Posting in Science
Should we be building nuclear power plants near the Ring of Fire? We might need to re-evaluate our maximum sizes for earthquakes.
According to the Institute for Science and International Security:
ISIS assesses that the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has worsened considerably. The explosion in the Unit 2 reactor, the third so far, and the fire in the spent fuel pond in the reactor building for Unit 41 means that this accident can no longer be viewed as a level 4 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Events (INES) scale that ranks events from 1 to 7. A level 4 incident involves only local radiological consequences. This event is now closer to a level 6, and it may unfortunately reach a level 7.
A level 6 event means that consequences are broader and countermeasures are needed to deal with the radioactive contamination. A level 7 event would constitute a larger release of radioactive material, and would require further extended countermeasures. The international community should increase assistance to Japan to both contain the emergency at the reactors and to address the wider contamination. We need to find a solution together.
The Three Mile Island accident was a five.
The current situation brings to light another threat. What about all of the other reactors that reside in earthquake-prone regions? Did you know that twenty percent of all the 44 commercial reactors in operation are in areas "of significant seismic activity?" And 62 more plants are under construction and there are 500 more proposals out.
Now some seismologists are wondering if the engineering calculations are good enough to ensure that nuclear reactors have been built to withstand earthquakes. Some experts think that we need to reassess the probability of the big quakes happening. Even though events like this are only supposed to happen every hundred years - there's a possibility that our historical records could be off.
According to Physorg.com, Ross Stein, a seismologist at the US Geological Survey, said:
What happened in Japan "is clearly an indication that we haven't properly thought about events that are well outside our historical experience but nonetheless possible. For me, that is the broad implication for all of us in this field about the weaknesses of our thinking."
Mar 16, 2011
Atomic energy,1,three mile Island.2 Russian melt down,3 Japan reactors,and now two more in Nebraska.Gee,is melt downs a common occurence,I better watch Japans melt through,thats new right.Radioactive steam straight up in the air and ocean leaks,Just love how we are being warned by our Goverments and GEs Media.They dont want to be wrong about neclear power,so shovel it too us.I need fertilizer.Listen to the experts squirm twist and bull shit us,to death! PS there is no way to stop a Melt though.you will see.Experts are a dime a dozen,when over paid.They wont cut there own throat! Pay any one,he will say what you want,or be jobless!
Fukushumia is two nuclear plants with the same name 10 reactors.Each reactor has 6 spent fuel ponds on the roof,plus one big bastard at ground level.one fuel rod weights 2,500 pounds.over the years spent fuel rods are stored on site.there 12 feet long and half a inch thick.There is spent fuel rods on the roofs of each melted down reactor.The third explosion you can see the fuel rods in the air that must be covered in water to pervent Fire.obvious to viewers,watching the world going to high radition living,No mention of insects,birds,fish,plants,or anything that means something,like the Pacific Algea plume,radioactive this year,fish feed,your at the top of the food chain.or were? To some up,repercussion down the road are there,Im a old man,I dont want to boil water with poison,or change my kids DNA to look like Jelly fish.Or swallow U-235 or JP8 jet fuel:.GE brings good things to life;LOL LOL Death to every living thing?
NO. Nuclear power is poison reason ,spent fuel ponds melt down,out of the reactors.The Dry storage is still being cooled by air.LOL and is poisoning all the river people use.Oboma has a news black-out from his friends at GE.and you people bla bla bla.Think,water in Dry Cask Storage water out with spent fuel rod wash.TO hell with the reactors the Fuel Pond storage is melted,and there using the river too cool the spent fuel ponds.the bastards are allowing the flood to cool the ponds! Remmember how they lie all the time in the past.No different.You get sick they make money on the illness they give you.General Eletric is making a killing,you poor souls Oboma GE,greed,power over the masses Oboma has a fallout shelter do you?Build all the reactors where they can do the most Damage,flood plains,any place! Gee we didnt know ,so sorry?Well you got change.
#34, So on the one hand, you want unlimited energy for all, and if you get that, then somehow if this happens, then our global population drops from 7 going on 9 billion folks to....3 billion? I know that in industrialized nations, growth rates have dropped to below replacement values, but do you have any idea how much consumption would take place if everyone on the planet raised their energy consumption to US standards in order to get there? You're talking about a serious bottleneck, John, and here's why: What we do with our energy in the US is "stuff." You know, build houses, buy and operate cars, have jobs, raise and feed families, and the rest, right? On a very, very coarse level, all of that "stuff" leads to more than consumption of energy, it leads to consumption of materials, right? You know, the stuff that houses, cars, food et. al are made of. The US Geological Survey thinks in this very coarse way, and if you go to this site: http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/raw_material_consumption_global_trends_and_us_share you'll see that the US consumes around 3 billion tons of stuff in a year, as compared to 10.25 billion for the rest of the planet. There are 7 billion consuming folks wandering around the planet, but only around 320 million of them live in the US, or about 4.5% of the total number. Now the thing is that if everyone was consuming the same amount of energy we consume per capita, chances are that they'll be doing "stuff" with that energy. And if that "stuff" consumed the same amount of raw material at the same rate as we do per Joule consumed, then we're talking about 7 billion folks consuming 66 billion tons of stuff per year, if I used the calculator on my phone correctly. How can this be possible? Clearly it cannot be, as we are already bumping against serious shortages of a wide variety of raw and processed materials. Increase that amount almost 7 times, and you've basically churned up the entire earth's crust in short order, let alone done irreparable damage to the living biosphere. Hence the nature of the shrinking bottleneck. Now the planet would be able to recycle much of our consumption in its geological and biological elemental cycling and sinks, but to funnel that much of the earth/biosphere through our activities is clearly untenable. We clearly need to learn how to live more sustainably within the existing biogeochemical cycling of our planet, or face major disruptions of those cycles, which will threaten our own sustainability as a species.
I'd also like to add my thought on energy usage. Many complain that the industrialized nations (especially the U.S.) use too much energy. I strongly disagree. I fully believe the problem is that too many people don't use enough - because it's not available to them. Modern living, lifestyles, health care, production of wealth, longer lives, lifting the billions of poor out of poverty requires they all have more energy to work and advance with. I don't want to live with less. I want EVERYONE to live with what I have. Turning back is NOT the answer. Moving ALL people forward is. I must also say that a world population of about 3 billion is a goal we have to go for. My wife and I had no children. We chose to adopt. So we not only didn't "just" replace ourselves - we didn't even replace one of us. Advanced living for all will help reduce world population as the old agricultural need for large families goes away. Let's get clean energy for EVERYONE in very generous amounts and all live a better life.
The complete situation in Japan is terrible. The great loss of life and the suffering of so many thousands is heartbreaking. I think the people so affected should be our first concern. Not ALL energy has a downside. Think of lightning farming. The total number of strikes and the emmense power in each of those strikes is astounding. And this occurs thousands of times a day 24/7/365. The amount of power in lighting strikes is huge. Multiply that by thousands of strikes a day and you have what, practically speaking, amounts to a never ending, always on, 100% free source of non-poluting energy that just might require no storage capability. Connect all the grids worldwide into one massive grid. Put up many radio/tv type towers with lightning rods and pump the electricity straight into the grid. Send the excess to ground to protect the grid. Rectify the power to the desired voltage and frequency at the final place of use. Send any excess there to ground. Further good news is that lightning strikes of great numbers occur in relatively small areas of the earth's surface (all around the world) meaning the farms can easily be located for maximum efficiency. Lightning power isn't going away and unless you get struck by it, it's harmless. And if we must use nuclear energy, I agree, let's build no more of the same reactors we've used for so long but start building the modern designs that REALLY can be "turned off".
I have been raising this issue for years... Now they are talking about Diablo and Onofre... They are 'Registered' facilities there are more than just two in California. There are also 'Test' facilities and 'Decomissioned' facilities. Pricipally one where the Adreas fault runs back into the ocean near Fields Landing just south of Eureka. This plant was decomissioned in the early '70s due to cracks found in the slough ways for the cooling system. If you drive by it today; you will see that it is still hot. Our forefathers had a great idea but just forgotten a few things, trusting the future generations to follow up on. Unfortunately, these things had gotten swept under a rug and now it is time to 'Face-Up'. One of the items are that under ideal conditions of pouring concrete; the max live is approx 130 years. With radiation involved, the life is shortened. Someone will have to come up with a way to replace the mud. Protective berms around the area to deflect said particles were not constructed due to cost efficientcies (lowest bidder). Also the thinking at that time was that if there was a 'melt-down' was that the core would simply drop down into the fault with the seawater following to create it's own mud to cap off the fire. So, It is time for us to pick the brains of our 'Elder' scientists and engineers that actually understand Physics and maybe we can come up with a more longterm solution. KC
@riverat1 And I live less than 35 miles from San Onofre . But as my friend Alfred E. Newman always says "What, me worry?"
@bb_apptix #17 - There's a very good reason for building "on the beach" - it's a single pump's distance to the world's largest heat sink. That's not to say that natural phenomena like this shouldn't be taken into account, but economics *must* have a role in energy production. @Tamalaine #20 - I worked my way through college at a nuclear plant. One of the projects I worked on was reviewing the design bases and ensuring they were still being met. One of these was that the containment building should be able to withstand the force of a fully-loaded DC-10 (the largest commercial airliner when it was designed) directly striking the containment dome.
If a nuclear reactor still requires 10,000 gallons of water an hour to keep cool even months after it stops generating power than the design is inherently unsafe. I would not consider it truly disaster resistant unless it goes cold in under 48 hours and requires no external power to maintain a safe temperature. If a safe temperature is 300 degrees F than the system had better have adequate natural circulation cooling to capture boil off and allow the liquid to return to the reactor. The designs are top secret, but it is commonly assumed that the reactors in US Navy subs have such a safe loop mode that minimizes the use of circulating pumps for slow speed silent running. Being completely submerged simplifies access to cooling water, but the basic designs already exist.
I read somewhere that 20% of all the people who ever lived are alive today. This is the biggest problem on the earth. To me at least it does not make sense to improve life expectancy without reducing fertility rate. I for one fully support China'a one child policy. What we need today is negative population growth rate if we are going to limit energy consumption to sustainable levels. But then as Gandhi said there is enough for everyone's need but not enough for even one man's greed. Are the pharma and oil companies listening?
@Johno413@ When tens of thousands are dead or injured from the sequence of natural events themselves, to focus so intent and prematurely on the nuclear power is practically maudlin. Wiktionary defines 'maudlin' as Extravagantly or excessively sentimental; self-pitying. Which definition are you referring to?
I'm not going to comment on the situation itself except to say that I have a minimal background in risk management and sometimes either you don't foresee all the risks, or place the likelihood of them at such a low level it becomes acceptable, even if the result of that risk actually occurring could be catastrophic. The fact that the plant has been in operation for over 40 years speaks to that. My main thought though is how impressed I am (generally) with the intelligent and constructive comments here on both sides of the issue. Very few trolls, emotional outbursts, etc. Well done.
wizoddg, and how many inches will the oceans rise in the next 100 years??? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA Poor models do not an emergency make.
Those nuclear plants not located on or near fault lines are located mostly in low-lying coastal areas. The single trend in climate change data is that scientists are being It is not safe for us to assume that major sea level rises will take decades. On some risks it's o.k. to respond after-the-fact (which Americans excel at,) but climate change and nuclear risks are poor choices for that particular tack to work. I'd rather we move cities and facilities and harden them for extremes now instead of evacuating and recovering from devastation later. The Equatorial bulge of this planet has reversed direction in recent years, which means that stresses around the planet have shifted significantly. Such a shift is nearly certain to increase tectonic plate movements. When combined with tera-tonnes of melt water--which will tend to flow to the equator adding their mass to the stress, betting that places like New Orleans or Holland have decades to prepare is asking for disaster. Being prepared for a disaster which comes late or never is infinitely better than being unprepared when disaster strikes. We have millions of people out of work who could be working to prepare or working to clean up pollution--100's of billions of dollars worth of unused labor.
"What happened in Japan ?is clearly an indication that we haven?t properly thought about events that are well outside our historical experience but nonetheless possible." Actually not...The problem is *NOT* that the powerplants haven't been thought out well enough...the problem is that the plants were designed with the flaws built in! The flaws that we are seeing in Japan were discussed ad-nauseum back in the 70s when they were designed. There even was a lawsuit in the works because the plants were built despite the flaws! Everything that is happening was predicted to happen back in 1972! http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/world/asia/16contain.html?_r=1&ref=asia And this is the shame of all this...The world knew that this would happen and yet nobody felt it would happen to them! @sboverie@..."The design of the Japanese reactors was probably considered to be excellent before the earthquake." That's the problem...the design was *NOT* considered excellent...they were considered "good enough"...obviously, the design was *NOT* good enough! @danny.sloop@.."These vintage ?70 and ?80 plants could use some overhaul and replacement." We *DID* redesign the plants, but that was just to install vents to prevent dangerous buildup of Hydrogen gas inside the containment vessel! Kinda defeats the purpose of a containment vessel, right? Look, we *CAN* build a nuclear power station that is safe and efficient...we just have to get politics out of it! These breeder reactors designed by GE were done because they won the lowest bid! Do *YOU* want a nuclear reactor in your backyard designed and built with the cheapest labor and materials? Not me! But it seems that every time government pokes it's head in some large construction endeavor, it fails miserably! Look at the "Big Dig" in Boston! What a fiasco that is! And it's killing people as we speak! hundred ton cement slabs are falling from the ceiling and crushing drivers below!
Everything is a trade off oil and coal are poisons and the burning is filthy. Every form of energy has a down side, radiation has a fear factor beyond the reality while the oil and coal and pesticide herbicide and persistent organic residues are hidden form of risk. When the real risk becomes 1 in 100 this is what is basically what is acceptable risk ( the risk level is set higher for any individual factor but synergy among all risks can bring the real cumulative risk this high, this is acceptable here in the US ) praise be Reagan! So place the risk in perspective after all the lining of cans had BPA. PCB and dioxin is forever no half life. This is not good but a better design might have helped no one has much experience with this kind of disaster of magnitude. I can only hope that containment can be maintained.
#19, You have no idea how many people are going to get sick from this incident. It's far from over at this point. As a starting point I suspect that some of the workers who remained at the plants trying to get them under control will get sick. Radiation poisoning is not something that makes you instantly sick until the dose is quite high. It will take years to add up the ultimate toll in human lives. I just hope it's not any worse than they've already said.
There are SO many possible ways that disasters can hit a nuclear plant. The 9/11 attacks were going to originally be on U.S. nuclear plants, but they figured that they would be too heavily defended with SAMs, etc. Guess what? We have NO defense of our nuclear plants! Also, there is no way to ever get rid of the radioactive waste. We bury it. The half-life of Cesium-135 is 30 years. We're generating radioactive garbage that will be around for a very, very long time...and we want to produce MORE of it? What a travesty to leave this stuff that causes instant genetic mutations and cancer to future generations to have to deal with! I say, put solar on every single roof in America. We'd have enough energy. Nobody is putting the money and effort into this solution. It's sustainable essentially forever, doesn't endanger the earth, and doesn't leave a trail of crap for future generations to get sick and die from.
They are worried about seismicity??? How about the tsunami that took out all the backup generators and infrastructure making it difficult to cool and supplyu water and move in support equipment??? The reactors survived the seismicity just fine!!!!! How about more thought to the infrastructure that supports the reactor. Not sure why they raised the level above 5. there still hasn't been significant radioactivity outside the immediate plant area. I'm thinking the typical alarmists. If things are so bad why isn't the US putting in some equipment to deal with it?!?!?!?!?!?!?! @kingtj, yes, build pebble beds!!!!!
How about not builing nuclear plants on the beach? Especially in a seismic zone. Where's Sam Kinison when you need him? @xrae00, I have already reduce the electricity usage at my home by 36%. Thanks for asking.
The pebble bed type of reactors, for example, can't go into meltdown like the traditional types do. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_reactor) And to say "you can't switch it off" about the traditional reactors isn't really accurate either. In fact, all of the Japanese reactors involved did "switch off" as soon as sensors detected the vibration of the earthquake. Control rods stopped the nuclear reactions from happening. The whole problem is dealing with cooling everything down AFTER it's "switched off", because there's still a lot of residual energy to be dealt with. I think moving forward, there are certainly safer ways to construct new nuclear reactors, but you're simply not going to see all the utility companies of the world disassembling multi-million dollar investments in existing reactors and scraping them, simply because new, safer designs are possible. They need to stay operational at least long enough to generate a payback on their initial investment. So in the meantime, I think the reasonable thing to do is look at ways to address cooling and redundancy for it. The Japan crisis illustrates how their existing setup wasn't redundant enough to give them enough options.
The reactors all shut down as they were designed to. It was the tsunami taking out backup plan #1 that was the disaster. They may have planned very well for individual events, but not so well for this combination. What seismologists think about the design of nuclear plants is amateur opinion and not really newsworthy. They provide data to the engineers, but those kinds of calculations are WAY outside their expertise.
The situation may look worst, but it can't escalate to a level 7. These reactors are built using thick steel vessels containing the fuel and that's a better design than used in Chernobyl. Once they stopped the reactions, the rods have to cool down, otherwise the water around them will keep being vaporized and on contact with the zircon containers hydrogen is created, raising the risk of new explosions. I believe they should have released the initial vapor earlier and assumed the radiation damages to the environment, instead of trying to contain it and lose control. One thing we can't lose from our perspectives is that the design used there in Japan are from US and the lacking of a secondary cooling system is the ultimate culprit of building up pressure in the water boiling system. Germans or French reactors use at least two cooling set of valves. Independently of how this sad episode ends up, we'll need to review our designing and make like building inspectors require when we renew something in our houses... that we update it to the most current code. We'll have to bite the bullet and pay the price of renewing old nuclear plants we still need. Yes, I agree, everybody in the international community should join forces and do the best each of us can for helping Japan now. If we can't go and help physically, at least we all can make some cash donation and make easy for those working in the scene to provide the supplies the population need. In Sendai alone, there are over 200K people living in shelters and their daily challenge is to get water and food.
Earthquakes are not the problem. We know how to build nuclear plants which can survive earthquakes and in fact the Fukushima Daichi plants did survive the earthquakes. The containment vessels maintained their integrity. The failure was due to the subsequent tsunami, not the earthquake. A review of existing and future nuclear plants is needed to assess tsunami vulnerability and make necessary revisions. An interesting review of plant safety which includes Diablo Canyon and San Onofre is at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42103936/ns/world_news-asiapacific/ Surprisingly, the most vulnerable plants are not on the well-known fault lines but in New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.
Anything causing a site blackout risks meltdown and subsequent uncontrolled damage. This time it was a dramatic episode. Next time it could be a simple coincidence of malfunctions and human errors. If you can't switch it off, you are committed for ever, with no way out as options eventually disappear. It just isn't safe.
@xrae00, it's not that simple. What nuclear provides is the most stable base load, generating electricity 92% of the time. No other type comes as close. Most utilities rely on nuclear first, then other coal/gas facilities next. When demand decreases to a point where baseload plant output isn't needed, it is much more simple and economic to throttle back on a coal fueled generator, for example. Removing nuclear would make grid management a little more difficult in some regions, and would immediately spike the demand for coal and gas. That most likely will drive up prices. In the end, immediate or even short term elimination of nuclear can be costly to the rate payer.
@greg46107, in the world of earning a living, "exploiting" things is not bad. The timing can be really atrocious, though!
If America's nuclear plants provide only 20% of our energy, wouldn't you and everybody you know reduce your electric use by 20% so we could shut the plants down? What happened to conserving power? Do we have to be ever-fatted energy pigs?
@Johno413: I had to smile; "...will not yet exploit this tragedy for gain." But I understand your point and wish there were a few more focusing on the facts at hand. Time will tell.
It is way too early to engage in a meaningful debate about the real outcome in Japan. Any scientist that attempts to speak with authority about events there is not really behaving professionally. And for any scientist or journalists to not study other facts, such as current seismic design versus a reactor built in 1971, is simply irresponsible. This may or may not become a greater tragedy. The levels of radiation exposure, while non-trivial, are not catastrophic at this point. The vast majority of significant isotopes and radioactive materials were in fact contained so far. When tens of thousands are dead or injured from the sequence of natural events themselves, to focus so intent and prematurely on the nuclear power is practically maudlin. Especially when the motivation appears to be less about life and more about an energy agenda. I am in the "green" energy industry, but will not yet exploit this tragedy for gain.
Reassessment of design is the proper approach, not stopping all together. Like it or not nuclear energy will be necessary unless people are willing to give up all their electronic/electric conveniences. These vintage ?70 and ?80 plants could use some overhaul and replacement. And this was not an "extreme weather event", it was geologic.
I think that sboverie is correct. We will learn quite a bit form this and move on with better designs.
The perfect storm of a massive earthquake followed by a massive tsunami was bad enough to overwhelm the emergency systems in the reactors. The design of the Japanese reactors was probably considered to be excellent before the earthquake. From what I have read, some of the emergency systems failed completely including the backup diesel powered generator. It is unfortunate that several nuclear sites are in an emergency situation at the same time. That sea water is being used to cool the fuel rods shows how desparate the situation is. The failures and problems with these reactors should provide good analysis of the cooling and emergency systems for reactors. My guess is that this will only slow down the construction of new reactors like the gulf oil spill only slowed down the deep water drilling. The global energy needs are greater than technology can provide and energy costs are going to increase.
The fire is NOT in the spent fuel pool. A cooling water pump oil leak caused the fire in unit 4. Facts are available at http://www.nei.org/newsandevents/information-on-the-japanese-earthquake-and-reactors-in-that-region/
I have a house in Cayman. In severe hurricanes, all the AC, propane and rlated equipment was wiped off the sides of the house as the surge of water hit. After Ivan in 2004 the equipment enclosures were desiigned to deal with these surges and all equipment including the emergency gen set remained intact. Clearly tsunamis and wind driven surges over history should have raised someones level of awareness to protect "emergency" equipment in an emergency. Hard to believe this oversight.
The Diablo Canyon and San Onofre nuclear power plants are both in earthquake zones and are subject to tsunami damage being right on the Pacific Coast. There's got to be some serious questions about those two plants and their preparedness for an event like the one that hit Japan. It will probably be weeks before we know the full extent of the nuclear disaster in Japan.