Feeds

back to article Ofnuke: UK is not Japan

So that's that, then. The UK's nuclear safety watchdog last week published a list of recommendations following the Fukushima accident. It received rather less press than the hysterical reports from Japan. There are plenty of recommendations, but overall the inspectors conclude that Britain has very different kinds of reactors, …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Thumb Down

Missing the point

UK designs also have the spent fuel rods cooled under water. All designs except Thorium 233/ molten salt have that. So some of the Fukushima problems can occur here too. The only real recommendation for that is to take the waste inland and deal with there, but no politico will accept that.

Additionally, UK has a history of flood events of at least several meters. The Severn valley flood in the 18th century (which a lot of people suspect to have been a tsunami from the Irish sea fault), the 1953 floods, etc all have several meters above the highest tide mark. So some of that may happen here too. The probability is not high, but it is still possible.

7
18
Grenade

Point has not been missed

The reactor buildings do have defences should an extra large wave come from the sea. They also have thick walls in case of airplance strikes and they are probably earthquake proof too, just in case. Admittedly they probably could not take a direct hit from a nuclear weapon, but then preventing release of radioactive material would be rather moot at that point!

Flooding ponds, containing water and spent fuel rods, while not a brilliant scenario from the perspective of contaminating the water, isn't exactly going to be a major issue as the fuel rods still remain wet! Draining the water is more likely to cause problems, flooding more water on top of water already there less so!

The probability of the UK's nuclear power plants leaking radiation from a tsunami style event are so ridiculously small, it is not even worth factoring for. Loss of back-up facilities (which can happen from a wider range of events) is what happened to the Japanese and caused them all the problems. In fairness, it was a bloody big wave that took out a large chunk of the country!

What the report recommends, is that the back-up facilities are made more 'event' proof because they are far less likely to survive any kind of event than the nuclear plant itself, which makes the point of a back-up rather....well... pointless! Should we get hit by a 6m high wave, we are going to have bigger problems that a few nuclear power plants getting rather wet!

15
4

Reprocessing?

I thought the politicos had already accepted that? After all isn't the UK one of the worlds biggest nuke reprocessing countries?

0
0
FAIL

OK

I'm sure that you, Anonymous Coward, are far better trained in nuclear safety and risk management than the cowboys down at the Office for Nuclear Regulation with their fancy-schmancy PhDs.

There is no such concept as zero-risk. There is always a tiny probability of extreme conditions; a proper scientific approach is to evaluate this and decide what is acceptable risk.

11
3
Boffin

@Ian Ferguson: "Acceptable risk"

I was with you until the last phrase "... and decide what is acceptable risk".

How do you envisage making a decision on acceptable risk? Surely the level of risk that is acceptable is: a) very subjective; b) will vary according to whom you pose the question. Should a decision on what is acceptable be left to a bunch of industry insiders?

2
5
Anonymous Coward

Hmmm...

I love the way this has got down-voted... What the heck is going through people's minds?

Reads: "K designs also have the spent fuel rods cooled under water. All designs except Thorium 233/ molten salt have that. So some of the Fukushima problems can occur here too."

Thinks: "Bah. Science nonsense. Lewis said it's fine, so this is clearly wrong" *downvotes*

Reads: "So some of that may happen here too. The probability is not high, but it is still possible"

Thinks: "Boo. No. Never. We don't get floods here. Don't be silly. I've never heard of the possibility of an unheard of disaster happening before." *tugsbeardanddownvotes*

5
9
Anonymous Coward

I tend to base my risk assessments with a mind to the worst possible outcome.

10% chance of missing train because I'm finishing off a fried breakfast = OK

10% chance of walking under a bus by hopping across the road for a laugh = not OK

1% chance of spilling coffee while sipping it as I walk upstairs = OK

1% chance of parachute failing to open = not OK

0.001% of parachute not opening = OK

0.001% chance of nuclear contamination being spewed all over the UK and irradiating the place for dozens of years = not OK

When there are extraordinarily bad effects of failure, the chance of failure must be reduced not just to an ordinary level, but a highly extraordinary one. Don't just build for disaster: Build for disaster that far exceeds what's on record.

Nuclear power is massively expensive. It seems moronic to cut corners in any way and not engineer for worse than the worst possible, given the relatively low cost of doing so in comparison with overall project costs. If the highest wave on record in the UK is -say- 5m high, let's build a wall twice that size!

5
12

Down votes...

Personally my instant reaction was.... A/C troll posting... *down vote*

I read, absorbed the A/C opinion and fundamentally disagreed. A more informed post with references, citations and details of the flooding/tidal risk of each of our sites would not get the same reaction.

7
0
Bronze badge

Floods != Tsunami

Floods are annoying but easily dealt with being mostly static water, tsunamis will fuck you up big time what with it being a large mass of water moving really quite quickly.

In the UK the likelyhood of a tsunami is so remote as to be irrelevant, if one did happen there'll be more than enough infrastructure failings going on as to render a slight overfilling of a cooling pond irrelevant. Meanwhile the reactors themselves will more than likely be unscathed and have plenty of thermal capacity to deal with a loss of coolant power.

8
1

re: Hmmm...Downvotes

It got downvoted for it's "oh no, end of the world" tone.

The fact that Thorium reactors are still just experimental.*

For mentioning Thorium at all – lets jump on the bandwagon.

And finally the implied suggestion that fuel ponds are the current biggest problem in Fukushima.**

Your second post will be similarly downvoted for saying that people were not thinking straight by downvoting the first post.

* That is, not online producing lots of power in real power stations.

** Aside from some sources also suggesting that the site needs to be nuked from orbit to stop the old fuel melting a hole in the planet.

7
0
Thumb Down

Ill informed bollocks....

The key difference is, those fiel rods currently cooled in ponds aren't clad with zirconium.

Maybe you can tell us how it's possible to get a hydrogen-producing reaction - the relavent problem - with stainless steel clad rods?

1
0
Thumb Down

@CAB Volunteer ... lighten up man,

my reading of the article is that Brit nuke reactors are more modern and safer than the admittedly robust Fukishima ones. That is a very , very, very good thing.

Consulting over 'acceptable risk' is psychotherapy and nothing to with real risk. In the meantime there are homes and businesses to be powered for comfort and commerce.

Good luck getting anything useful out of your endless subjectivity!

0
0
Silver badge

What worries me...

...is that the UK reactors were built to UK specs and maintained in the UK by a (I guess) mostly UK workforce. That does not fill me with confidence. You only have to look at any major UK contract (aircraft carriers that can't really carry aircraft, anyone?) to know what a total pigs ear our supposed betters make of things like this.

That being said...it's probably still less bad than coal.

4
9
FAIL

Yea the UK can't build anything decent....

That Concord and Eurofighter were piles of shite...and as for that Jet Engine and Hovercraft malarky they were just failures that were never heard of again wern't they...fool.

3
3
Silver badge

Was that sarcasm?

I'm not sure, because Concorde and the EuroFighter WERE piles of shite.

4
4
Silver badge

@Micky 1

Hovercraft was invented here - but not pursued. Taken up by the USA and other nations. Killed by the suits (who I am railing against)

EuroFighter - an Europe-wide project, over-priced and crap. We are spending billions on something that can't even do ground-attack without significant modifications (many will sit mothballed an unused). We would have been better off with a clutch of F16s and keeping Harrier going.

Jet Engine - yup, 60 odd years ago. But then that was one team, so a small project not a big contract managed by suits. And when the suits saw it, they wanted to cancel it.

Concord - glory of the 70s.

The UK does do some good engineering, but we are run buy morons. Nimrod, the new carriers, our trains, EuroFighter, Snatch Landrovers, various NHS projects. And thus we suck balls at big contracts.

5
1
Anonymous Coward

'Scuse me...

Because obviously the UK can claim the jet engine as our invention, and the hovercraft has completely revolutionised the world...

0
1
Anonymous Coward

@The BigYin - Your comment was about your concern for the quality of the work done

Not of the quality of the management of the projects. My point was that we have done and still do manufacture components/products to a world class level, which I think you seem to agree with.

3
1
Silver badge

@Micky 1

...you can create as many straw men as you like, but my worry was that we suck at major contracts (which is why I said "any major UK contract"). Almost without exception, every major contract any modern UK government has tried has gone massively over-budget and been a total shambles.

Individual components are all well and good, but when they are put together by monkeys you get garbage like our two new carriers (one to be moth-balled, one to barely carry and planes, budget through the roof and they're not even nuclear!). Or Failtrack. Or the Metro Line. Or....

To give you straw-man some actual body; at a consumer level, the last semi-decent UK product I can think of was the Dyson Vacuum cleaner - but that's now made in China.

2
3
FAIL

Do your research....

The BigYin: "...you can create as many straw men as you like, but my worry was that we suck at major contracts (which is why I said "any major UK contract"). Almost without exception, every major contract any modern UK government has tried has gone massively over-budget and been a total shambles."

I present to you High Speed One (or "Channel Tunnel Rail Link" as it was originally known), Delivered on time, and under budget, despite the collapse of it's customer, Railtrack, during construction. Also, the M74 Completion project in Glasgow is being delivered under budget and 9 months ahead of schedule.

I'm sure there are plenty more, but I have to get back to my own projects. All on time, and under budget.

3
0

@The BigYin

"...is that the UK reactors were built to UK specs and maintained in the UK by a (I guess) mostly UK workforce. That does not fill me with confidence."

I think you're confusing the post-Thatcher consumerist UK with the optimistic, science led UK that designed, commissioned and built the AGRs. Fair enough, the build took forever, but that was more down to design complexity than construction incompetence.

3
0
Unhappy

Died from exhaustion?

Bloody hell...

3
0

re: Died from exhaustion, Bloody hell...

Just to add a little perspective:-

If it is the same guy, it was apparently a 60+ year old electrician who died of a suspected heart attack.

So not very nice for him and his family, but not unusually bad in the greater scheme of things.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

oh yea

I shocked by how dedicated you must be to work hard enough to die from it.

I know the Japanese can be a dedicated bunch (Hell, I live here) but I hadn't head the above bit of news.

Rather humbling

0
0

hmmm....

So we're being told there WAS a radation leak, there were explosions & people are being effected by it..

But didnt I read, as little as two months ago that people pointing out this was happening were crackpots and/or people who were looking for political gains (simply because they werent towing the offical line) - Funny how people can flip-flop as soon as they think people have forgottern what they have already said.

3
13
Troll

yes

there was radiation leaks, they were relatively minor (in terms of it actually being dangerous).

There was explosions (that as far as I know did not lead to any radiation, just blew the bloody doors off (it was actually the roof, I just like Michael Caine too much)).

People _were_ affected by it, for 'just to make sure reasons' quite a lot of them were moved away from the area.

There was no meltdown, fuel rods did not burn their way to the core of the earth, nobody in fukushima walk around glowing in the dark, nobody died of radiation.

If only the tsunami had been as benign.

12
3
Boffin

Re: "There was no meltdown"

While I agree with the rest of your post... actually there WAS a meltdown. It was nicely contained by the reactor vessel, as designed. This should be good news for all the people worrying about "China syndrome" cores melting through to the centre of the earth. We now know that the containment systems work, even if there is a meltdown.

Source: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Fukushima_fuel_melt_confirmed-1605115.html

1
1
FAIL

And in other news, all three reactors did in fact melt down.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13497656

I'm pretty confident they'll admit that containment was breached sooner or later. Then Lewis will have been wrong about absolutely everything...

5
11
Dead Vulture

Re: And in other news, all three reactors did in fact melt down.

"Then Lewis will have been wrong about absolutely everything..."

But by then he'll be bending spoons again and everyone will be gushing "Ooh! How does he do that?" once more. (Obvious celebrity reference anonymized for super-injunction avoidance purposes.)

Still, at least nuclear articles can be commented on, whereas articles about "shill gas" are presumably too sacred at the moment.

4
3

Your reference is not reliable

You can't point at something the BBC wrote about this event and try to claim this is authoritative. The BBC were one of the worst at the hysterical and inaccurate reporting of the event. It really made me downgrade my opinion on the reliability of the BBC as a factual reporter even more than before.

4
4
Black Helicopters

They were only quoting TEPCO's own claims.

You are being a paranoid conspiracy theorist. TEPCO held a press conference and admitted the meltdown, BBC reported it, in common with every other news outlet in the world. Get your head out of the sand and go do a google news search or something. Here, why not watch a video of the TEPCO spokesman admitting it in person:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ij5PfvzY2bo&feature=related

I expect you'll claim they've fraudulently mis-translated him or something. Here, here's previous TEPCO's status report, now several days out of date:

http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/images/f12np-gaiyou_e_2.pdf

Note the footnote at the bottom of page 1:

>"Results of the provisional analysis show that the fuel pellets of unit 1 melted and fell to the bottom of RPV at a relatively early stage after the tsunami reached the plant".

They have now admitted similar damage at reactors 2 and 3. If you refuse to believe it, you're living in a fantasy of your own making.

7
0
Gold badge

Re: other news

There's a big difference between what the public understands by meltdown and what seems to have happened here. That difference is "containment".

As was pointed out at the time, the best evidence that the containment was not violated is the fact that we spent a week or more worrying about the very high pressures within the containment vessel and the consequent explosion risk. To re-iterate something Lewis said at the time: you don't get pressure build-up if there's a dirty great hole on your box.

4
1
WTF?

When is a meltdown not a meltdown?

Did you actually read what you just said there? I'm not allowed to call a meltdown a meltdown when I am using the terminology entirely correctly, because of some hypothetical misunderstanding in the imaginary head of some theoretical member of the public? That is quite the most abysmal piece of chopped logic I have seen in some time.

6
2
Troll

egg on my face :)

Well I considder myself corrected on the meltdown(s), I don't know how I even managed to miss that one :(

good on people for posting sources, here's a pretty good one:

http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html

Kind of an anticlimax almost, media has always kind of made me think that a meltdown would somehow be bigger.. and leave thousands dead... not just fuel melting and dropping to the bottom of the pressure vessel :(

3
0

failure of containment vessels?

Actually, after reactor #2 exploded, the pressure vessel was at atmospheric pressure, and radiation measurements around the area rose by a factor of 10.

3
0
Thumb Up

Good on you mate

AC from "And in other news" post here; good on you for accepting a correction. I wasn't trying to say this was any kind of China-syndrome-end-of-the-world-thousands-dead nonsense, but it certainly means a god-awful and far more expensive mess that needs to be somehow tidied up. Latest I hear is they're planning to turn it into a waste-dump, which is a probably cash-saving but still bloody tasteless way to (maybe) swerve round the problem...

This is one of my main beefs with the whole ElReg line on the problem: it is terribly short-sighted. Lewis sees a disaster, notes that everything else failed except for the pressure vessel, and calls it a triumph; I can't help but notice the "everything else failed" bit that he ignored and think that it's too important to just hand-wave away. Lewis looks at a nuclear power station, all he sees is a big steel vessel that's a bit like a pressure cooker, but that's the simplest and smallest part of it; I look at a nuclear power station, and I also see forty years'-worth of corporate, financial, political, infrastructural and human support systems that are required to back it up and make it work safely and economically viably, and every single one of /them/ failed. That's why I think Lewis' perspective is almost autistically short-sighted; it's a geek point-of-view, it considers only engineering and is blind to all the larger systems that the actual engineering is merely a part of.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Fukushima Containment Vessels May Be Leaking, Tepco Says

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-05-25/fukushima-containment-vessels-may-be-leaking-tepco-says.html

>"Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the containment chambers of damaged reactors at its Fukushima nuclear plant were likely breached"

Yeah, look, I understand your theoretical problem about how there could be high pressure inside the reactor vessel if it had a hole in it, but what about if it was a small hole and/or maybe obstructed, perhaps even by an air bubble or something? You just can't be so bloody certain by sitting at home in your armchair reasoning from theoretical idealised models to try and infer what will actually happen in a real-world situation with real materials.

To anyone who wasn't swallowing the kool-aid, it should have been suspicious when they first suggested that the toroid ring could have been breached and yet that somehow wouldn't amount to a breach in the reactor vessel. They are connected after all. It's been obvious all along that TEPCO was spinning their news, putting best-possible interpretations on everything, delaying announcements of conclusions that were obvious from the data they had already released, and generally continuing their historical pattern of prevarication, obfuscation and outright deception.

0
0
Silver badge

No!

We have to do away with nuclear power! Won't somebody please think of the radioactive, glowing mutant children?!

2
1
Silver badge
Thumb Up

"doesn't experience Force 9 earthquakes"

This is a very important point that the more shrill parts of the media (and some that should know better) have chosen to ignore.

3
0
FAIL

@ooFie

Quote - 'So we're being told there WAS a radation leak, there were explosions & people are being effected by it..

But didnt I read, as little as two months ago that people pointing out this was happening were crackpots and/or people who were looking for political gains (simply because they werent towing the offical line)'

No - no you didn't.

What you read was that the people trying to imply that *all* of Japan's problems, deaths and injuries were linked to the nuclear plants and that people would die en masse from the fallout were such crackpots etc. The *minor* leaks were admitted when they happened, and the *majority* of the explosions only blew the bloody doors off :-)

There is no 'flipflop'-ing here, just a re-iteration of that point.

BTW, when you are 'towing' the 'offical' line is this similar to toeing the official line, or are you hauling some imaginary boundary by hand?

2
2
Anonymous Coward

I never

saw _anyone_ "trying to imply that *all* of Japan's problems, deaths and injuries were linked to the nuclear plants and that people would die en masse from the fallout". I wondered at the time who these 'people' were. Looked more like pro-nuclear lobby FUD to me. Still does.

4
4
Anonymous Coward

Re: I never

"saw _anyone_ "trying to imply that *all* of Japan's problems, deaths and injuries were linked to the nuclear plants and that people would die en masse from the fallout". I wondered at the time who these 'people' were. Looked more like pro-nuclear lobby FUD to me."

Yes, there were a bunch of people squealing about how "everybody keeps staring at those nuke plants" and in their own little minds a bit of projection started to take shape, where they imagined that people watching the BBC - even for a few moments - had started to believe that Satan himself had seized personal control over the elements uranium and plutonium and was now threatening everybody in Asia. What tended to happen next was that these people opened their mouths and started jumping and pointing schoolyard-style at anyone who dared entertain the notion that not all was well with the condition of these nuclear facilities.

I think everyone but these "stop looking at it" buffoons could manage to hold more than one news story in their head at any given time, but why let everybody else's modest capabilities get in the way of a good "eyes forward" telling-off. And such people have the nerve to complain about the "mainstream media". Jesus Christ!

2
2
Anonymous Coward

I'm sure ours will be fine.

The Germans reactors might just all have failed their safety checks and the country might be getting out of the whole nuclear power thing, but what do they know, anyway? It's not like they can engineer anything decent...

3
3
Silver badge

The German political system

forces pandering to crackpot single-issue minority parties, such as the Greens.

4
3
Flame

Re: I'm sure ours will be fine.

> It's not like they can engineer anything decent...

Last I heard, the decisions were being made by politicians, not engineers.

6
0
Thumb Down

Another load of boollocks....

"The Germans reactors might just all have failed their safety checks.."

Oh, really?

http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/daa9abb9447447ea9285ebcd085ad549/EU--Germany-Nuclear/

"German minister: reactor safety check shows no need for immediate shutdown"

The only issue that argues for any shutdown is protection against aircraft crash - and the German politicians seem to have reached different conclusions to most other nuclear authorities. What's happened is that it wasn't part of the original safety case. Most other countries have done the sensible thing, and worked out what would happen. The Germans won't even loook at it.

Here's the irony - what they'll be buying their power from...

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-17/cez-study-says-temelin-can-hold-two-large-new-reactors-e15-says.html

The Czehs are proposing to build up to 5 1600MW reactors - and guess where the output will be going.....

2
0
Gold badge
Joke

@Andydaws

Proving once again the safest place in Germany to site nuclear reactors is...

The Czech Republic.

0
0

Continued fact denial

Hey Orlowski! Why aren't you covering the emerging evidence that the cores of units 1, 2, and 3 melted down and burned through the pressure vessels? You are very selective about the facts you choose to report. Too selective for a journalist. Exactly selective enough for a fact denier though.

"But the stricken reactors coped well"

Recent examination revealed that the cores of units 1, 2, and 3 melted down. Unit 2 definitely melted through the steel pressure vessel, and the investigators believe the same occurred on units 1 and 3, though direct inspection is not yet possible due to high levels of radiation, water, and damage from the hydrogen explosions.

In what sense can the stricken reactors be considered to have coped well? I guess they didn't actually blow their lids off and spew burning graphite and fuel into the environment like at Chernobyl. That's a pretty low bar for comparison.

"The UK's gas-cooled reactors ... give longer timescales for remedial action. "

Although melting has ceased, normal cooling has not been restored to any of the striken units at Fukushima #1 to date. The cooling that has been done amounts to sticking a hose into the building and pouring water over the radioactive slag at the bottom of the pressure vessels. Modern reactor designs would have to be robust indeed if only ambient air cooling was available. I hope this is the case, but I very much doubt it. In a "modern" reactor, if it became necessary to stuff a firehose into the reactor to achieve cooling, I suspect the touted safety features would look a good deal scarier.

Can't we return to reality? Fukushima was a diasaster of engineering. The reactors were not designed to withstand conditions known to be possible at their site. An obsolete, dangerous design was permitted to continue operating long after the lessons of Three Mile Island should have resulted in its closure. Three uncontrolled raactors destroyed themselves in a nuclear meltdown. Millions of liters of highly contaminated water are leaking into the environment, and no assessment of health risks from this contamination is yet possible. The fact that measured, direct health effects are yet modest does not lessen the severity of what went wrong, or excuse poor design and regulatory decisions.

Whether or not you think nuclear power is cool, the only supportable path is to acknowledge that Fukushima was a disaster, so we can learn from it.

7
6
Anonymous Coward

Kurt Guntheroth - Continued fact denial

'Whether or not you think nuclear power is cool, the only supportable path is to acknowledge that Fukushima was a disaster, so we can learn from it.'

The Tsunami was a disaster; tens of thosuands killed, and wide spread devastation. In Fukishima no one wa skilled, and there are no long term health effects expected. Is it a disaster?

In health and safety terms - no.

In financial terms - yes but still small compared to the Tsunami.

In the media - Yes because it makes a good story.

The basic point that the consequences of Fukishima are insignificant compared to the Tsunami itself yet all of the focus has been on nuclear is still true.

6
1

Evidence -- a good word

Why don't you show some? Because, dig as I might, I've yet to find anyone who suggested after about March 18 that a pressure vessel even *might* be imperiled. How about you toss out a link or two?

1
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.