March 18th, 2011
|07:23 pm - Fukushima again|
I agree that the suffering in Japan as a result of the tsunami is very serious. If I pick out the nuclear reactor to discuss it isn't that I think the other issues and loss of life are unimportant. It's because the nuclear containment is more open to debate and intellectual evaluation of messages and so on. Whichever I post about, that won't help or hurt anyone.
I still stand by my position that as we find out more the situation is more worrying. Also the assurances and in fact all communication around the subject seem unconvincing.
Cosmic Variance is a science blog I have been reading off and on for many years. It's written by a group of physicists, and is currently hosted by Discover Magazine. Today's item was written by Daniel Holz who is a Feynman Fellow at Los Alamos. He says:
The latest claim (by the Chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission) is that the storage pool at the #4 reactor has little to no water. If true, this is a very ominous development. This is by far the most dire situation on the planet at the moment. The world’s resources are focused on this problem. Millions of lives potentially depend upon the outcome. And, thus far, progress has been haphazard and halting, despite heroic efforts on the part of the Japanese crew. The engineering challenges may simply be too great.
He outlines a worst-case scenario, which I won't quote as he considers it unlikely, and concludes.
The best-case scenario, and probably most likely, is that the Fukushima-Daiichi plant will limp along, without any catastrophic event.
Of what I have read recently, this is the type of message I have found most convincing. I don't think an evaluation of the likelihood of catastrophe in this case, or the safety of nuclear power in general, is affected by any comparison with other energy sources. Evaluation should be prior to comparison.
Also, this situation confirms my belief that authorities should be more honest and open about problems, and information in general. The result of the type of thing that is happening here is a permanent legacy of suspicion. My generation were fed a pack of fibs in school about various issues such as drugs, and I think we are a suspicious bunch now. Feed more lies, teach a blanket mistrust.
ETA you might like to read the comments to the article, which range from furious disagreement to concurrence
The editorial in New Scientist this week (which, in general, has a notably centre-left outlook on life) is very interesting on this; it is essentially a call for an accident at a 1960s-designed reactor complex not to derail the urgent need to build new, and upgrade old (1960s designed) reactors, while thinking about these 'highly unlikely, but severe' disaster scenarios.
Interestingly 'asteroid strike' is one they suggest as being of a similar nature.
I'm not sure what I think, yet.
I think the assessment of where to go next with nuclear power is independent of the question of what is happening in this case. Opinion about 'where next with nuclear power' shouldn't affect judgement of this situation. And also, this situation should be taken as a data point feeding into decision-making.
So I guess I would say that a call not to derail new build is as inappropriate as a call to derail it. It seems too early to say. And also I am worried that people are assessing the current situation pro or con on the basis of what they like or not.
obviously this is not directed at you mr a but I'm just reflecting on what I've been reading, of which the New Scientist thing you mention is an example.
ETA - I am not sure whether these days being anti-nuclear power is left or right: certainly the global warming issue has muddied the waters. FWIW I think ideally nuclear would be used to bridge the gap between fossil fuels and sustainable - perhaps geothermal mohole tech or something
Edited at 2011-03-18 08:41 pm (UTC)
I completely agree with you. I think we're probably 50 years from sustainable non-fossil fuel technologies, and most of the stuff non-expert and/or vested interest groups promote at the moment (wind, or wave, for instance) have very little chance of being the replacement we're looking for. (BTW, I think 50 years is 'not long'; I consider myself an optimist about alt. power!)