Post by Martha Adams Post by Harry Mary Andruschak Post by cryptoengineer
My office building here near Boston shook gently for a while around
1:54 pm. Apparently there was 5.9 quake down in VA.
I hope Keith and other rasf*rs in the area came through OK.
Only a wimpy 5.9? REAL Californians sleep on through 5.9s.
Hah! I like that. However. The news mentions unusual-event responses
from twelve nuke power plants, and that one or two of those temporarily
shut down. As I think about this, it seems a little alarming to me (no
pun intended). Because, looking at events in Japan and back in time, I
see that nuclear power plants necessarily have one or more
*tremendously poisonous* nuclear reactors in them, so that while safety
systems make severe radiation releasing accidents unlikely, yet these
happen and then there is a terrible price to pay.
Without disagreeing that the contents of the reactors are poisonous, I
think that "notification of unusual event" doesn't mean what you think
it means, but rather exactly what it says...an unusual event has
happened that has a potential, however remote, to impact safety. An
earthquake of significant magntitude is automatically such an event. So
are tsunamis, uncontrolled fires in the area, etc. For example, Diablo
Canyon declared a NOUE after the Japan earthquake and tsunami despite
estimates that the effect on the California coast would be minor.
Post by Martha Adams
Such that, now I'm questioning if we can afford to have those nuclear
reactors here in our human world. Yes, our systems today need that
power urgently; and the price per kwh is majorly important. But look at
what happens if *just one* of those big nukes fails into breakdown and
Reactors have the potential to cause significant loss of life, but other
generation technologies do so on an ongoing basis. I believe the excess
deaths solely due to lung disease from coal plant emissions are estimated
at 24,000 per year, and those are certainly not the only ones.
Post by Martha Adams
I've read of nuclear reactors designed to fail safe under worst possible
conditions. One of those is a pebble bed reactor which uses hot gas to
carry out the heat. Under worst failure conditions at full power, the
bottom opens and the pebbles fall down into several bins, far from
criticality; and the physical plant can tolerate the heat. (A power
nuke shut-down quickly, initially produces heat at several percent of
But I'm seeing nothing in the news about fail-safe reactors, nor of any
plans to build any anywhere. Nothing! I think this is a bad sign for
Lots of research on pebble bed (PBR) and other "fail safe" reactor designs.
It's just not "newsworthy" in the conventional since. They all have
significant engineering and political issues to overcome. Engineering because
the technology is still immature and either small scale or entirely
theoretical, political because the regulatory environment is designed for
pressurized water reactors (PWR).
As one example, PBRs produce a very large amount of low-level radioactive
waste as opposed to PWRs which produce a much smaller amount of high-level
waste. Because the long-term storage requirements are similar the
disposal cost is much higher for the PBRs.
Also, anti-nuclear activists tend not to look further than the word "reactor"
before starting their protests.
China, with its...how to put this politely...somewhat lower sensitivity
to impact on the environment, public health and public opinion looks like a
good candidate to put the technology into production.
Robert K. Shull Email: rkshull at rosettacon dot com