Even if the worst happens, the death and destruction from a nuclear power station meltdown won’t be as bad as previously modeled, according to America’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). In a draft report given to the New York Times, the NRC has decided that a meltdown would release far less caesium 137 than previously …
In other words, the risk of getting a cancer caused by your next door nuclear meltdown is less the risk from other causes, combined!
There.. fixed it! lol
Not proven until it actually happens in reality
Not reassuring at all, hypothetical models are simply that - hypothetical.
did you miss the mass hysteria over Fukushima earlier this year?
"The most likely cause of a meltdown is a complete loss of power to a facility"
It's a nuclear power plant, how does it lose power???! Can't it power its own cooling?
Paris is more of a gravity specialist (going down on a body with a large mass), but maybe she'll know?
Tsunamis, that sort of thing...
In the event of a massive Earthquake,
any sensible operator of a nuclear plant will immediately shut down the reactors to prevent damage and escape of radioactive material.
At this point, older designs of reactor, such as those at Fukushima, which require active cooling systems, need an alternative power source.
Normally, this is not a problem, as Fukushima was both conencted to the grid, and had backup diesel generators to keep the cooling running for as long as needed. Unfortunately, there was a pesky little 13 metre tsunami that came along and wiped these out.
Now, it could be argued that the plant was not sited in the most sensible place possible, being, as it was, facing one of the worlds largest and most active subduction faults, and that they should maybe have expected the odd tsunami. The one that happened, however, was a bit of a biggie.
Given the huge number of deaths, and the trillions of $currency worth of damage to the infrastructure of Japan directly caused by the tsunami, I think zero deaths from the radioactive leakage/fallout and a little extra evacuation around a damaged power station were actually a bloody good result.
A fair result, not a good one
It showed that even in a case worse than the worst-case scenario, the deaths and damage from the reactor meltdowns were small in comparison to the same caused by a natural disaster of unprecedented size.
It also showed up two massive failings. One, that the reactor relied on active cooling. (All current reactor designs are passive-cooled). Two, that the emergency power generators were vulnerable to flooding. (The reactors could have survived, if there had been emergency generators on a site at greater altitude or several miles inland, connected by armoured, floodproofed, underground cables).
"It's a nuclear power plant, how does it lose power???! Can't it power its own cooling?"
Well since power to cooling must be on before the Nuc Plant is up.. the easy answer to that is NO.
On other news
USA needs more nuclear power plants to ensure its energetic independence.
Suddenly a reactor meltdown is not that bad.
Meltdown not the worst-case accident...
Water-based cooling system fails.
Uranium metal starts burning in steam
Hydrogen is released, as uranium robs steam of oxygen.
Hydrogen mixes with air to form explosive mixture.
Pressure builds up inside containment vessel.
Red-hot metal ignites mixture.
Lid blown clean off reactor.
Graphite blocks hurled hundreds of feet into air.
-Basically what happened at Chernobyl.
If the reactor is a fast breeder with significant amounts of plutonium, then the above scenario could in principle create a small nuclear explosion by explosively compressing the plutonium. In that case the entire reactor would be shredded into radioactive dust, creating many tons of fallout.
-Explosion, because that outcome is what the safety experts SAID was impossible. Until Chernobyl.
Those who fail to learn from history
are probably doomed to go trolling internet forums like this one. Can you provide any references for these 'experts' saying a reactor explosion was 'impossible'?
I seem to recall that quite a few of the big and exciting nuclear incidents not the result of natural causes were down to reactor staff Doing Something Stupid. Chernobyl, Sellafield, SL-1, whatever.
There are so many differences between Chernobyl and even old school reactors like Fukushima, its hard to know where to start (you might consider learning about containment buildings). Problem is, we don't get nice new reactor designs thanks to a combination of renewable fanaticism and panicky nimbies who don't understand the issues crippling any research and any hope of building decent new nuke plants.
I hope you're all prepared to live in a future where electricity is a middle class luxury. I'm sure the proles will take that in their stride, right?
that would be why they do not build reactors like that any more (and only the russians where silly enought to build them in the first place)
and even so the casuilities where less than on some of there other propanger advantures
Getting your facts right might help
Well, except for the fact that chernobyl wasn't a watercooled reactor....
The town where the Chernobyl reactor was sited...
...is now a nature reserve and tourist destination.
The reason that people didn't move back there after they were evacuated is that they were re-housed, mostly in more modern and better housing.
Yes, Chernobyl was a bad nuclear accident. Anything involving a reactor exploding and catching fire and ending up with no containment has to be classed as such, but in reality, the vast majority of those killed or badly injured were those in the control room at the time, and the cleanup crews. Bearing in mind that the cleanup crews were dosed with several orders of magnitude over the lifetime safe dose of radiation, it is quite impressive to note that of those that suffered leukaemia, the 5-year survival was 43%.
IMHO it is you who is trolling.
Nuclear accidents to-date may mostly be the result of human error but that does not alter the fact that when mistakes have been made, the safety systems have not performed to expectations. It is also reasonable to assume that a degree of luck has been involved, and that the worst that can happen has not yet happened.
I would agree that nuclear could be a safe option if alternative designs were looked-at. Existing designs are basically the by-product of a few frantic years of war effort put into the A-bomb project, more than half a century ago. Power generation was never the intended purpose of such reactors,it was a side benefit to plutonium production, their real purpose. While the engineering might have advanced since then, the underlying physics has not.
As for electricity being a middle-class luxury, the question is not whether we can do without electricity, but whether the risks involved in the nuclear route are greater or less than those posed by the alleged climate-change effects of conventional fuels. I for one am in no doubt whatsoever as to the answer to that one.
"I hope you're all prepared to live in a future where electricity is a middle class luxury."
Na.. it'll be so expensive only the upper crust rich could afford to pay for it.. The poor of course will get it for free. lol
@HW de Haan
Ehhh... ?!? What coolant do you reckon it used, then?
All info I can find suggests that Chernobyl #4 was a BWR, with light water acting as the coolant and graphite blocks as the moderator, the primary circuit steam driving the turbine directly.
At this point I have to wonder, seriously, whether you are just trolling. Either you are taking the Michael or you know zilch about the subject. Which?
The cooling system didn't simply fail. The plant operators were performing an experiment to determine how long the steam turbines would continue to spin under their own inertia in the event of an emergency. They throttled down the power too far, and the reactor suffered from xenon poisoning. As a result of their efforts to deal with this, the reactor was in very unstable condition--but, damn the alarms, they were ordered to go ahead with the experiment anyway. Once they started the experiment, flow of water through the reactor decreased, steam voids formed, and, owing to the reactor's design* and its unstable condition, a very strong power surge occurred that resulted directly in the parts of the story you got right.
*Light-water-cooled, graphite-moderated reactors are discouraged in the west for a reason: Namely, "positive void coefficients". Edward Teller warned long ago of this positive feedback loop between power output and steam void formation, but the Soviets were pressed for cash and it was relatively inexpensive to build large reactors this way that doubled as breeder reactors and could be refueled online. Graphite costs less than heavy water. The engineers knew the risks, but it never helps when the guy in charge orders his subordinates to ignore the manual. The Soviet Union did not have exactly a sparkling industrial safety record.
Lewis IS the Green Lantern!
We know that REALLY BAD nuclear accidents will hardly ever happen. But same morons who place reactors on the sea shore and earthquake faults are the same folk calculating the risks...
My problem is this: If the worst happens, I feel sorry for the folk that die within a short time of the event. But I feel obligated to ensure that nothing my generation does should lead to folk dying for thousands of years... High Level Waste - Even a relatively small number of tonnes will do this.
long turm efects
you get the same prblem for every sory of industrail process
you are worries about the efect of hi level waste? what about murcry poisning or any heavy mettle poisninging they will leave the ground in a worse state than radactive waste for a lot longer
I think you just b0rked my parser ...
Clue in the name
"The report was obtained under a freedom-of-information request by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which remains unconvinced by the draft report"
One would presume that they'd have to change their name if they weren't unconvinced?
Anything that the dispels or diminishes the mystical fearsomeness of the Nukular Monster will always be blasphemous to the disciples of the Church of Nukular Scaremageddon...
But what about...
"the likelihood of citizens developing cancers in the aftermath is also lower: from the previous estimate"
So are holidaymakers, businesses travellers, non-native residents, non-natualised residents and all others exemt or more likely to get cancer?
Citizens != People.
And the alternative is?
More coal and gas power stations, with that deadly poison (sic!) CO2 being emitted, in a world fast running out of gas?
The above plus fuel efficiency bolt on renewables, which will render huge tracts of land uninhabitable? (A Fukushima sized wind farm would occupy a totally-crammed-with-turbines, uninhabitable area larger than the temporary precautionary exclusion zone)
Let people freeze to death and starve because we cant sustain current populations levels without an energy budget amounting to several KW per person?
At least the problems of nuclear power are, in principle, ameliorated (if not completely solved), with better design and better management.
The alternative is solar power
The world has plenty of barren desert. Covering a very small fraction of this with solar panels would generate all the electricity currently generated in nuclear plants. It's still a small fraction to replace all other electricity generation.
Yes, there are problems yet to solve. All that I've seen boil down to economics, not physics. Energy supply between sunset and sunrise is the hardest. Possible solutions include pumped gravity storage - best integrated with a tidal barrage; molten salt thermal storage, flow-battery storage (do we have enough Vanadium?), flywheel storage, electrolytic hydrogen storage, underground salt-cavern compressed-air storage.
If we can get 20% efficiency from a thin-film solar panel manufacturable by a continuous process, that doesn't require impossible amounts of rare elements, the economics will start to look attractive, even compared to burning coal. Another ten years and we may be there.
Depending on who does the calculating, solar economics may be ahead of nuclear already. (It certainly is for daylight hours, but an all-solar solution requires energy storage to be costed in. That's hard to do because the present electrical infrastructure does not include any massive energy-storage facilities. )
Re: The alternative is solar power
Which sounds great - until - how, exactly were you planning to get all the electricity from the desert to (say) the UK? That is one hell of a long cable to power all of our electric cars, industry, light bulbs, data centres, street lights, ipads, laptops, TVs etc.
If I were a terrorist I could take out the whole planet's electricity supply with one handy 747 (see - the spurious terrorism argument works both ways).
Or we could spend the same cash we've just hosed on the Olympics on, say, fusion, and be done with the problems. After all, the universe is unlikey to run out of hydrogen in the near future.
On the contrary,
the alternative is a source of power that you can afford to pay for, and that source is not solar power.
Here's a little thought experiment for you: Suppose that you've got a biiiiig farm of solar panels, 100% efficient, located in some bizarre place where it's noon all the time and there are no clouds or dust. This farm's so big, it's a square kilometer of nothing but impossibly perfect solar panels! Well, sunlight gives you about a kilowatt per square meter, so this solar farm of yours should get a gigawatt out of a square kilometer.
A nuclear plant can pull this off--and plenty do--and doesn't even need perfect components, perfect weather, or a mythical location to do it. And it's a lot cheaper than the prohibitively expensive disappointment you'd get if you actually made a square-kilometer solar farm. I mean, seriously, look at the prices on solar panels. The power per area per cost is atrocious!
I'm all for finding out how to make solar panels so cheap you can buy them at the building supply store and tack them onto your roof for only like $20 apiece, but even then, they can't very well replace other power sources unless you have a lot of area, even assuming better than the best of conditions. Until they can safely be regarded as a common roofing material, they will be in no position to supply more than a small fraction of the juice on the grid because it just costs too much to buy the damn things for how much power they produce. It'd be nice if I I could get a decent solar panel for a good price before my hair starts turning gray, but I won't count on it. Hell, magnetically-confined nuclear fusion might beat it to the punch by then. I'm rootin' for the ITER!
Can't help myself.
elsewhere in El Reg today
I read that the worlds data centres require almost 200 billion kw/h to run.
How can that be done with windmills and cow shit exactly?
If we invested all of the money thats being invested in "alternatives" right now then i'm sure that we could come up with a foolproof way of generating nuclear power thats 100% safe.
The French must having a laugh at our expense and just sitting back rubbing their hands together, waiting for the day that the rest of Europe runs out of leccy.
I did a back of a fag packet calculation recently that suggests that if everyone where i live changed to e-bikes and leccy cars tomorrow, the country would need to build two nuclear power stations just to charge them up overnight.
"How can that be done with windmills and cow shit exactly?"
It can't. But then those who favour that approach also want us to use far less power so it is not a wholly inconsistent approach even if it isn't likely to be as much fun or anywhere near as comfortable as things will be when we have lots of cheap nuclear power.
The Bottom Line
For any power option it's all about "acceptable risk".
All power options carry risk but we downplay the risk of conventional power while fearing nuclear energy. Of course a nuke plant going >KABOOM< is what scares us all, 'millions dead in an instant', yet we can effectively ignore the millions killed over longer periods by other options.
The real question is; would we be safer with the alternative to nuclear power? I don't believe so, so we may as well have nuclear power.
For the record,
no nuclear-powered device has ever killed "millions in an instant", or millions at all. Not even the two that were used as weapons.
"I read that the worlds data centres require almost 200 billion kw/h to run. How can that be done with windmills and cow shit exactly?"
The article puts data centres and server closets using around 2% of US electricity plus or minus 0.2% in 2010. Let's assume the rest of the world catches up to US current figures in relation to data centre requirements. This Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy claims that 19% of world electricity comes from renewables currently of which 16% is hydroelectric. Hydro is a very good match for data centres due to extreme supply reliability needs. For this reason, most data centres have local diesel generators and emergency fuel supply contracts in place to cover shorter or more extended periods of mains supply failure.
Dried cowshit continues to be used in many developing countries for heating and cooking fuel, and there is growing interest in small scale agricultural power generation use from this source in developed countries - this is not a good match for datacentre requirements and doesn't need to be because other energy markets are better matched. Wind electricity is currently growing from a low base (around 2% of electricity) at around 30% per annum - doubling about every 3 years. The rapidly declining cost of wind electricity and exponential growth in production of it is likely to result in interest in using existing hydro dam storage capacity to take up variations in wind electricity supply. This research indicates Scottish hydro dam capacity is capable of balancing UK wind electricity to up to 40% of UK grid requirements: http://www.esru.strath.ac.uk/EandE/Web_sites/03-04/wind/content/conclusions.html .
In practice data centres generate sufficient revenue that they will be able to pay a premium price for the electricity they need at the levels of extreme reliability they require. The cost of provisioning and maintaining backup generators on site means they are paying top whack already. There is discussion of relocating some data centres to Iceland, due to underexploited hydro electric generating potential there: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/07/22/new_transatlantic_cable_due_2012/
As always, the question is avoided and to paraphrase your answer, you suggest that running the data centres from hydro is a cost effective and reliable way to do it. I agree with you.
You also suggest that moving many of them to areas with geothermal power would also help. Correct.
But you don't answer the fundamental question. Shifting resources around is not going to solve the worlds energy problems and i should point out, not that i need to, that locating data centres next to volcanoes is a recipe for disaster. Investors know that!
Is deadly dangerous. See Banqiao Dam. Enviro peeps cannot complain "it was a one off series of problems..." because that's exactly what happened at Fukushima. Same cloth.
Also, more poeple died in Japan as a result of failing dams than have and will die as a result of Fukushima.
No power is 100% "safe".
The problem is when we meet things our neolithic-programmed brains cannot really figure we have to rely on what "feels" safe. Water feels safe. A lump of coal feels safe. Nuclear sounds 1950s B movie scary. Result - unthinking fear.
"But you don't answer the fundamental question. Shifting resources around is not going to solve the worlds energy problems ..."
But that is exactly how energy problems have been solved for millennia . By shifting resources around. It's how these problems will continue to be addressed. In reality energy demands and resources are too complex and multifaceted for there to be one single solution. Fossil fuels are overused already, with oil in far too much demand in relation to limited supply considering the rate of industrialisation of many highly populated parts of the world and clean coal technology currently a research pipe dream.
We know it ain't fossil fuels, we know it ain't nuclear either, and we know it ain't renewables entirely in the short term as it will take 20 years to develop these to meet half UK _electricity_ requirements even with a lot of conservation, let alone UK _energy_ requirements. So it's going to have to be some combination of the three with a declining share of fossil fuels and an increasing share of renewables and conservation, at least until the currently being or likely to be built soon generation of nuclear wears out, which is unlikely to be useful for more than 20-30% of UK electricity demand.
Nuclear isn't much use to solve the peaking problem and is made more expensive and can be developed in fewer places by the fact people don't like a nuclear plant as their next door neighbour and siting of nuclear plants causes large reductions in property values. No amount of 'nuclear is safe' propaganda and lobbying will convince us otherwise ; house buyers are not fools - call us that if you choose, but if your case relies on an elite priesthood telling the rest of us what we want and imposing it on us, as happened in nuclear France, then your case really hasn't moved beyond the 'too cheap to meter' propaganda of the 1950ies.
Solid core reactors can't do peak power because the core has to be quite tightly managed.
Liquid core designs running at high temperatures to drive gas turbines are much better at load following.
But power generation facilities - whether windmills, solar, nuclear or good old gas/coal - have to go somewhere. No-one typically chooses a house next to these sites, though (given a choice) I'd rather live near a nuke plant than a coal one.
There are, however, plenty of places that actually welcome nuclear build. It's never going to be popular in Notting Hill or the Surrey stockbroker belt (and no-one's seriously suggesting building a plant there) but Hartlepool, Heysham and Sellafield/Windscale give a higher priority to some more decent jobs than nuclear scare stories.
"There are, however, plenty of places that actually welcome nuclear build."
In the UK there are a few such places and you mention these, due to the premium these localities place upon nuclear jobs. As to whether this number is 'plenty', I would agree with this if generating 20-30% of UK electric demand at half a dozen or so nuclear sites over the next UK nuclear station project lifecycle is the proportion of eggs we want and need in this particular basket.
I've seen evidence of one or two nimby protests against onshore wind, but these seem very minor compared to what results from proposals for a nuclear site where none has existed before in the UK, and most neighbours of windfarms seem comparatively OK about these, though those living in Shropshire near to where proposed new overhead grid lines are projected to carry renewable wind electricity generated on the Welsh hills into the industrial Midlands are not very happy about this.
I'd rather not have to mortgage future generations of humans on the decomissioning cost resulting from putting all of our eggs into the nuclear basket as has been foisted upon the French. I'm not convinced either that renewable electricity can be developed fast enough that we don't need one last generation of nuclear generators on sites in the UK already familiar with these.
As to whether the cost of renewable electricity can be driven down in the next 20-30 years and siting problems resolved so that we won't need another generation of nukes after that remains to be seen - that will be a debate for the 2030ies and will also depend upon how nuclear costs including provision for long-term waste management and adequate nuclear accident insurance shape up over that period, a cost currently beyond the capacity of private sector insurers to be able to underwrite it.
Look, do yourself a favour and watch this. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13040853
I am not a nuclear propagandist, nor a scientist, nor a politician. I try to follow the facts and the science and try not to swallow alarmist hype.
If a Nobel prize winning scientist tells me that nuclear can be 100% safe, with minimal waste issues, thats good enough for me.
I respectfully suggest that it should be good enough for everyone.
But we all know that overcoming fear is the biggest single factor that prevents many things from happening.
Type of nuckear power station?
I read an article this week - I think on the BBC (but can't find the damn thing now) - which stated that most nuclear power stations use a fuel technology scaled up from the Americans' original need for compact nuclear-power for naval vessels.
It suggested that if we'd persisted with our own versions of the technology not only is the fuel impossible to convert to a weapon it's also the case that during a power or system failure the whole thing just cools down by itself. The variations in heat cause a current which gradually cools the whole thing down: no meltdown ever, regardless of the original problem. The problem is that the system everyone seems to have settled on isn't so great when scaled up for larger power generation.
(I wish I'd kept a link to the original article now)
you are welcome!
Don't think so. Magnox ran on natural uranium, but the later gas-cooled designs use a stainless-steel fuel can, which eats neutrons, so they require enriched fuel.
IIRC Magnox and AGR both require powered cooling after shutdown. The merit over water cooled/moderated reactors is that the coolant won't boil dry.
"[The USC] remains unconvinced by the draft report."
Of course they do. The data must be tortured until they confess.
One person in every 4,348?
That figure is useless, the accuracy does nothing more than just saying one in 4000 compared to the previous one in 150 (cited as 1 in 167). Even saying 25 times less likely is good enough.
While recognizing the paucity of data points, given that two of the three meltdown failures of which I am aware were NOT the result of a power loss, the new model seems, shall we say, a bit CRUish.
What are you counting?
The two (or three?) at Fukushima were all caused by power loss. Three Mile Island is one that wasn't. Chernobyl wasn't a melt-down, it was an explosion and fire (and is irrelevant because only the Soviets were crazy enough to build that sort of reactor).
Anyway, the more important thing is containment. Three Mile Island was at least 99% successful. Chernobyl was 0% by design. Fukushima failed quite badly because active cooling was required, and failed. Any new reactor will have passive cooling.
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