Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Display:
My impression - from understanding gathered along the way, not from deliberate study, and that's an important disclaimer - is that nuclear technology was often in the past attempting to move ahead faster than its ability to provide full security. It began (and continues) as a military technology, and testing in the postwar decades showed little or no regard for the environment and human life and health (see American testing in the US SW and the Pacific, French in the Pacific, USSR in Kazakh SSR). Civil nuclear came into being in the context of that arms race, with military researchers and engineers providing the know-how. This isn't to say they were slipshod or had no security concerns, but I don't think they were, 40 years ago, better able to get on top of an out-of-control accident than now.

TEPCO has certainly shown ineptitude, and this may be linked to its being a private company concerned with profit. It may also be linked with sheer force of habit over the decades producing a culture in which the thought of major risk has gone out of currency. All the same, if the quake and tsunami had happened early in the life of Fukushima Dai-ichi, the outcome would have been probably similarly catastrophic, because the station just wasn't planned for so much havoc.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Mar 31st, 2011 at 05:35:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
@afew

Feral Scholar » Blog Archive » Nuclear Power - A Really Bad Idea

Then Reagan started the sabre-rattling and eventually invaded Grenada. When he was reëlected in 1984, I'd had enough. I fought for and won an honorable discharge as a conscientious objector -- not an easy task for someone who'd volunteered (and reënlisted). Of course, after I got out -- owing the government a large amount of money -- the only real marketable skill I had involved nuclear reactors. But many of my shipmates had gone on to work in civilian facilities and the horror stories I'd heard were frightening. Besides, I'd already concluded that nuclear power was a very bad idea, even when cost was no object. To try to make a profit off it? Insane. I was having none of it.

One of the things that not many people know is that the Navy's reactors are designed in a fail-safe (sort of) manner such that if the coolant temperature rises, the rate of fission decreases. This provides a negative feedback that helps to maintain temperatures and power levels. It's self-regulating. Civilian power plants, which are much, much larger than the Navy's small reactors, are designed such that higher coolant temperatures mean higher rates of fission, which heats the coolant further, creating a feed-forward loop with a tendency to run away. How stupid can you get? I mean, really... how utterly imbecilic can you get?

I have long maintained that nuclear power is the stupidest idea humans have ever had. Frankly, it's not even arguable, and anyone who says otherwise is either selling something, or a seriously-deluded "true believer." I think the real function of nuclear "power" is to allow nuclear weapons lovers to pretend that there are "peaceful" benefits to splitting the atom.



'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Mar 31st, 2011 at 07:14:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
melo:
I have long maintained that nuclear power is the stupidest idea humans have ever had. Frankly, it's not even arguable, and anyone who says otherwise is either selling something, or a seriously-deluded "true believer." I think the real function of nuclear "power" is to allow nuclear weapons lovers to pretend that there are "peaceful" benefits to splitting the atom.
Straw men are nice.

So, in what may be my last act of "advising", I'll advise you to cut the jargon. -- My old PhD advisor, to me, 26/2/11
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 31st, 2011 at 08:33:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
melo:
One of the things that not many people know is that the Navy's reactors are designed in a fail-safe (sort of) manner such that if the coolant temperature rises, the rate of fission decreases.

Heh. That's (sort of) true for BWR as well.

by generic on Thu Mar 31st, 2011 at 01:04:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Both PWR's and BWR's are like that, and it's called negative void coefficent. Having a positive one is very bad, as in an exponentially accelerating nuclear reaction when the core heats up. That's what happened at Chernobyl. The core went from 1000 MW to 1000 GW in a fraction of a second, blowing everything to hell.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Thu Mar 31st, 2011 at 03:43:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the things that not many people know is that the Navy's reactors are designed in a fail-safe (sort of) manner such that if the coolant temperature rises, the rate of fission decreases. This provides a negative feedback that helps to maintain temperatures and power levels. It's self-regulating. Civilian power plants, which are much, much larger than the Navy's small reactors, are designed such that higher coolant temperatures mean higher rates of fission, which heats the coolant further, creating a feed-forward loop with a tendency to run away. How stupid can you get? I mean, really... how utterly imbecilic can you get?

That's not true... It was true of Chernobyl, but BWRs such as those in Fukushima have a negative void coefficient.

Part of the reason for this is that water acts as a moderator, slowing down neutrons and thus aiding the reaction. If water becomes so hot to turn to steam, the moderation is lost and the reaction slows down because the neutrons are too fast and leave the core before reacting.

So, in what may be my last act of "advising", I'll advise you to cut the jargon. -- My old PhD advisor, to me, 26/2/11

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 31st, 2011 at 04:27:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Display:

Occasional Series