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In september I wrote This summers incident at Forsmark. I have been meaning to make a follow-up both I was to busy when it all went down in january.

Instead you will get the shorter comment version. All is from my memory, so it might be incomplete and/or have faulty details. Timeline as I remember it:

  1. There was an incident at the nuclear plant in Forsmark in july. (Described in This summers incident at Forsmark)
  2. Investigations were made and lots of comforting sounds were made from Vattenfall, the governmentally owned company in charge.
  3. An internal report was leaked to a journalist, who made a television show that was aired in january.
  4. The bosses of the branch at Forsmark were replaced and I think IAEA has been asked to assist in a full investigation.

The essens of the leaked report was that the incident was due to a lax take on security that had evovled through a deteriorating safety culture. This had gone on for years. As I remember it, it also more or less concluded that it was mostly dumb luck that it did not become a melt-down.

The atomic energy inspektion apparently also had got lax, because they were neither familiar with the report or what it described. Their representative looked quite shocked when he read the report.

The local head honcho politician on the other hand did not care about the report but declared the plant "200% safe". After being pressed on the issue of the information she claimed that it can cause panic to let people know of problems and therefore information needs to be controlled.

And I think this incident and its aftermath points at the longterm problems of keeping it safe. As long as nothing happens the watchdogs can fall asleep, perhaps lulled by each others snoring. This time they were awaken by a non-deadly incident, some employees with the sense to leak the report and a journalist not afraid to tackle the issues. And I fully expect some measures to be taken, and swedish nuclear power and inspections to be great the coming years.

Maybe the binary nature of nuclear incidents (nothing happened / KA-BLAMA) makes safety regulations trickier.

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by A swedish kind of death on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 07:29:49 PM EST
mostly dumb luck that it did not become a melt-down  

When Browns Ferry caught fire, lost all control systems, and came withing 30 minutes of a complete meltdown in 1975, it was the "safest reactor design" in America.  And really, the design engineers themselves were surprised--but they hadn't counted on a fire burning the insulation off BOTH sets of (the redundant) control systems.  

Three Mile Island is more famous.  A third of the core actually was destroyed, although the last minute restoration of cooling prevented the rest from melting through.  

It is hard to maintain elaborate safety proceedures over prolonged periods of time (decades) especially if they cost money.  

What you call the binary nature of failure is an important point that may deserve more emphasis.  Annecdote:  I am reading a book on arcitechtural materials and get to the part where it describes that glass is never used as a structural material.  While I am thinking, yeah? so? I read on:  Glass is both stronger and cheaper than steel, can be conveniently shaped, on and on, really, it is better than anything, just ideal!--except:  When a glass structure fails, it almost always fails without warning.  One moment it is (looks) fine, the next it is collapsing completely and catastrophically.  So:  Despite its many attractions, architects just don't use glass for load bearing-parts.  

Which is a long way of saying:  Some technologies simply cannot be used.  Despite any, perhaps many, benefits there is no wisdom to it.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 12:08:35 AM EST
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The interesting aspect of the Browns Ferry fire is that an intervention succeeded in shutting down the reactor.  The incident has been studied in depth and information applied to making nuclear plants safe.

The NRC made sure that all insulation in every plant is fireproof.

How about a little indignation about the 24,000 deaths per year caused by coal combustion in the US as well as the hundreds of thousands of cases of lung and heart disease?  Where's the outrage?

Without new nuclear plants, many more fossil fuel plants are going to be built to meet growing electricity demand.

by Plan9 on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 01:31:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The local head honcho politician on the other hand did not care about the report but declared the plant "200% safe". After being pressed on the issue of the information she claimed that it can cause panic to let people know of problems and therefore information needs to be controlled.

Four words: unfit for public service.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 05:36:26 AM EST
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