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I'd like this to be a place for serious discussion of nuclear power, especially as Germany's actions have made it an international issue (as if Fukushima didn't). I'd also like to see the latest science, news, and even speculation, find free reign hier.

And i'd like to see if diametrically opposed positions can find a way to discuss without dissing. And i'd especially like to see whether and how pro-nuclear people now view their industry, and how they adjust to this, should i say?, unmitigated disaster?

methinks Japan is fucked. are there other views? methinks the damage might have wider effects than Japan.

Thinking it through, i wanted to have a discussion about the technology, the economics, the social policy... without resorting to a discussion of the biological effects of low-level radiation.

But that's wishful thinking, you can't separate the two.

So on with it, please.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Jun 10th, 2011 at 03:55:27 PM EST
No, seriously, i miss the threads where we parsed the latest data, and they've been missing the past two weeks or more. I mean, so iodine's got a short half-life, does that mean the news dries up?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Jun 10th, 2011 at 04:05:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's been missing for 4 weeks, actually...

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 02:42:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Japan Earthquake Registered Only 6.67 - Nuclear Induced Tsunami - Japan Offers Iran Enriched Uranium - An Act of War? - Japan: Knife At Its Throat : Abel Danger

2. Reactor 4 is building 7, demolished by explosives. [爆発物によって破壊された] Reactor 4 had been defueled and was undergoing replacement of it's internal stainless steel shroud, yet blew it's containment anyway. That is the FINAL smoking gun, an empty reactor is inert, and cannot produce an explosion, yet one happened at 4 that was so powerful it destroyed the structure leaving it in danger of falling over. Overheated open fuel pools cannot produce hydrogen because in an open fuel pool the water boils off at 100 Celsius, and won't be present in pressurized form at 2,000 degrees Celsius to liberate it's hydrogen by losing it's oxygen to the zircon cladding in the fuel rods. The rods will prefer the free oxygen in the air and burn long before attempting to claim the oxygen in whatever humidity there might be. The fact that the rods can catch fire only enforces the fact that they cannot release hydrogen in open air the way they can in a reactor. If you entertain the fantasy that they could, another problem against buildup presents itself - the hydrogen would be safely burned the moment it was created on the surface of the superheated rods. There would be no buildup. Fuel rods are many orders of magnitude below incapable of going supercritical also, even if totally melted down. The explosion at #4 was flatly impossible.

Reactor 4's dome was removed for defueling. Drone photos prove it. This dispels the rumors surrounding unit 4's explosion. Some people have said that this reactor was secretly in operation to enrich plutonium. This photo proves it was disassembled for shroud replacement as stated. Tepco is going out of it's way trying to explain the explosions, especially at reactor 4, because they did indeed occur, so an explanation is needed. As a result, they are giving reasons that cannot happen, just to say something.

have fun debunking, science wonks!

'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 Mon Jun 13th, 2011 at 08:52:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just the title is hilarious... regarding the No. 4 hydrogen explosion, see upthread.

Overheated open fuel pools cannot produce hydrogen because in an open fuel pool the water boils off at 100 Celsius, and won't be present in pressurized form at 2,000 degrees Celsius to liberate it's hydrogen by losing it's oxygen to the zircon cladding in the fuel rods.The rods will prefer the free oxygen in the air and burn long before attempting to claim the oxygen in whatever humidity there might be.

Just to piece together all that has been mixed up above:

  • 2,000°C was the estimated maximum temperature of exposed fuel rods in the core of some of the reactors, not the reaction temperature of steam;
  • the zircalloy cladding starts reacting with water below 800°C,
  • unlike zirconium powder, zircalloy cladding will not burn (it will oxidise alright, but will not ignite even at melting temperature),
  • pressure is less relevant to reaction rate than density, and less density doesn't mean no reaction just slower reaction,
  • water evaporating from the pool and rising up in it is very well present to react with the fuel rods,
  • however, the current theory abiout the origin of the exploded hydrogen is no more the spent fuel pool (its evaporation wasn't as dramatic by the time of the explosion), but hydrogen from No. 3: the venting pipes of both No. 3 and No. 4 unite and exit into the same exhaust stack, thus part of the hydrogen exiting No. 3 could  flow 'in reverse' into No. 4.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jun 13th, 2011 at 09:31:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What latest data are we going to parse if, as you say in the diary, there's "scarcity of news"?

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 02:43:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's gone off the media radar. What sources do we have to, (bad pun alert), keep it on the boil?

This is a call for sources - who knows where we can continue to put together the Fukushima picture?

Otherwise, I was thinking of a post on the consequences for the nuclear industry in terms of risk assessment and costs. I'm not sure what can yet be said with any certainty, but I've posted and reposted this recent piece by Paul Gipe:

Nuclear power is expensive and uninsurable | Grist

The detailed study considered three forms of ownership: merchant plant, investor-owned utility, and publicly owned utility. Merchant plants are built to serve deregulated markets and assume a high degree of market risk. They may not be able to sell all their electricity at any one time if their price is too high. Investor-owned utilities are the traditional private companies serving a regulated market. In California, Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison are investor-owned. Publicly owned utilities are municipal utilities, like SMUD. Publicly owned utilities pay fewer taxes and have access to lower cost financing than either investor-owned utilities or merchant plants.

The CEC's 186-page report, "Comparative Costs of California Central Station Electricity Generation" [PDF], found that a 1,000-megawatt pressurized water reactor would generate electricity in 2018 from as little as $0.17 per kilowatt-hour to as much as $0.34 per kilowatt-hour. These results are startling: Most renewable technologies today, even solar photovoltaics (PV), generate electricity for less than that. Only a municipal utility could generate nuclear electricity for less than the cost of solar PV.

Currently, Germany pays between $0.31 and $0.41 per kilowatt-hour for electricity from solar PV, which means that the cost of solar-generated electricity today is equivalent to the cost estimated by the CEC for a nuclear plant beginning operation in 2018. And all observers, even critics, expect the cost of solar PV to continue declining during the next decade.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 08:36:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Paul called me a few weeks ago, and we discussed Germany. Glad he's staying on the case.

California under Brown (again!) will try to lead the way in amurka, and they're paying attention to what goes on here in 'Schland.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 10:38:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
NHK World is still carrying Fukushima stories.

Obviously as the official news source there's some filtering.

But there does still seem to be real news about events at the plant.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 10:59:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well theres still the odd piece coming out of NHK World

and physics forums has a long running thread which has most of the links, if you can cope with the arguments about wobbly walls or whether a reactor floor equipment piece is here or there on individual photos.

and there's also a  couple of other threads in the same place on politics and business effects of the earthquake and reactor problems

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 11:12:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well at one point the Japanese government took over all press dealings from TEPCO, and they stopped a) giving out press releases in anything other than Japanese and b) inviting any non Japanese media to press conferences, since when people have been  trying to work out what is happening mainly from raw data in the Japanese releases, which appears to be too hard work for many journalists.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 11:17:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]

methinks Japan is fucked. are there other views?

Not from me.  Japan, as a people and a nation, is destroyed.  It will take a while to play out, but their fate is sealed.  

methinks the damage might have wider effects than Japan.  
 
The end of western Pacific fishing is an obvious concern.  From there, the spreading destruction of fisheries throughout the world.  More immediately, Japan's industrial system will enter decline/collapse, and the supply of key high-tech components for the world economy will be disrupted.  Globalization is already coming apart, and Japan is now accelerating the process.  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 08:43:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dude, whatever you do, don't go easy on those superlatives. Fukushima is worse than TMI and far less bad than Chernobyl. Maybe on par with Windscale? And still, the Ukrainians, Americans and Brits are all still there. So will the Japanese. Seriously.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 01:46:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dude, whenever someone states an opinion that begins with dude...

how about trying to make a real argument. on whose scale is Fukushima less than Chernobyl?  As the international body has already declared them equal, you might be on shaky footing, even if i don't give much credibility to the international agency myself.

And how about first discovering whether there's been any damage to the Ukrainians still there? (PS, Belorussia got it worse.) With so much statistic and science currently in dispute, and enough evidence about official lack of desire for real data, you might need to tone down your arguments... Dude.

Let's try to shelve the arrogance and technical hubris for the sake of this discussion.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 01:58:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The lastest numbers I saw, Fukushima was 10 % of the release of Chernobyl. Furthermore, most of it went out so sea where it is eventually diluted so much it disappears in the background radiation. There seem to be some ground contamination and hot spots in areas around the plants, but calling it the end of Japan as a country or people is just ludicrous.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 02:42:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can we see the last numbers you saw? If, according to you, you have better information, share it.

And yes, drop the dude stuff.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 03:02:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry for the snappishness guys. No insult intended. It's just that catastrophism on that scale leaves me entirely exasperated. If I truly believed in the destruction of the people and nation of Japan, I'd be going to the bank, maxing out my mortage and shorting Japanese government bonds. I hope none of you are doing that, because Japan as a nation and a people will be fine, and I wouldn't like you to lose your savings.

I'm sorry to say I can't recall exactly where I saw the data on the total radioactive emissions. It was somewhere in the mainstream media and was probably linked to here on the ET. That's the best I can do right now.

And the sea is big. It's already full of molten down submarine reactors, and no harm done that anyone can even detect. If we wanted to we could grind all the nuclear waste in the world to microscopic dust and slowly disperse it in the oceans, without even noticing any uptick in the background radioation as it over time would spread evenly. Not that I argue for such a measure, for a number of reasons, but still.

Make no mistake: the Fukushima accident is the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. But it's not the end of Japan, nor is it likely to be dangerous outside the exclusion zone (60 km, right?). Indeed, excepting unlucky hotspots and the plant site itself, the area inside the zone will be safe in not too long a time, if it not already is that. The vast majority of the emissions happened during the first few days of the accident, and most of the activity naturally comes from the elements with the shortest half-lifes, which have already decayed or are in the process of decaying. Soil contamination from radioactive iodine and strontium will be the lasting damage to hot spots and the plant sites, as they have a half-life short enough to be dangerous and long enough to hang around for considerable time spans.

This is bad, but Goodzilla aint in Tokyo.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 04:45:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I truly believed in the destruction of the people and nation of Japan, I'd be going to the bank, maxing out my mortage and shorting Japanese government bonds.

Has it ever occurred to you that it might be morally questionable to profit from the death of a country and its inhabitants?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 05:33:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't be uneconomic.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 05:43:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be making the Market (tm) more Efficient (tm). Joking aside, if you are dead certain that the price of a security will move in a certain way which isn't discounted by the market, it'd be foolish not to exploit that as long you're not breaking any laws. You could always donate the profit to those 120 million Japanese refugees we supposedly should be expecting.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 05:50:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I truly believed in the destruction of the people and nation of Japan, I'd be going to the bank, maxing out my mortage and shorting Japanese government bonds.

Has it ever occurred to you that it might be morally questionable to profit from the death of a country and its inhabitants?

He would not be.

He would be separating some sucker in the bond market from his money. That transaction hasn't a hill of beans to do with the situation in Japan. They might as well be two croupiers in Vegas for all anybody in the real world would care.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 05:58:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ps. I meant cesium and strontium, not iodine.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 05:52:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the area inside the zone will be safe

By "safe", do you mean below radiation level limits? The problem with this is the probabilistic nature of damage from low-level radiation, combined with large populations. If, say, the Fukushima fallout over northern Japan beyond the exclusion zone causes an excess cancer death rate of one in a thousand over an area inhabited by 10 million people, that's still 10,000 victims. This is a certain effect of uncertain magnitude, unfortunately with uncertainties in the orders of magnitudes. (This didn't keep the authors of the Russian Academy of Sciences study on Chernobyl to also estimate the dead from Chernobyl fallout across Western Europe and North America in the hundreds of thousands.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 10:44:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And 10,000 victims will not bring down the nation of Japan.

It is, for example, a smaller total impact than the cancer epidemic from the chemical industry, which has failed to taken down any national economies to date. Indeed, it could be fewer than the lives Japan saves relative to the US by its less intensive reliance on driving private vehicles.

The set of "bad things, but not an existential threat to the continued existence of a national economy" is one with a quite wide range.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 11:53:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(This is where macro-economics fails to capture the phenomena.)

Depends on who the 10,000 is ... doesn't it?  Only (about) 3% of a nation's population is Creative Class where the rubber-meets-the-future.  In some industrial areas we're talking tens of people who have the knowledge and ability to drive the R&D to successful products.  

Example:

Fukushima was the leading global center for digital camera research and development.  With these people dead, missing, or running away from radioactivity the entire digital camera industry is falling from the grasp of the Japanese.  If it get away from them, they won't get it back; they will always be behind the curve.  

Same basic process happened to Motorola and is happening to Nokia in the mobile telephony business.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 12:11:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And there you have in a nutshell the difference between what hit Fukushima itself and what would happen as a result of 10,000 distributed fairly randomly across 10million.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 04:18:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since the numbers for both disasters remain in dispute, particularly Fukushima, and this one remains ongoing, a bit of caution in any assertion might be in order.

in fact, since the levels reported by TEPCO/Ministry have continued to change over time, and we also know they didn't report the melt throughout until months after they knew, how much should we trust any figures?

do we have any idea of what's happening to the water table?

but assume you're correct, and it's only 10% poisonous, is that then a safe level?

diluted in the sea? right, the oceans are a neutral absorber, particularly in sushi land.

And what if the statistics from the Pacific Northwest turn out to be viable, that infant mortality has already increased?

PS. There's nothing wrong with modern usage of Dude, just that what works in conversation doesn't work in print.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 03:55:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The lastest numbers I saw, Fukushima was 10 % of the release of Chernobyl.

Nuclear fuel has melted through base of Fukushima plant - Telegraph

In early April, the agency said some 370,000 terabecquerels escaped from the facility. It now believes that figure was 770,000 terabecquerels.

That's now 15% (and the origial figure was more like 7%). Interestingly, another government agency got out a number closer to the current NISA figure based on the emissions:

Fukushima nuke crisis upgraded to '7'

According to the agency, the total amount of iodine-131 and cesium-137 emitted between March 11 and at 11am Tuesday reached 370,000 terabecquerels according to the reactors' estimated condition. Within this assessment, cesium levels were converted to their equivalent in iodine-131 levels.

The Cabinet office's nuclear safety commission, meanwhile, announced Tuesday that the total amount of iodine and cesium emitted between March 11 and April 5 was 630,000 terabecquerels (again, with cesium levels converted to the iodine equivalent), calculated according to the amount of radiation observed around the facility.

...In the Chernobyl crisis, about 5.2 million terabecquerels of radioactive material was emitted into the air in the space of 10 days.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 10:29:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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