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.

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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