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Alabama Nuclear Reactor Gets 'F' Grade

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the better-than-an-incomplete dept.

Power 436

GatorSnake writes "The US federal government issued a rare red finding against an Alabama nuclear power plant after an emergency cooling system failure. 'In an emergency, the failure of the valve could have meant that one of the plant's emergency cooling systems would not have worked as designed (PDF).' Does this further erode the argument that Fukushima was just an isolated incident in the 'modern' nuclear power age?"

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Yes (2, Insightful)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104220)

Next Question!

Re:Yes (2)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104226)

After it melts down, can I microwave my HotPockets on the scattered chunks of radioactive concrete?

Re:Yes (5, Insightful)

Shadow99_1 (86250) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104290)

All nuclear plants are not created equal. The far far bigger problem is continuing to use early reactor designs past their end of life! It's like a 30 year old car that has not spent those years in a garage. It needs considerable work to stay usable, often to the point of requiring it to be rebuilt. Well the same thing holds true to nuclear plants, but we just don't spend that sort of money renovating the old ones. So they start to fail. How much effort is actually required to have severe problems is rather interesting, but I for on do not expect them to simply keep working.

We should have continued building and updating designs over the last 30 or 40 years, but anti-nuclear nuts have left us all pretty damn screwed.

Re:Yes (1, Troll)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104340)

We should have continued building and updating designs over the last 30 or 40 years, but anti-nuclear nuts have left us all pretty damn screwed.

Ah, the familiar mating cry of the pro-nuclear lobbyist.

Come to me babies! I want to screw you (for 20,000 years).

Re:Yes (-1, Troll)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104618)

We should have continued building and updating designs over the last 30 or 40 years, but anti-nuclear nuts have left us all pretty damn screwed.

Ah, the familiar mating cry of the pro-nuclear lobbyist.

Come to me babies! I want to screw you (for 20,000 years).

Ah, the familiar mating cry of the Luddite.

Re:Yes (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104342)

It isn't just the "nuclear nuts", though they probably haven't improve the R&D supply. Properly decommissioning a plant, especially one that really deserves it, is not inexpensive, and turns a reasonably profitable(once the construction/startup expenses have been amortized or written off) baseline unit into a big cost center. There is, thus, a strong built in incentive to keep patching and running as long as possible. Best case, you can continue to use the plant as a generating asset. Worst case, if you've had to make a number of repairs that compromise capacity, it may well still be cheaper to keep the lights on and the plant "operating" than it is to tear it down.

Run-to-Failure (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104638)

Though the NRC denies it at every turn, this is why it is basically a run-to-failure organization. Instead of replacing power plants before they degrade, the NRC expects maintenance to do what it can't.

Re:Yes (3, Insightful)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104362)

All nuclear plants are not created equal.

This is obviously true, but (car analogies aside) "the argument that Fukushima was just an isolated incident in the 'modern' nuclear power age" is meaningless. Each and every incident is isolated. Whether or not they can be collectively assumed to make some sort of judgement on the safety of nuclear power depends more on your point of view, which will usually remain unchanged.

Re:Yes (5, Insightful)

Nomaxxx (1136289) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104554)

We should have continued building and updating designs over the last 30 or 40 years, but anti-nuclear nuts have left us all pretty damn screwed.

Blaming anti-nuclear people for the lack of upgrades/maintenance of existing nuclear plants is wrong.

The real problem is that energy companies don't allocate enough money to that matter. As long as it works and produces energy, they keep maintenance to a minimum level to maximize profits.

Re:Yes (2)

he-sk (103163) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104600)

... anti-nuclear nuts have left us all pretty damn screwed.

Um, no.

1. Up-to-date designs don't matter shit if operators decide to skip regular maintenance and fake the protocols.
2. Plants that are designed with the state of the art in mind today WILL become obsolete in 10, 50, 100 years at which point greedy operators will push to continue their operation and corrupt politicians will gladly oblige.

It's nuclear nuts who keep insisting on pushing a technology that is not needed, incredibly complex to operate, and has catastrophic results when (not if) something goes wrong.

Re:Yes (3, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104620)

Well, yes. The anti-nuclear nuts prevented the construction of more nuclear plants. But the fact that we still use the old existing reactors has nothing to do with the anti-nuclear lobby.

It's ordinary economics. Profitability. A management has two choices:
1. Keep running the plant. As long as maintenance doesn't become too expensive, that's means income and profit.
2. Shut down, and take it down. That's awfully expensive.

Which of the two would you choose, if you had some shareholders breathing down your neck?

No. Do the homework, build prototypes. (2)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104676)

but anti-nuclear nuts have left us all pretty damn screwed.

Which ones? The Banks or the Governments? Nobody else had any say remember. Those damned kids and their dog/hippies/whatever got no say at all in actual reality.
Also remember that it was two very strong nuclear power advocates that knew the science that ended up winding up the government run commercial nuclear programs in the UK and USA - Thatcher and Carter. You do the R&D until you can design something good and THEN you build it. Westinghouse and similar leeches instead spent far more money since the 1970s on lobbying to build TMI painted green at the taxpayers expense instead of doing R&D. That has left the civilian nuclear technology in the USA a decade or two behind even South Africa - a pebble bed design based on the work in South Africa is being deployed in China. Those who will argue that a modern US design is getting built in China are wrong because the technology was developed by Toshiba.
I've got no idea why some loud nuclear advocates like to pretend it's a solved problem that never needs to be improved. That's a very stupid and counterproductive attitude and that has left many of them arguing for things that were shown to be useless in the 1970s and completely ignorant of promising new developments that actually have some merit.

Yes, if you're a simpleton, No if you're not (5, Insightful)

phayes (202222) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104412)

Much like for a teacher who only gives out A's being a phoney, having a review hand out a failing grade give me more confidence in the system. It shows that the USG is not glossing over problems.

No (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104512)

Next Question!

Isolated? (2)

El Pollo Loco (562236) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104230)

Does this further erode the argument that Fukushima was just an isolated incident in the 'modern' nuclear power age?"
Modernity is irrelevant when the contracts go to the lowest bidder, who also cut costs in the name of profit.

Re:Isolated? (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104254)

Modernity is irrelevant when the contracts go to the lowest bidder, who also cut costs in the name of profit.

You don't think Modernity might have something to do with it along the lines of personal responsibility, amount of shame felt, sense of societal responsibility, etc etc. I think modernity might have a great deal to do with it.

Re:Isolated? (5, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104268)

That is exactly the problem. This is no different from the tragedies frequently encountered in coal mines. They cut corners and costs in the name of greater profits. And then when bad things happen, they say "whoops! This is an isolated incident. And we will fire someone for doing what we encouraged and even told them to do!"

The nuclear industry in the US has amazingly fearsome oversight. It happens that I word for a nuclear technology company and I can tell you first hand that "NRC" is mentioned in seemingly every business conversation with numerous and frequent meetings that involve NRC. So if the NRC didn't find this sooner, I have to wonder why. Has the government been cutting back on the NRC? I hope not and if they have, they need to reverse it and fast.

Nuclear energy is the best we have right now. But it also needs to be regulated and monitored closely. No one questions that fact.

Re:Isolated? (3, Interesting)

Chatterton (228704) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104304)

Lowest bidder and profit: Capitalists win, Everyone else lose. Dangerous things should not let in the hands of capitalists.

There should be a law saying that if someone put some money in an industry with the objective of making a profit, he should live with his family next to the most dangerous installation he put money in.

Re:Isolated? (0, Flamebait)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104372)

Except that once again this IS NOT CAPITALISM. In CAPITALISM the capitalist is supposed to assume the risk to his capital if (s)he is to get any reward. the nuclear power industry does not work like that though. Instead they get to build plants either with strait subsidies or government loan grantees. Now you say well without those things nobody would ever be able to build a plant because they would never be able to sell the bonds to raise the capital to do it without those grantees. Why? because there is alot to go wrong the plant may never come on line if its not done right, if it does go online and anything ever goes wrong the organization will be sued and the investors will be left with nothing of value. Nobody is willing to take on such risks without government.

Well guess what I have new for you that is capitalism SCREAMING "DON'T BUILD NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS!"
Lets face it the "intelligentsia" in this country actively participates in distorting the market place and undermining capitalist ideals and then cries "see capitalism does not work" when things go wrong. Stop lying! What does not work is this bullshit corporate-wellfareism.

Re:Isolated? (3, Insightful)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104428)

Actually the way capitalism works is before building a power plant (or anything else for that matter) it first helps get the people it wants elected elected... then it lobbies for and gets subsidies and loan guarantees... and THEN it builds the unsafe whatever that it couldn't itself afford the risk of building.

Re:Isolated? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104586)

Lowest bidder and profit: Capitalists win, Everyone else lose. Dangerous things should not let in the hands of capitalists.

Um, you really expect us to believe that there is no such thing as cutting costs in non-capitalist countries? You're either a troll, hopelessly naive, or just plain ignorant.

Re:Isolated? (1, Insightful)

fridaynightsmoke (1589903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104648)

Lowest bidder and profit: Capitalists win, Everyone else lose. Dangerous things should not let in the hands of capitalists.

There should be a law saying that if someone put some money in an industry with the objective of making a profit, he should live with his family next to the most dangerous installation he put money in.

That must be why the worst nuclear disaster ever took place at a power station built, owned and operated by the famously capitalist Soviet Union, right? Right?

You can never rule out risks completely (2, Interesting)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104234)

The problem with nuclear reactors is that when things go wrong, it goes wrong in a way that's very hard to control and can have an enormous impact on the health of entire generations. Strong security measures are vital, but what Fukushima has shown us, is that greed and corruption can and will undermine those security measures.

I'm not fundamentally opposed to nuclear power, as long as it is safe and cost effective. But I really doubt whether it can be both at the same time.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (1, Insightful)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104250)

This is why we really need to spread out our research on fusion ; it's far more intrinsically safe.

Fission reactors are based on the premise of controlling something that runs away from you if you let it. So if you stop trying (cut costs, etc), something disastrous happens.

If you stop trying hard enough to make fusion work, it just stops working.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (-1, Troll)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104306)

"This is why we really need to spread out our research on fusion ; it's far more intrinsically safe."
So turning the Earth into the second star in our solar system is intrinsically safe?

I want some of what you are smoking.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (2)

hamvil (1186283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104322)

You're an idiot, magnetic containment - based fusion technology basically automatically shuts down if the containment vessel is broken. The plasma itself cools as soon as it touches the outer vessel shutting down the fusion process.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (4, Interesting)

AlecC (512609) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104348)

To put it another way, at any instant the fusion reaction vessel contains about 1 second's fuel, whereas a fission reactor contains more than two years fuel. Extrapolating to the limit (which is not reasonable, but informative), in the worst accident possible by the laws of physics, the fusion reactor will blast of one second's output from the plant and then be inert, which the fission reactor will blast off an unknown fraction of that two years output and keep the rest in a dangerously grumbling state.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (0)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104394)

Magnetic containment has never been achieved. Pay attention. Fusion has never been achieved.
Go to school and get a degree in Physics, even an elementary one.

Repeat after me, "What could possibly go wrong?" Repeat if necessary.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104542)

Fusion has never been achieved? Really? Maybe you should read something about the subject first. Even some very basic news could help you a lot.

Of course fusion has been achieved. Plenty of times. The problem is that it costs more energy than it produces. That's all.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104662)

Christ, how long ago did you get YOUR degree in physics? pre-ww2? Many forms of fusion using different forms of fuel have been achieved, some at relatively low temperatures and some at temperatures so hot it takes the triggering of an initial fission reaction. A huge mass/pressure furnace like a star is not the only way.

The problem is in managing a design that is net energy positive, rather than requiring more energy to maintain than the reactions produce.

Also, if you check out research projects like JET [wikipedia.org] you can see that magnetic plasma containment is old news.

repeat after me "Ignorance induced fear, Bad. Hard Data induced fear, Useful". Repeat if necessary.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (2)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104482)

Fission reactors are based on the premise of controlling something that runs away from you if you let it.

early design surely were, but today we have enough design with safety features that are built in such a way, that when control is lost, the reactors shuts down on its own.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (3, Informative)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104560)

If you stop trying hard enough to make fusion work, it just stops working.

The problem is that you need to work so hard (= put so much energy into it) that fusion ends up costing energy rather than producing it.

I agree with you that efficient fusion would be far superior in fission and lack almost all of fission's problems, but it doesn't seem likely that a breakthrough will come soon. Waiting for fusion will cost too much time.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (2, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104276)

In IT, we have "Small, Fast, Cheap. Choose two."

In reactor design, we seem to have "Efficient, Cost Effective, Safe. Choose two."

I don't like it.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (5, Interesting)

sticks_us (150624) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104298)

I tend to agree in many ways. It's not entirely an engineering problem.

The real risks come as a result of our system, which is squarely rooted in human greed and fallibility. We're risk-takers by nature, and the risk/reward equation is skewed toward danger.

For example:

If I'm a CEO and build a reactor, cutting costs by attenuating the safety systems specified by the engineers (e.g. using cheap materials for failsafes, or not installing them at all), my profit goes up. I saved a lot of money during construction, didn't I!

However, if something goes wrong and my poorly implemented safety mechanisms fail, my personal risk is actually quite low. I probably won't notice an impact on my earnings, I certainly won't go to jail, and once the media is done feeding on the corpse of my disaster, it's back to "business as usual."

This is a far cry from the careful designs of the engineer, and the scenario gets played out all the time, in various disciplines (see also: BP oil spill, mortgage-backed securities, etc).

Maybe the solution is to let the engineers control the nuclear industry, soup-to-nuts, and send the MBA's packing?

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (1)

Ironhandx (1762146) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104716)

"Maybe the solution is to let the engineers control the nuclear industry, soup-to-nuts, and send the MBA's packing?"

This could solve problems in a number of Industries, however I think it particularly applies to the Nuclear industry.

This should be implemented ASAP.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (2, Insightful)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104308)

what Fukushima has shown us, is that greed and corruption can and will undermine those security measures.

No, what Fukushima showed is that you can build a reactor that withstands a quake ten times the size it is rated to withstand, shut down gracefully (as graceful as a SCRAM can be) and still maintain enough power to engage its emergency cooling, but there's fundamentally no defense against having about the mass of the Great Lakes flung into your face at ~150km/h.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104520)

Should be careful comparing the design limits of the plant to the quake, it is the ground acceleration at the plant location that is interesting, not the total amount of energy released during the quake (and I haven't really seen anything other than flimsy estimates of what the ground acceleration was at the plant).

And if your position is "We cannot defend against a tsunami", how do you integrate that into your decision to build the plant at that location in the first place?

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104550)

Nuclear plants are thirsty things. This is why Hungary has its right on the bank of our biggest friggin' river.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104606)

Yeah, I think people understand that they need water. My point was more that losing control of a nuclear plant often has an outcome that people find unacceptable and you said, hey, when a tsunami hits, what do you expect, that they will maintain control?

(Even many of the more cavalier proponents of nuclear power would probably give you a funny look if you explained that you weren't planning for such and such natural events that were likely.)

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (1)

sadness203 (1539377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104702)

In the case of Fukushima, they were planning for an tsunami. Just not one that big.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104590)

yes there is, not putting your frickin backup generators in the basement!

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104700)

Where would you have put them? In open air on the roof?

They would have been safe if not for the earthquake.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104614)

Sure, maybe coast lines and fault lines are fundamentally too unsafe to build nuclear reactors there. But still people do build them there, because they need them there and it's too expensive to build them elsewhere. So in essence it's still greed that's the cause of the danger.

But what I meant was that this reactor (and others) were known to be unsafe. The IAEA warned about them a few years ago, and TEPCO and the relevant politicians basically ignored it. This is always going to be a vulnerability.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (1)

metalmaster (1005171) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104628)

so what your saying is we should redefine the engineering mantra as "safe, earthquake proof, tsunami proof. pick two"

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (1)

he-sk (103163) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104650)

what Fukushima showed is that you can build a reactor that withstands a quake ten times the size it is rated to withstand, shut down gracefully (as graceful as a SCRAM can be) and still maintain enough power to engage its emergency cooling

And you know this how? For all we know, the quake itself caused damage to the reactor, and the tsunami just added to that.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104690)

"what Fukushima showed is that you can build a reactor that withstands a quake ten times the size it is rated to withstand"

...but not without major damage and leaking large quantities of radio active material.
So much for "withstand".

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (2)

radaghast (1672864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104392)

Compared to the processes used by the oil industry, nuclear is not harder to control. The track record shows far fewer out of control events related to nuclear than both hydroelectric and oil. As for an enormous impact on our health, consider that coal power releases significant amounts of toxins into the air and ground worldwide and that is under normal operation. This certainly has an unmeasured deleterious effect on nearly everyone's health.

The problem you mention is a problem for both the nuclear and carbon-based power industries, but it is far less significant for nuclear. Nuclear isn't perfect, but it is the best we have.

As for cost effective, if carbon based power was paying for the externalities it causes, then nuclear would be looking a lot better to you.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (2)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104656)

Compared to the processes used by the oil industry, nuclear is not harder to control.

Your choice of words suggests you think that means it's easy, but not being harder than "practically impossible" really doesn't mean much.

Nuclear isn't perfect, but it is the best we have.

It's not the best we have, it's the second worst we have. You only think it's the best because you look only at the two worst options. It's like being not quite as bad as China. It's like voting Democrat because the Republican guy is even worse. As long as "it's better than coal" is the best thing the pro-nuclear fans can come up with, I suggest we stay away from it.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (2)

Znork (31774) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104402)

It's a problem with large nuclear reactors. Small designs like the Toshiba 4S where the core is sunk in a sealed vault 30 meters under ground would be much easier to contain so even a catastrophic failure would have very little impact.

When it comes nuclear fuel, the economies of scale may be outweighed by the risks of scale; the more of it you stick in one place, the more dangerous and hard to control it becomes. Loss of control over a minor part of it can easily lead to loss of control of all of it.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (1)

bhmit1 (2270) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104494)

Given the prevailing options, I'll take nuclear for now. No power is safe, but we over emphasis the rare and unknown deaths while ignoring the common ones that happen every day:

http://www.geekosystem.com/coal-oil-nuclear-deaths-chart/ [geekosystem.com]

That said, we need to figure out a better solution for the used fuel. And long term, we really need to work on energy storage so that renewable becomes a better option.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104678)

Are you sure that chart is based on the right figures? Many nuclear fan boys often claim that there are less than 100 deaths world wide caused by nuclear, completely ignoring the 6000+ deaths caused by Chernobyl (not to mention people still alive with birth defects and cancer). And even then nuclear barely comes ahead of wind and solar.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104686)

That said, we need to figure out a better solution for the used fuel

Personally, I think that the fourth generation nuclear plants [wikimedia.org] is a big step towards a solution to that problem. Of course, further research into safety and security is always a good idea, regardless of the quality of the options.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (1)

slb (72208) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104558)

The problem with nuclear reactors is that when things go wrong, it goes wrong in a way that's very hard to control and can have an enormous impact on the health of entire generations.

Are you aware that the casualties related to the Fukushima plant accident are zero ? OK I'll grant you that maybe some operators at the plant may have decreased their lifespan of a few months due to a statistically significant increased risk of cancer, but that's hardly an "enormous impact" on the health of an "entire" generation. Please avoid the usual scaremongering headlines of the mass media regarding health and nuclear energy and remember that when deaths are accounted for energy produced, nuclear energy is the safest source we have around [nextbigfuture.com] even compared with "renewable" energies.

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (2)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104654)

A nuclear power plant *may* cause a serious impact on the health of thousands (but it is unlikely). A coal fired plant *will* cause a serious impact on the health of millions (and *may* end up with a disaster of a similar scale to a nuclear accident: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingston_Fossil_Plant_coal_fly_ash_slurry_spill [wikipedia.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberfan_disaster [wikipedia.org] )

Re:You can never rule out risks completely (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104720)

Yes, but how is that relevant to the discussion?

zero (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104240)

that adds another zero to the zero deaths from nuclear this year. thats zero up from last year. gonna need some big design changes to catch up with fossil fuels.

Re:zero (1)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104282)

Conincidentially Zero is also the number of official habitants arround tjernobyl and fukushima in a x radius (x>30 km?)

Re:zero (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104300)

think a gamma ray just bit-flipped your post.

Re:zero (1)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104456)

Not true. There are about 500 people living in and around Chernobyl.

Re:zero (1)

Two99Point80 (542678) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104318)

Does that count include uranium miners who sicken and die?

Re:zero (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104350)

if you count miners then nuclear has no chance of catching up with fossil fuels.

Re:zero (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104518)

I recall hearing that about 100000 people have died from coal mining accidents and mining-related diseases. When I tried to verify this recently, I was unable to get a good estimate. Anyone have data on this?

Re:zero (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104670)

I cannot speak for your country (presumably the US). Here in ZA, where we produce a non-negligible portion of worldwide supply, uranium is a by-product of gold mining.

After the mines finish extracting Au, the waste (containing relatively high concentrations of U and several other nasties) is dumped on big heaps. People with nowhere else to go end up building shacks on top of mine dumps. The radiation level on mine dumps is several times higher than the legal limit for habitability (which presumably includes some margin for error). Lots and lots of it also ends up in the water supply. (There are places where I don't drink the tap water. It really is that bad.)

The way I see it, the more uranium they extract, the less contamination I get. (You can forget about getting the mines to clean up their act. They have more power here than the MAFIAA in the States.)

Re:zero (1, Interesting)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104504)

This is nonsense. a) Most of those deads in the fossil fuel industry die in insecure mines in China. b) People with deformations, broken imune system and reduced life expectancy suffer from the Chernobyl incident (20 years ago). Also a lot of babies where born dead in that period and we will see a cancer increase in Japan in the next years. Radiation is killing slowly. BTW some people already died in Fukushima by conamination. And when you look at the liquidators in Chernobyl they paid a high price. c) Why are only fossile fuels a equivalent for you for nuclear power? Looks like a very US-logic thing.

Re:zero (1)

lingon (559576) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104632)

A) Same goes for any type of mine: coal, uranium or otherwise.

B) False (i.e., the opposite of true). Read the IAEA reports. No such correlation exists. There is however an increase in typhoid cancer risk, something which is accounted for.

C) You need to equate nuclear power with something else with base load capabilities. The alternatives are fossil fuel, hydropower and geothermal energy. Hydropower can only be built in countries with large rivers (and prepared to seriously mess up the landscape) and geothermal can only be built in countries that are geologically suitable. That leaves fossil fuels for all others, i.e. most of the world.

Re:zero (1)

DrBoumBoum (926687) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104556)

Yes and I didn't get sick this year, last year neither, so this shows that I can keep on smoking as much as I want since it's perfectly safe.

Re:zero (1)

he-sk (103163) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104634)

Never mind the 80-90000 permantly displaced people who used to live in what is now the Fukushima Exclusion Zone.

Ups.

Re:zero (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104666)

Yes, because we all know from Chernobyl and Hiroshima, that people instantly fall down and die from radiation, and that it isn't the case that the by far largest chunk die years, decades or ever generations later.

Fossil fuels AND nuclear reactors are redneck backwards retard shit from the last century that only swamp rats would find cool, while everybody with at least half a mind and a bit of geek inside goes for the gigantic fucking awesome 1.3-million-km-diameter 15-million-kelvin-core fucking fusion reactor in the sky!
And no matter how long you think fission fuels and fossil fuels will last, but when people won't even remember what they were, ind billions of years, that think will *still* be there, providing us with all the energy needed.
If that isn't literally the greatest and most awe-inspiring gift from nature ever, then I don't know what is.

Fission....pffft... losers...

Re:zero (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104672)

Sorry for the typos at the end. This was a bit too much SPARTAAAAA. ;)

Lack of development (2)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104242)

When the nuclear power industry was stopped in its tracks by regulations about 30 years ago, development in nuclear power stopped.

However, no alternative exists for nuclear power in many places. All other sources are either too expensive, too polluting, or impractical. Therefore they kept using the same old designs and refurbishing old power plants that, by their original design, should have been decommissioned decades ago.

The first thing to do should be to remove the arbitrary regulations that make it impossible to develop and built new power plants.

Re:Lack of development (3, Insightful)

wish bot (265150) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104284)

Let's apply free market mechanisms to nuclear power stations. Yup - awesome idea!

Global Fissile Crisis here we come...

Re:Lack of development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104328)

I think he's referring to material and schematics, not to safety and controls.

while you do have a point, there are way better design than the current ones, specially if they stop their omg you can make bombs fear and allow the usage of other, more advanced and less polluting fuels.

Re:Lack of development (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104540)

I think there's quite a lot of thorium. I won't say "plenty", because I know how foolish my words will look in 1000 years time when we start running out.

The first clue... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104244)

The NRC initially became concerned about the plant when it realized that employees had begun logging maintenance work directly on thereifixedit [failblog.org] ...

It doesn't really matter. (1)

Jartan (219704) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104252)

We're already hitting crunch time. I sort of doubt even building nuclear plants is going to give us enough energy at this point. The only answer is going to be dirty coal/shale/etc and something like a couple orders of magnitude increase in research to find something else.

We're going to live in interesting times soon people.

Re:It doesn't really matter. (1)

DrBoumBoum (926687) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104574)

The only answer is going to be dirty coal/shale/etc and something like a couple orders of magnitude increase in research to find something else.

And maybe reducing wastage to begin with? No? Is this a crazy idea?

That's a trivial thing! (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104258)

There's no secure energy source in the world.
Even your fire place and a match box are not secure.
As a rule of thumb, the more energy they produce, the more unsecure.
Then if you take into account the byproducts of a nuclear power plant these considerations rise even more issues.
Even solar panels have drawbacks and generate pollution during the fabrication and the disposal phases. Not to talk about the needed batteries which are not part of the panels, but are a needed part of the setup. And a polluting one.

Re:That's a trivial thing! (4, Interesting)

wish bot (265150) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104320)

Solar doesn't require batteries. It can feed directly into the grid via an inverter. Solar panels are near 100% recyclable and most manufactures have free recycling schemes. The carbon payback from manufacturing is as low as 1 year.

You also need to stop thinking of solar as a domestic production source - that's just perverse. Solar on industrial scales is already approaching parity with coal power stations and was cheaper than nuclear last year.

And yes, yes, it doesn't produce power at night. Maybe you've heard of power storage, which is already used in many places to help balance grid loads.

There are plenty of challenges, but so many geeks have blinkers on when it comes to solar.

Re:That's a trivial thing! (2)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104424)

Solar doesn't require batteries

Maybe you've heard of power storage

What do you think batteries are? Masturbatory aids?

Sure, there are a number of grid storage technologies, but batteries are definitely one of them.

Re:That's a trivial thing! (1)

lucian1900 (1698922) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104688)

I think he means industrial-strength storage, which almost never has anything to do with batteries.

There are things like pressure tunnels, counterweights, entire lakes used for pressure differentials. No batteries there.

Re:That's a trivial thing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104492)

Solar requires huge areas of land to produce a significant amount of energy. It is not insurmountable, but huge, cheap surfaces of land tend to be located far away from population and industrial centers, making transportation loss non-negligible. Unless you make a floating powerplant, but that would remove energy from the marine ecosystem (though I am not sure why I haven't seen any floqting solar stations. Perhaps wave energy is just more concentrated if you are already in the water).

And yes, yes, it doesn't produce power at night. Maybe you've heard of power storage, which is already used in many places to help balance grid loads.

Nowhere near what is needed to store energy for the entire grid the entire night, unless you go for hydroelectric storage. And until you build some new mountains, there aren't that many good places for hydroelectric storage any more.

Re:That's a trivial thing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104508)

"Maybe you've heard of power storage"
There's that whole consumption smoothing business that's a real bitch with solar. Power storage capacity in even Germany or Spain, with their huge amounts of renewables, is pitiful. Ideally you would have enough power storage to smooth consumption between the peak and trough loads in your area... in practice, that kind of infrastructure is expensive and largely nonexistent. The biggest consumption smoothing mechanism is calling up power plants and paying them to shut down, or paying power plants to have "spinning reserves," operations running at unprofitable levels that can be quickly ramped up.

"Solar on industrial scales is already approaching parity with coal power stations..."
Bullshit. It's still cheaper to build a modern (i.e. supercritical water rankine cycle) coal power plant than solar panels. Solar is approaching parity with the average, which is currently technology from the 60s and 70s that had to undergo costly retrofits to meet clean air act standards. The gold standard these days are the coal plants being built in China.

R U an idiot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104572)

R U an idiot? Seriously? ARE YOU AN IDIOT?

Or does the sun never set or clouds never float overhead where you life and/or work?

Just to clarify, where I live it is cloudy 200+ days a year. There are a few solar power panels in my neighborhood, but those folks simply have more money than sense. Oh, and they don't have batteries, but they don't get any power out of the solar panels at night.

BTW, the average wind speed here is less than 3 mph, so wind power is worthless too. There are 3 nuclear power plants within 250 miles of my home. I'm surrounded. None are closer than 150 miles, however. I just saw a report today that one of them had a failed cooling pump for over a year before anyone noticed. Nice.

Shipping electricity across a city has huge losses too - like 50%. Don't get me started about long distance transfers and those loss levels.

No (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104260)

From TFA:

It is similar in design to the reactors that malfunctioned at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan after a massive earthquake and tsunami earlier this year.

This shows that the (American-designed) Fukushima plant has design faults replicated in other plants of similar design. The British regulator is now re-examining proposals for new build in the light of the Japanese disaster. It is not at all clear that other designs of reactor have the same problems.

Modern? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104264)

"Does this further erode the argument that Fukushima was just an isolated incident in the 'modern' nuclear power age?" - Fukushima wasn't a "modern" nuclear reactor. It was designed in the sixties. I've don't know about the Alabama one, but I doubt this is a modern one either.

Re:Modern? (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104382)

Purely out of curiosity, is there any such thing as a modern nuclear reactor operating commercially anywhere in the world?

Re:Modern? (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104484)

Generation III [wikipedia.org] 's
Generation IV [wikipedia.org] 's
Lists of stuffs [wikipedia.org] ...

Parse at will... the answer is "yes" but not many, and even fewer if you exclude ones just for testing not hooked to a/the grid. There's quite a few Gen II that have been built recently (and presumably better than earlier Gen II, including precautions for "planes flying into them"...)

At least you put 'modern' in scarequotes (5, Insightful)

kaiidth (104315) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104278)

Modern nuclear age? What?

The Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant began construction in 1966 (Fukushima Dai-ichi dates from 1971). Furthermore, both use General Electric boiling water reactors. The major difference seems to be that Browns Ferry is/was expected to continue to operate until 2033.

Similarly designed technology dating from a similar time has similar flaws. In most areas engineers learn from their mistakes and upgrade regularly for precisely this reason. Then we actually would be in the 'modern nuclear age', and discovering a new flaw would be disturbing news as opposed to being a wholly predictable consequence of expecting to keep dodgy, ancient crap running for well over half a century.

Re:At least you put 'modern' in scarequotes (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36104326)

And similarly to Fukushima, Browns Ferry has had a natural disaster hit close by.
What would have happened if one of those 100+ tornadoes in the area had actually hit the plant rather than just close by?

Re:At least you put 'modern' in scarequotes (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104378)

I agree. What we should be doing is replacing these '60s designs as soon as possible, rather than letting them eke their lives out for a long. Regardless of whether nuclear power is or is not a good idea, new nuclear power is better than old nuclear power. We have learned a lot in the last 50 years. Not everything - I am sure there are ways 201x reactors can fail. But they will be a damned site fewer than 196x reactors. And a few new reactors, replacing old ones one-for-one, would give the knowledge of modern reactors to decide if we want to go further down that road.

No... (5, Insightful)

tm2b (42473) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104302)

There are no modern nuclear reactors running commercially in the United States.

And that's the problem - the United States is not part of any "modern nuclear age.". We're stuck in the 1950s and 1960s, design-wise - retrofits really don't substitute.

"Modern" nuclear age (2)

Xelios (822510) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104316)

We won't enter the "modern" nuclear age until we're actually allowed to build modern nuclear plants. Last time I checked the vast majority of reactors running today are old Mark I and Mark II designs from 20-50 years ago.

There are a couple of issues here... (3, Interesting)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104330)

Firstly, this wasn't the primary, but one of several redundant backup systems. Granted any redundant system not fully tested is not to be considered tested.

Secondly, the NRC has a long and storied history of letting nuclear plants run with known issues based on the promises that they'd be fixed. Now that they're in the spotlight because of Fukishima they're doing this shocking thing and actually calling plants on issues that have been long standing.

Thirdly, as a country we need to take a honest look at our existing nuclear plants. They're old. We've made HUGE advancements in nuclear power (just look at any reactor on a navy vessel) What we need to do is use that knowledge to either reengineer our existing reactors or look to replace them in place with better reactors.

Fourthly, we need to take an honest look at our nuclear fuel cycle, which is retarded. We need to start reprocessing fuel, not just storing it in dry casks. There is a huge amount of wasted energy not being extracted from those rods.

What a stupid question. (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104336)

A site was inspected, a problem was found and a rating issued.
How else should this work????
With any luck, the problem will be fixed or the reactor will closed down until it is fit again.
I hope all correcting work will be monitored.
I guess if Alabama gets hit by a global axis moving event it may not work too well.

I think the US has more to worry from the Hanford site; but the clean up expertise must be phenomenal.

Oversight (1)

GWRedDragon (1340961) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104360)

Sounds like oversight working as designed. A problem occurred, there was an investigation, and now a full inspection will occur to rectify any existing issues. This means that the safety review architecture is properly dealing with a potential problem before it can cause harm. Every system requires maintenance, and no maintenance is perfect. That's why review exists.

Absolutely NOT (4, Insightful)

cbope (130292) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104438)

No, it merely underscores that we do not *have* a "modern" nuclear age.

People, please remember that the vast majority of nuclear reactors in use were built in the 50's and 60's. They were built based on early reactor designs. Reactor designs have improved considerably in the last 20 years but because the public basically has a "no nukes" position, very few new design reactors have actually been built. We are still basically running old reactor designs, many of which are long past their design lifetimes. Until we replace them with modern, safer reactor designs or forms of renewable energy, there will be a danger of another Fukushima/Chernobyl type of catastrophe.

Another isolated incident? (4, Interesting)

DrBoumBoum (926687) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104526)

Following the Fukushima accident I've asked several times about the Davis-Besse [wikipedia.org] near miss. What happened there was that boric acid had beed leaking undetected from a crack onto the reactor chamber for more than ten year. When it was finally discovered, it had eaten through the 20 cm of the pressure vessel's steel (the so-called "first containment chamber"); the remaining barrier containing the reactor's material was the 1 cm (or 5 mm, not clear) internal stainless cladding of the vessel, bearing alone the 170 bars of internal pressure. The cladding had bulged but did not break - by mere luck one would say.

Had it eventually given, then the high-pressure reactor coolant would have escaped in a jet; due to the location of the leak, it could have jammed the adjacent control rod mechanism, preventing insertion of the rods. So the Davis-Besse plant was literally at that time half-an-inch away from a total loss of coolant accident with a core on full power and no way to stop it. Right in Ohio, in the middle of the US. What would have happened then? I've asked several times but the only response I got was basically Nothing to see here, move along [slashdot.org] .

Not that I like to dwelve in shaden-freude but really this kind of answer, coming from people who pride themselves so much of being smart and rational, looks disturbing. Shouldn't we try to assess the reality of the situation rather than build a fantasy world that suits our desires, conveniently ignoring uncomfortable facts?

1974 is not modern (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104530)

From TFS: "Does this further erode the argument that Fukushima was just an isolated incident in the 'modern' nuclear power age?"
The plant was build in 1974 [wikipedia.org]
These are old reactors and due to "environmentalist" blocking of building new (safe) ones they are kept functioning. Is it strange they start to rot?

you're viewing it without proper perspective (2)

e3m4n (947977) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104642)

As someone who spent years in the navy nuclear power program I can, from experience, say that the nuclear regulatory commission hands out grades on a very harsh grading scale. Its not like a health code grading system for a restaurant where a B really should be a C or D. Every system has a series of 3 and 4 redundant components on top of manually initiated backup procedures to those systems. This inspection process is part of the approach so that issues can be resolved before disaster strikes. Handing out an F, possibly a C in any other environment, is one means to ensure the plant would never ever actually get to a true F status. In fact, anything less than 80% is highly embarrassing and generates a litany of fixes. The biggest problem with these plants are not equipment so much as personnel. For example, the one accident that everyone thinks of is 3 mile island. Even with their large amount of equipment failures it wasn't the equipment failure alone that cause the incident. It was those running the plant violating one of the primary rules of being an equipment operator 'always believe your indications'. They saw the high temp alarms of the primary relief valves go into alarm state and ass-u-med it was just a bogus faulty alarm. Based on the incident report we studied while in nuclear power school, there were four other times that they violated practices and principles that led up to the perfect storm of stupidity that led to the partial meltdown. Instead of people embarking on a campaign against nuclear power they would be better served embarking on a campaign against hiring stupid people. There are many more dangerous things with fewer safeguards protected by even stupider personnel; the underground vaults housing the nerve agents we used to weaponize for one. Think those are well protected even from a moderate earthquake? They have the potential to kill far more than Fukushima ever will.

Nuclear power by candlelight! (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#36104724)

"The Browns Ferry Plant is known in the industry as the site where a worker using a candle to check for air leaks in 1974 started a fire that disabled safety systems."

See? Even high-tech nuclear facilities STILL use candle power to help them run properly.
ANCIENT POWER TECHNOLOGY for the win!
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