My prayers and best wishes continue to go out to the people who are struggling to survive, to account for loved ones, to find shelter, and to begin dealing with the aftermath of the 5th most powerful earthquake recorded in human history.
My anger continues at the efforts to take advantage of the tragedy by professional anti-nuclear activists with long standing agendas to inhibit the development of the only form of reliable power that has the potential to break modern society’s damaging addiction to hydrocarbons. It is incredible to me that there are people in the world who believe that the most important thing on the agenda of Japanese government officials at the present time is a continuous stream of updates regarding the events that are unfolding at a few nuclear power plants that are having some difficulty providing post shutdown cooling.
As I explained in yesterday’s post titled Nuclear plant issues in Japan are the least of their worries, the details should not be important to anyone outside of the plant boundaries. The systems are strong and resilient and the operators have a whole series of options that will ensure that the public does not get exposed to a dose of radiation that will cause negative health effects.
There might, however, be a nuclear plant or two that is damaged enough so that they will never again produce reliable, emission free power. So far, it looks like the only plant that has fallen into that category is Daiichi Unit 1, which has already served to reduce fossil fuel consumption for about 40 years. It is a relatively small plant that is the same age as some of the plants that anti-nuclear activists are working to shut down in the US even without having suffered from an earthquake and tsunami.
Just in case you missed the link, here is an article that forms the basis for my confidence that the worst possible damage at the plant will still not hurt the public. The article was published in the 20 September 2002 issue of Science Magazine and was titled Nuclear Power Plants and Their Fuel as Terrorist Targets. Please do not let the title put you off; the article was coauthored by 11 of the most experienced and respected nuclear experts in the United States in an attempt to explain how the defense in depth strategy in place since the 1950s has proven to work based on actual experiments and analysis.
Despite the efforts of calm, rational and knowledgable people like Margaret Harding, who has been quoted several times by the Washington Post and the New York Times because of her proven boiling water reactor expertise, and Dr. Barry Brook, the host of Brave New Climate, the advertiser supported media is still hopelessly confused and displaying a poor selection of priorities. Here is a screenshot that provides some back-up for that assertion. Take a look at the caption of the video clip to see how the headline writer is treating the consequences of the earthquake and tsunami.
According to the writer and editor who approved the summary, “An explosion at a nuclear power plant on Japan’s devastated coast … made leaking radiation, or even outright meltdown, the central threat menacing a nation.” Apparently aftershocks, fires, broken dams, washed out highways, lack of clean drinking water, damaged sewer systems, destroyed airports, and at least a thousand known fatalities are not as much of a threat to the nation of Japan as the possibility that a few people might be exposed to a radiation dose that is roughly equivalent to the ones administered every day as part of routine medical procedures.
In the most active comment thread on any of the more than 1700 posts on Atomic Insights, I have received a number of atta-boys, but also a fair number of accusations that my efforts to calm fears and share technical information make me an “industry shill”, an apologist, or a industry servant. I am none of those things; I am just a guy who suffers from bouts of insomnia, who invested a significant portion of the past 30 years learning and practicing various aspects of nuclear technology, and who has an overwhelming desire to provide a good return on the investment that the US taxpayers made in my nuclear education.
Apparently, there are a few people who think my comments were worth reading or recommending to others. Thank you all for visiting. The accompanying graph from Google Analytics shows what happened to the visit log at Atomic Insights yesterday.
Though I have never operated a reactor of the same model as Daiichi Unit 1, I understand how H2O interacts with steel and zirconium alloys and I have a pretty fair level of knowledge about the chemistry, physics, material science, thermodynamics, and engineering associated with all light water reactor plants. I feel it is my duty to try to help confused people better understand the stories and rumors they are hearing so that they can put the nuclear plant issues into some kind of broader perspective.
Unfortunately, some professional anti-nuclear activists who actually know very little about nuclear reactor plant operations are attempting to do just the opposite; they want to confuse people and make them believe that the nuclear issues should be at the top of their priority list of worries that keep them up late at night.
If you visit the UCS web site, you can find a featured video that highlights one of their star performers. In the first part of the video, you will see Rachel Madow make several glaring technical errors – which is okay, because she is just a journalist trying to understand a complex story – followed by Dr. Edwin Lyman’s complete endorsement of everything she said. I can name a dozen or more people who read Atomic Insights that can claim more nuclear power plant operations expertise that someone whose main claim to fame is that they once earned a PhD in physics and subsequently used that degree as a weapon with which to fight against nuclear technology developments. I am also quite
certain that many of you would do a better explanatory job on camera.
There are also plenty of Atomic Insights readers who have a greater claim to atomic expertise than a lawyer who was a politically appointed NRC commissioner when that body totally confused and scared the public following the Three Mile Island accident. Scientific American published an article yesterday titled Nuclear Experts Explain Worst-Case Scenario at Fukushima Power Plant, but apparently the only two experts who were working on Saturday were a guy who “who did research on nuclear reactor accident simulation at Sandia National Laboratory” and Peter Bradford, the former NRC commissioner who serves on the board of the anti-nuclear UCS.
There is plenty of work that will need to be done in the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters in recorded human history. I look forward to continuing the effort to reassure confused spectators that building nuclear power plants, even in an occasionally unstable island nation, is absolutely the right thing to do, especially when compared to the alternatives.
A view from an Australian living in Kawasaki, Japan – Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors
Suzy Hobbs with her always enlightening, human centered point of view – Now is the time to speak out in support of nuclear energy.
Christian Science Monitor (March 13, 2011), Japan’s nuclear crisis and Chernobyl: key differences – Note: this is a very reasonable explanation of the situation.