Some intelligent comments on the Fukushima nuclear crisis

The following are excerpts from comments culled from the BNC blog. I recommend it as a source of informed opinion and discussion (moderated) on the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis and on the ongoing debate over nuclear power. The comments are all from the guest post by Dr. Josef Oehmen, which I blogged briefly yesterday.  I’m not interested in the guest post, but some of the comments have direct bearing on the present situation, which is what I’m interested in.

  1. We are talking real deaths here. 9 moment magnitude quakes are NOT safe and 14 meter tsunamis are NOT safe.Perspective is important. Opportunity cost is important. Closing nukes means more fossil fuels which kill certainly. While I agree that lessons can and MUST be learned from Fukushima, nuclear safety does NOT stand on its own, isolated from everything else. You must always think in terms of alternatives. Make no mistake. Nuclear can always be made safer by investing more. Unfortunately there are limited funds, funds can also be spent on building tall tsunami dikes around population dense areas and this can save many lives whereas the nuclear radiation killed no one and is not likely to kill many. It shows that design of the plants has been done with adequate risk analysis.

    In a world of limited resources, we must make decisions. Delaying nuclear construction means killing peoply by fossil fuels. We must do what we can on safety but you can’t protect against all disasters.

    The fact that people disagree with this line of argument shows that people are not aware of risk assessment and the fact that we live in a world of limited resources but unlimited desires.

    I don’t see how this is counter-productive. I feel people do not know rational risk assessment and do not know enough perspective. The media does not care about perspective. If you look at the media coverage you’d almost think all the misery is caused by the Fukushima plants while in reality, the real deaths and misery are caused by a devastating tsunami and earthquake.

    Finally I would like to note that newer plants were not in trouble. The newest already have passive cooling for emergencies. So yes for new build this must be stressed. Nobody is building 1960s technology mark I containment BWRs with full electric power requirement for decay heat cooling. (Cyril R)

  2. his event is beyond TMI, and is currently classified correctly. That I would bet on.In my opinion, the only reason it would get beyond Chernobyl in classification is the ultimate land based release area.

    Technical data released currently only supports localized land based area issues of public concern. I fully recognize this event is not over and reserve final judgement on it’s classification or effects. The area of coverage could grow, depending on the efforts ongoing at the site to contain the current multiple release problems.

    Currently though, referencing the release data released, it does not yet approach Chernobyl for land mass area affected long term.

    This event may indicate an industry wide analysis weakness for multiple large reactor site release and exposure calculations though. A weakness we all should consider.

    This assumption may be traced back to an original industry based assumption, 1 reactor, 1 accident, design basis accident.

    At the Fukishima site, we have multiple reactors affected with multiple beyond design basis accidents. This results in mutiple reactor releases and a complete new out come for those calculations.

    Validity of the reported data and that assumption is a problem that is confounding even those that would attempt to predict the current damage or outcome. (em1ss)

  3. are you seriously arguing that the opportunity for cascade failures does not increase with increasingly complex and interconnected systems? A fair number of system scientists would disagree with you on that, as would an observer without bias either way on this particular issue.I happened to talk with someone working on uranium-enrichment plant design while stranded in an airport Sunday. Of interest was his description of the modeling done for disaster prevention. It was of interest that the industry now models for cascade failures in a far more substantive way than was done even half a decade ago. This points out that at least some of the industry not only recognize the issue, but are also willing to do more than mouth simple lip service to the concept. (Raspu10)
  4. The next couple of days brought the whole spent fuel problem into focus. I had never read about the SFPs being a problem in a nuclear accident. What I initially read did not sound good. Information was lacking or uncertain on the actual state of the pools. I could see that enough radiation could be released locally to almost preclude the operators from controlling the reactors or the SFPs. What would happen then I had no idea. …
    Now that was more pessimistic than it actually turned out to be, but given the uncertainties and lack of information I thought it was a fair assessment of the possible risk. As I have learned more over the last few weeks, I would reduce my assessment of the potential risk…
    [He advised a friend’s daughter living within 60km of Fukushima to leave] Just the emotional strain of dealing with the earthquake, the aftershocks “wants to get off this ride. It shakes too much”, the tsunami disaster, the rolling blackouts, the empty store shelves, reactors “blowing up” and worried parents would be enough to convince a lot of people to leave for a while, regardless of the physical risks. I hope she goes back when things settle down and a proper assessment of the situation has been made. (William Fairholm)
  5. Coal v. nuclear“Relative to watts produced, coal kills 4,000 times more people than nuclear power,” Grist contends. “Our pervasive sense that nuclear is more dangerous, when the opposite is so clearly true, comes at least in part from a cognitive bias called the ‘availability heuristic’ – memorable events that are easier to think of, like nuclear disasters, tend to seem more common.”

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