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By Robert Rapier on Mar 14, 2011 with 129 responses

The Mirage of Fail Safe Engineering

Harsh Reality

Smoke billows into the sky moments after an explosion occurred at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant.

As I have said many times, all of our energy options require trade-offs. I can’t think of any that don’t have some negative consequences and risks associated with their production and/or use. One job of the engineer is to minimize those risks down to an acceptable level. Often times, public expectation mistakenly assumes that “acceptable” means that accidents should never occur, but there are many reasons why that metric will never be achieved.

We sometimes find out — as we did with the Deepwater spill — that even seemingly basic safety measures have been overlooked. While an accident like that is a black eye for the offshore oil industry, the industry will learn some valuable lessons and the risk of a similar future accident should be lessened. But beyond the human and environmental toll, there is a real financial toll for the industry and thus strong economic incentive to do a thorough job of engineering safe systems.

The Deepwater incident certainly stalled momentum for offshore drilling in the U.S. by reminding us that the consequences of our drive to access energy can be severe indeed. A nuclear accident has the same potential for stalling momentum in the nuclear field. Since Deepwater, I have wondered many times whether the nuclear industry has a Deepwater that is simply awaiting a series of unlikely events before a major accident occurs.

Don’t get me wrong, I support nuclear power and believe it is going to become an ever-more-important source of energy as fossil fuel supplies decline. Japan is the third largest user of nuclear power in the world with 53 52 reactors providing 34.5% almost 34.5% of their electricity. I am sure Japan would much rather produce all of their electricity with wind and solar power, but the very scale of energy usage in developed countries combined with Japan’s lack of fossil fuel resources is why I foresee continued strong growth in the nuclear industry.

Risks, Probability, Economics, and the Price of Failure

But there really isn’t such a thing as “fail safe engineering.” That is simply because we can’t guard against every possible outcome. The nuclear plant in Japan that seems to have been destroyed in the wake of last week’s devastating tsunami was engineered to protect against numerous possible scenarios. Earthquakes? Without a doubt. Earthquake followed by a tsunami? Almost certainly. Earthquake plus a tsunami plus random occurrences X and Y? That’s where you get into very low probability events that can’t always be engineered against in an economical way.

For example, in a chemical plant, there is a real probability that 1). Lightning will strike a storage tank; 2). A meteorite will strike a storage tank. However, only one of those probabilities is high enough to devote money toward preventing its occurrence. There are things we can do to mitigate against both of these outcomes. But the cost of mitigating against a meteorite strike — combined with the very low probability of a tank being struck by a meteorite — means that we live with that possibility.

While the previous is a somewhat absurd example, it is an example that entered my thoughts many times over the years as we attempted to engineer safe processes. It is a simple example to show why you can’t economically engineer against all possible outcomes. If a process has a 1% chance of happening every 20 years, the worst possible outcome is a broken fingernail, and it will cost a million dollars to prevent it — we call that an acceptable risk and move on. If the chance of happening is the same and the possible outcome is death, we modify the design.

But as you can probably guess there is a tremendous amount of gray area. The 1% chance of a broken fingernail in 20 years may become a much worse outcome if a couple of other low probability events happened. If Events A, B, and C each have a 1 in 1000 chance of happening at any particular time, the combination may have (depending on lots of variables), a (1/1000)*(1/1000)*(1/1000) chance of happening in connection with each other, which is a probability of 1 in a billion. A very common reason accidents occur is that we either didn’t consider that A, B, and C could all happen at the same time, or we underestimated the probability of them doing so. I have been involved in many incident investigations where I heard “Who could have imagined that those events would all line up as they did?”

Conclusion

It is far too early to speculate on the sequence of events that led to the current situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Of course we know that the earthquake/tsunami was involved, but in the end it won’t surprise me if some other low probability events were involved. Plants often operate at non-optimal conditions for a variety of reasons (maintenance, for instance), and it could be that the design for earthquake/tsunami was fine, but random Event C — deemed a low probability at the same time of an earthquake/tsunami — contributed.

The purpose of this essay is to communicate why it is practically impossible to design systems incapable of failure. The best we can do is to design systems so that if they do fail, they fail in a safe way. For instance, if a valve in a pipeline fails, we can design it to fail closed (if, for instance it had the potential to feed fuel to a fire) or open (if it was preventing pressure build-up in a system).

These are the sorts of lessons that are learned when accidents take place, which have made our energy production and delivery infrastructure much safer over time. But it will always involve some element of risk, and at times very difficult trade-offs.

  1. By Anonymous One on March 14, 2011 at 3:07 am
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  2. By moiety on March 14, 2011 at 4:15 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    Conclusion

     

    It is far too early to speculate on the sequence of events that led

    to the current situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Of

    course we know that the earthquake/tsunami was involved, but in the end

    it won’t surprise me if some other low probability events were involved.

    Plants often operate at non-optimal conditions for a variety of

    reasons….. trade-offs


     

    Indeed but hopefully this has been considered when the licence of the plant was extended.One of thes reasons given for the extension was power shortages.

     

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  3. By robert on March 14, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Photovoltaic power doesn’t involve risks. It involves costs but not risks.

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  4. By David on March 14, 2011 at 11:16 am

    There is one thing not stressed in the essay, which is, if the cost of a combination of a series of low probability events is severe crippling of an economy over a long period of time and the potential of permanent evacuation of a part of the country, would we be justified in imposing it?

    When the source of energy was wood, life was inconvenient but the worst that could happen was a local forest fire or loss of forestland. As we began to scale up toward full industrialization, we had such events as the Texas City gas explosion. Energy is by its nature dangerous, and the larger the concentration of fuel in a small area the bigger the potential risk.

    But it may be the case that enriched uranium and plutonium have tipped the risk/reward equation too far on the side of risk. In the Davis Besse incident in Ohio in 2002 a reactor vessel breach nearly happened and would have gone undetected but for sheer luck.

    The other factor that has to be taken into account with nuclear is the public perception. Will another nuclear plant ever be built in Japan? I doubt it. Will Japan ever have geological storage? Unlikely. So the existing plants will run out their lives, Japan will not extend them, and the waste will be stored above ground on site forever.

    The response might be that the failure to do nothing will lead to runaway climate change. Perhaps so. But perhaps rushing into solutions to climate change that have their own more immediate catastrophic risk is another risk factor to take into account.

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  5. By OD on March 14, 2011 at 11:33 am

    The backlash against nuclear seems to be gaining speed, at at time when we are going go need it the most. We will have armchair nuke experts on the tv telling us how evil nuclear is, yet they won’t even make a peep about all the people that coal has killed and what radioactive coal ash does to the environment and the public will eat it up! The hyprocrisy against nuclear boggles the mind. I mean when was the last time you heard about the town that has been on fire for some *decades* now, due to a coal seam fire, on the news?

    Power down indeed.

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  6. By Walt on March 14, 2011 at 11:38 am

    I’ve seen some pictures of the facility before and after Tsunami and am surprised they are holding it together so well.  The Tsunami seems to have removed a lot of infrustructure that likely would be used to provide some safety features.  I would never want to be in their situation.

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  7. By OD on March 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    It is certain that at this hour there are millions of Japanese who wish they had more wind and solar.

    I’m sure there are but wait, it’s night in Japan at the moment and solar doesn’t do so well at night, as you know(maybe?!). Perhaps wind then? As long as the wind is blowing they should be good. Oh wait, turbines have been known to freeze. Well let’s hope that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t get that cold in Japan does it? Oh wait again, it’s winter there. Well, we’ll just have to hope the turbines don’t freeze. This is of course, assuming such installations would have been able to withstand the largest earthquake in Japan’s history with an added tsunami. I have my doubts.

    Your energy panacea doesn’t exist.

    You also dodged Armchair’s quest, shame. So please, how large of an area will Japan need to set aside for solar panels & wind farms to displace the 30% of electricity that nuclear previously provided and at what cost? Be very specific, inquiring minds want to know!

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  8. By OD on March 14, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Will another nuclear plant ever be built in Japan? I doubt it.

    So they are going to what, build coal or even NG power plants and start importing massive quantaties of fossil fuels? Japan has no real natural resources to speak of, that is why nuclear power was ideal for them.

     

    Any reasonable person, IMO, would hope that something could be learned from this disaster and MORE research and development would be put into better nuclear plant designs that can weather these once in a lifetime events. Unless of course you buy into the fairytale that wind & solar can save the day. Confused

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  9. By Wendell Mercantile on March 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    As we began to scale up toward full industrialization, we had such events as the Texas City gas explosion.

    David~

    I take your point, but one small niggle: The Texas City explosion and disaster was caused by a ship loaded with ammonium nitrate fertilizer, not gas.

    The broader point is that — unfortunately — some things are simply beyond the capability and scale of humans to comprehend and plan for.

    We all know that someday the San Andreas Fault will give way in a truly catastrophic manner, but even though we know it, and have attempted to plan for it, when it does happen it will likely dwarf everything we can even begin to comprehend.

    The same is true of the New Madrid fault that runs near where Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois come together. When that puppy lets go again, it will be a major, major event that is going to catch even the most prescient by surprise. I think most planning for the next New Madrid earthquake is of the nature, “Well, I’ll be long gone and dead when it happens.”

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  10. By Frank Weigert on March 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    The difference between nuclear industry problems and all others is that very low probability nuclear accidents can have enormous consequences. The insurance industry can handle “ordinary” accidents, but it is unprepared to deal with the risk that once every thousand years a reactor malfunction will cost society $2 trillion dollars. How do they collect and accumulate appropriate premiums? So far we have not had to deal with this possibility. Eventually our luck will run out. That’s just statistics.

    If Three Mile Island ever has a major breach, AND the wind is blowing out of the west at 10 mph, AND the reactor has well-used fuel rods, the city of Philadelphia will become uninhabitable essentially forever. The people will have six hours to evacuate Center City, less for the western suburbs. Can you imagine the traffic jams? If it is a terrorist attack, a few suicide car bombs could turn I-95, the major N-S highway, into a parking lot. How much is all the property in the entire city worth? How many people won’t make it out in time?

    No other human activity involves such negative consequences as nuclear, either war or power.

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  11. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    If only our planners and engineers were as thoughtful and cautious as this article!

     

    Forgive me, but an article that begins with “Harsh Reality” should not be so tepid in the face of current events.

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  12. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    David said:

    “So the existing plants will run out their lives, Japan will not extend them, and the waste will be stored above ground on site forever.”

    Given Japan’s record on whaling, I suspect that waste will not long remain above water.
     

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  13. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    OD said:

    “Japan has no real natural resources to speak of, that is why nuclear power was ideal for them.” 

    Was it your intention to emphasize “was”? 

    It’s hardly a situation that anyone would call “ideal”; including the late Akira Kurosawa.
     

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  14. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Anonymous One said:

    Thoughts on

    Morgsatlarge – blogorific. Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors ?

    No slant on those ‘thoughts’! (ironically stated)
     

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  15. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    OD said:

    Unless of course you buy into the fairytale that wind & solar can save the day. Confused

    Please define, “save the day”.

    It is certain that at this hour there are millions of Japanese who wish they had more wind and solar.

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  16. By armchair261 on March 14, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    It is certain that at this hour there are millions of Japanese who wish they had more wind and solar.

    I ask this not out of confrontation but as an honest question. How many acres of wind farm would be required to replace the damaged Japanese reactors? Same question for solar.

    As a follow up, what would such installations cost, and what would be the cost of electricity to consumers?

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  17. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    “I support nuclear power and believe it is going to become an ever-more-important source of energy” – Robert Rapier

    “ever-” . . . really? It may well become more prevalent, but what technologies will make nuclear energy perpetual for all of humanity?

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  18. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    armchair261 said:

    I ask this not out of confrontation but as an honest question. How many acres of wind farm would be required to replace the damaged Japanese reactors? Same question for solar.

    As a follow up, what would such installations cost, and what would be the cost of electricity to consumers?


    Do you mean the dead reactors that will never again generate electricity, but will cost a fortune to clean up?
    (“Honest”, my a**.  Brother, we NEED some confrontations.)

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  19. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    armchair261 said:

    I ask this not out of confrontation but as an honest question. How many acres of wind farm would be required to replace the damaged Japanese reactors? Same question for solar.

    As a follow up, what would such installations cost, and what would be the cost of electricity to consumers?


    I was referring to the homeless, cold, and hungry Japanese who are this night huddling in the dark.  I am certain that even a few of them would be pleased if some surviving power from distributed (i.e. less vulnerable) power sources arrived at their homes tonight.

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  20. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    armchair261 said:

    As a follow up, what would such installations cost, and what would be the cost of electricity to consumers?


     As a follow up, what will it cost to clean up and replace the dead reactors?  What was the cost in human lives?

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  21. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    armchair261 said:

    what would be the cost of electricity to consumers?


     

    Let’s ask those Japanese sitting in the dark what were the ‘costs’ of nuclear energy.

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  22. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    OD said:

    It is certain that at this hour there are millions of Japanese who wish they had more wind and solar.

    I’m sure there are but wait, it’s night in Japan at the moment and solar doesn’t do so well at night, as you know(maybe?!). Perhaps wind then? As long as the wind is blowing they should be good. Oh wait, turbines have been known to freeze. Well let’s hope that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t get that cold in Japan does it? Oh wait again, it’s winter there. Well, we’ll just have to hope the turbines don’t freeze. This is of course, assuming such installations would have been able to withstand the largest earthquake in Japan’s history with an added tsunami. I have my doubts.

    Your energy panacea doesn’t exist.

    You also dodged Armchair’s quest, shame. So please, how large of an area will Japan need to set aside for solar panels & wind farms to displace the 30% of electricity that nuclear previously provided and at what cost? Be very specific, inquiring minds want to know!


     

    My point, for those who missed it, was that your and Armchair’s questions are misfocused.  No shame in not answering nonsense.  Shame, however, in ignoring the immediate plight and the compounding of the catastrophe by the loss of vulnerable, central, nuclear generation.

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  23. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    OD said:

    Your energy panacea doesn’t exist.


     

    I don’t recall making any claim of any panacea. That delusion must be your own.

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  24. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    OD said:

    It is certain that at this hour there are millions of Japanese who wish they had more wind and solar.

    I’m sure there are but wait, it’s night in Japan at the moment and solar doesn’t do so well at night, as you know(maybe?!). Perhaps wind then? As long as the wind is blowing they should be good. Oh wait, turbines have been known to freeze. Well let’s hope that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t get that cold in Japan does it? Oh wait again, it’s winter there. Well, we’ll just have to hope the turbines don’t freeze. This is of course, assuming such installations would have been able to withstand the largest earthquake in Japan’s history with an added tsunami. I have my doubts.


     

    OK, I think I see your delusion:  For you, it’s all nuclear or nothing.  Or, more generally, it’s all or nothing for nuclear.  Shame, indeed.

    Perhaps, those few Japanese who put some solar on their homes, have some turbines spinning nearby, and are storing the energy in batteries are providing shelter and warmth for their neighbors tonight.

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  25. By OD on March 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    For you, it’s all nuclear or nothing

    It would be easy to dismiss my assertion if that was indeed the case, but no, I actually do support wind & solar(where it makes sense), as well as nuclear. Of course any central power generation will be vulunerable to disruptions. It is up to the individual to make preperations for such events, if able. I don’t believe anyone disputes that, no need to throw out that strawman. However, not everyone can afford to retrofit their homes with solar & other renewables.

    Could you please try to gather all your thoughts in one post instead of 6-7 posts at a time, it is unnecessary and spams the board.

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  26. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    OD said:

    You also dodged Armchair’s quest


    You  may have missed my request for clarity to Armchair’s “honest” question.  It is not clear whether Armchair is asking about the equivalent replacement costs for working nuclear plants, or the dead plants which now need cleanup, or some mix of the two.  You get my point?

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  27. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    OD said:

    For you, it’s all nuclear or nothing

    It would be easy to dismiss my assertion if that was indeed the case, but no, I actually do support wind & solar(where it makes sense), as well as nuclear. Of course any central power generation will be vulunerable to disruptions. It is up to the individual to make preperations for such events, if able. I don’t believe anyone disputes that, no need to throw out that strawman. However, not everyone can afford to retrofit their homes with solar & other renewables.

    Could you please try to gather all your thoughts in one post instead of 6-7 posts at a time, it is unnecessary and spams the board.


     

    The  ”question” just became an “assertion”?

    Why do you qualify only solar & wind with “(where it makes sense)”?

    It is “up to the individual”?  That does not sound like a defense of central generation.  It sounds more like abandonment.

    “strawman [sic]“?  Please explain yourself.

    Fewer can afford to retrofit their homes with solar when they are paying a rising utility bill for the remainder of their lives.

    By providing specific responses to specific ‘arguments’ I have provided ample opportunity for clear, concise, direct response.  Of course, you and Armchair, so far, have declined.  Instead, you raised the straw man of ‘all or nothing’.

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  28. By moiety on March 14, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    armchair261 said:

    It is certain that at this hour there are millions of Japanese who wish they had more wind and solar.

    I ask this not out of confrontation but as an honest question. How many acres of wind farm would be required to replace the damaged Japanese reactors? Same question for solar.

     


     

    You could use

    http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/p…..c_wind.php

    The data used in this analysis is based on the linked pdf for the USA. One problem is that the data does not seem to use capacity factor in its calculations. I found no reference to it in the report. After that we have to consider availability. Any excess power generated at a given time would need storage. Of course land usage in Japan is the hardest thing to assess.

    1250000 GWh/yr
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  29. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    “I ask this not out of confrontation but as an honest question. How many acres of wind farm would be required to replace the damaged Japanese reactors? Same question for solar.” – Armchair261

    “You could use [...]” – Moiety


     

    It was a silly question posed from a faulty understanding. Replacement is not reasonable.

    Improving our energy system by incorporating a greater percentage of less-vulnerable distributed generation is reasonable.

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  30. By arnchair261 on March 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    armchair261 said:


    As a follow up, what will it cost to clean up and replace the dead reactors?  What was the cost in human lives?
     


     

    Where are you gettting the idea that I think the Japanese casualties are a good thing, or that I’m strongly in favor of nuclear energy? For all you know, I may agree with you.

    Perhaps you could try to hold a civil discussion instead of spreading your ideology all over the page?

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  31. By arnchair261 on March 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    “It was a silly question posed from a faulty understanding….”

    Not really. Such questions need to be asked if we are going to replace nuclear energy at the national scale, or if we are going to build pwer infrastructure.

    “Improving our energy system by incorporating a greater percentage of less-vulnerable distributed generation is reasonable.”

    Of course it is. Reasonable discussion and fact-finding among adults is also reasonable. Why can’t you make your point in a civil way? There is no need for insults, and to come out blasting from the hip doesn’t do much for your credibility.

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  32. By arnchair261 on March 14, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Moiety said:


     

    You could use

    http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/p…..c_wind.php

    The data used in this analysis is based on the linked pdf for the USA. One problem is that the data does not seem to use capacity factor in its calculations. I found no reference to it in the report. After that we have to consider availability. Any excess power generated at a given time would need storage. Of course land usage in Japan is the hardest thing to assess.

    1250000 GWh/yr

     

    Thanks for the link. That’s what I was thinking. Japan’s topography, and northerly location would seem to make it a sub-optimal candidate for extensive solar installation. Looks like 5-6 hours per day of sunshine is typical (from http://www.climatetemp.info/japan/) but this seems awfully low. Not sure how they well located they are to exploit wind energy.

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  33. By arnchair261 on March 14, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    By providing specific responses to specific ‘arguments’ I have provided ample opportunity for clear, concise, direct response.  Of course, you and Armchair, so far, have declined.  Instead, you raised the straw man of ‘all or nothing’.


     

    “All or nothing?” I said no such thing. I recognize that there is no silver bullet when it comes to energy. I recognize that many forms will be needed in the future, that some are “better” (safer, cleaner, etc) than others, that some will be more appropriate than others depending on local situations, and that there are realities of cost.

    “Opportunity for response?” To someone who claims I believe things I didn’t say? No thanks. :-)

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  34. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    “Where are you gettting the idea that I think the Japanese casualties are a good thing, or that I’m strongly in favor of nuclear energy? For all you know, I may agree with you.

    Perhaps you could try to hold a civil discussion instead of spreading your ideology all over the page?” – arnchair261


     

    All that is apparent is that you posed a silly question; and that you now make statements implying that I stated something I did not.

    In addition, to not making any statments as to your position, you are not addressing any points that I made, or answering any of my questions. How could anyone know whether we agree?

    I disagreee with you that I am an idealogue. Please state what comments of mine led you to that conclusion.

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  35. By arnchair261 on March 14, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    All that is apparent is that you posed a silly question……Please state what comments of mine led you to that conclusion.


     

    Not interested in talking with such people, life is too short.

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  36. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    “‘All or nothing?’ I said no such thing. I recognize that there is no silver bullet when it comes to energy. I recognize that many forms will be needed in the future, that some are “better” (safer, cleaner, etc) than others, that some will be more appropriate than others depending on local situations, and that there are realities of cost.” – arnchair261

    “Opportunity for response?” To someone who claims I believe things I didn’t say? No thanks. :-)


     

    By your question, you implied that replacement (i.e. all-or-nothing) was reasonable.  Why even ask such a question? Your statement of clarification(above) appears to counter your earlier position.

    You  wish to apply the “realities of cost” only to those options you appear to wish to devalue.

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  37. By Walt on March 14, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    http://www.ieer.org/comments/D…..tement.pdf

    Increadible pictures…

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new…..tdown.html

    This has already exceeeded 9/11 in loss of life most likely, and it seems it is not over yet with another earthquake aftershock predicted.

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  38. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    arnchair261 said:

    “It was a silly question posed from a faulty understanding….”

    Not really. Such questions need to be asked if we are going to replace nuclear energy at the national scale, or if we are going to build pwer infrastructure.

    “Improving our energy system by incorporating a greater percentage of less-vulnerable distributed generation is reasonable.”

    Of course it is. Reasonable discussion and fact-finding among adults is also reasonable. Why can’t you make your point in a civil way? There is no need for insults, and to come out blasting from the hip doesn’t do much for your credibility.


     

    Asking a silly question, and posing it as if it was “honest”, was your error.  I have not attacked you.  I have only challenged your question.  That is civil; unlike your flailing ad hominem attacks.

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  39. By arnchair261 on March 14, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Rate Crimes said: 

    “By your question, you implied that replacement (i.e. all-or-nothing) was reasonable.”

    Jumping to conclusions. You have jumped on here eager for fight, so, like a teenager imagining that someobe looked at him in the wrong way, you fancy that someone is criticizing you. By my question, I implied that I was
    curious as to the equivalent areas needed for wind or solar to replace a
    nuclear facility. I was absolutley silent about what energy mix I’d prefer.

     

    “Why even ask such a question? Your statement of clarification(above) appears to counter your earlier position.”

    Because I wanted to know the answer? The only contradiction is that my statement contradicted your assumption about my meaning.

     

    “You  wish to apply the “realities of cost” only to those options you appear to wish to devalue.”

    I wish to know the realities of cost. The CEO’s of all wind and solar developers wish to know the realities of cost, too, don’t you think?

     

    Rate Crimes…. really…. relax. If you want to air your views and reach a consensus, or convince someone of anything, you’ll do a lot better speaking with civility. Do the test. Would you insult your boss or a loved one if they asked you the same question I did? No? Then why do you insult complete strangers? Such behavior is beyond me. And I really don’t want to pollute this blog with such bunfights. Enough.


     

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  40. By arnchair261 on March 14, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    OD said:

    You also dodged Armchair’s quest


    You  may have missed my request for clarity to Armchair’s “honest” question.  It is not clear whether Armchair is asking about the equivalent replacement costs for working nuclear plants, or the dead plants which now need cleanup, or some mix of the two.  You get my point?


     

    My question: “How many acres of wind farm would be required to replace the damaged Japanese reactors? Same question for solar.”

    Seems unambigious to me. There are x damaged Japanese reactors with total energy output y. How much are in wind/solar do I need to generate y megawatts?

    Rate Crimes, I don’t think you’re interested in discussion. You’re here to try and establish some kind of intellectual beachhead. You’re just spoiling for a fight, and don’t even ensure that you understand someone’s point before throwing the first punch. Sheesh.

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  41. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    arnchair261 said:

    Rate Crimes said: 

    “By your question, you implied that replacement (i.e. all-or-nothing) was reasonable.”

    Jumping to conclusions. You have jumped on here eager for fight, so, like a teenager imagining that someobe looked at him in the wrong way, you fancy that someone is criticizing you. By my question, I implied that I was
    curious as to the equivalent areas needed for wind or solar to replace a
    nuclear facility. I was absolutley silent about what energy mix I’d prefer.

     

    “Why even ask such a question? Your statement of clarification(above) appears to counter your earlier position.”

    Because I wanted to know the answer? The only contradiction is that my statement contradicted your assumption about my meaning.

     

    “You  wish to apply the “realities of cost” only to those options you appear to wish to devalue.”

    I wish to know the realities of cost. The CEO’s of all wind and solar developers wish to know the realities of cost, too, don’t you think?

     

    Rate Crimes…. really…. relax. If you want to air your views and reach a consensus, or convince someone of anything, you’ll do a lot better speaking with civility. Do the test. Would you insult your boss or a loved one if they asked you the same question I did? No? Then why do you insult complete strangers? Such behavior is beyond me. And I really don’t want to pollute this blog with such bunfights. Enough.


     


     

    Please explain where I showed a lack of “civility”.  If you are disturbed by challenges to your question, perhaps you should not pose such ridiculous questions.  Or, at least, not quote me prior to posing it.  “More wind and solar” (me) does not imply “replacement” (you).  Perhaps, too, you should not begin your question with a disclaimer.

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  42. By arnchair261 on March 14, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    Shame, however, in ignoring the immediate plight and the compounding of the catastrophe by the loss of vulnerable, central, nuclear generation.


     

    Who’s ignoring the “immediate plight?” Do you have a database that lists each person’s monetary contribution and time spent reading to rank the reader’s concern? What are you doing to reduce Japan’s immediate plight, apart from typing blustery and self-aggrandizing posts in a blog?

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  43. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    arnchair261 said:

    Rate Crimes said:

    OD said:

    You also dodged Armchair’s quest


    You  may have missed my request for clarity to Armchair’s “honest” question.  It is not clear whether Armchair is asking about the equivalent replacement costs for working nuclear plants, or the dead plants which now need cleanup, or some mix of the two.  You get my point?


     
    My question: “How many acres of wind farm would be required to replace the damaged Japanese reactors? Same question for solar.”

    Seems unambigious to me. There are x damaged Japanese reactors with total energy output y. How much are in wind/solar do I need to generate y megawatts?

    Rate Crimes, I don’t think you’re interested in discussion. You’re here to try and establish some kind of intellectual beachhead. You’re just spoiling for a fight, and don’t even ensure that you understand someone’s point before throwing the first punch. Sheesh.


     

    I understand your points.  Your ad hominem tactics belie your intentions.

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  44. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    arnchair261 said:

    Rate Crimes said:

    Shame, however, in ignoring the immediate plight and the compounding of the catastrophe by the loss of vulnerable, central, nuclear generation.


     
    Who’s ignoring the “immediate plight?” Do you have a database that lists each person’s monetary contribution and time spent reading to rank the reader’s concern? What are you doing to reduce Japan’s immediate plight, apart from typing blustery and self-aggrandizing posts in a blog?


     

    More ad hominem! :)

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  45. By arnchair261 on March 14, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    You asked for examples of lack of civil behavior:

    OK

    (“Honest”, my a**.  Brother, we NEED some confrontations.)

    No shame in not answering nonsense.

    That delusion must be your own.

    OK, I think I see your delusion:  For you, it’s all nuclear or nothing. (OD did not say this.

    It was a silly question posed from a faulty understanding.

    All that is apparent is that you posed a silly question;

    That is civil; unlike your flailing ad hominem attacks. (I did not call you any names)

     

    More ad hominem! :)

     

    You set the tone  LOL

     

    Now, enough of all this! Really!


     

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  46. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    arnchair261 said:

    Rate Crimes said:

    Shame, however, in ignoring the immediate plight and the compounding of the catastrophe by the loss of vulnerable, central, nuclear generation.


     
    Who’s ignoring the “immediate plight?” Do you have a database that lists each person’s monetary contribution and time spent reading to rank the reader’s concern? What are you doing to reduce Japan’s immediate plight, apart from typing blustery and self-aggrandizing posts in a blog?


     

    A dishonest question about fictive replacement is a red herring.  Posing such questions diminishes the possibilities of having an honest discussion of how to mitigate such disasters in the future.

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  47. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    arnchair261 said:

    Rate Crimes said:

    You asked for examples of lack of civil behavior:

    OK

    (“Honest”, my a**.  Brother, we NEED some confrontations.)

    No shame in not answering nonsense.

    That delusion must be your own.

    OK, I think I see your delusion:  For you, it’s all nuclear or nothing. (OD did not say this.

    It was a silly question posed from a faulty understanding.

    All that is apparent is that you posed a silly question;

    That is civil; unlike your flailing ad hominem attacks. (I did not call you any names)

     

    More ad hominem! :)

     

    You set the tone  LOL

     

    Now, enough of all this! Really!


     


     

    No, the tone was set by a dishonest question.

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  48. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    If a reactor has a critical failure and is unrecoverable, how many new reactors must be built in order to generate enough electricity to compensate for the loss and cleanup of the dead reactor?  If the number of replacements is greater than 1, then at what failure rate does the function blow up (i.e. become unsustainable)?  Assume the failures occur at the mid-point of the original license period.

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  49. By arnchair261 on March 14, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

     

    No, the tone was set by a dishonest question.


     

    LOL! Really! And you know best because….. ?

    I believe the tone was set by a hostile person assuming too much.

    Rate Crimes, I have no experience in the solar, wind, or nuclear industries. I have no agenda as to the promotion of one versus the other. I am all for solar and wind, and the demise of the nuclear industry wouldn’t impact my life one bit (apart from any macroeconomic effects that may or may not ensue). I am aware, however, that nuclear energy would have to be replaced, and that it’s not going to be replaced by wishful thinking. Hence the question.

    Actually, it WAS an honest question, and it’s a question I can assure you will be asked by various Japanese energy and funding agencies. Your responses to various comments here, whether they were stupid or not, have been consistently petty and self-righteous in flavor. It’s too bad, because you may have had something interesting or useful to contribute; instead you choose alienate, and your message is lost. This kind of behavior on blogs is pretty common, and I believe it has the same roots as road rage: frustrated people made anonymous by distance lose inhibitions.

     

     

     

     

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  50. By arnchair261 on March 14, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

     Posing such questions diminishes the possibilities of having an honest discussion of how to mitigate such disasters in the future.


     

    I think a better perspective would be: using the following style (below) diminishes honest discussion. If you misunderstand someone’s question, or don’t like the question, you could find better ways to respond. Ask yourself whether you’re making an assumption as to the other person’s motives or not. Be a little more circumspect and understanding that others may be coming from a vastly different background and perspective than yours. There is absolutely no need to insult strangers. Is there?

     

    (“Honest”, my a**.  Brother, we NEED some confrontations.)

    No shame in not answering nonsense.

    That delusion must be your own.

    OK, I think I see your delusion:  For you, it’s all nuclear or nothing. (OD did not say this.

    It was a silly question posed from a faulty understanding.

    All that is apparent is that you posed a silly question;

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  51. By Benny BND Cole on March 14, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Another excellent blog by RR. You know, 30,000 Americans are killed every year in auto accidents, and another 18,000 by gunshot.

    Yet we worry about domestic terrorists, nuke plants and airplane crashes.

    I understand there are safer nuke plants we could use. Maybe we should. To the anti-nukers, I say remember that solar farms scar landscape, as do wind farms, and don’t provide all that much energy.

    And electricity saves many lives every year–imagine the hospitals and achools using electricty. It makes modern life so much more enjoyable than yesteryear.

    For me, nukes are an acceptable risk–at least in the power plant. I still would like to do away with nuke bombs and missiles. Being on the edge of war with the Soviet Union for 20 years in a row–now that was risky.

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  52. By thomas398 on March 14, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Civilization is still in the primal stage of industrialization.  We undertake efforts whose short term (short term could range from a quarter of a corporation’s earnings to a single human life span) outcomes are largely beneficial and profitable. However the true ramifications of these efforts for civilization are distorted by the potent combination of  ignorance, concealment, popular diminishment, and outright denial.   I would argue that the underlying source of this distortion is not so much greed, but optimism. An optimism that future generations will be better equipped to deal with today’s problems.  This hopeful anticipation is easy to see in the now comical predictions about the “Year 2000″ as late the 1970′s.

    Nuclear power is an excellent example of an industrial process whose short term benefits we are happy to accept but whose long term negative side effects we are not yet prepared to deal with (and even less so at its introduction).

    Japan has no real expectation of geologic storage so why would it build Nuclear power?    I’m sure something along the lines of “In the future, half-life times for nuclear waste will somehow be decreased or a more practical method of permanent storage will be devised.” Thats the same “future” where  cars are running on water for 300 mpg.   In this country, we have ample geologic storage, but so far, lack the political will to utilize it.

      The next stage of industrialization will, by necessity, explore the true ramifications of “progress” as thoroughly as the short term commercial benefits. 

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  53. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    “I think a better perspective would be: using the following style (below) diminishes honest discussion. If you misunderstand someone’s question, or don’t like the question, you could find better ways to respond. Ask yourself whether you’re making an assumption as to the other person’s motives or not. Be a little more circumspect and understanding that others may be coming from a vastly different background and perspective than yours. There is absolutely no need to insult strangers. Is there?” – armchair261


     
     
     

    Springboarding from a statement, that was quoted and misunderstood, in order to present a dishonest question requires a vigorous, honest response. If you wish to not insult anyone, don’t ask dishonest questions; especially if you’re bouncing on someone else’s comments.

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  54. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    arnchair261 said:

    Rate Crimes said:

     

    No, the tone was set by a dishonest question.


     
    LOL! Really! And you know best because….. ?
    I believe the tone was set by a hostile person assuming too much.

    Rate Crimes, I have no experience in the solar, wind, or nuclear industries. I have no agenda as to the promotion of one versus the other. I am all for solar and wind, and the demise of the nuclear industry wouldn’t impact my life one bit (apart from any macroeconomic effects that may or may not ensue). I am aware, however, that nuclear energy would have to be replaced, and that it’s not going to be replaced by wishful thinking. Hence the question.

    Actually, it WAS an honest question, and it’s a question I can assure you will be asked by various Japanese energy and funding agencies. Your responses to various comments here, whether they were stupid or not, have been consistently petty and self-righteous in flavor. It’s too bad, because you may have had something interesting or useful to contribute; instead you choose alienate, and your message is lost. This kind of behavior on blogs is pretty common, and I believe it has the same roots as road rage: frustrated people made anonymous by distance lose inhibitions.


     
     

    You used my statement — which had nothing to do with replacement — to bounce a dishonest question.  If replacement was really your concern, why only ask about solar and wind?  If you’re inexperienced, why not ask a more broad, more pertinent question?  Why even quote my statement?  Of course, your question appears to be dishonest.

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  55. By Wendell Mercantile on March 14, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Pebble Bed Reactors

    From the little I admittedly know about nuclear reactors, it sounds as though if the Japanese ones had been “pebble bed reactors” they would have automatically reverted to “idle” instead of needing a method of maintaining active cooling to prevent partial meltdowns.

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  56. By PeteS on March 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Rate Crimes — I say this without rancour, and with no axe to grind — any point you may have been trying to make has been completely lost. I suggest you start again, this time leaving out any reasoning about other’s motivation and focussing on the point you want to make. That will make things easier to navigate and more educational for all.

     

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  57. By PeteS on March 14, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Benny — I read about some study years ago about public perception of risk, which alleged that the perception of risk is increased 500-fold when there is a risk of cancer. It is increased another 500-fold when the cancer may affect children. (I’ve no idea how they came to these conclusions — the study was concerned with the perception of cancer risk from Alar, a cosmetic polish applied to apples in the UK to make them shiny and more appealing looking, which caused a huge public uproar). Anyway, the point is, there’s something inherent in human nature that makes us afraid of flying and nuclear reactors and wayward asteroids, instead of the much more substantial risks that threaten us every day. It’s a pity, because I would have said that the Fukushima nukes have demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of Japan’s biggest earthquake ever and inundation by a tsunami wave. It should mean brownie points for the nuke industry, instead of its possible death knell.

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  58. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    “Rate Crimes, I have no experience in the solar, wind, or nuclear industries. [...]” – armchair261

    “Actually, it WAS an honest question, and it’s a question I can assure you will be asked by various Japanese energy and funding agencies. [...]” – armchair261


     

    So, how is it that someone who has no experience in the solar, wind, or nuclear industries can assure us that any question will be asked by various Japanese and funding agencies?

    If you can assure us that the question will be asked in such hallowed halls, why ask the question here?

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  59. By rate-crimes on March 14, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    PeteS said:

    Rate Crimes — I say this without rancour, and with no axe to grind — any point you may have been trying to make has been completely lost. I suggest you start again, this time leaving out any reasoning about other’s motivation and focussing on the point you want to make. That will make things easier to navigate and more educational for all.


     

    That’s the odd thing:  I have no axe to grind.  Other than I’m objecting to the quote of my misinterpreted statement in the context of a question that I find objectionable.  Previously, I had no point to make.  Now, I’m grinding an axe forced into my hand.  Go figure.

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  60. By Kit P on March 14, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    RR essay was fine but let me amplify it with more precise language. TMI and Chernobyl were examples accidents. What is happening now is a natural disaster. Of course nuke plants are designed to withstand natural disasters and just about anything else that you can think of and is credible. The design did not fail in Japan, the natural disaster was worse than the ‘design basis’.

    “can have enormous consequences

    While Frank exaggerates a bit, all US designs take those consequences into account. The build up of heat to damage the core and release of by a breach takes time. Emergency plans allow for evacuation. No one will be hurt by radiation in Japan as a result of damage at the nuke plants. The number killed at Chernobyl would have been very small if the had leaned the lessons of TMI. So far the highest dose received by a worker is 10 Rem. No where near dangerous level.

    “acceptable risk”

    What is the choice? You get old and die if you are lucky. Some want to live in a world with no risk and therefore define even the smallest risk as a serious problem.

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  61. By PeteS on March 15, 2011 at 2:24 am

    Kit P said:

    RR essay was fine but let me amplify it with more precise language.


     

    Precise? How about start with fixing your typos, grammar and punctuation. It’s hard to make head nor tail of what you’re saying.

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  62. By rate-crimes on March 15, 2011 at 8:14 am

    “TMI and Chernobyl were examples accidents[sic]. What is happening now is a natural disaster.” – KitP


     

    So, if an ocean liner is brought too close to an iceberg, is that also a “natural disaster”?

    Are you arguing that “natural disasters” and failures in human design are binary phenomena? Perhaps such events should instead be perceived to be within a spectrum?

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  63. By rate-crimes on March 15, 2011 at 8:27 am

    “So far the highest dose received by a worker is 10 Rem. No where [sic] near dangerous level.” – KitP


     
    The Guide for the Use of the International System of Units “strongly discourages the continued use of the curie, roentgen, rad, and rem”.

    Where are you getting your information?  References, please. 

    “The nuclear plants’ operator, Tokyo Electric Power, has declined to provide details about the workers.” (from Workers will quickly reach limit for radiation exposure

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  64. By Benny BND Cole on March 15, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Pete S-

    The craziness in relation to real risk can be “gamed” by PR.

    Now, we have Congressman Peter King holding hearings on domestic terrorists. Based on what—two or three episodes? Next to 30,000 killed in auto accidents and 18,000 in ordinary shootings? (BTW, I detest Islamic terrorists, and would happily see them all hunted down dead). That is not the point–the point is, there just are not that many terrorists of any stripe in the USA, perhaps handfuls as worst. They are not a threat to our national security, and a miniscule threat to our daily lives (we are 300 million Americans).

    Nuke plants, certain kinds of cancer risks, terrorists, airplane crashes, even crime in general–all are hyped by the media, or parties that will benefit from spending to “combat” such “risks.”

    In Los Angeles, serious crime is down by three-quarters in the last 20 years. A remarkable change for the better–yet the media and LAPD engage in fear-mongering about crime. It may be safer to live in Los Angeles than ever before.

    In L.A., we are paying for an expensive expansion of our LAPD.

    Playing on fears is always a good ploy.

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  65. By russ-finley on March 15, 2011 at 11:18 am

    robert said:

    Photovoltaic power doesn’t involve risks. It involves costs but not risks.


     

    You can’t escape risk, especially when talking about natural disasters. A volcanic eruption similar to the Tombora event would stop photovoltaic output for years on end. Picture what would happen if humanity depended on solar for half of its electrical power and then one day it disappeared. The economic losses would make the Japan quake look minor as would the deaths from heat prostration, freezing, starvation and on and on.

    But more importantly, lay persons don’t understand that solar has little value without storage or a large smart grid that can distribute wind power from where the wind is blowing and solar from where the sun is shining. The costs of storage/distribution tend to be ignored.

    I’m very pro-solar but as a mechanical engineer, I also understand the technical issues pretty well. An analogy for the country is my house. The $60K of solar panels it would take to displace our electric bill in the cloudy place we live would have no value if they were not tied to the gird or a huge expensive bank of batteries in my basement. We average four sunny days a month for six months a year.

    A continental super grid would be hugely expensive, and not necessarily technically feasible without nuclear to stitch it all together.

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  66. By rate-crimes on March 15, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Russ Finley said:

    robert said:

    Photovoltaic power doesn’t involve risks. It involves costs but not risks.


     
    You can’t escape risk, especially when talking about natural disasters. A volcanic eruption similar to the Tombora event would stop photovoltaic output for years on end. Picture what would happen if humanity depended on solar for half of its electrical power and then one day it disappeared. The economic losses would make the Japan quake look minor as would the deaths from heat prostration, freezing, starvation and on and on.

    But more importantly, lay persons don’t understand that solar has little value without storage or a large smart grid that can distribute wind power from where the wind is blowing and solar from where the sun is shining. The costs of storage/distribution tend to be ignored.

    I’m very pro-solar but as a mechanical engineer, I also understand the technical issues pretty well. An analogy for the country is my house. The $60K of solar panels it would take to displace our electric bill in the cloudy place we live would have no value if they were not tied to the gird or a huge expensive bank of batteries in my basement. We average four sunny days a month for six months a year.

    A continental super grid would be hugely expensive, and not necessarily technically feasible without nuclear to stitch it all together.


     

    Picture what might happen if humanity depended on any single power source for half of its electrical power.  Each source has its advantages and disadvantages.  Some are more vulnerable to localized disasters; some are more vulnerable to widespread disasters. Some require efficient short-term storage; some are susceptible to depletion.

    If there is a global, or even regional volcanic or nuclear winter, then an extended lack of electricity is the least of our concerns.  It might be possible for nuclear power to carry us through some dark years, but as the recent events in Japan have shown, its chains of dependencies are vulnerable.  Nuclear power is no more a metaphorical thread than any other power source.

    Our systems are generally designed to provide relatively short-term profits; not long-term sustainability, or even durability.

    The Long Now

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  67. By russ on March 15, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Rate Crimes is another that needs an ignore button. All you get out of those posts is BS & blather and a lot of green copy paste – nothing new to that though.

    The Japan incident, caused by a natural disaster – not an accident, is made very much more difficult by the ongoing tremors. In the past 16 hours they have had 29 that make the earthquake charts all right at a magnitude right at 5 except for three that were magnitude of 6 and above.

    A bit difficult to carry out a very difficult task when everything keeps shaking. Yesterday and the day before were even more exciting.

    The green fruitcakes will be all over this. Knee jerk reactions – Europe is running around in circles and looking for a pacifier today. The loony left & greens have too much sway in the EU parliment and it shows in situations like these.

    How you design for an earthquake with a magnitude of 9 I am not sure – not to mention the tsunami.

    If this ever happened off the coast of Europe the mess would be 1000 times worse I expect and many times more dead.

    Have to admire the Japanese people through this – just dig down and hang on. In the US some would be looting, some trying to start an ‘impeach the president’ campaign while the president would have his full staff trying to figure out how to blame it on Bush.

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  68. By Wendell Mercantile on March 15, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Playing on fears is always a good ploy.

    Benny~

    And I might add, always a reliable method for making a strong case for a greater share of tax dollars aka “Fear mongering.”

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  69. By rrapier on March 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    russ said:

    How you design for an earthquake with a magnitude of 9 I am not sure – not to mention the tsunami.


     

    But if I am an opponent of nuclear power, I say “The potential consequences of an accident with nuclear power are so high, if you can’t design against those possible outcomes then you simply can’t do it.”

    I don’t know enough about nuclear plant designs to know if they can be designed to fail in a safer way that doesn’t involve release of radiation. But just like Deepwater, this incident will give opponents plenty of reason for opposing further development. And the industry response has to be to show that they can design for an earthquake of that magnitude.

    While I reiterate that I think nuclear power will be an important part of power production in the future, we can’t afford to have a major nuclear accident every decade or so — even if terrible acts of nature are involved.

    RR

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  70. By rrapier on March 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Benny BND Cole said:

    Now, we have Congressman Peter King holding hearings on domestic terrorists. Based on what—two or three episodes?


     

    The irony of course in the King hearings is his own long ties to the IRA. He is just a hypocrite.

    RR

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  71. By OD on March 15, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Very good post Mr. Finley, and I wholeheartedly agree.

    Now I see ticking across bloomberg, Germany has taken some of their plants offline, I suppose in response to protests against nuclear this morning. I won’t be suprised if this sentiment spreads.

    The supposed ‘green movement’ has done a huge disservice by leading people to believe we can stop using coal & nuclear by just putting in some wind turbines & solar panels and carry on as usual. Sure that will work, but it will be accompanied by a powerdown.

    Unless there is a major breakthrough, we will include nuclear in our energy mix, or we will use less energy, a lot less once oil starts its descent. It really is that simple.

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  72. By Optimist on March 15, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Civilization is still in the primal stage of industrialization. 

    That sounds VERY optimistic, Thomas!

    We undertake efforts whose short term (short term could range from a quarter of a corporation’s earnings to a single human life span) outcomes are largely beneficial and profitable. However the true ramifications of these efforts for civilization are distorted by the potent combination of  ignorance, concealment, popular diminishment, and outright denial. 

    That would be a recent phenomenon, mostly associated with the selfish babyboomers. From the Founding Fathers to the Greatest Generations many generations of Americans were deeply concerned about the long term future. As were many generations around the globe. The “we’re here to harvest” mentality is a recent thing, and may not stay that long. The Great Recession may eventually force the prostitutians to think long term. We’ll see.

     I would argue that the underlying source of this distortion is not so much greed, but optimism. An optimism that future generations will be better equipped to deal with today’s problems. 

    I fail to see how optimism can be a bad thing. Even if it means we overextend, as you imply. Future generations will be better equipped that we are. That does not imply that their lives will be trouble-free or that world peace is a given. Just that they, having solved today’s problems will be faced with their own unique challenges.

    This hopeful anticipation is easy to see in the now comical predictions about the “Year 2000″ as late the 1970′s.

    Yes, but recall the rapid advanced in fields such as space travel and the associated sciences during the sixties. Extrapolating from that you do expect a lot more from the year 2000. But these advances ebb and flow, like much of life.

    Nuclear power is an excellent example of an industrial process whose short term benefits we are happy to accept but whose long term negative side effects we are not yet prepared to deal with (and even less so at its introduction).

    An excellent point. But don’t let a lack of leadership from the current crop of prostitutians lead you to conclude that civilization is doomed.

    Japan has no real expectation of geologic storage so why would it build Nuclear power?    I’m sure something along the lines of “In the future, half-life times for nuclear waste will somehow be decreased or a more practical method of permanent storage will be devised.”

    Careful with predictions about the future. Who knows what wonderful technologies remain to be invented? Nuclear reprocessing technologies will continue to develop.

    Thats the same “future” where  cars are running on water for 300 mpg. 

    Ha ha ha. Not that there aren’t enough conspiracy theories about how Big Oil has that technology hidden in a vault in an undisclosed location.

    In this country, we have ample geologic storage, but so far, lack the political will to utilize it.

    Would you welcome Yucca Mountain in your backyard?

    The next stage of industrialization will, by necessity, explore the true ramifications of “progress” as thoroughly as the short term commercial benefits.

    Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Can’t wait!Wink

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  73. By Wendell Mercantile on March 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    I don’t know enough about nuclear plant designs to know if they can be designed to fail in a safer way that doesn’t involve release of radiation.

    RR~

    Apparently they can: Pebble bed reactors

    Boiling water reactors will always have the problem of leaks and overheating if the coolant disappears, pumps fail, or the power to the pumps fails. PBRs when they fail — fail to their idle mode, instead of continuing to get hotter.

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  74. By OD on March 15, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    I don’t know enough about nuclear plant designs to know if they can be designed to fail in a safer way that doesn’t involve release of radiation.

    As Wendell pointed out, pebble bed reactors are very stable, even in catastrophies. From wiki:

    A pebble-bed reactor thus can have all of its supporting machinery fail, and the reactor will not crack, melt, explode or spew hazardous wastes. It simply goes up to a designed “idle” temperature, and stays there. In that state, the reactor vessel radiates heat, but the vessel and fuel spheres remain intact and undamaged. The machinery can be repaired or the fuel can be removed. These safety features were tested (and filmed) with the German AVR reactor.[6]. All the control rods were removed, and the coolant flow was halted. Afterward, the fuel balls were sampled and examined for damage and there was none.

     

    It is also my understanding, from the early reports coming out, that the nuke plants did in fact withstand the earthquake, it was the tsunami which proved catastrophic. Of course later findings may prove otherwise.

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  75. By rrapier on March 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    OD said:

    Unless there is a major breakthrough, we will include nuclear in our energy mix, or we will use less energy, a lot less once oil starts its descent. It really is that simple.


     

    That leads me to an idea for a post: How Much Will You Pay to Not Have Nuclear Power?

    I think it is rather simple really. We can produce enough electricity to supply our needs without bringing nuclear into the mix, but the result is going to be much, much higher electric bills (which will also bring demand down). So the question is whether people want that scenario.

    RR

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  76. By BilB on March 15, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Talking about learning from disasters

    “While an accident like that is a black eye for the offshore oil industry, the industry will learn some valuable lessons and the risk of a similar future accident”

    My business partner was examining the FX data yesterday and I noticed that there is a strong trend for the US dollar to nose dive under Republican presidents, and recover under Democrat presidents.

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  77. By Optimist on March 15, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Have to admire the Japanese people through this – just dig down and hang on. In the US some would be looting, some trying to start an ‘impeach the president’ campaign while the president would have his full staff trying to figure out how to blame it on Bush.

    Not quite, Russ! Have you forgotten what happened during Hurricane Katrina? Sure , there was looting. But considering how thoroughly they all screwed up, the prostitutians (at all levels) got off remarkably lightly. Some of them even got re-elected! Nobody got fired, other than the ultra-incompetent “Heckavajob” Brownie. Now Mr. Bush, showcasing his ability to isolate himself from reality, is claiming that if he just had the pilot land the helicopter, and showed his heartfelt sympathies, every thing would have been just fine.

    I don’t know enough about nuclear plant designs to know if they can be designed to fail in a safer way that doesn’t involve release of radiation. But just like Deepwater, this incident will give opponents plenty of reason for opposing further development. And the industry response has to be to show that they can design for an earthquake of that magnitude.

    OK, but the underlying problem with nuclear is the sheer scale of the issue when thing do go wrong, as inevitably happens. Deepwater is a minor irratation compared to what is developing in Japan.

    The supposed ‘green movement’ has done a huge disservice by leading people to believe we can stop using coal & nuclear by just putting in some wind turbines & solar panels and carry on as usual. Sure that will work, but it will be accompanied by a powerdown.

    The green movement is indeed guilty of tending to be against everything, instead of contributing to solutions by suggesting what technologies are worth persuing.

    Unless there is a major breakthrough, we will include nuclear in our energy mix, or we will use less energy, a lot less once oil starts its descent. It really is that simple.

    Using less energy (per capita, if not in total) is indeed a worthy aim, and a necessary one. I remain unconvinced that “we need nuclear” is a given. Let’s hold on for a few decades, let electric rates double or triple, see how consumption come down and if new generators come to market at those rates. The claim has been made, on this very blog, that electricity markets has been anything but free and open. Maybe we should aim to change that first.

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  78. By OD on March 15, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    We can produce enough electricity to supply our needs without bringing nuclear into the mix, but the result is going to be much, much higher electric bills (which will also bring demand down).

    I would be very interested in seeing such a post. My guess is people will say they’ll pay it, but as soon as they get hit with their first actual bill they will scream for nuclear. We seem to have a knack for underestimating how much something will cost, even when it is laid out in front of us.

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  79. By Optimist on March 15, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    That leads me to an idea for a post: How Much Will You Pay to Not Have Nuclear Power?

    Excellent idea. Wasn’t nuclear supposed to bring us power too cheap to meter? In reality, it has brought us power to expensive to build without Uncle Sam’s explicit backing. Which does not even begin to address issues like risk and what to do with nuclear waste.

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  80. By Optimist on March 15, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    My guess is people will say they’ll pay it, but as soon as they get hit with their first actual bill they will scream for nuclear.

    My guess is that current events in Japan might change that…

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  81. By OD on March 15, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    My guess is that current events in Japan might change that…

    You may be right, but it seems like money has the loudest voice in our society.

     

    Here is a question for you. Nuclear + fossil fuels currently make up 90% of our(US) power generation. How do you replace that gap once fossil fuels decline? How do we maintain even 50% electricity generation once fossil fuels go to 0 and we don’t use nukes? I guess you could take the easy way out and assume fossil fuels won’t decline all that much in our lifetime and leave it for the next generation or hope for a big breakthrough.

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  82. By paul-n on March 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Good point Wendell, 

     

    There has been much discussion over the last few days about reactors that are/can be “walk away safe”.  If  they can be designed for this, then the question becomes at what point do you decommission any existing ones that can’t be made safe like that.  

    We’ll see what Kit has to say on this, since he lives and breathes this stuff – metaphorically speaking.

     

    As for nuclear power in general, of course we can get by without it – we just have to burn more coal/NG, dam more rivers etc.  Australia has no nukes, minimal hydro and, not surprisingly, has ones of the highest % of coal fired electricity in the world.  The US, Japan, France etc could all go the same route, if they chose to do so – society would not have to “power down”

    But, it is the quest for affordable and reliable electricity that led to nukes, as they deliver both (absent the cost of unlimited liability protection).  If society wants no nukes, they can have that – with higher cost electricity.  If society wants no coal, and wants to rely on NG and wind, they can have that too, at the cost of really expensive electricity (unless they happen to be blessed with lots of hydro like Canada, NZ, Norway, Brazil).   

    And if society wants no nukes, no coal, and no NG, well then, society will be a very different place – and I’m not sure if they want that…

     

     

     

     

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  83. By JN2 on March 15, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    RR said:

    We can produce enough electricity to supply our needs without bringing nuclear into the mix, but the result is going to be much, much higher electric bills

    RMI claim that nuclear is very expensive. RR, you have a friend (Kyle?) who used to work there. Does he agree with the RMI line? Or is that why he left?

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  84. By carbonbridge on March 15, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Optimist said:

    That leads me to an idea for a post: How Much Will You Pay to Not Have Nuclear Power?

    Excellent idea. Wasn’t nuclear supposed to bring us power too cheap to meter? In reality, it has brought us power to expensive to build without Uncle Sam’s explicit backing. Which does not even begin to address issues like risk and what to do with nuclear waste.


     

    Optimist:  You took the words out of my mouth here!  I agree completely and add that Plutonium is a man-made component conveniently listed on the atomic chart of elements.  It does not occur naturally, – first Uranium needs to be mined then further processed to produce fissionable Plutonium.

    My heart goes out to the Japanese and others.  This issue continues unfolding – who knows where these clouds will blow?  Legitimate, global fear of nukes is rightfully building while no one wants to freeze in the dark!!!

    I too wouldn’t want a Yucca Mountain repository in my backyard – but 65 yrs. worth of globally stored nuke waste still has no permanent burial site.  The reprocussions from this event will be huge and may become ‘the reason’ to finally look elsewhere for clean, safe electrical energy, – even E4™ Cleaned-Coal™ beneficiation options as a stair-step in coal-fired boiler evolution with increased performance and drastic reductions in emissions. 

    But what do I know?  Maybe a Tesla-type of long-hidden gadget will finally slip out of Pandora’s box?  If there ever was a time on this planet…it may be now.  Best of luck to one and all!

    –Mark

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  85. By BilB on March 15, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Well believe it or not there are fail safe technologies for energy. The obvious one is solar. And despite Paul N’s obvious blindness to the fact it is able to power our world. It just does it in a different way. But at the Nuclear Mirage end Nuclear Fusion “will” be relatively fail safe, as it does not involve stored energy in any volume (actually part of its problem not having an energy “flywheel”). CSP achieves the energy flywheel function with the storage feature of the full hybride system.

    Japan will continue with its nuclear as it does not have much choice. The only good to come from this is that the Japanese are masters of improvement. They will learn and adapt. Had the US not gone to such lengths to deny that Three Mile Island suffered a hydrogen explosion, then the danger of hydrogen accumulation might have been studied more thoroughly and eliminated in all nuclear plants. But no, you can’t admit that we have a problem in the US as this would invite lawsuites.

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  86. By Optimist on March 15, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Here is a question for you. Nuclear + fossil fuels currently make up 90% of our(US) power generation. How do you replace that gap once fossil fuels decline? How do we maintain even 50% electricity generation once fossil fuels go to 0 and we don’t use nukes? I guess you could take the easy way out and assume fossil fuels won’t decline all that much in our lifetime and leave it for the next generation or hope for a big breakthrough.

    The one resource that is in most short supply today is leadership.

    Leadership would be able to explain to people that they are not entitled to gas at $1.00/gal or electricity at $0.05/kWh. Leadership would be able to explain to people why they need to make some sacrificies, for the benefit of everybody. Leadership would have the backbone to stop the gravy train that corn ethanol has become. Without leadership things get a lot tougher.

    Remember, necessity is the mother of invention. Allow prices to go up, reflecting opportunity, and making it worthwhile for entrepreneurs and investors to pursue alternatives.

    You can’t map out the future, it is unknown by definition. The best you can do is to create a level playing field and an environment that encourages innovation.

    That said, we have quite a bit of time. Coal is going to last at least another century. Natural gas probably nearly that long.

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  87. By Walt on March 15, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    CarbonBridge said:

    My heart goes out to the Japanese and others.  This issue continues unfolding – who knows where these clouds will blow?  Legitimate, global fear of nukes is rightfully building while no one wants to freeze in the dark!!!


     

    Mark, I grew up in a generation where we did not have to hid under our desks from potential Russian nuclear threats during school, and so I have not really paid much attention to the nuclear issue…whether loaded on warheads or in someone’s backyard making power.  However, what I am witnessing unfold in Japan has raddled my spine and brought a sense of fear over what is out there pointing at us, and potentially ready to explode.  I can now see with my own eyes what my parents used to mention that was an issue to be dealt with seriously.  I heard Austria has no nuclear power, and now is demanding in EU all nuclear plants go public with outstanding safety issues.  This could not be more timely to bring these issues front and center after all the issues unfolding in the middle east as well.

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  88. By Benny BND Cole on March 15, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Wendall-

    The Peak Oil crowd has done its share of fear-mongering too.  Now Nate Hagens (a Peakie) says oil cannot be sustained above $100 a barrel as demand will shrink. He thinks this is a new and unique insight. Duh.

    Every political stripe engages in fear-mongering.  Sadly, it is effective.

     

    Oh well.  Those terrorists will get you as you suffer from radiation from nuke plant meltdowns, and are getting murdered by street criminals, as you try to escape the foreign jackbooted hordes invading our Western shore, who themselves are getting flooded by global warming rising waters and are sorry they ever took over California.

     

     

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  89. By walter-sobchak on March 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    An almost unimaginable catastrophe has struck Japan. Many thousands of people have died from Nature’s fury. The nuclear plants are at best a side show to millions of hungry, cold, and grieving Japanese. The fixation of the US media on that topic is at best bizarre and more reflective of their obsessions than of the real world.

    In all fairness. I really don’t know how to say very much intelligent on
    this topic yet, as no comprehensive report has been made, and none will
    be forthcoming for some time. When that happens, we can reflect on the nature of planning and engineering choice. 

    This has been a terrible unenlightening thread. I think most of it should be consigned to the bit bucket. I shall not return to it.

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  90. By Optimist on March 15, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    This has been a terrible unenlightening thread. I think most of it should be consigned to the bit bucket.

    Thanks for the insult, Walter. But…

    I shall not return to it.

    …I suspect that is a lie…

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  91. By PeteS on March 15, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    If anyone REALLY wants to obsess about it, here’s a live video stream of a Geiger counter in Tokyo. It was at 13 counts per minute yesterday, went up to 18 today, and is at 16 as of this posting. All of which probably means … nothing interesting at all.

     

    http://www.ustream.tv/channel/…..nter-tokyo

     

     

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  92. By PeteS on March 15, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    Benny BND Cole said:

    Now, we have Congressman Peter King holding hearings on domestic terrorists. Based on what—two or three episodes?


     
    The irony of course in the King hearings is his own long ties to the IRA. He is just a hypocrite.

    RR


     

    Unfortunately a lot of misguided Americans had ties to the IRA. However, while his interest in domestic terrorists is probably misguided I wouldn’t underestimate the potential for small groups to cause serious disruption. The IRA did a quarter of a billion dollars worth of damage in the Canary Wharf bomb at a time when they may have had as few as a dozen people on active service. They had a near miss on Hammersmith Bridge, which is a major London artery. Fortunately most modern terrorists seem to be too focused on killing people to realise that economic sabotage is much more effective.

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  93. By PeteS on March 15, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    Boiling water reactors will always have the problem of leaks and overheating if the coolant disappears, pumps fail, or the power to the pumps fails. PBRs when they fail — fail to their idle mode, instead of continuing to get hotter.


     

    But PBRs haven’t been commercialised as yet, iirc. So there are presumably technical challenges that have not been addressed as yet — the sort of ones that always get glossed over in the initial enthusiam about a new technology. Anyway, also iirc, the Chinese are experimenting with PBRs. Hopefully we’ll get to buy the technology off them.

     

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  94. By Kit P on March 15, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    “walk away safe”

    If you did not notice PaulN, these 40 year old nuke designs are “walk away safe”. That is happening now. Radiation is easy to detect even at very low levels. Before workers or the public is harmed, we walk away. When I say no one will be hurt by radiation, I was considering a worse case scenario.

    If you are watching the fear mongers that are put on the news, I can understand people concern. There are people out there who could explain the issue so that the proper precautions to be taken. However, it is like CNN and and Fox news is having a contest to find the most outrageous fear mongers.

    A historic natural disaster has occurred. Among other failure of energy infrastructure, a dam has failed destroying thousand of homes. No word on casualties. Refineries are burning out of control, as are natural gas facilities.

    Maybe worse is shortages of food, water, and shelter.

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  95. By rate-crimes on March 15, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    “A historic natural disaster has occurred.” – Kit P


     

    ‘Natural’ food, ‘natural’ monopoly, ‘natural’ gas, “natural disaster” . . .

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  96. By rate-crimes on March 15, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    “the Chinese are experimenting with PBRs. Hopefully we’ll get to buy the technology off them.” – PeteS


     

    The U.S. is already refurbing its reactors with components made in Asia.

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  97. By rate-crimes on March 16, 2011 at 12:10 am

    “Rate Crimes is another that needs an ignore button.” – russ


     

    When you hit that button, russ, be certain that 1) its operation is not reversed, 2) the hand-written label of marker on masking tape instructing you to push when instead you shoud pull was put on the correct button, 3) the signal feeding back the control state is immediately visible on your main panel, and not located a long walk away around to the back of control panel; 4) the signal relies on more than color to signal its state (in case you’re color-blind), 5) the binary signal is not reversed, 6) someone didn’t press the button again while you were taking your walk to confirm its state, 7) releasing the button doesn’t actually return you to the initial state, 8) you pressed the correct ignore button from amongst the myriad on your frantically flashing, glowing-hot control panel.

    Otherwise, it might go ’critical’.

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  98. By arnchair261 on March 16, 2011 at 1:16 am

    Rate Crimes said:

    “If you wish to not insult anyone, don’t ask dishonest questions; especially if you’re bouncing on someone else’s comments.”

    Rate Crimes…… wow. One of us knows for certain whether the question was dishonest, and it’s not you. You assume, I know.

    “If replacement was really your concern, why only ask about solar and wind?”

    Such a brilliant guy can’t think of an alternative reason? :) How about…. because they are the most commonly cited sources of alternative power? Or maybe, because the ability to build replacement coal or fossil fuel powered plants is not really an interesting question? Or maybe, because I’m curious if the Japanese could pull it off?

    “If you’re inexperienced, why not ask a more broad, more pertinent question?”

    OK, so now criticizing an inexperienced person for not being better informed. Impressive guy!  :-)

    “So, how is it that someone who has no experience in the solar, wind, or nuclear industries can assure us that any question will be asked by various Japanese and funding agencies?”

    I see. The Japanese will consider replacing their entire nuclear power capacity with renewable energy sources, and not a single person will ask how much it’s going to cost? Are you suggesting that that’s a realistic outcome?

    “If you can assure us that the question will be asked in such hallowed halls, why ask the question here?”

    I probably won’t be invited to the meetings. :-)

    “Other than I’m objecting to the quote of my misinterpreted statement in the context of a question that I find objectionable.”

    Such an offense! Did you have a bad day yesterday?

    Is it possible that YOU misinterpreted MY statement? Nah…. no way! :-)

    I have read reams of insulting commentary by agressive hypersensitive types all over cyberspace; they are depressingly common. But yours take the crown for the most petty and needlessly vicious. You dish out insutling comments like Halloween candy, and you expect, presumably, either rose petals or abject apologies in return. Asking about the equivalency of solar/wind to nuclear is a great crime? :-) Really? Obviously you have some sort of attitude issue, some sort of hot button that sets you off. I have to assume that something is frustrating you, and lashing out at people anonymously is your therapy. Do you also yell at waiters and shoe salesmen? Don’t you just hate people who don’t know as much as you do?

    So now, feel free to reply with further insulting commentary. I get a chuckle out of it, and you get to look important! I won’t reply anymore; perhaps that will get the poison out of your system. Go ahead, knock yourself out. Enjoy! :-)

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  99. By paul-n on March 16, 2011 at 1:28 am

    If you did not notice PaulN, these 40 year old nuke designs are “walk away safe”. That is happening now.

    I guess it depends how you define walk away safe – if they are, then why are they trying to pump sea water into a reactor that is safe to walk away from?

    I don;t believe for a moment what this parade of instant nuke experts on tv are saying – thew only thing I trust is that; the reactors have had hydrogen explosions blowing off the building exterior, and that they are trying to pump seawater  in, and they have evacuated people from a20km radius – but if they were walk away safe, then none of these things would have happened.

    What am I missing here?

    If you are saying that they can walk away and fires, explosion etc will happen, but they are safe from a release of radioactive material, then they are in the same category as a coal plant, oil refinery etc – is that what you consider to be the case here?

     

    I do agree that all the other damage, human and material, caused by the tsunami is a far greater tragedy, and, while not being ignored by the media, is certainly being treated as the secondary story at the moment – when it is still possible that not one person will die from the nuke situation.  A tragedy happened is one thing, but a possible tragedy that the tv networks can fulminate over for days, well, in the tv world, that seems to be the prize – they are trying for emmy award winning coverage.  I wonder  what the japanese people think of their tragedy being fuel for tv ratings?

    A 57ft high irrigation dam has failed, though there are few details available on what damage it has caused.  Four others (larger)  are being inspected for potential damage, but have not failed  Of all the countries in the world that will have dams engineered for earthquakes, if Japan is not at the top of the list, it’s gotta be damn close.  I don’t know how well many other countries’ dams (and other infrastructure) would fare after an 8.9 earthquake.

     

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  100. By OD on March 16, 2011 at 1:50 am

    snip…Otherwise, it might go ’critical

    Actually he would want it to go ‘critical’ because that would mean it is doing its job and has become self-sustaining…in this parody of yours.

    Are you taking your nuclear knowledge directly from The Simpsons?

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  101. By OD on March 16, 2011 at 2:19 am

    I guess it depends how you define walk away safe – if they are, then why are they trying to pump sea water into a reactor that is safe to walk away from?

    PBI, but the tsunami took out the diesel generators fuel tanks, so the power to the cooling systems was lost. That’s what set this chain of events we are now seeing into motion. The generators were in working order until the tsunami hit. After doing some digging, it appears all US plants in tsunami range have put their tanks underground to avoid such an incident. Kit can correct me if i’m wrong, but i believe you can only ‘walk away’ from these types of reactors IF the generators continue to function. If not, then that scenario is off the table.

    Now pebble-bed reactors are an entirely different animal, and those you can truly walk away from. Too bad China has the only working prototype.

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  102. By OD on March 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Rate Crimes…. enough, please.

    I understand tensions & emotions are running extremely high right now, and perhaps that’s why this pissing match has gone on for as long as it has. Under normal circumstances, it would have likely been ignored.

    There is no reason to continue to spam this blog with such utter nonsense and I regret my participation in it. Any future rhetoric will be ignored.

    I watch the events in Japan unfold and wonder how we as a species got to this point. We took a road that makes our civilization unsustainable, in its current form, without massive inputs of energy. As Robert points out, there is no way of providing this energy in a absolute fail safe way. This is the corner we have painted ourselves into.

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  103. By rate-crimes on March 16, 2011 at 7:19 am

    arnchair261 said:

    Rate Crimes said:

    “If you wish to not insult anyone, don’t ask dishonest questions; especially if you’re bouncing on someone else’s comments.”

    Rate Crimes…… wow. One of us knows for certain whether the question was dishonest, and it’s not you. You assume, I know.

    “If replacement was really your concern, why only ask about solar and wind?”

    Such a brilliant guy can’t think of an alternative reason? :) How about…. because they are the most commonly cited sources of alternative power? Or maybe, because the ability to build replacement coal or fossil fuel powered plants is not really an interesting question? Or maybe, because I’m curious if the Japanese could pull it off?

    “If you’re inexperienced, why not ask a more broad, more pertinent question?”

    OK, so now criticizing an inexperienced person for not being better informed. Impressive guy!  :-)

    “So, how is it that someone who has no experience in the solar, wind, or nuclear industries can assure us that any question will be asked by various Japanese and funding agencies?”

    I see. The Japanese will consider replacing their entire nuclear power capacity with renewable energy sources, and not a single person will ask how much it’s going to cost? Are you suggesting that that’s a realistic outcome?

    “If you can assure us that the question will be asked in such hallowed halls, why ask the question here?”

    I probably won’t be invited to the meetings. :-)

    “Other than I’m objecting to the quote of my misinterpreted statement in the context of a question that I find objectionable.”

    Such an offense! Did you have a bad day yesterday?

    Is it possible that YOU misinterpreted MY statement? Nah…. no way! :-)

    I have read reams of insulting commentary by agressive hypersensitive types all over cyberspace; they are depressingly common. But yours take the crown for the most petty and needlessly vicious. You dish out insutling comments like Halloween candy, and you expect, presumably, either rose petals or abject apologies in return. Asking about the equivalency of solar/wind to nuclear is a great crime? :-) Really? Obviously you have some sort of attitude issue, some sort of hot button that sets you off. I have to assume that something is frustrating you, and lashing out at people anonymously is your therapy. Do you also yell at waiters and shoe salesmen? Don’t you just hate people who don’t know as much as you do?

    So now, feel free to reply with further insulting commentary. I get a chuckle out of it, and you get to look important! I won’t reply anymore; perhaps that will get the poison out of your system. Go ahead, knock yourself out. Enjoy! :-)


     

    Thank you for taking so much of your time to address my concerns, instead of pursuing answers to a question that you deem to be so important. It is disappointing that no contributor here was willing to assist you.

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  104. By rate-crimes on March 16, 2011 at 7:24 am

    It is certain that at this hour there are millions of Japanese who wish they had more wind and solar.

    “You also dodged Armchair’s quest, shame.” = OD


     

    Huh?  Armchair’s quest was directed towards me?  Why didn’t you or someone else more deeply concerned to find an answer make an attempt to answer his question, instead of draining energy in fruitless attacks?

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  105. By rate-crimes on March 16, 2011 at 10:45 am

    OD said:

    snip…Otherwise, it might go ’critical

    Actually he would want it to go ‘critical’ because that would mean it is doing its job and has become self-sustaining…in this parody of yours.

    Are you taking your nuclear knowledge directly from The Simpsons?


     

    Yes, a mild parody, echoing the events at TMI.  Perhaps, your ‘taser focus’ prevented you from considering the many colorful meanings that the word ’critical’ carries in our language: not to be too critical of your perceptive abilities.

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  106. By rate-crimes on March 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    OD said:

    Rate Crimes…. enough, please.

    I understand tensions & emotions are running extremely high right now, and perhaps that’s why this pissing match has gone on for as long as it has. Under normal circumstances, it would have likely been ignored.

    There is no reason to continue to spam this blog with such utter nonsense and I regret my participation in it. Any future rhetoric will be ignored.

    I watch the events in Japan unfold and wonder how we as a species got to this point. We took a road that makes our civilization unsustainable, in its current form, without massive inputs of energy. As Robert points out, there is no way of providing this energy in a absolute fail safe way. This is the corner we have painted ourselves into.


     

    Enough of what, exactly?  You accused me of dodging a question that I made clear I consider to be ridiculous, if not disingenuous.  It was not even clear if it was a question posed to me directly, even though you immediately insisted that I was dodging it.  Rather than attempting an hosest answer to a question that you appear to believe is honest, you chose instead to expend your energy in an attack.  Hence, the “spam” began.  The question still remains unanswered.  Furthermore, you have yet to respond to even my first question, posed directly to you, that preceded armchair’s question.  Can you show me any answer you gave to any pertinent question that I posed that did not regard defending myself from your attacks?  “Utter nonsense”, indeed.

    If you feel that you have painted yourself into a corner, then I suggest that you wait for the paint to dry.  I’m free to walk where I wish, and have little desire to conform to those here who, like you, wish to remain in an incestuous confederacy of dogmatism.

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  107. By rate-crimes on March 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    OD said:

    Rate Crimes…. enough, please.

    I understand tensions & emotions are running extremely high right now, and perhaps that’s why this pissing match has gone on for as long as it has. Under normal circumstances, it would have likely been ignored.

    There is no reason to continue to spam this blog with such utter nonsense and I regret my participation in it. Any future rhetoric will be ignored.

    I watch the events in Japan unfold and wonder how we as a species got to this point. We took a road that makes our civilization unsustainable, in its current form, without massive inputs of energy. As Robert points out, there is no way of providing this energy in a absolute fail safe way. This is the corner we have painted ourselves into.


     

    If you wish to apologize for your behavior, then don’t disguise further insults with a fig leaf.

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  108. By savro on March 16, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Guys, stop the petty bickering. Endless arguments and explanations about who caused the chain reaction of childish rants is not conducive to furthering discussion on the issues raised in this thread.

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  109. By rrapier on March 16, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Further, I am about to start a new thread on this theme. I am hesitant based on how this one degenerated, but I think the subject matter is important to discuss. So I would ask that we stick to factual discussion.

    RR

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  110. By rate-crimes on March 16, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Samuel R. Avro said:

    Guys, stop the petty bickering. Endless arguments and explanations about who caused the chain reaction of childish rants is not conducive to furthering discussion on the issues raised in this thread.


     
     

    That would be my preference too.  I refer you to comments #13 and #15 where I requested clarity on OD’s pertinent statements.  Next, comments #18-#21 where I make another request for clarity to armchair’s question (that I consider to be disingenuous, and so made clear), made in response to my prior comment (#15).  (BTW, both his question and mine remain unanswered).  Finally, comment #22 where, instead of attempting to help by trying to answer archair’s question, and maintain a pertinent conversation, OD insists that I dodged armchair’s question even though it is not clear that it was posed to me directly, or even why armchair would direct such a question to me directly when I had claimed no expertise, but only stated compassionately that there are many Japanese who would be happy to have even a little energy from surviving wind and solar generation at this time.  From there, the conversation degenerated into a flurry of ad hominem assaults that required defense.  Hardly a “childish” or “petty” response.

    To honor your request, what issues do you find most pertinent?

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  111. By rate-crimes on March 16, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Samuel R. Avro said:

    Guys, stop the petty bickering. Endless arguments and explanations about who caused the chain reaction of childish rants is not conducive to furthering discussion on the issues raised in this thread.


     
     

    Samuel, I would also refer you to comment #31, where my attempt to include some important ‘externalities’ in cost analysis was met with a wildly reactionary response from armchair.  He said, “Where are you gettting the idea that I think the Japanese casualties are a good thing, or that I’m strongly in favor of nuclear energy?”

    I had said no such things about him.  In fact, my criticisms all regarded his question.  I made no ad hominen attack, unlike the many that were directed towards me.

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  112. By ralph hayes on March 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    Samuel R. Avro said:

    Guys, stop the petty bickering. Endless arguments and explanations about who caused the chain reaction of childish rants is not conducive to furthering discussion on the issues raised in this thread.



     

    Mr. Rate Crimes:

    I found a blog which you write online today.  How come is it that you rant and rave here under an alias and furthermore administer your own blog still using an alias?  I find this to be the most “telling aspect” of your personality.  Crawl back into your shell where you belong Mr. Smith, Jones, Doe, etc.  Your aggressive and disruptive comments are not appreciated here – this is plainly apparent.

    Ralph Hayes, Des Moines, Iowa

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  113. By rate-crimes on March 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    ralph hayes said:

     Mr. Rate Crimes:
    I found a blog which you write online today.  How come is it that you rant and rave here under an alias and furthermore administer your own blog still using an alias?  I find this to be the most “telling aspect” of your personality.  Crawl back into your shell where you belong Mr. Smith, Jones, Doe, etc.  Your aggressive and disruptive comments are not appreciated here – this is plainly apparent.

    Ralph Hayes, Des Moines, Iowa


     

    Because it is the arguments, not the person, that should be at issue.  As you can witness here in this forum, honest questions that challenge the status quo are often responded to with a series of impertinent, ad hominem attacks. Your own criticism of my words as “rant and rave”, and aspersions as to my personality are ample evidence.  If you have a criticism of the arguments that I pose, I would be pleased to respond to you.

    I am well-known enough.  I have spoken before numerous groups and have no hesitation to face challenges in any forum.  However, in a forum where nearly everyone is anonymous, I hesitate to further open myself to ad hominem attacks.

    Finally, while I respect your gesture, ‘signing’ your name to a blog post provides no verifiability of credentials.  Let the words speak.

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  114. By savro on March 16, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Getting back to the theme of this thread…

    I read an article this morning on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s calculated odds of an earthquake causing a catastrophic failure at U.S. nuke plants. Interestingly enough, one of Indian Point’s reactors (located less than 25 miles from New York City) was rated as the highest risk. The chances for core damage to that reactor, according to the NRC, are 1 in 10,000 every year. I’m pasting the Top 10 below, but the entire article is worth a read. It explains how the odds were calculated and also contains a complete list of the odds for all 104 reactors in the U.S.

    *****

    What are the odds? US nuke plants ranked by quake risk

    So much for San Andreas: Reactors in East, Midwest, South have highest chance of damage

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42…..iapacific/

    The top 10

    Here are the 10 nuclear power sites with the highest risk of suffering core damage from an earthquake, showing their NRC risk estimates based on 2008 and 1989 geological data.

    1. Indian Point 3, Buchanan, N.Y.: 1 in 10,000 chance each year. Old estimate: 1 in 17,241. Increase in risk: 72 percent.

    2. Pilgrim 1, Plymouth, Mass.: 1 in 14,493. Old estimate: 1 in 125,000. Increase in risk: 763 percent.

    3. Limerick 1 and 2, Limerick, Pa.: 1 in 18,868. Old estimate: 1 in 45,455. Increase in risk: 141 percent.

    4. Sequoyah 1 and 2, Soddy-Daisy, Tenn.: 1 in 19,608. Old estimate: 1 in 102,041. Increase in risk: 420 percent.

    5. Beaver Valley 1, Shippingport, Pa.: 1 in 20,833. Old estimate: 1 in 76,923. Increase in risk: 269 percent.

    6. Saint Lucie 1 and 2, Jensen Beach, Fla.: 1 in 21,739. Old estimate: N/A.

    7. North Anna 1 and 2, Louisa, Va.: 1 in 22,727. Old estimate: 1 in 31,250. Increase in risk: 38 percent.

    8. Oconee 1, 2 and 3, Seneca, S.C.: 1 in 23,256. Old estimate: 1 in 100,000. Increase in risk: 330 percent.

    9. Diablo Canyon 1 and 2, Avila Beach, Calif.: 1 in 23,810. Old estimate: N/A.

    10. Three Mile Island, Middletown, Pa.: 1 in 25,000. Old estimate: 1 in 45,455. Increase in risk: 82 percent.

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  115. By rate-crimes on March 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    Further, I am about to start a new thread on this theme. I am hesitant based on how this one degenerated, but I think the subject matter is important to discuss. So I would ask that we stick to factual discussion.

    RR


     

    Thank you, Robert.   It is important.  However, it must be stated that ‘facts’ are open to interpretation; except, perhaps in these forums where if preconceptions are challenged, or comfort zones are broken, a series of ad hominem attacks is sure to follow.

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  116. By rate-crimes on March 16, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Samuel R. Avro said:

    I read an article this morning on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s calculated odds of an earthquake causing a catastrophic failure at U.S. nuke plants.


     

    Very interesting.  Thanks, Samuel.  The article states, “The odds take into consideration two main factors: the chance of a serious quake, and the strength of design of the plant.”

    There is no mention of other factors.  I wonder, did they included water resources in their analysis?  The largest nuclear power plant in the U.S. is the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.  Being located in the middle of a desert, in the event of a catastrophic event, where would the emergency cooling come from?

    One must also wonder about a  host of other risks: flight paths, supply routes, other support systems besides water, etc.

    I also wonder if there are international, historical, and or broader versions of this report.  What were the odds for Fukushima, Mihama, Oak Harbor, Tokaimura, Crystal River, Millstone, Calvert Cliffs, Nine Mile Point, Peach Bottom, Chernoybl, TMI, et al?

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  117. By rate-crimes on March 16, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Back of the napkin:

    The Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant started up in 1954.  The Chernobyl Disaster has an exclusion zone of about 500 sq.km.  If Fukushima is as bad, there might be an equivalent exclusion zone.

    The global land area without major soil fertility constraints is about 31.8 million square kilometers.

    In 57 years of nuclear power, about 1,000 sq. km of arable land has been lost to nuclear disasters.  At this rate, it would take almost 2 million years to destroy all the arable land.

    Good news!  We’re safe.  Smile

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  118. By Wendell Mercantile on March 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    The Chernobyl Disaster has an exclusion zone of about 500 sq.km.

    For what it’s worth, I heard this morning that the Chernobyl exclusion zone has become one of the finest wildlife preserves in Eastern Europe. (They’ve found it difficult to exclude wildlife from the exclusion zone.) Even nuclear disasters can have their bright side.

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  119. By rate-crimes on March 16, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    The Chernobyl Disaster has an exclusion zone of about 500 sq.km.

    For what it’s worth, I heard this morning that the Chernobyl exclusion zone has become one of the finest wildlife preserves in Eastern Europe. (They’ve found it difficult to exclude wildlife from the exclusion zone.) Even nuclear disasters can have their bright side.


     

    That’s Life After People?

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  120. By Kit P on March 16, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    “What am I missing here?”

    What you are missing Paul is that you are taking a marketing claim of an unproven ‘walk away safe’ design and comparing it to a 50 year old design. There are many features of new nukes to reduce the risk before needing to walk away. For example, all new designs have separate fuel buildings rather than putting the pool on top of the reactor building.

    Again, there is time to move away from the source of radiation before anyone is hurt.

    “walk away and fires, explosion”

    Industrial hazards are very similar at fossil energy facilities as nuke plants. If you see an industrial facility burning, try not to get closer for a better view. Maybe crowd control could be accomplished by yelling run for your life fuel rods are on fire.

    “Kit can correct me if i’m wrong”

    OD is correct. All the Japanese plants shut down normally but when emergency diesels were lost. Every plant I have been at have used underground tanks for EDGs but I am not an expert on EDGs except on navy surface ships. One feature of US plants are station blackout diesels (SBO) or other very reliable power source in cased of a common mode falure of EDGs.

    Maintaining ventilation is important for maintaining hydrogen below the explosive limit. New plants have hydrogen recombining units in the containment that are passive and require not electric power. I have not idea to what extent they have been backfitted in older plants.

    “calculated odds of an earthquake causing a catastrophic failure at U.S. nuke plants.”

    Not the same as “risk of suffering core damage” as stated in the article. First Sam if an earthquake damages Indian Pointg, NYC will be a pile of burning rubble. You will be dead.

    Second, in the history of nuclear power to US designs; there has not been a seismic failure of a safety system. After that, the containment has to fail.

    “That’s Life After People?”

    If the USSR had provided potassium iodine pills like near Chernobyl like they are doing in Japan there would have been 1800 few cases of thyroid cancer. Radiation is not a very good way of getting rid of people. We are just so use to it that it takes massive amounts to kill us. Depending on solar to keep our houses warm might work. Rate crimes new motto, better dead and green.

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  121. By rate-crimes on March 16, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    “Radiation is not a very good way of getting rid of people. We are just so use to it that it takes massive amounts to kill us.” – Kit P

    That depends on the quality of the radiation. 

    “Depending on solar to keep our houses warm might work.” – Kit P

    It’s not difficult to build a home that keeps you warm 24 hours a day in all seasons in many climates without having to hook up to the grid. Civilization did it for several millenia before electricity arrived. Many I know do so today.

    “Rate crimes new motto, better dead and green.” – Kit P

    That comment is simply disgusting on a day like this.

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  122. By OD on March 16, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    It appears they are going to try to restart power to the plant. This would be at least a sliver of good news if they are successful.

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  123. By russ-finley on March 17, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Commenting on nuclear energy posts at this time isn’t very productive since we don’t know yet when the damaged power plant will finally be declared under control or how much radiation will finally be released.

    At that point we can have more productive discussions. I’m pretty sure, regardless of what happens, these events will reduce the number of old designs that will get re-licensed especially those near fault lines.

    But the future is hard to predict. With old designs going off line, rates may rise, and coal operators will put pressure on politicians to license more coal plants. This scenario will of course help solar and wind to some extent but it may also help with the licensing of new (safer) nuclear designs as well. Only time will tell.

    Somewhat entertaining watching our entrenched troll grapple with a transient one ; )

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  124. By Anonymous One on March 17, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Information about the incident at the Fukushima Nuclear Plants in Japan hosted by http://web.mit.edu/nse/ :: Maintained by the students of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT

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  125. By Anonymous One on March 17, 2011 at 2:23 pm
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  126. By russ-finley on March 18, 2011 at 12:51 am

    Best place I’ve found for information is here: http://bravenewclimate.com/

     

    Latest update looking hopeful: http://bravenewclimate.com/201…..-tsunamis/

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  127. By arnchair261 on March 18, 2011 at 2:58 am

    Rate Crimes said:


     

    Thank you for taking so much of your time to address my concerns, instead of pursuing answers to a question that you deem to be so important.

    I didn’t think it was so important. I was just curious.

     

    It is disappointing that no contributor here was willing to assist you.

    Moiety responded with a useful link that answered my question. Had you done the same, or asked for clarification, a lot of useless typing would have been spared, and the blog wouldn’t have been littered with this nonsense. I apologize to RR and others for getting sucked into such silliness, and I suggest you do the same. I suspect you won’t.

     

    Honestly, people who throw out insults left and right, and then whine about ad homs….


     

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  128. By rrapier on March 19, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    JN2 said:

    RR said:

    We can produce enough electricity to supply our needs without bringing nuclear into the mix, but the result is going to be much, much higher electric bills

    RMI claim that nuclear is very expensive. RR, you have a friend (Kyle?) who used to work there. Does he agree with the RMI line? Or is that why he left?


     

    I remembered this morening that I had seen this post, but had forgotten to answer it. I have never directly discussed nuclear power with Kyle, but I suspect that his beliefs on this are consistent with those of the RMI, because they do reflect the position of the book Kyle co-authored with Lovins.

    RR

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  129. By thomas398 on March 28, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Optimist said:

    We undertake efforts whose short term (short term could range from a quarter of a corporation’s earnings to a single human life span) outcomes are largely beneficial and profitable. However the true ramifications of these efforts for civilization are distorted by the potent combination of  ignorance, concealment, popular diminishment, and outright denial. 

    That would be a recent phenomenon, mostly associated with the selfish babyboomers. From the Founding Fathers to the Greatest Generations many generations of Americans were deeply concerned about the long term future. As were many generations around the globe. The “we’re here to harvest” mentality is a recent thing, and may not stay that long. The Great Recession may eventually force the prostitutians to think long term. We’ll see.

     

    I disagree the concept of “we’re here to harvest” dates back to literally Columbus.  I could give you a long list of human and environmental tragedies that were undertaken by prior generations in the name of short term profits that affect us negatively today. 

    I fail to see how optimism can be a bad thing. Even if it means we overextend, as you imply. Future generations will be better equipped that we are. That does not imply that their lives will be trouble-free or that world peace is a given. Just that they, having solved today’s problems will be faced with their own unique challenges.

     Optimism isn’t a bad thing its just not an excuse to create problems for which you have no solutions.  We are better equipped to deal with an oil crisis than we were in the 1970s, but we’re importing more oil than we were then. If OPEC deciede to turn the faucet off its WWIII.  Our technology hasn’t improved fast enough to allow us to even tread water on liquid fuels.

    Nuclear power is an excellent example of an industrial process whose short term benefits we are happy to accept but whose long term negative side effects we are not yet prepared to deal with (and even less so at its introduction).

    An excellent point. But don’t let a lack of leadership from the current crop of prostitutians lead you to conclude that civilization is doomed.

    My point isn’t that civilization is doomed, just that sustainability has to be evaluated in the same manner as profitability (exhaustively).  It doesn’t mean that environmental disasters won’t occur due to commercial activity, companies go bankrupt all the time, but it will lead to  true “progress”.

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