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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The other 3 Mile Island?

In the past two weeks or so, everyone has been discussing the tragedy in Japan. In addition to the death toll, news headlines have been relentlessly speculating the impact of the Fukushima reactors. Matthew Shaffer's latest piece in NRO helps amalgamate some of the best minds in the field to clarify what Fukushima may hold, looking beyond the 24-hour news cycle. He goes through the science of a meltdown, but then gives a clear explanation of what dangers an anti-nuclear policy would hold:
First, shutting down the production of new nuclear facilities would mean more reliance on old nuclear facilities, which are less safe. Second, shutting down or phasing out all nuclear facilities would necessitate greater reliance on other energy technologies that have their own dangers. As Professor Brown says, in a refrain common to all the nuclear experts, “Think of the BP explosion. Or Exxon Valdez. Those were pretty hellacious. And every month there’s a coal-mine disaster, and you read about pipelines exploding.” He recommends acknowledging that we are in “a pragmatic space. That doesn’t mean you don’t think every life is valuable. But you’re balancing risks, and acknowledging their reality in the real world we live in.”

.... It’s possible that media overreaction and misunderstanding of the Fukushima incident will hold back the advance of nuclear energy. Chancellor Angela Merkel has ordered a complete shutdown of Germany’s seven oldest nuclear plants. Even if those plants did need to be updated, “You can make additions and updates without shutting down the plants,” Professor Beller says. Merkel’s restriction of the energy supply, he points out, will exacerbate an energy crisis and hurt “low-income people in particular in Germany.”

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  1. In addition, shutting down a nuclear plant doesn't always increase safety - several of the most troubled plants at Fukushima were shut down for maintenance when the quake/tsunami hit. Germany will increase emissions from coal or gas, but they won't necessarily improve safety.

    Unfortunately, I think Dr. Krauthammer was right, this event will probably spell the death of commercial nuclear power. It shouldn't, but it probably will.

  2. Annual death statistics, USA

    Motorcycles – 2,500
    Bicycles 1995 - 800
    1999 struck by trains – 530
    Candles - 126
    1999 bus deaths - 58
    wind power worker fatalities incl. falling from turbine towers and transporting turbines - 41
    Skiing deaths – 34
    Dog Bites – 20
    Drawstring hoods – 17
    Window blind cords – 13
    Roller skates - 10
    Nuclear power plants – 0 deaths per year

    Safe nuclear does exist, and China is leading the way with thorium
    by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 3/20/11

    "China’s Academy of Sciences said it had chosen a “thorium-based molten salt reactor system”. The liquid fuel idea was pioneered by US physicists at Oak Ridge National Lab in the 1960s, but the US has long since dropped the ball. Further evidence of Barack `Obama’s “Sputnik moment”, you could say. Chinese scientists claim that hazardous waste will be a thousand times less than with uranium. The system is inherently less prone to disaster."

    UK Telegraph

  3. Even the Guardian moonbat--oops Monbiot--says Fukushima has changed his view:nuclear is safe and he supports it. Naturally the greenies are for things that don't work, opposed to things that do work and now are for nuclear only after they damned near killed it in the public mind.

  4. France and China will have no part of this current nuclear hysteria. Between them they will continue to get a growing share of their power from nuclear power and be at the forefront of nuclear power technology. France is the only country with an active advanced nuclear re-processing program.

    China has more than 21 new nuclear power reactors coming on line between now and 2015. They have considerably more than that planned or at the beginning stages of construction.

    "In France, which gets 79% of it electrical power from nuclear, Électricité de France announced plans to replace the current nuclear plants with new 1600 MWe units as they reach the end of their licensed life, starting around 2020. This decision confirms that France is planning to continue indefinitely using nuclear power as its primary electricity source. In order to replace the current 58 reactors, one new large unit will have to be built about every year for about 40 years."

  5. Whatever happened to learning from mistakes and, by so doing, advancing technology?

    "That doesn’t mean you don’t think every life is valuable. But you’re balancing risks, and acknowledging their reality in the real world we live in."

    One time on "This Week with David Brinkley," Sam Donaldson was arguing for the return of the 55-mph speed limit to save lives. George Will countered with something like, "Why don't we then bring back the horse and buggy and make the speed limit 10 miles-per-hour and you'll have absolutely no deaths."