Nuclear Boy's Poo Is Nothing To Worry About
Little Miss Sellafied nee Windscale has had diarrhea for years and years without hurting anyone.
Those of you've who've struggled over the past week or so to understand just what's happening down at Japan's Fukushima nuke plant should seek enlightenment from this video, evidently aimed at kids but just as handy for fact-starved, fearful parents: You can find the original animation here. It's already clocked up 900k+ …
Your comment that is - the UK does not take in other countries nuclear waste material. What it does is re-process spent fuel, and any hight level nuclear waste involved gets repatriated (as of any contract signed after 1976).
Of course there is a commercial opportunity for any country possessed of stable geology to offer a long term underground storage facility for vitrified HLW should they want to do so. I suspect Australia has lots of holes left from quarrying in what is seismically by far the most stable continent on the planet.
Hindsight is a cruel mistress.
These nuclear power plants have been cranking out energy for decades without so much as a hiccup. They've *already* survived quakes. (The recent one was the most powerful since records began—and Japan has pretty long records!—but it sure as hell wasn't the first.)
Tens of thousands of people have been killed by the quake and tsunami alone, so the fact that these power plants are still standing *at all* is a testament to the engineering that went into them. it's incredible how much focus has been put on the remedial work being done to keep these plants safe. That they *can* be kept safe is the whole damned point!
I daresay the people of Vajont and Banqiao would like a word in your shell-like about the benefits of good design and engineering as we're seeing demonstrated here. Rather more people were killed by the failures of those two dams than have ever been killed or even injured by every nuclear-related incident on the planet *combined*.
Get a sense of proportion, for f*ck's sake.
Yes Sean, you are correct. The plant survived a 9.0 earth quake. Its a testament to over engineering that they are standing.
What caused all of the problems was the Tsunami knocking out both levels of backups.
If that hadn't happened, then the reactors would have gone offline correctly and the the pumps would have continued to cool them down in a controlled fashion.
So the question is why did both levels of back up reactors fail? Could they have designed that better? Absolutely because its not as big a problem to solve and you don't need slide rulers.
The problem was that no one really thought about the double whammy of a huge earthquake and then the Tsunami.
Of course this is all hindsight. Japan will replace them with safer more modern technology and they will recover.
Only next time, they'll consider the possibility of such a double whammy.
second guessing 40 year old design decisions is only useful if you are drawing constructive conclusions in order to rule out a repeat performance. Assigning blame or talking about how it should never have happened in the first place doesn't really do much good in situations like this. It happened, It was touch and go there for awhile, but it's under control now.
Every time a disaster happens that exceeds design parameters, engeneers compensate in the next itteration, its been happening since the dawn of archetecture and its why Japan came out of this as well as it did (not that it came out "well", but it could have been a lot worse). I have to wonder though, a 9.0 earthquake immediately followed by a 12+ foot tsunami, if it gets much worse than that, would anyone be around to care if the reactors meltdown?
It's not a matter of hindsight - the 2004 tsunami from a similar magnitude earthquake was even bigger. Following 2004 the US instigated a study into the exposure of their nuclear reactors to tsunamis with special reference to secondary cooling systems. We have yet to find out if the Japanese did a similar thing (if not, why not?) and what the results were. The suspicion has to be they rode their luck and lost. You simply can't design nuclear plant with 40+ years of life round once in a century events.
Also TEPCO have a history (and the convictions) to show they have kept nuclear accidents hidden in the past. Indeed I believe a number of directors have been forced to resign in the past. As the Economist points out, it requires and open society with a government responsive to their citizens to achieve safety. Post WWII Japan has had a fairly compliant society that does not ask hard questions of its government.
So whilst I take the point that it is what happens as a result that really matters, it is important to know where the mistakes happened and that they are not repeated. This is the line taken in the Economist's analysis, and I think it will become the general conclusion.
In other words this was a failure by the nuclear industry, but not quite a disaster except, very probably, in the financial sense. That was the lesson of Three Mile Island - the financial effects were vastly more significant than the limited public health issues. It was that which effectively killed off reactor building in the US for a generation.
Interestingly this natural-disaster instigated experiment has at least made George Monbiot now support nuclear as a least-worst solution to the energy problems now that he's seen that an incident of this sort with fundamental engineering shortcomings hasn't lead to Armageddon.
nb. people need to stop referring to the plant surviving a magnitude 9 earthquake - that's a very poor guide to the damage done. Earthquake resistance is built round engineering metrics at the site - rates and direction of ground acceleration, displacement, duration, frequency and so on. That's what really matters and the magnitude at the epicentre does not tell you that.
Alaska way back when. It was the sheer magnitude of both which was not accounted for.
As for the question of will anybody be around if it gets any bigger than that, in the immediate vicinity, probably not. But there will still be people around outside of that vicinity, and you don't really want the reactors melting down and affecting those people. So yes, going forward designs will need to improve significantly.
That doesn't mean it isn't actually astounding at how well they've handled this incident. The people on the ground in Japan deserve huge kudos for the work and efforts they put into stabilizing the situation.
That's not entirely fair.
They did expect the "double whammy", but nothing in the range of what they got. As Sean said, put this in perspective - the wave was freaking huge.
"The Fukushima power plants were required by regulators to withstand a certain height of tsunami. At the Daiichi plant the design basis was 5.7 metres and at Daini this was 5.2 metres.
Tepco has now released tentative assessments of the scale of the tsunami putting it at over 10 metres at Daiichi and over 12 metres at Dainii."
The 2004 tsunami was considerably bigger than this one - the US carried out a risk assessment of their facilities and it was noted that the (similar magnitude) earthquake in the Indian Ocean reached heights of 30m in some places.
So the question is, was a new risk assessment carried out following 2004? If not, why not? Clearly the protection has proved to be inadequate - given the past history of TEPCO and the lack of transparency with the Japanese nuclear regulators, then there still has to be a strong suspicion of riding their luck. Indeed that might well apply to the whole occupancy of low-lying areas as well, but it's a damn site easier to protect a smaller plant than the coastal end of an entire river valley.
Note that in 2004 an Indian reactor closed down after the tsunami which inundated part of the cooling system, although no lasting damage resulted.
To add to the earlier response, here's an article which says that the nuclear regulators knew that nuclear facilities were running at a higher risk than originally expected with regard to tsunamis. Note this is US centred, but Japan is mentioned and given the reliance of the Japanese industry on US reactor designs, it's impossible to think this wasn't communicated.
So, hardly hindsight. It was a calculated (or otherwise) risk. They lost.
I completely agree; I wasn't defending their preparedness or lack thereof, just pointing out that they actually had tsunami defenses in place.
The 2004 tsunami was expected to have reached at least 20m at landfall... and that's the low estimate.
I'm inclined to go with someone else's comment about how fair it is to attack them on trading off cost for extreme safety (especially with the odds of such a large earthquake/tsunami occurring). Where do you stop? A 20m+ tsunami is not a trivial problem to prepare for.
I think they've proven they designed the nuke's damned well*, but it would have obviously been better if they'd been able to get the whole thing under control so much faster.
* Given the age and inherent flaws in the design of the reactors.
I think another poster put it best... that this is all hindsight and its not a question of finding blame but in making things better the next time around.
The point I was trying to make was that you have two issues. A lack of imagination, meaning that the magnitude of the disaster was beyond the designers comprehension, and also a question of feasibility of cost vs design. That is to say... do you want to spend $$$$ for an event that may or may not occur during the lifetime of operation? This is a calculated risk.
If we consider the placement and design of the back up generators, and their back ups... well, I believe that if they did think about the potential combination and the potential damage, they could have better designed and positioned the back up generators without spending huge chunks of money.
As I said, this is all hindsight. Only this time I hope that they again over design and build.
@Sean Baggaley 1: "Hindsight is a cruel mistress." ... "These nuclear power plants have been cranking out energy for decades without so much as a hiccup. They've *already* survived quakes. (The recent one was the most powerful since records began—and Japan has pretty long records!—but it sure as hell wasn't the first.)"
BULLSHIT! that's ignorance (of probability and science) its not hindsight ... and here are the *FACTS*.
Fact #1: Magnitude 8 and higher earthquakes occur with a statistically frequency of about one per year
Source: The USGS e.g. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqarchives/year/eqstats.php
Also current estimates predict a Magnitude 9 or higher earthquake between 3 to 5 times per century (we have had already 5 in the past century). So that's on average about between 20 to 30 years between each massive earthquake.
Lifespan of a typically power station is initially licensed for around 40 years and this can be extended to around 60 years.
So even just from these 2 facts its easy to see, oh yes, hang on, we are playing the odds! ... and finally, we the human race lost. :(
As time goes on we build more and more reactors and many of these are at sea level. Also as time goes on, the *time span increases* since the first reactors were built. Therefore in this increasing time span the probability of a major earthquake resulting in a massive Tsunami has become more and more likely that the reactors do get hit by a massive Tsunami (obviously the odds are the same each year (well it should be obvious), its just we are looking at more and more years in total of playing these odds) . (By the way read what I just said closely because a word of warning for anyone trying to troll this point, I'm waiting to trip up anyone who attempts to use a Straw Man argument combined with a Gambler's Fallacy false argument against this point, because it won't work).
Anyway the human race has simply been playing the odds, yet the key point is, these odds are known, but the people who run these power stations haven't spent the money to protect against it. Why they haven't spent enough money, no idea, but my money is on the bet its because building huge sea wall protection and hardened silo buildings with all equipment internal, is going to cost many billions and the short sighted greedy self-interested bosses (as usual) have simply said, well it hasn't happened yet, so as usual they refuse to listen to the few people who say its going to happen. People like Geologists.
By the way, want to play bigger odds? ... How about Asteroid Impacts, they are always good for people to say they never happen (because they haven't experienced them in their lifetime). Current (JPL) estimates of the odds of a 1km Asteroid impact range from 1 in 8600, 1 in 7100, 1 in 4800, to 1 in 4000. Now taking into account commercial nuclear energy began in the mid 1950's lets say that's 55 years and counting. So in the past 55 years we have had a chance of being hit around 1 in 156 to to 1 in 72 so still looking good odds so far. Of course an Asteroid sea impact of just enough size to create a Tsunami big enough to badly damage a power station is going to be much smaller than a 1km Asteroid, therefore these impacts will be more frequent. (A 1km Asteroid sea impact after all would take out dozens perhaps even hundreds of power stations as the Tsunami damage would be over 1000's of miles if it hits the sea).
Plus there are other ways to generate big Tsunamis. Volcanic eruptions and large land slides are two good examples, but as usual Geologists are also often not listened to about these odds as well.
Your chance of being hit by an asteroid does not increase year on year it remains constant.
Bad analogy: roll an unbiased 6 sided die yor chance of rolling a 6 is 1 in 6.
You roll it 50 times without rolling a six (you may start thinking it is biased at this point)
Your odds of rolling a 6 ARE STILL 1 IN 6!
Go froth elsewhere please.
@Ian Stephenson congratulations, you win the sad troll of the day award, I was going to give you the troll trophy icon but I can't be bothered.
You've just quoted the Gambler's Fallacy and then attempted to to represent me as holding that false position, which is a straw man argument.
From my previous post, "obviously the odds are the same each year (well it should be obvious), its just we are looking at more and more years in total of playing these odds"
e.g. Chance of something occurring in 1 year, lets say 1 in 100. So play for 5 years and you would have had a 1 in 20 chance of seeing a hit at some point *in that time span*.
Now work out the chances of a reactor at sea level seeing a massive Tsunami *in its lifetime* ... you work it out. Clearly the down voters can't work it out.
It really helps put the whole thing in perspective.
For most people living near the plant, they're exposed to much higher levels daily generated by potassium isotopes in their own bodies.
Nobody, not even the workers at the affected site, are being exposed to anything remotely approaching the minimum yearly level shown to cause an increase in cancer.
So what's with all the hub-bub?
1.. Park your Nuclear Power Station on the beach and then don't allow for tsunami... Hmmm pretty dumb for a country that invented the name of the phenomenon...
2.. Lie to the public about whats going on in such a way that you are found out almost immediately and so lose any credibility.
3.. With nuclear power the problem is not the likelihood of radiation release killing people immediately. Its an accident poisoning a wide area of ground for generations. Comparisons against Dam disasters or equivalents neglect this aspect. Shit happens - but with a nuclear accident it just keeps on keeping on...
Oh... and by the way.. as an occasional Christchurch resident I can assure everyone that the magnitude of the quake has less to do with any damage than you would imagine.
The Japan had a slightly smaller MMI on average than the Christchurch shake because it was deeper and further away. The tsunami though caused the enormous tragedy.
Its a shame the designers didn't look back through Japanese history.
1. They did prepare for a tsunami, they were prepared for 7 meted high waves. Which was the highest theorised possible at the time. Also you build them on the beach so you have plenty of water in case of emergency.
2. They didn't lie at any point, they may not have provided some information but then again when you're busy dealing with a disaster - what's more important dealing with the disaster or feeding the press. The media however has been sowing the seeds of distrust and looking to incite it wherever possible to exploit the stupidity and paranoia inherent in many people, and complete lack of any understanding of science. There have been reports of hotels and hostels refusing service to Fukushima residents due to radiation fears.
3. Most long term problems with radioactive iodine are reasonably easy to deal with as long as the proper counter measures are deployed (and they have been), and that food/water sources are properly monitored, at the end of the day the Nuclear situations only increase the risk of cancer by at most 1% and as the risk of cancer is about 23% who the hell cares?
All this has been is an exciting media circus so journalists can excite themselves over potential excitement whilst lying constantly about the science.
Meanwhile thousands have died due to the tsunami, at most a few dozen may die at some point in the distant future due to the reactors, which is the bigger disaster? Hmmmm let me think. Let alone of those thousands who have died there will be tens of thousands of family members and friends effected. Hundreds of thousands of homes lost leaving entire towns flattened, businesses gone. This incident will have ruined tens of thousands of families, and you're whining about a poxy nuclear breeze. Seriously you people need to learn about perspective.
At the end of the day the media wants a panic and nothing like talk of a nuclear catastrophe to set it off, no matter how self indulgent and fanciful it may be.
The station did have tsunami defenses, just as many coastal towns had tsunami defenses. They were expected to withstand any likely tsunami. You have to go back to 869AD to find one that might have breached them, and we know more about the size of that one now than we did 40 years ago. We also know now that there were two comparable events even further back, making 3 in 3000 years. No doubt we'll learn over the next few years why some defenses were breached and others held out. As it is we know that breach of defenses at towns has killed more people than have been killed by nuclear power generation so far.
"Its an accident poisoning a wide area of ground for generations"
No, not in the case of the radioactive material so far released, at worst it'll render the local produce unfit for sale for a year (in real terms) though they'll likely be cursed with generations of paranoia due to uneducated fools.
...then Poo Boy would first have been hit by a freight lorry. After that, the building that the lorry crashed into would have rained bricks down on poor Poo Boy. Everybody standing around Poo Boy at that moment would have died already.
That Poo Boy now only has an upset tummy from all of this is most impressive.
And there was no damage at all!
Apparently, now, if there's a force 9 earthquake somewhere we can all claim to have survived it regardless of distance.
The nuke plant at Fukushima actually survived something like a 7.4 quake in terms of the actual shaking at, you know, the Fukushima plant's location.
for some interesting background to Fukushima.
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