Thanks to Fukushima the Germans are Returning to Coal

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 15th, 2014

Week in Review

Germany was going green.  Between renewables and nuclear power they were really shrinking their carbon footprint.  But then along came Fukushima.  And the melting of the core in a nuclear power plant.  Sending shockwaves throughout the world.  Causing the Germans to shut down their nuclear reactors.  Of course, that created an energy shortage in Germany.  And how did they fill it?  By building more new wind farms?  No (see Germany Is Relocating Entire Towns To Dig Up More Sweet, Sweet Coal by Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan posted 2/14/2014 on Gizmodo).

Most of us think of Germany as one of the most energy-progressive countries in the world. But in recent years, it’s also increased its dependence on a form of energy that’s anything but clean: coal. And it’s demolishing or relocating entire towns to get at it.

While Germany has some of the largest brown coal deposits on Earth, a valuable chunk of it resides underneath towns that date back to the Middle Ages. Most of these are located in the old East Germany, and in the 1930s and 40s, dozens of them were destroyed to make way for mining. The practice ended when Germany established its clear energy initiatives. But now, dirty brown coal reemerging as a cheaper option than clean energy. And the cities are in the way again.

Sunshine and wind are free.  They may be unreliable but they are free.  But to capture that energy requires an enormous and costly infrastructure.  That could still fail to produce the electric power they need when the wind doesn’t blow.  Leaving them but one option to replace those efficient nuclear power plants.  Efficient coal-fired power plants.  Which is the only option they have.  Because renewables can never provide baseload power.  The power that is always there and can be relied upon.  Like nuclear power plants.  And those big, beautiful coal-fired power plants.  Rain or shine. Night or day.  Wind or calm.  Coal is always there for us.


Tags: , , , , , ,

After Fukushima Meltdown shuts down Nuclear Power Industry Japan turns to Solar Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 10th, 2013

Week in Review

Japan shows how easy it is to go green after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant meltdown.  Nuclear power is unsafe.  Coal-fired power plants are too dirty.  So what to do?  Why, go solar, of course (see Kyocera launches 70-megawatt solar plant, largest in Japan by Tim Hornyak posted 11/8/2013 on CNET).

Smartphone maker Kyocera recently launched the Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant, a 70-megawatt facility that can generate enough electricity to power about 22,000 homes.

The move comes as Japan struggles with energy sources as nuclear power plants were shut down after meltdowns hit Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima plant in 2011.

Set on Kagoshima Bay, the sprawling Nanatsujima plant commands sweeping views of Sakurajima, an active stratovolcano that soars to 3,665 feet.

It has 290,000 solar panels and takes up about 314 acres, roughly three times the total area of Vatican City.

Wow, 70 megawatts.  Sounds big, doesn’t it?  With 290,000 solar panels on 314 acres.  An installed capacity of 0.22 megawatts per acre.  It must have cost a fortune to build.  And they built it on a bay.  At sea level.  In the shadow of an active volcano.  It would be a shame if that volcano erupts and covers those solar panels in a layer of ash.  Or if another typhoon hits Japan.  An earthquake.  Or a storm surge.  For if any of these things happen those 22,000 homes will lose their electric power.

So how does this compare to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant?  Well, that plant sits on 860 acres.  And has an installed capacity of 4700 megawatts.  Or the installed capacity of 67 Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plants.  And an installed capacity of 5.47 megawatts per acre.  Which is perhaps why they built this on the bay.  Because it is such an inefficient use of real estate in a nation that has one of the highest population densities that they put it on the water.  To save the land for something that has value. 

We used the term ‘installed capacity’ for a reason.  That reason being the capacity factor.  Which is the actual amount of power produced over a given amount of time divided by the maximum amount of power that could have been produced (i.e., the installed capacity).  Nuclear plants can produce power day or night.  Covered in volcanic ash or not.  On a sunny day or when it’s pouring rain.  Which is why a nuclear power plant has a much higher capacity factor (about 90%) than a solar plant (about 15%).  So the actual power people consume from the Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant will be far less than its 70 megawatts of installed capacity.

So in other words, solar power is not a replacement for nuclear power.  Or any other baseload power such as coal-fired power plants.  Power demand will far exceed power supply.  Leading to higher costs as they try to ration electric power.  And a lot of power outages.  Some longer than others.  Especially when powerful typhoons and/or storm surges blow in.  As they often do in the Pacific Ocean.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Japan Turning to Wind Power after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Accident in 2012

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 19th, 2013

Week in Review

Japan suffered a close call in 2012.  The nuclear power plant at Fukushima survived the massive earthquake.  But the resulting tsunami led to electric problems in the backup power systems.  Which led to the core meltdown.  Something that never happened before.  And is not likely to happen again.  Because they saw what that tsunami did.  And now can prepare these plants to handle future tsunamis.  Still, the Japanese are turning their back on nuclear power.  After it served them so well all these many years (see Japan to build world’s largest offshore wind farm by Rob Gilhooly posted 1/16/2013 on New Scientist).

By 2020, the plan is to build a total of 143 wind turbines on platforms 16 kilometres off the coast of Fukushima, home to the stricken Daiichi nuclear reactor that hit the headlines in March 2011 when it was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami.

The wind farm, which will generate 1 gigawatt of power once completed, is part of a national plan to increase renewable energy resources following the post-tsunami shutdown of the nation’s 54 nuclear reactors. Only two have since come back online…

The first stage of the Fukushima project will be the construction of a 2-megawatt turbine, a substation and undersea cable installation. The turbine will stand 200 metres high. If successful, further turbines will be built subject to the availability of funding.

To get around the cost of anchoring the turbines to the sea bed, they will be built on buoyant steel frames which will be stabilised with ballast and anchored to the 200-metre-deep continental shelf that surrounds the Japanese coast via mooring lines…

Another contentious issue is the facility’s impact on the fishing industry, which has already been rocked by the nuclear accident. Ishihara insists it is possible to turn the farm into a “marine pasture” that would attract fish.

The earthquake didn’t hurt the Daiichi nuclear reactor.  It was the tsunami.  Which flooded the electrical gear in the basement that powered the cooling pumps.  That same tidal wave that swept whole buildings out to sea.  Which it will probably do the same to those buoyant steel frames.  Which means instead of replacing downed power lines after another tsunami they will be replacing windmills.  Making the resulting power outage longer.  And more costly.

The wind farm will not generate 1 gigawatt.  It may have the potential to generate 1 gigawatt.  But that will be only when the winds cooperate.  They have to blow hard enough to spin the windmills fast enough to produce electric power.  But not too fast that they damage the windmills.  Which typically lock down in high winds.  Providing a narrow band of winds for power generation.

Buoyant windmills and underwater power cabling in fishing waters?  Sure, that shouldn’t be a problem.  What are the odds that a boat will run into a windmill?  Or snag an underwater power cable?  The odds of that happening are probably greater than another Fukushima-like accident.  And yet they’re shutting down their nuclear power.  To use floating windmills.

Incidentally, 143 windmills at 2 megawatt each only comes to 286 megawatts.  Not 1 gigawatt.  No, to get 1 gigawatt you’ll need 500 windmills.  Three and half times more than the 143 they’re planning to build.  If the one they start with works.  And they have the money for more windmills after they install the first one.

India has more wind and solar power than anyone else.  Yet they’re adding nuclear capacity because their wind and solar just can’t meet their power needs.  The Japanese should probably reconsider their position on nuclear power.  For even though wind power is green power and it will provide a lot of jobs it will result in massive debt.  And unreliable power.  That money would probably be better spent making improvements to their nuclear power.  Such as getting electric gear out of basements.  And providing a more failsafe power source for their cooling pumps.  For their nuclear plants can survive earthquakes.  And with these improvements they’ll be able to survive a tsunami.  All while providing reliable electric power.  Something windmills just can’t do.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Japan is Restarting their Nuclear Reactors to avoid Rolling Outages and High Electric Bills

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 17th, 2012

Week in Review

Japan is facing the economic reality of energy in the modern economy.  And is restarting their nuclear reactors (see Japan approves 2 reactor restarts, more seen ahead by Linda Sieg and Kiyoshi Takenaka posted 6/16/2012 on Reuters).

Japan on Saturday approved the resumption of nuclear power operations at two reactors despite mass public opposition, the first to come back on line after they were all shut down following the Fukushima crisis…

The decision, despite public concerns over safety after the big earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima plant, could open the door to more restarts among Japan’s 50 nuclear power reactors…

The push to restart the two Ohi reactors, before a potential summer power crunch, also underscores the premier’s eagerness to win backing from businesses worried about high electricity costs that could push factories offshore…

Nuclear power supplied almost 30 percent of electricity needs before the March 2011 disaster, which triggered meltdowns at Fukushima, spewing radiation and forcing mass evacuations…

Like it or not the modern economy runs on energy.  And the clean energy the environmentalists so like that powers the Toyota Prius has to be generated from something.  They hate coal and oil.  They’re against building dams.  Which only leaves natural gas and nuclear as only viable options.  Japan is not a country rich in fossil fuels.  So they turned to nuclear power for 30% of their electric generation mix.  There have been some bumps along the way but Japan is still there.  They even survived the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. 

Public trust in regulators was tattered by evidence that cosy ties with utilities were a key reason Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co was unprepared for the tsunami, and subsequent signs that relations remain far too snug…

“We can no longer go back to a life that depends on candles,” ruling party heavyweight Yoshito Sengoku said in an interview with the Sankei newspaper this week.

The Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency, the current watchdog, has approved stress tests for Shikoku Electric Power Co Inc’s 890-megawatt No.3 reactor in Ikata, southern Japan. Next on the list for possible approval are two Hokkaido Electric Power reactors in Tomari, northern Japan and Hokuriku Electric’s two in Shika, western Japan.

The Fukushima plant survived an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale.  An earthquake that was so powerful that it moved the earth.  The New York Times reported “NASA scientists calculated that the redistribution of mass by the earthquake might have shortened the day by a couple of millionths of a second and tilted the Earth’s axis slightly.”  The earth may have moved.  But the Fukushima plant did not.  And probably would have emerged unscathed had it not been for the tsunami that followed.  Which submerged the electrical distribution equipment that powered the cooling pumps.  And because this distribution equipment was not rated to operate submerged in water it failed.  Causing the Fukushima disaster.

Fault nuclear power all you want but the plant survived most of the worst the earth could throw at it.  It only failed when the ocean moved inland.  It withstood the powerful force of that wave (it swept some buildings away whole).  But not the effect of water entering the electrical gear.  Highly conductive saltwater.  Which just shorted out the works.  And stopped everything electrical from working.  Making it even impossible for the backup generators to power the cooling pumps.

Note how much power they will connect to the grid by connecting one reactor.  The No.3 reactor in Ikata can produce 890-megawatt.  Let’s compare that to wind power.  In Texas on the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center they have 421 windmills on nearly 47,000 acres with a nameplate rating of 735.5 MW of installed capacity.  With a capacity factor of 20-40% for wind power on the high end that reduces the actual power to 294.2 MW.  And that’s only when the wind is blowing.  The capacity factor for nuclear power is 60-100+%.  At the LOW end the No.3 reactor in Ikata will put 534 MW onto the grid.  In short nuclear power blows wind power away.  And you don’t need 47,000 acres to build a nuclear power plant.  Which is good because Japan doesn’t have land to spare being one of the most congested nations in the world. 

How can Japan not restart their reactors?  There are just no better alternatives.  Unless they want to suffer through rolling blackouts during the summer, pay higher electric bills and lose businesses seeking cheaper power.  Which is the alternative.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Japan shutters 52 of 54 Nuclear Reactors because of Fukushima, Energy Imports cause Trade Deficit

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 11th, 2012

Week in Review

The two oil crises in the Seventies hurt Japan’s economy.  Because the Japanese have little domestic energy sources.  Which means they have to import most of their energy.  Coal.  Natural gas.  And, of course, oil.  After suffering the economic fallout of two oil crises in one decade they made a decision to prevent that from happening a third time.  By diversifying their energy industry.  And going nuclear.  Increasing the amount of electricity produced by nuclear power to almost 25%.  Which helped to insulate them from another economic shock.  But that all changed with the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster (see Japan reports record current account deficit posted 3/7/2012 on BBC News Business).

Japan has reported a record current account deficit because of rising energy imports, as the country’s economic recovery remains fragile…

In the aftermath of the 11 March 2011 tsunami and earthquake that triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear reactor, Japan shut 52 out of 54 reactors.

This led to shortages of fuel for generating electricity, which meant more of it had to be imported…

The yen slipped to trade at 81.26 to the US dollar, as the trade deficit raised fears about how long Japan would be able to manage its large public debt.

The massive earthquake created the massive tsunami.  The tidal surge of the tsunami caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  An extremely rare event.  It has only happened once in the era of nuclear power.  In fact, the nuclear part of the reactor survived all of this.  It was the old technology that didn’t.  The electrical distribution equipment.  Because it was located in the basement.  Which became flooded with sea water.  Which disabled the electrically driven cooling pumps from operating.  Despite backup generator power being available. 

The technology exists to move electrical distribution equipment to higher ground.  And to waterproof it.  There exists power cables rated for underwater use even.  There is no technological hurdle preventing the kind of electrical updates to prevent another extremely rare event causing another electrical failure like at Fukushima again.  And they’re simple projects, really.   Build new distribution equipment on high ground where a tidal surge can’t reach it.  And rerouting critical systems to this new distribution equipment.  You could do this.  Or you could shut down 52 of your 54 reactors for political reasons.  And import more fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil) to make up for the energy shortfall.  Increasing your trade deficit.  And risking your ability to pay one of the highest debt loads of any state (as a percentage of GDP).

One thing you can’t do, though, is make up this energy shortfall with solar or wind power.  Because the cost of building the infrastructure to produce that much energy is prohibitive.  And the power it produces is too unreliable.  For sometimes the sun doesn’t shine.  And sometimes the wind doesn’t blow.  So to please the antinuclear environmentalists who fear another extremely rare event from happening they have to replace clean energy (nuclear generated) with dirty energy (fossil fuel-generated).  Which doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Then again, political decisions rarely do.

To put this into perspective consider this.  Your odds of lightning striking you are greater than you winning the lotto.  Yet your chances of winning the lotto are greater than another Fukushima from happening.  And people will buy lotto tickets.  But they shun nuclear programs.  Unless, that is, a rogue regime is using it to enrich uranium that could also be used to make a nuclear bomb.  And that regime is Islamist.  Which wants to conquer the world.  Strange how Japan has to shut down their nuclear program while Iran doesn’t.  A country, incidentally, that sits on huge petroleum reserves.  And doesn’t need nuclear power.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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?


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

« Previous Entries