Sunday, 13 March 2011

Nuclear Information from Japan

Best to keep your expectations low for now.

Think about it. These guys have just been hit by a double-whammy. First an earthquake that has to be close to what the plant was designed to withstand, if not beyond. And then a tsunami that takes their station to blackout conditions. I'm confident they have emergency procedures to deal with this situation - not this specific chain of events, but their symptoms. Symptom based emergency procedures have been around for many years. The approach was developed by the industry as a lesson learned from the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

In a symptom based approach, a limited number of key parameters are monitored and controlled, without the need to determine the exact details of the event. For example, reactor level and containment pressure are two key parameters. Falling reactor level could result in inadequate reactor fuel cooling, so a prioritized list of means to add cooling water to the reactor are developed and incorporated into emergency procedures. Typically, the last item on the list is to change the plant piping alignment such that the fire suppression system can be used (via connections outside the reactor) to pump 'raw' water (in this case sea water) directly into the reactor. Given the station blackout conditions, this action would be expected if cooling water inventory were required to maintain reactor water level.

Similarly, containment pressure can not be permitted to get too high. So periodic, planned and controlled pressure releases are implemented to manager that parameter. This could involve some radiation release, so part of the planning involves the precautionary evacuation of local residents.

But my main point is that the Emergency Response team is obviously VERY busy dealing with the immediate situation. And while the general public is desperate for information - which they rightly deserve. There are others who have a greater need for the information and communication channels to manage their responsibilities. These include the first-line decision makers at the reactor site, regulatory authorities, local and national emergency management agencies, local and national government agencies, the plant designer, and international support agencies. Information must be verified and any conflicts resolved quickly to permit decision makers to take timely action to protect the public to the best of their ability. These communicators are among the most busy people trying to manage the situation and the importance of them getting it right can not be overstated.

Those in the best position to communicate with the public (government offices for example) are also furthest from the detailed information flowing within the plant and have to manage many other, non-nuclear relief and recovery operations in the aftermath of the earthquake. Therefore, their statements tend to be quite brief, never speculative, and typically lack details of 'what happened'. The 'what happened' will be determined later - the plant operators are not concerned about determining this as a priority now. They are busy managing the symptoms and critical safety parameters, not being driven to describe events of the past.


  1. Japan is a fantastic example as to why the world does NOT want Nuclear power.

  2. I can see why it is an excellent example of why one may not want to live near the ocean in Japan, but I don't follow your logic re: nuclear energy.

    Despite the serious walloping from two major events; the plants' vital integrity components are holding.

    It's a serious test of the technology to put it mildly; but those facilities are supposed to protect the public following events such as this, not continue to operate.

    I continue to trust the technology... which is now several decades advanced from the plants currently being monitored in Japan.

  3. The technology is dangerous and highly inefficient. Japan has 56 reactors which produce 20% of Japan's power. Coupled with the risk factor - it is a poor choice for energy.

    Also the notion the integrity of the components are holding together is a farce. There are radiation leaks in Japan right now - even The US Carrier, which was 160KM out to sea, floated through a radiation cloud.

    And if you compare the two explosions (Reactor #1 and Reactor #3) you'll notice they are significantly different (#3 looked more like a complete meltdown/nuclear explosion).

  4. I noticed the difference between the two as well. Unit-1 has what is known as a Mark-1 containment, while Unit-3 (the second to explode) has a Mark-2. The differences between the designs can account for what you see during a hydrogen explosion.

    There is a significant difference between detectable radiation levels and radiation dose that poses significant risk to public safety (a public that the government rightly evacuated based in information provided by the reactor operator).

    The Daiichi site - the hardest hit - has endured multiple, massive external events that rendered it in a blackout condition. The integrity of the containment systems continues to hold (meaning the vast majority of fission products are being contained based on radiation readings near the facility).

    This was not the case for Chernobyl, where significant radiation readings were detected in neighboring countries soon after the explosion. The situation around Chernobyl compared to that in and around Japan are unrecognizable from a dose and radioactive material dispersion perspective. I can not find the justification for your declared 'farce'.

    If the facilities continue to contain the radioactive material, it will be another noteworthy victory for the safety of modern nuclear energy technology.

  5. Three reactors have now exploded and you're saying it's a noteworthy victory? You are insane.

    The Japanese Government is hiding the real truth to the extent of the damage. The second explosion was way to large to not cause any damage and the US Air Craft Carrier - Ronald Reagan - has reported contamination out at sea.

    These reactors are completely unstable and leaking and the only reason they hadn't exploded earlier was due to the sea water being pumped - with fire fighting water pumps - to keep them cool. In other words the inevitable was merely delayed.

    Regardless of the fact that these were built on a fault line, the bottom line is Nuclear Reactors can't withstand Mother Nature and all it takes is one accident and boom. Gone. No second chance.

  6. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says: "Now we are talking about levels that can impact human health. I would like all of you to embrace this information calmly. These are readings taken near the area where we believe that the release of radioactive substances is occurring. The further away you get from the power plant or reactor the value should go down".

  7. Thank god we have the potential in Australia to meet our energy needs through renewable energy and not nuclear power.

    60% solar thermal + 40% wind + 0% nuclear = a clean energy future.

  8. = a broken Australian economy.

    Name a single country with a developed economy and a low carbon emissions (that does not rely heavily on hydro-electric generation)—just one, please. Several have tried... including Denmark, Germany and Spain.

    I predict Australia and the bulk of the world must still choose between economic ruin, a world where nuclear energy and renewables combine to eliminate our current addiction to fossil fuels or environmental devastation via climate change.

    As for the evil of three lessers… I’ll take nuclear energy & renewables. Yes, please.

    It may take years of severe drought, murderous fires, record rains or monster cyclones - but I remain confident in a nuclear Australia despite the crisis confronting Japan.

  9. Tell me why solar panels on each house/building would not be suffice? And don't give me the excuse about it being too costly. The current cost for solar is artificially inflated to stop it from becoming popular by large monopoly energy corporations.

    Central Australia is large and baron and collects plenty of sun light. Great spot for a national solar panel grid and it would be massively cheaper than a nuclear power plant.

    And quit with this 'carbon emission' crap. That is pure sophistry in order to confuse the laymen into thinking that CO2 destroys the environment and causes 'Global Warming'.

    I've already done the math for us. Solar panels on half our roof space (standard 3x2 home) would be more than enough to provide energy for our daily needs (stored in batteries of course).

    Nuclear = a radioactive Australia, with no economy due to a dead population.

    This nuclear disaster in Japan will leave that country uninhabitable. The spent fuel rods are now burning (they are OUTSIDE in the open air, not in containment) and spewing high radiation into the atmosphere.

  10. If one wanted to read the most redundant report of the decade then one need only read the suddenly quaint little paper entitled:

    Nuclear Power Plants and Earthquakes ('updated' January 2011)

    recently (but alas not quite recently enough) presented at the last World Nuclear Association meeting.

    This paper was prepared by a group calling themselves:

    Nuclear Services Section, External Affairs, ANSTO.

    This document (and it's authors) has taken less than 6 weeks to become the laughing stock of the nuclear industry (and the world if I start passing a few copies around)

    I'd be writing my letter of resignation right away.

    No more nice o/s junkets for these boys!

  11. PS: Loved the last bit on Tsunamis. A real hoot!

  12. It's redundant because even a person with low intellect knows Nuclear energy is dangerous - and that's without Mother Nature's help.

  13. Solar is too costly. If it were not, energy companies would install massive solar facilities - as you say - and sell the energy just like they do for any other generation technology.

    Yeah, the ANSTO report is pretty ironic to say the least. I have a general distrust of reports. They tend to be 'academic' in nature and often don't reflect reality [such as those that show renewables can save the plant and economy simultaneously].

    Nuclear Energy is not a zero risk endeavour - even a low intellect person will know that nothing in life ever is. I have never portrayed nuclear as a zero risk technology in this blog or elsewhere.

    One of the messages of this blog is that nuclear energy involves very low environmental, health, economic (i.e. total) risk compared with other energy options. If you disagree, provide an example... just one..

  14. Solar is the best for Australia. As I said it's artificially expensive due to the the government/energy sector out pricing it for profits. If the price was aligned with reality it would be perfect.

    Tell me, how much is it to build, run and maintain a nuclear power plant annually?

    Now, how much is it to build, run and maintain a solar panel grid annually?

    Due to the fact a solar panel grid has minimal moving parts one would assume it would be massively cheaper, even in today's economic climate, compared to nuclear and it is zero risk to personal and environmental health.

    The only people who want nuclear energy are those which have some sort of a kickback with it (energy sector/government - which are you?)

    Ironically, you'll notice largely the only countries in the world who, after this Japan crisis, confirmed they'd continue an aggressive push forward with nuclear energy where countries who produce nuclear weapons (China, Russia, France, US, UK).

    It is obvious that nuclear energy is merely propaganda to fuel the arms race.

  15. You'll also notice the world's highest greenhouse gas emitters are on that list. I interpret their recent statements as a commitment to cutting emissions and an acknowledgement (albeit reluctantly) that any serious effort to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration must include nuclear energy.

    As for the logic of your solar power pricing conspiracy, (which, as I understand it, involves the coordinated agreement of every nation on Earth) we will have to agree to disagree. I assume, since it is such a straightforward and effective solution, you've designed, built and installed solar panels on top of your own flat or house; and that you are enjoying a comfortably high standard of living, free from any of those evil utility connections.

  16. They are the biggest, most populated and most developed nations in the world so off course they are going to be the highest emitters. That doesn't justify nuclear reactors.

    The notion to reduce carbon dioxide and replace it with radiation is absurd and there is absolutely zero comparison (one aids life and the other kills it).

    Even if every 20-odd years there is was a radiation leak in just one reactor all the carbon dioxide which would be released in that same time by burning coal would still have far less impact on health and the environment than that one single leak.

    This current radiation leak in Japan dwarfs the carbon emissions floating around in the atmosphere today and will undoubtedly kill life in the many decades to come (possibly longer since reactor 3 uses MOX fuel AND there was ~18000 (~6000/reactor) spent fuel rods stored on top of the 3 blown reactors).

    Chevron (aka Standard Oil) is one of the very few energy companies and is a parent company the vast majority of energy companies so it wouldn't be too hard to collude.

    In the process of price shopping, so yes, that dream will be a reality in the coming months. ;)

  17. your coldness makes me shiver ..

    this catastrophic failure in japan .. is the end of carbon taxing .. you have no understanding whatsoever of the nature of consequence ..

    this is not a cloud of smoke son .. this is not a challenge for technical ego .. and this is not a debate .. and its not a fuckin game ..

  18. Consider some actual numbers.

    Roughly 25,000 deaths annually from coal power station exhaust alone according to the WHO;

    Routinely 10,000 deaths in Chinese coal mines alone every year;

    IPCC projections related to emissions impacts are routinely demonstrated to UNDERESTIMATE the actual situation.

    I don't want this to diminish the situation faced by the Japanese; but why are you so comfortable with mercury or airborne particulates from coal stations that have been SHOWN to be killing you? Why are so many Chinese lives so casually tossed aside?

    And, um - by the way... - who are the largest per-person emitters of coal emissions worldwide????


    I agree it's not a game. It's time to level the playing field and give each technology its due consideration.

    Nuclear remains the safest power production technology. I don't understand your claim of a failure in Japan. The plants were designed to protect people. In an extreme case, such as Fukushima Daiichi, that means the radiation barriers to function to protect the public. In Japan, the government wisely and correctly evacuated the public prior to the highest radiation peaks. Rad levels dropped very quickly and now seem to be stabilizing as the workers there regain control of the plants. Current levels are not all that high compared to levels that would impact one’s health. I’ve spent many, many hours (days?) in higher radiation fields during refuelling outages in my utility days, and I’m still kicking (much to your relief, no doubt).

    Considering what hit them, everyone - from the Japanese operators to the plant designers - have my utmost respect and high regard.

  19. The Chernobyl disaster was grossly underestimated also. Over 1 million deaths were attributed to it.

    Scrubbing technology in coal plants is effective in cleaning the emissions and there is other additional technology available to remove mercury particles.

    As I've said continuously - we should be using solar as our primary source of energy. Coal could be a tertiary, after wind.

    Nuclear is NOT the safest technology and I refuse to believe the Japanese government in their claims the reactor cores not being breached (actually, one day they report they have and the next they report they haven't).

    In fact, this just reported yesterday:

    This should be classed as a level 7 disaster (again, they are understating the criticality of this - probably to protect nuclear energy's already poor reputation).

    Quite frankly, you are deluded in thinking nuclear is safe and I'm sure you're one of these people who use the terms "nuclear" and "clean" in the same sentence and context.

    In fact, if you're so confident their reactors are safe and protecting the people as they should be why don't you volunteer and help clean up the mess. Take your garden hose with you - you'll need it.

  20. Your refusal to believe a fact does not make it untrue. The choice is yours, but if one bothers to investigate the details; it is clear that nuclear energy is the safest generation technology.

    Here's a reference for you to start with - from Sweden.

    Deluded or not, I would gladly work in or live next to a nuclear power plant - especially if my other options were to live ANYWHERE near a coal plant [you should check your sources on the capabilities of scrubbers as well].

    People continue to take ocean cruises despite the Titanic accident; Americans continue to fly after September 11; and Australians continue to live in the bush after Black Saturday. Those involved determined their need (to cruise, to fly, or to enjoy a country lifestyle) outweighed the risks.

    I am confident nuclear energy will enjoy a similarly balanced consideration. The consequences of any conceivable alternative are far more dire and widespread than the situation within 20 km of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear or beyond.

  21. I can say the same about you (re: refusal to believe facts about the dangers of nuclear energy).

    Solar, wind and hydro are far cleaner.

    "The health effects from hydro power, wind power and nuclear power are so small that, within the accuracy of the calculations, they could very well be given a value of 0"

    Pfft. nuclear energy can not be grouped with hydro and wind.

  22. I disagree - you have provided no facts, I see only uncorroborated opinion.

    We do agree on your final point. Nuclear can not be grouped with hydro and wind.

    While I am a very big fan of both - and support their deployment WITH nuclear energy - Hydro is not only dependent on way more water, but also on favourable topography and involves a much larger environmental footprint.

    Wind lacks nuclear's demonstrated reliability and is vulnerable to intense weather. Then there's intermittency, low capacity factor and wind's environmental footprint (land area and requirement for gas-powered backup until battery technology makes its way around the corner).

    Nuclear energy remains the wise technology choice - despite your generous serving of indignance.

  23. And you also have provided no proof and nothing but opinion.

    Bottom line is: Solar is king for Australia.

  24. Dirty, murderous, planet threatening coal is king in Australia.

  25. TEPCO and the nuclear agency said the height of a tsunami that submerged key functions at the Fukushima plant is believed to have reached 14 meters, much higher than the 5.7 meters that the utility had factored in before the disaster struck the power station.

  26. Thanks.

    The numbers I'd heard were different, but the ratio (~double design height) is the same.

    I also read the accelerations from the earthquake exceeded the plant design.

  27. "Dirty, murderous, planet threatening coal is king in Australia."


    Nuclear waste has to be stored for thousands of years. Yeah, that's clean. Lucky we have Ian Kiernan so he can help clean it up, eh?

  28. Nuclear waste poses risks and potential benefits via recycling. Please show me where I have ever claimed otherwise.

    The risks must be responsibly managed. After completing much R&D on the topic, authorities in Sweden recently submitted the license application for a final repository there.

    The WIPP facility in the USA has been in service for some time now.

    The challenges to nuclear waste management are political, not technical.

    I don’t understand the hypocrisy. I agree that nuclear energy is highly technical and involves certain risks. But coal and its little brother gas are doing serious, actual harm each and every year as mentioned above.

    In Australia, the fossil fuel industry is expanding and as long as people pin their hopes on a nuclear-free, no/low carbon energy strategy, it will continue to do so. That’s hypocrisy.

  29. "The challenges to nuclear waste management are political, not technical."

    Right, because no one in their right mind wants radioactive waste buried in the country.

    You're a hypocrite because on the one hand you condemn coal for being dirty but support nuclear (which is worse!).

    Every single person (e.g. the regular people of Australia) I know doesn't want coal, they want solar, wind and hydro. Coal is the last option and that comes well before nuclear.

  30. Question 1. What percentage of the atmosphere do you think is CO2?
    Question 2. Have you ever seen the percentage given in any media?
    Question 3. What percentage of the CO2 is man-made?
    Question 4. What percentage of the man-made CO2 does Australia produce?
    Question 5. Is CO2 is a pollutant?
    Question 6. Have you ever seen any evidence that CO2 causes a greenhouse

    Find the answers here:

  31. Answer 1. Per measurements (available at the top of this site) the percentage is a bit more than 0.039%.

    Answer 2. Can't say that I have.

    Answer 3. About 28%.

    Answer 4. About 1.5%

    Answer 4b. Australia's population is 0.31 % of total world population, so we're setting an embarrassing high and unsustainable example.

    Answer 5. The vast majority of scientists held in high regard within the broader scientific community agree that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and the current rate of their emission pose serious challenges for the planet. So I'd say - yes - carbon dioxide is a pollutant. Life is equally threatened by too little or too much.

    Answer 6. Yes.

    I FULLY support a carbon tax for Australia with all proceeds returned to Australians in equal shares (half shares for children, up to a maximum of 2 per household).

  32. Carbon tax is a fraud. Global Warming is a fraud. Nuclear Energy is a fraud. Nuclear Australia is a puppet.

  33. So... while we may disagree from a policy perspective, I will conclude that you technically accept my answers.

  34. I accept the answers from the web site, not yours.

  35. Coal stations in the US release more radiation into the atmosphere n a year than the 3 mile incident.
    Solar power will not work, wind is better. But with renewable harvest style energy collection you need 2 times the power generation to ensure sufficent supply, increased distribution capacity etc.
    The latest solar plant in the US 350mw or so has 14000 helostats each tracks the sun that is 14000 moving assemblies (with lots of parts)and each needs to be cleaned very regularly.
    Solar produces power on a bell curve determined by the amount of atmosphere the light has to pass through.
    Solar will produce 4kwh for every kw of production capacity per day any other form i.e. coal, gas, nuclear, hydro (mostly demand supply) will produce 24 kwh, so solar will need to have 6 times the instantaneous capacity + extra to account for storage and recovery losses. the storage tech does not exist. We dont have the need to burn all that could be produced.
    Solar is to weak 150w or so per 1m^2 NSW 1800 mw of generation capacity = 12 square km, * 6 = 72 square km + capacity to recharge storage in say 2 days = based on a storage of 5 days (for adverse conditions) = 72 * 5 /2 = 180 kmsq. not to mention the Mt of batteries required to store the energy.
    Solar and wind just don't add up in our society, if we are will to change or life style to that of say Indonesia renewable s will work- but most of them don't have a fridge.
    If you are considering conspiracy from coal and oil industry against renewable, you could say the same about nuclear bad press.
    Solar panels require 7 years of their max output to recover the coal energy used to manufacture them.
    Most people I talk to want cheap reliable power and are happy with nuclear quick survey at work 10 people all for nuclear.
    Sad fact is that all the tech has been around for 60 odd years (wind, solar, nuclear, wave, geothermal, tidal) nothing but a marginal improvement in effiecncy of around 1-5%.
    Solar works at day
    Wind work if wind is neither to slow or to fast and geological conditions exist.
    Geothermal works where geological conditions are suitable.
    Tidal works most of the time but output is variable (highest at mid tide) and requires suitable location.
    Wave works when there are waves.
    We need a interim solution between coal and truly clean energy sources. It is dreaming to expect current clean tech to do the job.
    Mother Nature is far more dangerous than nuclear will ever be.

  36. may i ask, do you think that nuclear power is the future source of energy?

  37. Of course you may ask.

    The carbon and other toxic emissions from coal use pose significantly more human health and environmental risk to the world than nuclear power. Other fossil fuels involve risk as well.

    Therefore I support the continued introduction and expanded use of nuclear energy until coal can be phased out and other fossil fuel use reduced to the point where global carbon-equivalent emissions are below 80% of 1990 levels.

    I do NOT think it is reasonable to expect nuclear energy to achieve this on its own. Therefore I also strongly support the introduction and expanded use of other no/low emissions (renewable) generation technologies, conservation and efficiency programmes in parallel with the increasing use of nuclear energy as explained above.