the GE Mark I containment have limited the effects of this incredible natural disaster, however, we shouldn’t start on a triumphal march. Things have not yet been brought under control and there are many challenges ahead in removing decay heat and ensuring the integrity of the primary containment. Remember that three of the reactors were operating at Daichi and four were operating at Daini. The units at Daichi have lost power and service water and those at Daini have power but limited service water. The destruction of the Reactor Building and presumably many of the components at Unit 1 will complicate the response at Unit 1 and likely lead to much more fuel damage. It is highly probable that three units at Daichi will be destroyed and never operate again. Hardly a reason to applaud.

      1. The fact is that the Unit 1 reactor was scheduled for shutdown and decommissioning anyway in the next few months.

        1. @Alan. This is the trap we cannot fall into: soccer moms can work out the truth IF THEY ARE GIVEN THE FACTS. The problem is that we have left the field to antinuclear demagogy, and have not challenged it, assuming (somewhat arrogantly, I might add) that ‘ soccer moms’ and their peers are too stupid to follow our arguments. The truth is that it has been proven that once a population has been presented with a balanced argument and apprised of all the facts, they do support nuclear energy, more often than not. We cannot yield the stage to the antinuclear movement this time, we have to take the fight to them, or we will be right back where we were after TMI.

          1. But they are not given the facts. Most people turn on the TV, see what they see, make conclusions and never bother to look a these blogs or read books on the subject. It is not that they are stupid, it’s that they (the general public) don’t have the time or interest to find the truth of the matter (whatever it may be).
            We, unfortunately, don’t have the luxury that anti-nukes have, which is a direct line to national media and nice simple sound bytes that offer quick explanations.
            We need at least a 1000 words to get people up to speed.
            Before this event the support for nuclear in the USA was at 70 percent for two years in a row so it will be interesting to see how the polls drop.

    3. Completely disagree. A station blackout with core damage is unacceptable. After watching this, any Mark I containment without H2 recombiners is unacceptable. I’d like to now why they couldn’t get suppression pool cooling going between the moment of loss of AC and the time when RCIC or the IC was lost. Why was HPCI running instead of RHR or RCIC on Unit 3? There are a lot of unanswered questions that need to be looked at before we can say the designs are adequate. If the quake was beyond design basis and took some systems out, that’s different.
      I’m not familiar with the Japanese regulatory system, but I think the entire industry needs to take a critical look on how we define credible natural phenomena. I’m assuming water got in the diesel air intakes, and if I were a plant on the ocean, I’d be looking at my diesels for potential mods right now.

      1. Frank,
        From the blog post by “Dr Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT, in Boston”:
        The earthquake that hit Japan was 5 times more powerful than the worst earthquake the nuclear power plant was built for (the Richter scale works logarithmically; the difference between the 8.2 that the plants were built for and the 8.9 that happened is 5 times, not 0.7).
        http://morgsatlarge.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/why-i-am-not-worried-about-japans-nuclear-reactors/
        It does appear to be beyond the design basis when the plant was designed over 40 years ago. Not sure what standards they apply to their modern reactor designs.

      2. @Frank – spoken like the kind of nuke who likes making his living by requiring ever more systems and procedures to handle ever more fanciful potential challenges. There are plenty in the business who are not satisfied with well enough, who think that only nuclear energy has to be perfect and who think it is okay that it has been priced out of most markets when the alternatives are so much more damaging to the environment both during routine operation and during major natural disasters like the one that is stressing the entire nation of Japan.
        Your alphabet soup reveals that you are an insider who may not recognize just how damaging people like you have been to the growth of the only real alternative to fossil fuel that is available. Not only is fission an “alternative” but it is a far better energy source that should be winning almost all market competitions hands down.
        Do you understand that the most likely health effect of low levels of radiation exposure (in the range of less than 5 REM per year) is a positive one?

        1. I’m not worried about the radiation release. I’m worried about the capital loss of the units playing in the head of utility CEOs and the public preventing relicensing in California. I understand the Unit 1 is a smaller older unit, but I want more information before making a decision on whether this is a “success” or a “failure” story. When all the facts come out, I may or may not be satisfied with the reactor’s performance. I was trying to get the point across that it wouldn’t look very good if the nuclear industry brags (as some of you are doing right now) if facts emerge that things were a lot closer to disaster than we think. I’d hope we would all agree that it is not acceptable to blow up the Reactor Building when venting containment.
          We can always do things to improve safety, and that will not change the fact that nuclear power is going to be a major source of energy in the future. There’s a lot of credibility at stake, so I would wait for the facts before declaring this a success.
          Does anyone else feel like there’s a 100 year natural phenomena every few years?

          1. Frank,
            I don’t hear bragging, I hear relieved confidence in the face of a horrible disaster. It could have been much worse if our detractors were correct, but instead of a total calamity, we have a financial loss with almost no impact on the health of the public and very few injuries for plant workers in the face of a breathtaking hit. The overbuilt containment we have been pointing to for years has survived and skill, training and good design have taken much more than they were originally planned for. This is not hubris, but relief.

          2. Frank: “Does anyone else feel like there’s a 100 year natural phenomena every few years?”
            It’s not just a feeling, it’s a statistical certainty.
            If you’ve studied nuclear science then you must be familiar with Poisson processes. The time to the next event is a stochastic quantity that has an exponential distribution. While each particular natural phenomenon event might occur on average once every 100 years, when considering multiple possible events, they occur much more frequently.
            That is, we have the possibility of a 100-year earthquake in Japan, a 100-year earthquake in Chile, a 100-year earthquake in California, a 100-year flood in Louisiana, etc. If we consider just 10 of these 100-year events, then we’ve increased the rate at which we expect to see any one of these events by an order of magnitude. In other words, given the possibility of 20 such events (assuming that they are independent), we should expect to see one of these rare events every five years or so, on average.
            Thus, while the probability of each event is low, observing one of these events somewhere in the world is a rather common occurrence.

            1. It is like the “Birthday” game. There are VERY high odds that with just 10-12 people in a room, two will be born on ther same day of the month. You will win money betting on that fact.

  2. Rod, thanks a lot for your excellent coverage of what is going on. Sitting in Germany I am bombarded with insane statements lacking any connection to the truth. With elections close it is like environmentalists field day and the press happily supports that. I posted several comments but it is a hopeless case.

  3. It looks like there has been some release of radioactive materials which have been detected on people who live near by. I sure this will get a lot of press play, even if the radiological exposure is similar to getting splashed with orange juice concentrate. Most likely the real danger to those exposed will be little to none.
    Certainly there have been many people killed and injured by fires fueled by natural gas and petroleum products. The deaths will be reported, but no connection will be made to the energy-related cause.

  4. G’day,
    Well if you want truth to get out there you might explain what units like “100,000 cpm” mean. Its sounds scary but how much of a danger is it? Can iy be related to the familiar?
    Ralph

    1. cpm in this context probably means “counts per minute”. It’s a relative measure of radioactivity that also requires knowledge of the detector (and procedure) used to mean anything. You might get 200,000 cpm by holding a detector next to a lump of uranium mineral taken from the ground, or 5,000 for a different detector.

  5. Rod, I’m having trouble with this green who saying is just part of “Big energy” problem and has no potential to replace fossil fuels.
    Here’s is his argument:
    “I

    1. The same year that TMI-I went “operational” the coal plant in Middletown PA was shut down. Most of the workers from that coal plant started working at TMI more than a year before TMI-I went critical for the first time, as there was no need to maintain a plant that was going to be scrapped.

  6. Earlier I had seen reports that one worker was killed in the Fukushima explosion, but this sheet only mentions four injured workers. If the report of the one fatality was incorrect, that would be good news.
    Amidst the current nuclear hysteria we see on the TV, it is worth remembering that natural gas explosions have killed dozens of energy workers over the past year in the US.

  7. Sooooo, this is a press release from the power company’s lobbying organization in DC.?

      1. “Some of the activities that FEPC Washington Office is engaged in include:
        Ongoing liaisons with opinion leaders and private industry leaders in the U.S. on general energy topics and more specifically on nuclear power and nuclear fuel cycle issues.
        Representation of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan at general energy as well as specific nuclear power events. FEPC Washington Office also handles some media relations on activities common to our member companies.
        Partnership with the Nuclear Energy Institute and other U.S. nuclear industry representatives for Congressional Information Programs, which help to further the knowledge in the US Congress about Japan’s civilian nuclear energy program.”
        They’re Washington lobbyists working for the Japanese nuclear power industry in Washington, ensuring message consistency among it’s members as well as with the NEI.

    1. @Anon23 If you want to see really powerful lobbying, don’t miss the forest for the trees: Look no further than Big Oil, Exxon and BP, and the green lobby such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace. These organizations work hand in glove, their new plan is to get everybody depenent on natural gas, that’s why natural gas is promoted by Greenpeace in their energy [r]evolution blueprint, that’s why they promote wind power which needs natural gas backup running 2/3 of the time when the wind is slowing down.
      The nuclear industry is by comparison a small player, and has little influence other than by the fact it’s a very powerful technology.

      1. Oh, totally. When I hear “hand in glove”, I think “Exxon and Greenpeace.” Could I speak to your agent, I run a small comedy club and I think you’d be a huge hit.
        But seriously, General Electric was #2 on the Forbes Global 2000 for 2010, behind JP Morgan and ahead of BofA.

        1. @Anon23 – My children have often told me that I am quite amusing – on any topic outside of energy. They tell me that I take that one way too seriously.
          Do you know how important it is to the profitability of all energy companies that there is a perception that there is more demand than supply of the basic product? Have you ever deeply delved into the markets to find out how prices behave as the balance between supply and demand changes?
          The efforts by Greenpeace and other organizations that work hard to limit the supply of energy provide a great deal of assistance to pushing up the price of oil, natural gas and coal and thus to increase the profitability of companies who produce as much as they can every year, knowing that it will be purchased. When prices go up, their costs remain essentially unchanged, so all of the extra revenue falls right down to the bottom line.
          What is your point about GE? Do you think of them as a nuclear company, despite the fact that their annual revenue is something on the order of $150 billion and the revenue from their nuclear divisions all together is something less than $5 billion? That company makes far more money selling subsidized wind turbines and combustion turbines designed to burn natural gas than they do in manufacturing nuclear fuel and providing services to a few nuclear facilities.

  8. A good source of information from the Japanese government: http://twitter.com/norishikata
    Seems like everything is very much under control in terms of safety, but the economic damage can not be minimized: they are preparing to flood unit 2 with seawater. That would be the third reactor to be flooded (and never to be restarted?)

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