Australia turns away from Nuclear Power because of Fukushima and Irrational Fear and Scaremongering

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 11th, 2012

Week in Review

In the war to save the world from global warming one of the first campaigns was the battle against coal.  The backbone of baseload power.  One of the most reliable means to generate electric power.  Fed by a large domestic supply of coal.  You could always count on power being there in your homes with our coal-fired power plants feeding the electric grid.  But coal had to go.  Because they were melting the Arctic ice cap.  And raising ocean levels.  Not quite like they did during the Ice Ages when glaciers covered most of the Northern Hemisphere.  Until global warming pushed them back a couple of thousand miles or so.  At a time when only Mother Nature released the carbon boogeyman into the atmosphere.  But we ignore this historical climate record.  And only pay attention to temperature changes that suit the global warming agenda.  Because the real goal of the war to save the world from global warming is to expand government control into the private sector economy.

Australia wants to show the world that they take global warming serious.  They enacted a carbon tax.  To help fund their investment into renewable energy sources.  Which has increased the cost of electric power.  And if the carbon tax and higher utility prices weren’t enough they also are talking about raising their GST.  Of course the GST has nothing to do with climate change.  But it just goes to show that Australia is trying hard to raise tax revenue.  Which is perhaps the driving force behind their carbon tax.  Revenue.  On top of this there is a growing opposition to the only source of power generation that can duplicate what coal-fired power plants can do but without the pollution (see Meltdown fears crush case for nuclear power – Brisbane Times posted 11/11/2012 on Canberra Hub).

THE Fukushima nuclear accident has quashed consideration of nuclear power in Australia, with the government’s energy white paper arguing there is no compelling economic case for it and insufficient community acceptance…

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has said it should remain ”a live debate”. Foreign Minister Bob Carr said before he re-entered politics: ”I support nuclear power because I take global warming so very seriously … [it] should certainly play a role in Australia’s future mix of energy sources.”

Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop has said it should be considered ”in the mix” and Senator Barnaby Joyce has said: ”If we are fair dinkum [i.e., truthful] about reducing carbon emissions … then uranium is where it’s going to be…”

Labor argues nuclear power is not economically necessary in Australia, since the carbon tax and the renewable energy target are already shifting power generation to renewables.

There are some fundamental truths about power generation.  Coal, natural gas, and petroleum provide reliable and abundant electric power while being safe but they pollute.  Nuclear power provides reliable electric power without any pollution but can be dangerous.  Though for the half century or so we’ve been using nuclear power the number of accidents that have claimed human lives is statistically insignificant.

There have been about 68 people killed in nuclear power accidents   If you count the future cancer deaths from the  Chernobyl accident you can raise that to about 4,000.  Fukushima in Japan claimed no lives other than one apparent heart attack someone had carrying heavy things in the aftermath of the accident.  It was nowhere near as bad as Chernobyl.  But if it, too, claimed 4,000 lives in future cancer deaths that brings the total death toll from nuclear power to approximately 8,000 deaths for the half century or so we’ve been using it.  Sounds like a lot.  But you know what nuclear power is safer than?  Driving your car.  In 2010 the number of motor vehicle deaths was just over 32,000.  Again, that’s for one year.  Making nuclear power far safer than getting into your car.

The opposition to nuclear power is based on fear.  And politics.  Not the facts.  Yes, nuclear power accidents are scary.  But there are very few nuclear power accidents.  For a statistically insignificant risk of a nuclear catastrophe we’re giving up the only baseload power source than can do what coal can do.  Give us abundant and reliable electric power.  But without the pollution.  However, they oppose nuclear power.  Not because of facts but because of irrational fear and scaremongering.  And if we know they’re doing this for nuclear power can we not conclude that they’re doing the same thing in the war to save the world from global warming?  Especially considering how many thousands of miles glaciers moved long before man released any carbon into the atmosphere?  Yes.  We can believe they base their war to save the world from global warming on nothing but irrational fear and scaremongering.

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Those Living Closest to the Worst Nuclear Accidents still favor Nuclear Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 29th, 2012

Week in Review

The ghost of Fukushima doesn’t appear to be haunting nations in the region.  Neither is the ghost of Chernobyl.  The China Syndrome is probably not being downloaded much from Netflix either.  For the people closest to the worst nuclear accidents aren’t spooked by nuclear power in the least (see Nuclear expansion in Asia on track despite Fukushima – report by Eric Onstad posted 7/26/2012n on Reuters).

Strong expansion of nuclear power as a carbon-free energy source in Asia is expected to press ahead despite the Fukushima accident in Japan that soured sentiment in some countries, a benchmark report said on Thursday…

Nuclear capacity is due to expand in East Asia by 125 percent to 185 percent by 2035, the report said. The strongest growth is expected in China, India, South Korea and Russia.

Despite their proximity to Fukushima, despite Chernobyl being the worst nuclear accident of all time, China, India, South Korea and Russia are proceeding with nuclear power.  While the U.S. pursues solar power and wind power.  The number two and number three economies in the world, China and India, are pursuing reliable nuclear power.  While the world’s number one economy, the United States, is pursuing temperamental renewable energy.  So we may see a reshuffling of the world’s top three economic powers.  As one starves itself of energy while the other two just gorge themselves on energy.  Or in other words, they have a sensible energy policy.

Energy drives the modern economy.  Reliable energy.  Countries suffering recurring blackouts don’t have strong economies.  And what energy source provides reliable energy?  Fossil fuel-powered.  Including nuclear.  We rate power generation by its capacity factor (CF).  Which is a measure of actual power produced over a period of time compared to the maximum that could have been produced over that same period.  Hydroelectric dams need rain to keep their reservoirs full.  If the rains don’t come the water isn’t there to drive their water turbines. Which gives a large hydroelectric dam a CF of about 50%.  Or less.  Wind power only works for a narrow band of wind speed.  Giving it a CF of about 30%.  And solar power only works when the sun shines.  Giving it a CF of about 15%.  The CF of fossil fuel-powered plants?  About 90%.  Or more.  Some nuclear plants can even exceed 100%.

This is why China, India, South Korea and Russia are proceeding with nuclear power.  Because it’s reliable power.  And as far as they’re concerned it’s safe power.  It’s also clean power.  So why is the U.S. pursuing wind and solar power?  Because they don’t have as sensible an energy policy as China, India, South Korea and Russia have.  Well, India is abandoning coal like the U.S. is.  But the Indians haven’t abandoned nuclear power like the Americans have.  So the Indians have an edge over the Americans in sensibility.  Even though their electric generation capacity is busting at the seams.  What with a dry rainy season hurting their hydroelectric generation and their move away from coal.

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Fukushima Seafood is Safe to Eat Again after Nuclear Accident Following 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 30th, 2012

Week in Review

The March 11, 2011 earthquake did not hurt the nuclear reactors at Fukushima.  And that quake was so violent that it moved the earth on its axis.  But it didn’t damage those reactors.  It was the tsunami it threw up that did.  Flooding the electrical switchgear that powered the cooling pumps.  As well as the backup generators.  It was one of those failures that was so remote that the engineers never conceived of it.  And when it happened it caused the greatest nuclear power accident since the Chernobyl meltdown.  The fallout from this rare accident shut down the nuclear power industry in Japan.  And other parts of the world.  People trembled as they awaited the nuclear apocalypse.  But it wasn’t as bad as some feared (see Fukushima seafood on the market by AP, The West Australian, posted 6/26/2012 on Yahoo! News).

The first catch of seafood from Japan’s Fukushima coast since last year’s nuclear disaster is being sold after passing radiation tests.

The Fukushima Prefectural (state) fishing co-operative said only octopus and a marine snail known as whelk were going on sale Monday…

The association said the amount of radioactive cesium was so low it was not detectable.

Octopus and whelk were chosen for the first test shipment because they measured low in radiation. Flounder, sea bass and other fish from Fukushima cannot be sold yet because of radiation contamination.

Not bad for the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.  And as the hot summer approaches they’re starting up some of their reactors to meet the electrical demand.  This doesn’t mean that Fukushima is not without problems.  But life goes on.  Even after the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

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Fukushima now Stable 9 months after Earthquake/Tsunami, Still no Chernobyl

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 17th, 2011

Week in Review

The Fukushima disaster was bad.  But it wasn’t Chernobyl bad.  And it doesn’t appear it’s going to get Chernobyl bad.  No doubt to the dismay of antinuclear environmentalists everywhere (see Japan to declare ‘cold shut-down’ at Fukushima posted 12/16/2011 on BBC News Asia).

An earthquake and tsunami in March knocked out vital cooling systems, triggering radiation leaks and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people.

Mr Noda’s declaration of a “cold shutdown” condition marked the stabilisation of the plant.

The government says it will take decades to dismantle it completely.

It took about 9 months to make these reactor cores stable.  And there has been some radiation released here and there.  But nothing like in the Ukraine when Chernobyl blew up and wafted it’s radioactive debris across Europe.  Remember, Chernobyl was the result of an exercise gone wrong.  Human error.  Fukushima was hammered with first an earthquake.  Which it withstood.  Then a tsunami.  Which it withstood, too.  Unfortunately, the electrical switchgear that powered its cooling pumps became submerged in salt water.  Something that doesn’t mix well with electricity.  And the cooling pumps failed.  Then the reactors overheated.

As bad as a nuclear accident is there must be a lot of people who thought that if we must have one at least it happened in Japan.  And, no, not because anyone wishes the Japanese any ill will.  Fukushima has been out of the news for half a year or so.  And yet they only stabilized it now.  Which means that for 6 months or so few have paid attention to the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.  Tells you a lot about the Japanese.  No one doubted that they would take care of this problem.  For they have an in-depth understanding of the technology they use.  And can respond to any accident that their engineering let’s pass.

Can you imagine if this happened in Iran?

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Anti-Nuclear Crowd yearns for Chernobyl in Japan

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 13th, 2011

Enough of Exploiting Japan’s Disaster for Political Gain

First it was an environmentalist saying global warming caused the 8.9 magnitude earthquake.  A sure grasping of straws in their quest to move man back into the cave.  Then it was anti-nuclear power Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, the senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, who said we should learn from Japan’s near Chernobyl-like disaster.  And move back into the cave.  And now it’s Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, chiming in (see “Put the brakes” on nuclear power plants: Lieberman by Will Dunham posted 3/13/2011 on Reuters).

“I don’t want to stop the building of nuclear power plants,” independent Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”

“But I think we’ve got to kind of quietly put, quickly put the brakes on until we can absorb what has happened in Japan as a result of the earthquake and the tsunami and then see what more, if anything, we can demand of the new power plants that are coming on line,” Lieberman added.

Put the brakes on?  What, he wants to slow down from the breakneck speed we’re building new nuclear power plants and bringing them on line?  That’s going to be pretty hard to do considering the speed we’re going at.  I mean, when was the last time we built a nuclear power plant in the United States?

It’s not about what happened at the Fukushima Power Plant, it’s about what hasn’t Happened

We’re missing the big picture here.  The nuke plants didn’t kill or wipe out cities yet.  Like the earthquake-tsunami one-two punch has.  Let’s not lose sight of that little fact (see Nuclear Overreactions posted 3/14/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

Part of the problem is the lack of media proportion about the disaster itself. The quake and tsunami have killed hundreds, and probably thousands, with tens of billions of dollars in damage. The energy released by the quake off Sendei is equivalent to about 336 megatons of TNT, or 100 more megatons than last year’s quake in Chile and thousands of times the yield of the nuclear explosion at Hiroshima. The scale of the tragedy is epic.

Yet the bulk of U.S. media coverage has focused on a nuclear accident whose damage has so far been limited and contained to the plant sites. In simple human terms, the natural destruction of Earth and sea have far surpassed any errors committed by man.

So in the grand scheme of things, the Japanese nuclear plants are minor players in this great tragedy.  Even that embellishes their role.  Much of Japan lies in waste.  Because of the earthquake and the tsunami.  The nukes so far have been innocent bystanders in the death and destruction.  But it’s all we focus on.  Even though they haven’t really done anything yet.  But under the right set of circumstances that don’t currently exist…they could.   So we use the big ‘what if’ to further shut down the already shutdown American nuclear power industry.  Why?  Simple.  Because congress can’t place a moratorium on earthquakes or tsunamis.

So back to that question.  When was the last time we built a nuclear power plant in the United States?

But more than other energy sources, nuclear plants have had their costs increased by artificial political obstacles and delay. The U.S. hasn’t built a new nuclear plant since 1979, after the Three Mile Island meltdown, even as older nuclear plants continue to provide 20% of the nation’s electricity.

So Senator Joe Lieberman wants to tap the breaks on a car that’s been parked and in the garage since 1979.  How does he do it?  Where does the genius come from?

No coal.  No oil.  And now no nukes.  Translation?  No power.  I guess we should practice our hunting and gathering skills.  Because we’re going to need them when we move back into the cave.  Of course, we’ll have to eat our food cold.  You know.  Carbon footprint.  From those foul, nasty, polluting campfires.

In America, Coal, Oil and Nuclear Power all Wear Black Hats

Some in Congress just love the planet so much.  They want to get rid of coal and oil and replace them with clean energy.  Which means nuclear power.  Because windmills and solar panels just won’t produce enough power.  Especially when they want us all driving tiny little electric cars that are going to suck more juice off our strained electrical grid.  And just how strained is our electric grid?  Remember the Northeast Blackout of 2003

High summer currents caused power lines to sag into untrimmed trees.  As lines failed some power plants dropped off the grid.  This strained other power plants.  And other power lines.  More lines failed.  More plants dropped off the grid.  This cascade of failures didn’t end until most of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Ontario lost power.  It was huge.  And if you experienced that hot, stifling, August blackout, you know that windmills wouldn’t have helped.  There was no breeze blowing.  And solar panels wouldn’t have helped you sleep at night.  Because there’s no sun at night.  No.  What would have helped was some big-capacity power generation.  Like a coal plant.  An oil plant.  Or a nuke plant.

Energy demands increase with population.  And with electric cars.  We need more generation capacity.  And the only viable green solution is nuclear power.  And now we’re dilly dallying about the dangers of clean nuclear power because of what didn’t happen in Japan (see Japan Does Not Face Another Chernobyl by William Tucker posted 3/14/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

Rep. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), a longtime opponent of nuclear power, has warned of “another Chernobyl” and predicted “the same thing could happen here.” In response, he has called for an immediate suspension of licensing procedures for the Westinghouse AP1000, a “Generation III” reactor that has been laboring through design review at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for seven years.

Talk about the irony of ironies.  The Soviet-era nuclear reactor at Chernobyl was the most dangerous ever used.  That reactor went ‘Chernobyl’ because of its design.  A graphite core that caught fire.  And no containment vessel that let plumes from that fire spread radioactive fallout throughout western Russia and Europe.  If the Soviets had used the type of reactor that’s getting all the media attention in Japan, there would have been no Chernobyl disaster.  And now the irony.  Rep. Markey wants to suspend licensing of the world’s safest nuclear reactor (the Generation III) by citing the world’s most dangerous reactor that Japan doesn’t even use. 

But facts don’t matter when you’re just against nuclear power.  No matter how safe the Generation III design is.  Or the fact that it doesn’t even need cooling pumps. 

On all Generation II reactors—the ones currently in operation—the cooling water is circulated by electric pumps. The new Generation III reactors such as the AP1000 have a simplified “passive” cooling system where the water circulates by natural convection with no pumping required.

Despite this failsafe cooling system, there are calls to stop the licensing.  To put the brakes on.  To move back into caves.  All because of what didn’t happen at Fukushima.  What didn’t happen at Three Mile Island.  But what did happen in a Hollywood movieThe China Syndrome.  (But that’s a whole other story.)

If a meltdown does occur in Japan, it will be a disaster for the Tokyo Electric Power Company but not for the general public. Whatever steam releases occur will have a negligible impact. Researchers have spent 30 years trying to find health effects from the steam releases at Three Mile Island and have come up with nothing. With all the death, devastation and disease now threatening tens of thousands in Japan, it is trivializing and almost obscene to spend so much time worrying about damage to a nuclear reactor.

What the Japanese earthquake has proved is that even the oldest containment structures can withstand the impact of one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history. The problem has been with the electrical pumps required to operate the cooling system. It would be tragic if the result of the Japanese accident were to prevent development of Generation III reactors, which eliminate this design flaw.

Looking at Japan with Awe and Reverence

Japan has been nuclear since 1966.  They now have some 53 nuclear reactors providing up to a third of their electricity.  Yes, Japan lies on the Ring of Fire.  Yes, Japan gets hit by a lot of tsunamis.  And, yes, they now have a problem at a couple of their reactors.  But the other 50 or so reactors are doing just fine.  Let’s stop attacking their nuclear program.  So far they’ve done a helluva job.  And the Japanese know a thing or two about nuclear disasters.  They lived through two.  Hiroshima.  And Nagasaki.  Which make Chernobyl look like a walk in a park.  If anyone knows the stakes of the nuclear game, they do.  And it shows.

We should be looking at Japan with awe and reverence.  If they can safely operate nuke plants on fault lines and in tsunami alley, then, by God, we should be able to do it where things aren’t quite as demanding.  And should.  It is time we put on our big-boy pants and start acting like men.  Before we give up on all energy and move back into the cave.  And down a notch or two on the food chain.

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Japan’s Nuke Plants/Coastal Communities withstood the Earthquake but not the Tsunami

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 12th, 2011

The Awesome Power of Water

Japan’s most powerful earthquake caused a lot of damage.  But the tsunami’s damage may be even greater.

In 1923 the 8.3 magnitude Kanto quake killed 140,000 people.  In 1995 the 7.2 magnitude Kobe quake killed 6,400 people.  The 8.9 magnitude that just hit may have even killed fewer people.  The official count just recently exceeded 1,000.  But we’ll never know.  Japan’s buildings may have withstood this quake.  But the tsunami that followed made coastal communities just disappear. 

In Minamisanriku some 10,000 are missing.  That’s more than half of its population.  And that’s just one coastal community.  Others no doubt suffered the same fate.  The water just came in so fast (see The town that drowned: Fresh pictures from the port where 10,000 people are missing after it was swept away by the megaquake by Jo MacFarlane posted 3/12/2011 on the UK’s Daily Mail).

It only took a few minutes for the 30ft wave to wash the town away with terrifying force. The locals desperately tried to escape to higher ground. But most did not stand a chance.

During an earthquake you can stand in a doorway.  If the building survives you’ll probably be okay.  But there’s not much you can do when a 30 foot wave races toward you.  Other than run away.  To high ground.  Because a 30 foot wave is about as tall as a 3 story building. That’s a lot of water.  And nothing will stop it.

Never let a Good Crisis go to Waste

First it was an environmentalist looking to exploit the Japanese earthquake in the name of global warming.  Now an American congressman wants to exploit the earthquake to hinder the growth of nuclear power (see Japan quake disaster shows U.S. at risk of Chernobyl-type event by Alexander Bolton posted 3/12/2011 on The Hill).

Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, the senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, warned Saturday that the U.S. is vulnerable to the type of nuclear accident that has sent waves of fear through northeast Japan…

Markey said he hoped the Japanese would act swiftly to bring the situation under control and avoid a Chernobyl-style disaster.

I’m glad he made this statement.  Because I don’t know if the Japanese knew the full extent of what they were facing.  I mean, they’re only up to their elbows in it.  How could they see things as clearly as a politician in Washington?  I’m sure the Japanese ambassador will bestow him with gifts, grateful for this erudite observation.

Chernobyl-style disaster?  I doubt it.  He’s comparing apples to oranges.  Different reactor design (the Chernobyl reactor was a unique Soviet-era design considered to be the most dangerous reactor type in the world).  Different technology.  Different safety precautions.  And, due to its physical size, no containment vessel.  Nothing at all like the Japanese reactors.  Or the American ones.

Japan’s reactors did okay during the earthquake.  Their problems didn’t really start until coastal areas disappeared in the wake of the tsunami.  Yeah, it’s possible that the US Pacific coast could suffer a similar seismic event.  It does sit on the Ring of Fire.  But earthquake-tsunami one-two punches are more probable in Japan than they are on the US Pacific coast.  What happen in Japan could happen in the US.  Just as a meteorite could crash into a nuclear reactor.  Anything is possible.  But the odds favor certain events in certain places. 

Here’s a newsflash.  Life is dangerous.  Driving in a small, fuel-efficient car is dangerous.  Your odds are greater dying in one of those cars than in a nuclear accident.  But we’re not going to stop building small cars, are we?  And neither should we use what’s happening in Japan to further hinder an already hindered industry.

Is it Chernobyl bad or Three Mile Island Bad?

So what is the danger with those nuclear reactors in Japan?  A lot of people are opining.  And they’re not saying the same thing.  So who do we believe?  Depends on which experts you trust more (see Health risk from Japan reactor seems quite low: WHO posted 3/12/2011 on CNBC).

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Saturday that the public health risk from Japan’s radiation leak appeared to be “quite low” but the WHO network of medical experts was ready to assist if requested.

So CNBC has a source that says it may not be that bad.  While The New York Times has a source that says things are bad and can get worse (see Danger Posed by Radioactivity in Japan Hard to Assess by William Broad posted 3/12/2011 on The New York Times).

“The situation is pretty bad,” said Frank N. von Hippel, a nuclear physicist who advised the Clinton White House and now teaches international affairs at Princeton. “But it could get a lot worse.”

Even Japanese officials appear to be contradicting each other (see Japanese Government Confirms Meltdown posted 3/12/2011 on Stratfor).

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said March 12 that the explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi No. 1 nuclear plant could only have been caused by a meltdown of the reactor core, Japanese daily Nikkei reported. This statement seemed somewhat at odds with Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano’s comments earlier March 12, in which he said “the walls of the building containing the reactor were destroyed, meaning that the metal container encasing the reactor did not explode.”

How about hearing from a guy that isn’t there but went through his own nuclear reactor crisis.  In Pennsylvania (see Three Mile Island Meltdown: Richard Thornburgh’s Advice for Japan by Eleanor Clift posted 3/12/2011 on The Daily Beast).

Richard Thornburgh is watching the developments in Japan with a keen sense of déjà vu. He had been in office as Pennsylvania governor only 72 days when he was confronted with a potentially catastrophic event at the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor near Harrisburg. It was resolved without cost to human life, or the environment, which by no means is certain in Japan.

Though what occurred in Japan is the result of a natural disaster, the Republican says, the challenge officials face is identical: “To get a grip on what the facts are.”  That’s difficult when you’re dealing with complicated technology and an abundance of experts, often with their own agendas…

Thornburgh’s advice to his counterparts in Japan is to “just keep plowing ahead on getting a grip on the facts. Make sure the right experts are in place. The quality of the facts is going to determine the quality of the outcome…”

Watching the television coverage of Japan disaster and the ominous news of an explosion at one of its nuclear power plants, he cautions that “there’s nothing inherently unsafe about an explosion—it depends what exploded.” The Japanese have paid careful attention to safety and standards, unlike the Russians, who confronted a similar catastrophe with their reactor at Chernobyl in 1986. When he visited Chernobyl years earlier, Thornburgh recalls, it didn’t even have a containment facility.

So what exactly did explode (see Nuclear power industry watches warily as Japan’s aging reactor is hit hard by Joel Achenbach posted 3/12/2011 on The Washington Post)?

The explosion was not nuclear. Industry officials said it was created by the release of hydrogen gas that mixed with oxygen and exploded.

The building around the reactor vessel is partially destroyed, but Japanese officials say the primary vessel and the reactor core within are intact.

“If the reactor vessel is breached . . . then this radioactive stuff starts coming out in copious amounts,” said Robert Alvarez, a former senior adviser to the Department of Energy who studies nuclear power at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.

Well, perhaps we know this much.  A non-nuclear explosion occurred.  There is no real radioactive fallout.  And we can compare and contrast what we know now about what we knew then. 

As at Fukushima, the Three Mile Island accident was triggered by a disruption of water flow to the reactor. Several instruments failed and operators did not realize that pressure was building inside the reactor. A heavy secondary containment shield ultimately prevented all but a tiny amount of radiation from escaping into the environment.

The Chernobyl disaster, in contrast, was caused by a crude reactor design and at least six fatally flawed decisions by operators during a risky test. A huge power spike and the bad decisions drove the reactor out of control. An explosion then blew the reactor apart and spewed radioactive debris for a week.

Unlike U.S. and Japanese nuclear plants, Chernobyl lacked the heavy shielding that eventually halted the Three Mile Island disaster – and that all of Japan desperately hopes will prevent Fukushima Daiichi’s unit one from melting down.

Yes, there’s uncertainty.  But it appears that what’s happening in Japan is less Chernobyl.  And more Three Mile Island.  If it turns out this way this won’t be so bad after all.  And it will say a lot about Japan’s nuclear power industry.  For Three Mile Island didn’t get hit with an earthquake AND a tsunami.

Right now all eyes are on the nukes.  People are holding their breath.  Once they secure the power plants, though, it will be anticlimactic.  For the real work will then only begin.  The cleanup.  The rebuilding.  And the wakes. 

God give the Japanese strength.

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Earthquake and Tsunami Devastate Japan

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 11th, 2011

Have they no Shame?

It’s started.  Even before the aftershocks stopped.  The global warming crowd is blaming man for Japan’s earthquake (see Some respond to Japan earthquake by pointing to global warming by Amanda Carey posted 3/11/2011 on The Daily Caller).

Hours after a massive earthquake rattled Japan, environmental advocates connected the natural disaster to global warming. The president of the European Economic and Social Committee, Staffan Nilsson, issued a statement calling for solidarity in tackling the global warming problem.

“Some islands affected by climate change have been hit,” said Nilsson. “Has not the time come to demonstrate on solidarity — not least solidarity in combating and adapting to climate change and global warming?”

“Mother Nature has again given us a sign that that is what we need to do,” he added.

Of course, he is counting on that the rest of the world being as ignorant as he is.  Global warming doesn’t cause earthquakesTectonic plates shifting along fault lines do.  It’s a completely different science.  If you can call global warming science.  Which, based on his statements, you can’t.

Shame on these people.  Rubbing their hands together in glee whenever some horrible act of nature occurs that they can politicize.

8.9 Magnitude Earthquake hits Japan

The 8.9 magnitude earthquake is the biggest yet to hit Japan.  Since they’ve been keeping records, at least.  It’s caused some incredible devastation.  And a tsunami.  But it’s something Japan was prepared for.  And she will survive.  Because she has done it before (see Daybreak reveals huge devastation in tsunami-hit Japan by Edwina Gibbs and Chisa Fujioka posted 3/11/2011 on Reuters).

The quake surpasses the Great Kanto quake of September 1, 1923, which had a magnitude of 7.9 and killed more than 140,000 people in the Tokyo area.

The 1995 Kobe quake caused $100 billion in damage and was the most expensive natural disaster in history.

This time the death toll will not be anywhere near what it was in 1923.  Thank God.  The cost will be severe, though.  But it’s better to face that then hundreds of thousands in deaths.  Like they had in Haiti.  With their 7.0 magnitude quake.  Over 300,000 thousand died there.  Why?  Because of their poverty and political corruption.  For poverty is the leading cause of death in the world. 

Japan is an advanced nation.  A nation of laws.  With a strong economy.  Her people are prosperous.  Making life better for everyone.  Because of this, her people worked in buildings designed to withstand the power of earthquakes.  And a lot of them did.

Free-Market Economies are Safer to Live In

In advanced nations with strong, free-market economies, people come first.  These economies, after all, respond to consumer demand.  Safety matters.  So they build things safe.  Because the people matter.  And they demand it.

Contrast that with a command economy.  In National Socialist Germany (i.e., Nazi Germany), the state came first.  And the state didn’t hide that fact.  People were expendable.  Their needs were subordinated to the state’s.  Ditto for their enemy.  The Soviet Union.  In fact, when the Red Army was on the move, the infantry advanced ahead of their tanks.  To protect their tanks from land mines.  You see, with their vast population, it was easier to replace people than tanks.  For their people were an expendable resource.

This mindset no doubt played a role in the Soviet economy.  And their nuclear program.  What happened at Chernobyl could not have happened in the United States.  The Chernobyl nuclear reactor design was flawed.  And there was no containment vessel.  Safety was not a driving design criteria.  That’s why during testing the reactor core heated beyond control.  And exploded.  Without a containment vessel, that explosion threw up radioactive waste into the atmosphere and across Europe.  This did not happen at Three Mile Island.  Because in our free market economy, people come first.  So we build things safe.

Japan’s Nuclear Power Plants Overheating

Some of Japan’s nuclear reactors are having problems.  They’re overheating.  It’s nothing to do with their design.  In fact, it’s their design that has kept them this safe so far after an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and up to 7 (and still counting) aftershocks measuring 5.2 or stronger.  It was the one-two punch of mother nature.  The earthquake took out the primary electrical power.  Then the tsunami washed out their backup generators (see Report: 2 Japanese plants struggling to cool radioactive material by the CNN Wire Staff posted 3/11/2011 on CNN World).

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday on its website that the quake and tsunami knocked out the reactor’s off-site power source, which is used to cool down the radioactive material inside. Then, the tsunami waves disabled the backup source — diesel generators — and authorities were working to get these operating.

A double failure of low probability.  In power redundancy, it is common to have two electrical services from two independent electrical grids.  The plant can operate split over both or entirely on one or the other.  That’s one level of redundancy.  Should both of these sources go out (which in itself is a low probability), then there are on-site diesel generators.  Completely independent and self contained.  So no matter what happens with the offsite electrical sources, the generators can provide electrical power.  That is, unless they’re submerged in seawater.  Nuclear power plants may also have a battery backup as well.  Of course, batteries only last so long.  And don’t do well submerged in seawater.

Nuclear reactors boil water to make steam to produce electricity.  The boiling of this water is what cools the reactor core.  Even with the reactors shut down there is still residual heat that will grow unless the cooling pumps keep running to circulate water around the core.  And this is the problem they’re having.  The cooling pumps aren’t running.

This won’t be another Chernobyl

The disaster that hit Japan would have destroyed a lesser nation.  They need help.  And we should give it.  Whatever they need.  But in the end, they will shake this off and go on with life.  Because they are a people who can take pretty much whatever life throws at them.  Let’s just hope they can get those cooling pumps running again.  They have good designs.  Good operating procedures.  Good safety measures in place.   And some of the best nuclear people in the business.  This won’t be another Chernobyl.

Let’s help Japan.  And keep the Japanese in our prayers.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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Iran’s Nuclear Program for Domestic Energy or a War of Annihilation?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 28th, 2011

 There was a Vibration…in Iran’s Reactor in Bushehr

Yet another setback for Iran’s nuclear program.  Could be thanks to Stuxnet.  Or simply bad luck.  Whatever the cause, something damaged a cooling pump (see Russians Say Iran’s Reactor Has Damage to Cooling Pump by William Broad posted 2/28/2011 on The New York Times).

In a statement, Russia’s state nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom, which is building the reactor in Bushehr, Iran, said it found damage to one of the reactor’s four main cooling pumps…

The Russian statement on Monday said the trouble arose as pressure mounted in the reactor during tests. The pump vibrated and joints broke, the statement said. As a result, metal shards smaller than three millimeters — or less than a tenth of an inch — could have shot into cooling pipes and lodged in fuel assemblies.

“The joints broke down under conditions of high vibration and pulsing pressure,” the statement said.

Cooling pumps?  Reactor tests?  Vibration?  Pressure?  This all sounds kind of familiar.  Where have I heard this before?

Oh yeah.  That’s where I heard that before.  The movie that killed the American nuclear power industry.  It didn’t help that they released the movie just days before the accident at Three Mile Island.  No.  Nuclear power was dead in the United States in the Seventies.  While pretty much the rest of the world expanded their nuclear power programs. 

And then there was a China-Syndrome-like accident.  But not in America.  The world’s worst nuclear accident happened in the Soviet Union.  The Ukraine, to be precise.  In 1986.  At the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.  Reactor number four.  Radioactive fallout covered much of the western Soviet Union and Europe.  It was pretty bad.  The Americans, on the other hand, had no such accident.  And yet the Soviet Union/Russia continues its nuclear power program.  Even exporting it to Iran.  But we shouldn’t have anything to worry about.  I mean, the China Syndrome, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl were all based on 1970s technology.  This is 2011.  The technology is even better today.  So there is little to worry about with the safety of that new Iranian nuke plant (besides their making an atomic bomb, that is).

The statement said the failed pump dated to the 1970s, when West Germans began building the reactor. The Russians, who took over in 1995, have said for years that integrating the old German equipment posed more challenges than initially anticipated.

Then again, perhaps we should worry.  Just a little.  And there’s that whole atomic bomb thing, too, to worry about.  Let’s not forgot about that.

Iran Threatening to pull out of the Racist 2012 London Olympics

In other Iranian news, they’re threatening to boycott the 2012 London Olympics (see Iran threatens to boycott 2012 London Olympics because of logo by Cindy Boren posted 2/28/2011 on The Washington Post).

According to an Iranian official, the logo, with its blocky, abstract rendering of “2012,” is racist because it appears to spell the word “Zion,” a biblical term for Jerusalem, rather than 2012.

When I look at the logo I don’t see ‘Zion‘.  I barely see ‘2012’.  But knowing that it’s supposed to be ‘2012’, I can see ‘2012’.  But I just don’t see ‘Zion’.

By the way, these same Iranians?  They’re working on a nuclear program.  But there’s nothing to worry about.  Sure, they can use enriched uranium to build an atomic bomb.  But who do they hate enough to use an atomic bomb on?  So what’s to worry?  Incidentally, the reason they’ll boycott the Olympics because the logo looks like ‘Zion’?  Because they absolutely hate the state of Israel and Jews everywhere.  Wait a minute.  That could be worrisome.  And then there’s that other thing.  How they have repeatedly said that they want to wipe Israel off the map of the world.  You know, on second thought, it would appear that there is a lot to worry about a nuclear Iran.  Such as a war of annihilation.

Free Electricity too Costly without Massive Government Subsidies

Iran sits on some of the richest oil reserves in the world.  They have an abundance of energy at their finger tips.  Yet they pursue a nuclear program for their domestic energy needs.  So while Iran pursues a nuclear program with some possible nefarious motives, what does the U.S. do for its domestic energy needs?  Builds windmills.  And solar panels (see D.C. reneges on aid to install solar panels by David Nakamura posted 2/27/2011 on The Washington Post).

Dozens of District residents who installed solar panels on their homes under a government grant program promoting renewable energy have been told they will not be reimbursed thousands of dollars as promised because the funds were diverted to help close a citywide budget gap.

The funds were diverted to close a citywide budget gap?  Probably to fund pension and health care benefits for public sector workers.

That came as a shock to Brian Levy, 35, who received a letter from Tulou on Jan. 25 informing him that the city would be unable to pay him the $12,200 it had promised last September. In October, Levy had hired a contractor, Green Brilliance, to install a $27,500 solar energy system on the roof…

Ivan Frishberg, an environmental advocate and a member of Capitol Hill’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission, installed a $34,000 solar system on his home, only to be told that the city would not be able to reimburse him the $11,000 it had promised.

Well no wonder.  If you have an average electric bill of $200  a month, you can see the abysmal rate of returns on those investments.  Assuming you get all of your electricity free after this investment, it would take over 11 years for Mr. Levy to break even.  And over 14 years for Mr. Frishberg.  Clearly, adding solar panels to your house is not a wise investment.    If it were, the government wouldn’t have to bribe you to do it.  With other people’s tax dollars.  All the while cheaper sources of energy are available.  Such as coal.  And nuke plants.

We Build Solar Panels to Save the Planet while letting Iran build a bomb to Destroy It

I doubt many believe Iran is building nuclear plants for domestic energy needs.  And I think most will agree that they are interested in acquiring an atomic bomb.  And yet there are those who say we can’t interfere with a sovereign state’s nuclear ambition.  We can shut down an industry in the United States.  But a madman in the Middle East with a festering hatred of Israel and America, why, he can have his nukes.  Even though he’s sitting on vast oil reserves.  But in America, not only can we not have nuclear power, we can’t even drill for oil.  Instead, we must build windmills.  And solar panels.

Is it me?  Or does something seem wrong here?

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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