Friday, August 10, 2012

19. Three Different Nuclear Topics

1. Mihama anniversary (2004)
Prior to today, I had never heard of the August 9, 2004 event at Mihama Unit 3 in Kansai Province in Japan. If I were a Flow Accelerated Corrosion (FAC) specialist, I probably would have. The really short (I refrain from saying condensed) story is that a condensate pipe was not being tested regularly enough, the wall thinned, and the pipe ruptured while workers were in the vicinity. Very sadly, this event took the lives of some 5 workers.

I normally like to remain upbeat and positive on this blog, but I am bringing up this event for a specific reason. A few nights ago (8/7/12), I simply retweeted an article about communities loving living near nuclear power plants (my Twitter). That retweet ended up causing an anti-nuclear Twit(?) to tweet that I was spreading propaganda and peddling deception. I bring up the Mihama anniversary simply to show that the nuclear power industry is actually rather transparent, and actively shares lessons learned. Click on the link I included at the top of this post to find plenty of information and lessons learned about the Mihama incident (and learn more about FAC, if you so desire).

Alternatively, the anti-nuclear Twitterer never did fulfill what I thought was a polite request either for a link or simply for a search term so that I could try to learn something about their claim of having lived near a nuclear plant that experienced a catastrophic failure. Without any further information, I have no place to even begin a search to find out more about some past mistakes to be sure to avoid.

Who's the one peddling the deception? There was no hiding of the deaths and injuries of those unfortunate workers at Mihama Unit 3, and there is also no hiding of any negative health effects resulting from radiation from Fukushima Daiichi.

The fear of radiation has significantly greater negative health effects (contributing to something around 761 deaths) than the low doses of radiation that could be received from the Fukushima incident itself (zero deaths so far, and none in the future that will be distinguishable from the cancer rates from all other factors). Also, I highly recommend this article about anti-nuclear advocates peddling excessive and unwarranted fear of low level radiation. Anti-nuclear advocates have done far more harm than they have ever prevented, both to economies by way of decreased nuclear power production and to the environment via the resulting higher levels of fossil fuel use.

Putting on my optimist hat, this claiming of victory is probably actually premature. I think this ruling will end up applying sufficient pressure to finally stop the perpetual kicking of the can down the road on the nuclear “waste” issue, finally resolving this perceived issue. The spent fuel issue has, in reality, been a hurdle to building new nuclear power generation. Once an actual decision is made on fulfilling the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA), at least a slight uptick in interest in new nuclear builds in America should follow. 

The  NWPA states that the Department of Energy (DOE) is to take custody of spend nuclear fuel. Rather than the DOE simply being a charitable organization, the idea was that the funding for the DOE's handling of the Spent Nuclear Fuel was to be paid for via a very meager tax on each kilowatt-hour of nuclear power that has been sold over a number of years. If I remember correctly, something in the neighborhood of $25 BILLION has so far been collected for this purpose. 

In reality, nuclear waste from power generation isn’t actually a problem. The high level waste that is the crux of the issue is PARTIALLY spent nuclear fuel. This spent (and future) fuel is in solid form (with some gaseous fission products embedded within the solid fuel rods). Solid wastes are easy to contain since solids, by definition, do not flow. The ash ponds at the Kingston Fossil Plant, alternatively, were in basically a slurry form. Other fossil fuel waste products are mostly in gaseous form and are freely dumped to the atmosphere as part of NORMAL OPERATION. Containing these is very difficult. Many estimates have placed the toll of these coal plant emissions in the neighborhood of 25,000 premature deaths per year, just in the U.S. (for everyday operation of the facilities).

Here is a further explanation on the decision, from the NRC's official blog.

3. Ben Heard Aussie Nuclear Debate
I highly recommend listening to this 9 and a half minute introduction to a debate held recently in Australia. I hope to find time in the near future, between my active role in adding actual new nuclear power generation, to be able to listen to the entire debate.

Rod Adams had a nice write-up about this debate at his blog.

I apologize for my lack of recent posting, and will try to do a better job of writing up some thoughts on a more regular basis.