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A Lesson from Fukushima: A Safe, Clean Energy Future Will Be Nuclear-Free


#1

A Lesson from Fukushima: A Safe, Clean Energy Future Will Be Nuclear-Free

Kendra Ulrich

Today, the 11th of March 2015, marks the fourth year since beginning of one of the world's worst nuclear disasters: the triple reactor core meltdowns and catastrophic containment building failures at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. It's a nuclear crisis that, unfortunately, continues to unfold.


#2

Thank you Kendra good article.
However I disagree with this "There are also indications that even in the absence of a major disaster, nuclear reactors may be hazardous to human health – particularly for children." There is really no maybe about it. Before a new nuke goes on line it has already killed or is killing those that mine and prepare the fuel. We could also discuss tailing piles filled with radioactive elements left for the wind to distribute and lack of long term storage or storage that is not leaking extremely toxic elements.

My state closed its nuke plant decades ago yet at the site is stored in dry casks every single bit of fuel burned in that plant. A accident waiting to happen because humans just do not know how to handle the mess they made.


#3

"If we believe the nuke huggers, it is very safe – one catastrophic accident occurs only once every 250 years, they say."

Nonsense. This is a total misinterpretation of the industry and nuclear supporters stance. It would mean that Three MIle Island happened in 1761 (250 years before the natural disaster at Fukushima) and Chernobyl happened in 1511.

I am sick and tired of opponents of clean, safe nuclear power twisting things around to support their unscientific viewpoints.

Actually 'nuke huggers' said there would only be one nuclear total extinction event every 250 years. We've got scads of safe time left to enjoy the benefits of power too cheap to meter. Nearly two centuries.


#4

The extraction and use of fossil fuels are so much more deadly than nukes that I can't help but wonder whether people like Wasserman, Ulrich, et al. are being paid by the coal and oil oligarchs, or are really, truly just useful idiots, doing the dirty work of the psychopaths for free

Combustion is killing us all, every high- and mid-order creature on this planet, little by little, every minute of every hour of every day, as a consequence of its mere use.

All the problems with nukes, even if rolled up and counted together with the atom bombs, are not.

The difference is so great that it's beyond being even a terrible joke.


#5

The correct lesson from Fukushima, and Chernobyl and TMI, is that civilian Light Water Reactors have suffered only two actual failures in four decades. The Chernobyl reactor was a design with a serious defect, in that its graphite moderator causes a positive thermal feedback. The death and injury toll was not entirely due to its villainous nuclearness either, much of it was caused by Soviet absence of perestroika.
Those of us who advocate civilian nuclear power do so because the actual mass of fuel and waste per gigawatt year of energy is very small compared with fossil carbon. Uranium and thorium are not fossil fuels, unless you count dead and vanished supernovae as fossils

But LWRs are obsolete, compared with breeder designs. They have exactly one weakness. The high pressure cooling water, which is also the neutron moderator. There are two breeder reactor designs that do not need high pressure water, and have coolant systems that are incapableof boiling at the temperatures of even a reactor running a full load. Fission product radioactivity from a reactor ithat's not running is negligible by comparison..
Now if the production of nuclear fuel is as lethal per unit energy, to uranium miners (I'm sure it isn't) as coal is to coal miners, there has been in existence since before Chernobyl a reactor design that gets about a hundred times as much energy per ton of fuel. I'm not sure how many construction workers, perkilowatt-year of wind produced energy, have been killed puttig up the turbines, or how long it will be before a helicopter servicing a turbine plaftorm 90 metres above the sea loses somebody.. Ah well, they knew it was risky, and were willing to do it. Tell that to any Welshman, like Richard Burton, or Aneurin Bevan, or even Bryn Terfel.
Aeroplanes are far safer, per passenger mile, than automobiles. But an aircraft crash killing a hundred people will get more news coverage than the tens of thousands who die on the roadways. Likewise, the Tohoku earthquake, which killed tens of thousands of people, is probably a name unknown to thousands of people who are convinced that Fukushima means we dare not use nuclear. The three reactors actually survived the Tohoku earhquake shock that hit them. The grid that connected them to Japan did not. The tsunami then took out the emergency diesel electric supply that was needed to keep the high pressure cooling system working.
If energy news were covered according to its importance, people would know that almost a month before the first generation (or zeroeth) Chernobyl reactor meltdown, the USA had a reactor demonstratedly meltdown immune. It was a fast neutron breeder reactor, that needs no moderator, and used a pool of hot liquid metal to transfer the energy to a second such loop, then to its turbines.

The gist of the error in thinking that the energy future will be nuclear and fossil carbon free, using energy of solar origin, or the tides, is that the world will contain maybe ten times, certainly more than seven times, the population that found the 18th century supply of solar energy was inadequate.
But wind turbine technology does not even employ a range of wind speeds as wide as the Tall Ships used to do, and sail could not compete with coal. What renewable technology is there that can match the speed of the great liners, QE2 and USS "United States"? The latter could cross the Atlantic at the speed of a full gale.


#6

Dear Mairead, Rod Adams of AtomicInsights (google it) shares your suspicion, as do I.
The embarrassing death of Princess Diana seemed to me so clearly something that various parties might have desired, tthat I immediately thought "Well, they're in the clear, nobody could have contrived that".
But the advantage to fossil fuel promoters of the uselessness and ugliness of wind turbines, and the fact that only nuclear can oust coal, as it has in fact recently down in Ontario, Canada. suggests that there are probably FossilCarbon fifth columnists writing columns for the environmentalist organizations to which I used to contribute.
Greenpeace is dead right about nuclear weapons, and dead wrong about nuclear civilian power. So, I think, are far too many other of my fellow liberals and environmentalists,

Al Gore is right about his "Inconvenient Truth". I'm not sure if he wrote that the huge amount of energy we receive from the Sun is equivalent to heat, and that the planet has to get rid of it at the same tremendous rate. His title observation is caused, not by the heat of specifically human energy consumption, but by its gaseous effluvia.
There is also, of course. the diminution of photosynthesis and transpiration caused by cutting down forests, and even trees for suburban housing developments.
But the other inconvenient truth is that the biosphere is already using all it can get of the bounty of solar energy that is no more now than it was in 1776, and what's worse, the planet is carrying more than seven times as many humans as it did then, so each one's share of the bounty is one seventh what it was back then, when apparently there wasn't enough, or why bother with the dirtiness of coal?


#7

About nuke hugging: It is no longer safe to hug trees. Somebody is likely to cut down the one you are hugging, in the name of environmentalism, to use it as "renewable" energy, and instead of renewing the tree, will replace it and its neighbours with solar panels and/or wind "turbines", both of which need spinning reserve in the form of real turbines, which if driven by burning gas are definitely not "clean".