Three Mile Island from the air

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8 Comments

  1. Has DOE and NRC not yet learned the importance of timely, transparent communications about accidents? The recent failure to communicate facts about the “puff” at the Waste Isolation Pilot plant allowed press speculation to abound.

  2. My first involvement in nuclear power plant simulators came in the mid-1980’s. Even then, the simulators were barely adequate but rapidly getting better. Going solid or drawing a bubble realistically in the pressurizer was not an easy task for a simulator model. Forget about draining the RCS or mid-loop operations.

    It must have been even worse in the 1970’s. The state of the art is ALOT better now.

    1. New plant offerings have a superior approach. They have all the operator training etc. but they also have automatic or even passive systems as a backup in case operators do make multiple mistakes. The use of special valves in the ESBWR for example, means that the reactor will be fed with coolant even if the operators close down coolant valves and think there’s plenty of coolant around. The system can’t be overriden, and the type of valve is such that it requires no maintenance at all over the 60 years of plant lifetime.

      This takes all operational human factors out of the equasion.

      In my opinion we should not rely on human actions for nuclear plant safety. If we are to power the world with nuclear, we need to think about 10000+ nuclear plants in almost every country in the world. Consider just the cultural differences as one example – some countries have a general haphazard approach to safety as part of their culture.

      Designing in safety is much easier than learning humans how to behave flawlessly in hundreds of countries around the world.

  3. TMI had another important – and largely unlearned – lesson. The safety systems worked well enough that, even in the face of human error and a confusing ( I would say flawed) plant control/electrical design, there was not a single casualty. The containment in particular worked well. Even by the silly LNT standard, only around 1 person would have died from radiation. By any scientific standard, its zero.

    Despite this important observation, nobody in charge seems to have learned this lesson. In stead whenever there’s a problem at a nuclear plant, people are evacuated, traffic accidents kill many, people aren’t allowed to return to their homes and commit suicide (fukushima).

    It is even more sad when you realize that there was another learning opportunity, Chernobyl. The evacuation and permanent displacement over a few millisieverts has caused a large multiple of deaths, damage, economic harm, than the radiation dose itself.

    Fukushima was just a repeat of history. No lesson learned. Just mindless evacuation of everybody in a 20 mile radius, without considering dose rates, and not allowing return (permanent displacement) even after 3 years now.

    Because of this mindless evacuation approach, not only has greater harm been done than without any evacuation at all, but also nuclear energy is considered very dangerous.

    The WHO recently estimated the yearly death toll from fossil fuel and biomass burning to be 7 million per year. This is amazing news and yet it got sparse mainstream media coverage. In stead we see so called “environmentalists” suggesting we increase usage of biomass, even though biomass kills millions of people per year. And not all just old people, children are also greatly affected. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the “environmentalists” suggest we use this killer biomass to displace clean and safe nuclear plants.

    Whenever there’s a nuclear accident, people go out on the street crying for the end of the nuclear industry.

    But when we hear from the WHO that 7 million people are killed every year by fossil fuels and biomass, nobody goes out on the street. When there’s an aircraft crash – happens about every month – nobody is out on the street calling for the end of the aircraft industry. When Volvo, a major car maker, produces a report than 2 million people are killed by traffic accidents around the worlds, nobody is out on the street calling for an end of motor-powered-transport. When there’s a major bus accident killing dozens of little children, seems really dramatic, yet again, nobody out on the street calling for the death of the bus industry.

    This nuclear exceptionalism is debillitating.

    1. “The WHO recently estimated the yearly death toll from fossil fuel and biomass burning to be 7 million per year.”

      Is that a LNT extrapolation?

    1. Jacobson glosses over the massive difficulties of space- and time-shifting the unreliable power flows of wind and solar to where and when they are most needed.  Among other things, the energy cost of the storage required to convert an average watt of PV into a watt of firm capacity lowers the EROI to barely above 2.

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