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.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

Wells, Cesspools, Night Soil, 1854 Broad Street Cholera Outbreak, Fresh Water, Sanitation, 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 10th, 2012

History 101

Overflowing Cesspools in 1854 London led to a Cholera Outbreak along Broad Street

People eat and drink.  And, as a consequence, they poop and pee.  This made moving into cities a little more complicated than living in the country.  Or on a farm.  Where you drilled a well for your drinking water.  And built an outhouse (or privy) to do your business in.  Basically a small structure over a hole in the ground to provide a little privacy while you contemplated world affairs.  You kept the two separated so your business didn’t seep into the water table that fed your well.  As people moved into cities they brought their poop and pee with them.  Obviously.  And before plumbing and sanitary sewer systems people used chamber pots and dumped them out of their windows after using them.  Or built cesspits (or cesspools) to store their human waste.  Under their houses.  Where the liquid would leach into the ground.  While the solids broke down.  As the pile of the remaining solid waste grew men came around at night to remove this ‘night soil’.  Which they turned into fertilizer.

There were drawbacks with this, though.  For human waste is full of disease-causing pathogens.  Which made it a little risky to use as fertilizer.  Worse were these disease-causing pathogens leaching into our drinking water.  Which it did in London.  In 1854.  In the Soho district of London.  Where the new sanitary sewers did not yet reach.  On Broad Street.  That ran along the River Thames.  Where the water table is relatively high.  So when you drill a well you don’t have to go too deep.  Or you could get your water directly from the River Thames.  As the city’s population grew more and more people packed into houses.  Greatly increasing the production of human waste.  Quickly filling the cesspools beneath their homes.  And as they filled to capacity they overflowed.  And leached into that high water table.  And into the River Thames.   Which took in this burgeoning growth of disease-causing pathogens.

But then people start getting sick.  A lot of them even dying.  From a nasty outbreak of cholera.  Spread by disease-causing pathogens.  Back then people thought ‘bad air’ caused cholera to spread.  As well as other diseases.  Something John Snow refused to believe.  So he studied the pattern of deaths.  And he found a common factor.  The people who were dying drew their water from the public pump on Broad Street.  Determining that the source of the cholera outbreak wasn’t ‘bad air’.  But bad water.  Coming from that pump.  Contaminated from those overflowing cesspools.  Such that people were drinking their own waste.  This marked a new beginning in public health.  And public sanitation.  Perhaps the greatest of public goods that allows people to live in crowded cities.

The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami took out the Systems that kept Wastewater from Contaminating Fresh Drinking Water 

As cities and regions became more populated this balancing act of fresh water and sanitation became more critical.  Where fresh water flowed into our homes and wastewater flowed out and into the sanitary sewer system.  And on to the wastewater treatment plant.  Where treatment made the water safe to reenter the ecosystem.  And our drinking water supplies.  If all the pieces worked well the water flowed in only one direction.  Towards the wastewater treatment plant.  But if something should happen to interrupt or reverse that flow the wastewater would contaminate our drinking water.  And, sadly, something often happens.  Events that damage the infrastructure that manages that flow.  Such as war.  Earthquakes.  And tsunamis.

An earthquake in the Indian Ocean on Sunday, December 26, 2004, created a massive tsunami.  Sending walls of water as high as 50 feet crashing into Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and other coastal regions surrounding the Indian Ocean.  The damage these waves caused was devastating.   The advancing water just swept away communities on the shore.  After the waves receded more than 150,000 were dead or missing.  Millions were homeless.  In a hot and humid climate.  Where corpses everywhere began to decompose.  And injured people with open wounds invited infection.  As bad as the horror of that day was there might be worse yet to come.  For the conditions were perfect for pandemic disease.  For included in that destruction was the infrastructure that managed that water flow to wastewater treatment plants.

This was the greatest fear.  The tsunami waves wiped out the electrical grids that powered the pumps that maintained that water flow.  So the wastewater backed up into the drinking water.  Dense populations in tropical conditions with no fresh drinking water available to drink and with raw sewage backing up into the streets spelled a world of trouble.  Because people need to eat and drink.  And, as a consequence, they poop and pee.  But when the infrastructure is gone that separates the one from the other humans can’t live for long.  Because their waste is full of disease-causing pathogens.  Especially when the prevailing weather conditions create a natural incubator for these diseases.

In America’s most Populated Cities you can Turn On Any Water Tap and Drink the Water without Worrying about Cholera

Thankfully those areas hit by the 2004 tsunami did not suffer greater population losses due to outbreaks of cholera, diphtheria, dysentery, typhoid or hepatitis A and B.  Thanks to a fast-acting international community.  Providing some $14 billion in humanitarian aid.  Delivered in large part by the U.S. Navy and other military forces.  Who possessed the resources to move that aid inland to where the people needed it.  Chief among that aid was fresh drinking water.  And sanitation facilities.  To prevent the spread of disease.

It took some time to understand the connection between clean drinking water and public health.  But people did have some understanding.  Which is why a lot of people drank beer in early communities.  Because the brewing process killed the pathogens in the water.  Perhaps our first water treatment process.  They may not have known this.  They may just have correlated drinking beer to healthier living.  A good a reason as any to drink and be merry.  For those who drank beer did not suffer some of the same diseases that befell others.  As in the cholera outbreak in 1854 London.  Where the monks in a monastery adjacent to the outbreak area escaped the pandemic.  Why?  Because they only drank the beer they brewed.

Americans travelling to Mexico are careful about what they drink.  Drinking only bottled water.  Or beer and liquor.  To escape an unpleasant condition that can result from drinking the local water which is not as ‘treated’ as it is in the U.S.  Emphasizing a point few appreciate in America’s most populated cities.  Where you can turn on any water tap and drink the water that comes out of it without ever worrying about cholera, diphtheria, dysentery, typhoid or hepatitis A and B.  Which we’ve only been able to do for about a century or so in America.  While poor and developing countries are still struggling to do this even to this day.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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?

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

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.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

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

Share

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