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Officials Agree On Global Nuclear Stress Tests

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the is-your-power-plant-meteorproof dept.

Power 122

Hugh Pickens writes "Government ministers and officials from the European Union countries who met to discuss atomic energy safety have agreed to carry out stress tests on nuclear reactors to test their capacity to withstand major incidents like the earthquake and tsunami that rocked the Fukushima plant in March. 'The accident at Fukushima in Japan has affected us all,' says French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet. 'It quickly became apparent there is a need to learn lessons from the accident and to improve and raise our standards and ways of cooperating on nuclear safety.' The stress tests will be performed on Europe's 143 working reactors and other atomic installations. 'You have to move the safety envelope,' says Roger Mattson, former leader of the US task force that investigated the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979, and an organizer of the group issuing the letter. 'You have to take these severe accidents into account and do more to prevent the very low-probability events.'"

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Eep (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373272)

I know this isn`t _exactly_ the same (or really even close), but isn`t it this kind of thinking that caused the disaster at Chernobyl?

Re:Eep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373342)

Yes, but the difference's that in Chernobyl they did it wrong. They started the test before time because of some arrogant manager.

Re:Eep (2)

Amouth (879122) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373690)

because of some arrogant manager.

oh good then all should be safe - i haven't seen an arrogant manager in decades. :)

Re:Eep (2)

infolation (840436) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374376)

It was a combination of reactor design, the design of the test, and lack of knowledge about previous nuclear accidents in the USSR.

The root of the problem was the initial power spike caused by the flawed graphite-tip control rod design that displaced coolant before the neutron-absorbing boron carbide component of the rods entered the reactor.

But managers hadn't been told of a previous identical accident at a different power station, because all USSR nuclear workers were told that not a single accident had ever occurred at any Soviet plant. (There had been 19 IIRC). And it was this lack of knowledge that led to a chain of mistakes following the initial power spike.

Re:Eep (1)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374458)

More importantly, in my opinion, was that they were trying to run the reactor below the minimum safety thresholds and they ignored the warnings because they wanted to see how much juice they could get out of the generators as the spun down in the event of shutting down the reactor. Then, when they finally realized they had to do something fast, the rods jammed halfway in. Then all hell broke loose (obviously).

Re:Eep (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373354)

I know this isn`t _exactly_ the same (or really even close), but isn`t it this kind of thinking that caused the disaster at Chernobyl?

No not at all.

The "stress tests" phrasing comes from recent similar "stress tests" in the banking and finance industry where everyone important / major is guaranteed to pass, although they really want some more money etc.

Its a PR campaign, not a mechanical engineering accomplishment. The timing is even pretty similar, just long enough for the bad news to decay from the news cycle, and here comes "good news" that everyone passes the test.

Participation Trophies for All!

Re:Eep (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373442)

I'm sad about how true this is. They couldn't possibly actually stress test them, because if they fail, they have the accident they are trying to prevent.

I suppose they could totally decommission the plant, run crazy stress tests, fix the problems, and then bring the plant back up... But I can't see something that expensive (and painful for those relying on the power) happening once, let alone 143 times.

Re:Eep (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373710)

it will be arm-chair stress tests.. get a bunch of people in the room who know at the end of the day biz will go on as normal ... never see anything worth while come out of that meeting.. only exactly what everyone knew going in.

Re:Eep (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374142)

You could probably cut down the costs significantly by combining it with normal shutdowns and maintainaince.

Sadly I too doubt these would be real tests, the only failing marks will be in cases where nobody's head is on the chopping block and there's funding available for it.

Re:Eep (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374522)

Doesn't help - see Chernobyl. Chernobyl was test to handle a loss of offsite power contingency plan during a scheduled reactor shutdown that went HORRIBLY wrong.

Re:Eep (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373356)

I know this isn`t _exactly_ the same (or really even close), but isn`t it this kind of thinking that caused the disaster at Chernobyl?

Well, it was an extra special stupid stress test at Chernobyl. Or if you are paranoid, since any asshole in that position should have known what happened, it was an extra deliberate overstress at Chernobyl.

On the other hand, there's probably lots of reactors that are already known to be unsafe which should NOT be tested, they should simply be decommissioned as rapidly as possible. Personally, I think it's reasonable to expect more manufacturing business to operate at night so that the production we have can be used more efficiently. Perhaps we need a new tax on manufacturing done in the daytime, which could be spent on power generation and more importantly transmission equipment which would let us use the power we already have.

Re:Eep (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373544)

Given that large utility customers are, not universally; but much more frequently than residential customers, already billed according to more than straight KwH used, with on peak/off peak, power factor, etc. coming into the equation, I'm not sure that Pigovian taxation would be necessary.

Re:Eep (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373638)

>>>Perhaps we need a new tax on manufacturing done in the daytime,

You really WANT all the factories to pack-up and move to China or India, don't you? That's what would end-up happening. The best solution is for government is to simply say, "You must meet these safety regulations," like the FAA does with airplane manufacturers. And then let businesses figure out where they will get the cash (i.e. raise prices and cut internal costs).

Re:Eep (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374268)

You really WANT all the factories to pack-up and move to China or India, don't you? That's what would end-up happening.

That's not what would "end up" happening, that's a separate (though obviously related) issue.

The best solution is for government is to simply say, "You must meet these safety regulations,"

Well, now we're both talking about shit that will never happen, because the federal government helped to create this situation. In general power plants of all kinds are operating well beyond established margins in emissions and often safety as well. We operate under a kind of system of malign neglect.

And then let businesses figure out where they will get the cash (i.e. raise prices and cut internal costs).

Well, one way to level the playing field would be for all customers to pay the same per kWh, and always with time-of-use. And another way to solve the power production problem would be to institute net metering for power by law so that the power company is forced to pay you a fair rate for power. Infrastructure fees are already broken out so this will harm nothing. But in some cases (IIRC, particularly Germany?) net metering is supported by taxes because it was decided that having alt power was desirable.

But what we REALLY need to do, and again here we are talking about stuff that is directly opposed to the status quo, is to refuse to import goods from countries whose labor and human rights laws (and practices) don't meet a minimum standard... to which I'm not really sure we conform, if the goal is to prevent slavery and promote equality.

Re:Eep (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36375498)

>>>>>The best solution is for government is to simply say, "You must meet these safety regulations," (like the FAA regulates airplane manufacturers)
>>
>>Well, now we're both talking about shit that will never happen, because the federal government helped to create this situation. In general power plants of all kinds are operating well beyond established margins in emissions and often safety as well. We operate under a kind of system of malign neglect.
>>

So you no longer trust the FAA to regulate airplanes?
Have you stopped flying? We still need government to regulate.

Re:Eep (1)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376808)

No, I do not trust the FAA. I trust the cost of a destroyed plane and civil liabilities (tort law), and reputation risk to cause airlines operate in ways that do not endanger passengers or their own assets. Planes will still crash from time to time because there are unavoidable risks and catastrophic failures in operating an incredibly complex machine at high velocity. There is no evidence that the FAA is inherently more safety-conscious or competent than their airlines own maintenance staff operating under their own directives. I do not believe the FAA is significantly reducing crashes.

Re:Eep (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36375554)

P.S.

>>>refuse to import goods from countries whose labor and human rights laws (and practices) don't meet a minimum standard...

I like this idea. I've proposed it myself, although I'd start with more serious crimes first (example: if China allows workers to work more than 70 hours, or more than 6 days per week, then goods from those factories would be blocked). Trying to enforce that the US and EU and China must tax power companies per kWh is a little ridiculous.

Re:Eep (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373372)

They are probably going to do crazy things like turn on the backup generators and test out secondary cooling systems.

Re:Eep (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373418)

Yes but this time we won't make those same mistakes we will make new ones and not only will there be multiple meltdowns that will stretch our ability to deal with them but there will be power outages everywhere making it that much harder to deal with the situation. [/scary music] The truth is that we should all ready know how these reactors behave when under stress, I have no knowledge as to how the reactors are tested but can imagine that they have been tested under some of these conditions before.

Re:Eep (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374506)

I wish I had mod points... That's the first thing that came to mind when I saw this.

The worst nuclear power disaster in history was caused by a safety test that went wrong... Obviously there were compounding factors (reactor design flaws, operator errors during the test, a request from the Kiev grid operator to keep the reactor running a few hours longer than planned due to an outage at another plant), but it still remains - if the plant had been undergoing a normal shutdown instead of a test/experiment, the disaster would not have happened or even have come close to happening.

Re:Eep (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 3 years ago | (#36375012)

Is it so? Then how do you explain the partial meltdown at the Leningrad nuclear power plant in 1975? That was no experiment.

Fact is, RBMK design was a disaster waiting to happen, the accident was caused by the SCRAM procedure, not by the experiment itself.

Would you like to play a game? (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373312)

Global Thermonuclear Stress Test sounds like potentially a lot of fun. A very strange game though, the only winning move is to play very very carefully.

Re:Would you like to play a game? (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373476)

And even then, accidents happen....

Re:Would you like to play a game? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36374484)

Would you like to play a game of chess?

Re:Would you like to play a game? (1)

kiehlster (844523) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373618)

Just be sure you don't have the Global Thermonuclear War program running at the same time. If the computer wanted to win at GTW, losing at GTST may suffice as a good tactical maneuver.

Re:Would you like to play a game? (1)

Smigh (1634175) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374490)

Global Thermonuclear Stress Test sounds like potentially a lot of fun. A very strange game though, the only winning move is to play very very carefully.

I don't like it.

  • - you can't save your progress
  • - there's no way to restart the game
  • - there's no replayability value whatsoever
  • - it may prevent your system from running any other game if you lose

Sounds like malware to me... I'll pass.

Test (1)

JustLikeToSay (651328) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373336)

In the UK we don't really do earthquakes and tsunamis so I suppose our stress-tests will feature vibrations caused by loud music from the neighbours (because we certainly won't ask them to turn it down, v unBritish) and predictable rain on the first day of a test-match.

Re:Test (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373410)

In the UK we don't really do earthquakes and tsunamis so I suppose our stress-tests will feature .... predictable rain on the first day of a test-match.

It rains every F-ing day (I've visited your islands, very nice, but it never stops raining) and you have mudslides. Worse than a tsunami in some ways, because the mud doesn't just drain away. On the good side, it rains every F-ing day so you have little mudslides rather than letting it build up to annual monster proportions...

Also your rivers flood, which is too bad, because rivers are otherwise really nice for cooling nuke plants, even better than oceans in many ways.

Re:Test (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373590)

Interesting. On the west coast it does rain quite a bit, but last summer and this summer so far, we've had hardly any rain in Aberdeen (east coast). Maybe a couple of days rain a week when it's been at its worst in May. April was sunny as hell.

I've never even heard of a mudslide in the UK, so I don't know where you're getting that from (. Googling for "mudslide UK [google.co.uk] ", I get 1) a cocktail recipe, 2 & 3) music albums, 4) something which seems to be just one of those pages that is there to catch search traffic, and the rest of the results are British newspapers reporting stories of mudslides in other countries..

Searching instead for "landslide" (since I'm not even sure I've heard the word mudslide before) does turn up some results [bgs.ac.uk] , but it's mostly coastal erosion. I didn't realise we built our nuclear reactors in the sea.

Re:Test (1)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373650)

I wish it were raining every F-ing day. Here in the Midlands, there are talks about standpipes in the streets because it's been so dry it's approaching drought conditions.

(of course what we need is more modern nuclear plants to fund desalination plants, grumble...)

Re:Test (1)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373696)

Erm.... power desalination plants, not fund.

Re:Test (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373420)

Try muslim ethnic minority protests (including heavy acts of vandalism), emergency procedures interrupted by 5 o'clock tea and ecologists protesting by chaining themselves to fuel rods.

Bridge load limits (1)

Marc Madness (2205586) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373344)

This reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin asks his dad how they determine the maximum load of a bridge. His dad responds by saying something like: "They keep driving heavier and heavier trucks across it until it collapses then rebuild it"...

Terrorist attack excluded from test (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373380)

The EU countries don't want to reveal security arrangements for nuclear industry sites to each other so they won't test their systems for terrorist atttacks. Yet, terrorist attack may be one of the greatest threats related to nuclear power.

The Fukushima meltdown showed how some nuclear plants are vulnerable to cooling-system failures. That might be of interest to Al Qaeda, which considered attacking US nuclear facilities after 9/11, a new study says.

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/0607/Fukushima-meltdown-could-be-template-for-nuclear-terrorism-study-says

Do we need a single security provider for anti-terrorist protection the way we protect the oil supply chain? If the EU can't work together, perhaps they should cede sovereignty on this in the same manner that Pakistani nuclear weapons are 'secured.'

Re:Terrorist attack excluded from test (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374360)

The EU countries don't want to reveal security arrangements for nuclear industry sites to each other

They already share that information, not least because some of the plants are near the borders of other countries. The EU has an open border policy and member states share intelligence information on terrorism all the time.

There are even EU standards on nuclear safety and security.

The only plausible reason for not testing for terrorist attacks is that if someone flies an aircraft into your reactor you are pretty much screwed no matter what.

Re:Terrorist attack excluded from test (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374894)

That is not quite true. The DoE conducts simulated assaults on nuclear facilities though it sounds like they are not covering all the bases.

Re:Terrorist attack excluded from test (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#36375358)

If Al Qaida have allied with Neptune and control the Mighty Forces of the Ocean, then we're all pretty much screwed anyway.
Any potential terrorist would have to get into a reactor complex, destroy the diesel backup generators, destroy the battery backups, destroy the incoming power lines, and destroy the coolant pumps. Flying a plane, or even several planes, into the place would not cut it: that's already a design criteria. It would have to be done from inside. All of this would take quite some time and effort, during which everyone is supposedly twiddling their thumbs. Never mind that they could do far more damage by breaking in, pilfering some irradiated waste material from the storage ponds, and detonating a dirty bomb in the middle of a city.
In the UK at least, we have the CNC [police.uk] to deal with any possible cases of Terrorists Dicking About Near Reactors.

Re:Terrorist attack excluded from test (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36375884)

Actually, their most successful attacks involve infiltration. As nuclear power declines, in may be harder and harder to get trustworthy employees or contractors. Not so sure an inside job could be easily prevented.

Out of touch with reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376394)

It's been rightfully excluded. It's an external threat. Put in a security guard and fence and it is OK.

perhaps they should cede sovereignty on this in the same manner that Pakistani nuclear weapons are 'secured.'

So, you are worried about some nuclear power plant and some terrist attack, but you are not worried about a state like Pakistan starting a nuclear war with India? You are not worried that Israel is hair-trigger away from starting a war with Iran that would most likely end up a nuclear war (at least by Israel)? You are not worried about the dozens of times that nuclear war between USSR/Russia and US was averted because someone didn't want to press the button just yet?

Yes, let's be worried about stuff that is nearly impossible - the mighty terrorists will in some coordinated fashion manage to infiltrate and disable multiple automated safety systems that shut down a reactor because someone farted too laud in control room. Then they must disable multiple redundant cooling systems in the process. If you are worried about that, but you are not worried about a much more likely threat of an all out nuclear war, then your risk assessment is insane. Or are they simply going to infiltrate HAARP and cause a 1000m tsumami? - there are some nuts that believe that!

The media does not care one bit about what they report, as long as they get viewers. It doesn't matter that they lie - ratings trump reality!

Re:Out of touch with reality (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377398)

An NRC inspector found a guard at Indian Point so fast asleep that it was hard to wake him. Other plants have sleeping guards as well.

And I did not say anything about nuclear war, just that in the case of revolution, Pakistan's nuclear weapons may not be available to the new government. It might make sense to be sure that terrorists will face the fiercest possible resistance regardless of whose territory the power plant happens to be on. The US Navy protects oil tankers, no matter whose they are, after all.

Re:Terrorist attack excluded from test (1)

Xyrus (755017) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377048)

How are terrorist attacks the greatest threat to a nuclear plant?

First, you have to get inside the nuclear plant. Then you have to know about the particular plant you're trying to sabotage. Then you have to have the actual know how to get around all the fail-safes in place in order to trigger a cooling failure. And you have to do all of this without anyone noticing.

It takes a lot more planning and ingenuity to sabotage a nuclear plant than simply walking in and randomly blowing yourself up. Nuclear plants are built to be tough, with multiple redundancies and fail-safes in place. Even flying a 747 into a nuclear plant isn't a guarantee.

If terrorists want an easy target that can cause a lot of damage, oil refineries are a much better. Extremely toxic. Start a raging inferno at a refinery and the surrounding area immediately becomes a superfund site. If the chemicals make it into the water table, you could make the entire surrounding area uninhabitable for years to decades. Not only that, but hitting a refinery usually jacks up all related petroleum prices (gasoline and such), especially if you live in a country where ecological rules prevent new refineries from being built all that often. So you cause widespread damage, possible long term casualties, and hit the economy/populace with higher prices in some of the most sought after and consumed commodities.

Better yet, just attack a major food production center. Less well guarded, mass casualties if done right.

If a terrorist group wants to make a point, hitting a nuke plant isn't the best target. I'd be more concerned over the centralized food and water production systems than nuke plants.

Re:Terrorist attack excluded from test (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377212)

According to the report:

"Terrorists will most likely try to damage a reactor’s support and water-supply systems as well as its control and protection system to cause a heat explosion of the reactor with subsequent demolition of the reactor and the building in which it is located,"

80-20 rule (1)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373388)

Again, the reaction to this is "no bad events, no matter how low probability, no matter the cost!"

What is the actual acceptable cost/benefit tradeoff? How low a probability event do we ignore, even if the consequences are large? I can't answer these questions, but it's not obvious that this is even in the minds of the people proposing "do whatever it takes" activities. (This is in response to the "we have to do more to address these low-probability events" sentiment.)

Re:80-20 rule (1)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373446)

What is the actual acceptable cost/benefit tradeoff?

That depends on how much the Fukushima incident will end up costing. And consider that placating the fears of millions of people who live near reactors doesn't have a quantitative benefit.

Re:80-20 rule (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373516)

And consider that placating the fears of millions of people who live near reactors doesn't have a quantitative benefit.

Public fear = governments move away from nuclear power = nuclear industry loses?

No idea if that makes sense in this case, but when there was a cost benifit to fear for large public things like this, it usually follows along these lines.

Re:80-20 rule (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373852)

My first guess is that you should aim to spread your prevention funds so that you get the most bang per buck in terms of reducing (probability of event) * (cost of the event).

Re:80-20 rule (2)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374344)

How do you even measure the risk associated with things that never actually happen?

If you asked somebody in 2007 what the chances of a major economic meltdown as a result of a housing price decline, every economist would have said "super low - it will never happen."

If you asked somebody in 1985 what the chances of the shuttle being destroyed with all hands they would have said 1 in 100,000 launches or whatever - right now the trend is closer to 1:75.

Now, we don't have enough data in either case to really put an accurate figure on the risk, but clearly the risks are much higher than were estimated.

The problem with modeling risk is that you don't account for anything not in your model, and chances are that things not in your model are the sorts of things most likely to cause a problem in the first place since otherwise you'd be mitigating the risk. It is also hard for people doing risk estimates to put failure modes like "management making stupid decisions" on the list with any kind of probability greater than "it never happens."

Re:80-20 rule (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374498)

If you asked somebody in 1985 what the chances of the shuttle being destroyed with all hands they would have said 1 in 100,000 launches or whatever - right now the trend is closer to 1:75.

Not quite true, when Feynman asked people at NASA the managers came up with the 1 in 100,000 (or even "never"!) quotes. When he asked the engineers they came up with numbers between 1 in 50 and 1 in 100.

Re:80-20 rule (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 3 years ago | (#36375888)

Yup, and guess whose answer gets sent to the PR department? The engineers don't represent the "official" thinking of the organization. They never do...

Re:80-20 rule (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374668)

If you asked somebody in 2007 what the chances of a major economic meltdown as a result of a housing price decline, every economist would have said "super low - it will never happen."

Hmm, a couple years before that time, three or four of us at work were nattering about the second home that one of us had bought for resale.

I said something to the effect that "It's getting so housing prices are so high that people can't afford to buy houses to live in, and that's going to cause problems in the housing market by and by - hard to sell a house if noone can afford to buy it".

One of my coworkers (not the guy who had just bought the house) said "Never happen. housing prices don't go down"

I looked at my coworkers nodding their heads to this, and decided right then that investing in the housing market was an insane idea, and went home and paid off my mortgage the next day.

So while every economist might have said "never happen", at least some normal people could see the writing on the wall farther back than that....

Risk Plan Fantasy - Complete make up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373428)

Downplay the negatives, emphasize the positives is what gets you promotions and makes new deals.
And if the worst happens, put out you hand for public money, pretending like, gee, nobody saw that coming. Worked for Banks, GFC, BP - the list goes on.

If you had to have safety equipment on hand, and had to save for decommissioning, these plants or
in BP's case, Deep-water - these projects would never start.

So you make up a risk plan, put in it what sounds reasonable, and make sure there is no decent peer review,
and make sure updates never happen. It pays to hide these, because the better the fiction, the more advantage you have over your competitors.

The reverse approach is needed (3, Insightful)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373450)

Nuclear safety is amazingly safe as-is, what is needed is replacing older plants with new designs that are inherently more safe and provide that safety more cost effectively.

The reactionary approach due to Fukushima is precisely the wrong way to look at things, the takeaway lesson should be that even with the worst possible scenario nuclear is vastly safer than coal, gas and hydro and possibly safer than solar. It's the small frequent events vs large singular event problem that plagues the car vs airplane safety disparity all over again.

We as a species need to learn to evaluate risk better or at least try to be more fact based in global infrastructure matters.

Re:The reverse approach is needed (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373506)

We as a species need to learn to evaluate risk better

That would ruin the ability to control us thru fear in the mass media... Taking a wild guess, TPTB are not going to support this goal, in fact they support the opposite.

Now if you eliminated control of the masses thru fear, perhaps by ridicule or sarcasm (fact never works) then there would not be the reason to prevent intelligent risk evaluation...

Your best course of action to reach your goal is probably to read Schnier and friends while making fun of the DHS as much as possible.

Re:The reverse approach is needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373962)

Nuclear safety is amazingly safe as-is, what is needed is replacing older plants with new designs that are inherently more safe and provide that safety more cost effectively.

I have a feeling the results will show that every nuclear plant in the US as well as a majority of other plants will just barely fulfill the requirements they set up if they don't just fail outright.

On the other hand, the French and every nuclear plant that ISN'T 60 years old will pass with flying colors.

Oh shortsighted people. I will laugh and cry when oil hits, I dunno, $1000 a barrel and those countries that haven't kept up to the nuclear age end up having to ration power and falling behind in everything. Not like we can build reasonably safe nuclear plants in less than a decade, so by the time we'll need it we'll be screwed over.

Oh. Unless we get some unanticipated crazy breakthrough in other technologies aka solar that allow us to harness enough energy to counter the loss of nuclear. Then alright.

Re:The reverse approach is needed (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374626)

Not like we can build reasonably safe nuclear plants in less than a decade, so by the time we'll need it we'll be screwed over.

A decade is a bit short but don't forget that France built 56 reactors in 15 years.

Did the France of 1974 have bigger balls that the US does in 2011?

Re:The reverse approach is needed (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374790)

We as a species need to learn to evaluate risk better or at least try to be more fact based in global infrastructure matters.

We as a species actually do this quite well. An industry typically learns from its past mistakes, and the mistakes of other industries too. The Three Mile Island incident has lead to high flow being part of every standard HAZard and OPerability study. The Flixborough disaster introduced Management Of Change principles in industries globally. The problem is that our current reactors are the child of a species that didn't know of the mistakes. They are all 40 years old.

I was part of a Retrospective HAZOP of a HF Alkylation unit at an oil refinery. The biggest issue is the inventory of HF Acid to be released when something goes wrong. The HAZOP identified a major scope for risk reduction simply by changing some design parameters reducing our 100T HF inventory to 20T while still having the same yield. Well fuck it would have been nice to know this 30 years ago when the place was built but the change in design parameters has been ruled waaaaaaay to costly to implement.

The Nuclear industry has learnt a lot over the past 40 years. But the knowledge is locked up in design drawings never to see the light of day. Cooling failing causing a meltdown? I'll raise you a reactor that DOESN'T NEED damn cooling once it's SCRAMed. Will you permit me to build it in your backyard?

Re:The reverse approach is needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36375214)

Hey I want to be paid to write BS about nuclear safety just like you, where do I sign?

Low Probability? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373474)

From what I can tell, the Japanese plant (and apparently most around the world) are designed in a way that they will have a 100% chance of a meltdown in about 24 hours if they lose mains power and their generator fails to operate (assuming no outside intervention). Most datacenters have at least that, and some more. How about they build nuclear plants to at least the standard of a common datacenter?

And if they wanted to get fancy, they could always put a small generator on site that runs on waste heat in the cooling system capable of generating local power in emergencies. That way something like fuel contamination wouldn't cause a meltdown. But most (all?) nuclear plants have no ability to use local power to run the plant and have to take power from the grid. And if the grid is down and the single generator doesn't work, then there will be a meltdown.

Re:Low Probability? (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373582)

This is exactly what needs to happen. Older plants need to be decommissioned and replaced with newer, more modern designs.

This issue is that this costs a lot. Not only that but:

You have the anti-nuclear group that wants all nuclear plants decommissioned.
You have the pro-nuclear group that wants all existing plants kept running and new ones build.

And what you end up with is the worst compromise. Keep the old plants, don’t build new (modern) plants.

Re:Low Probability? (1)

squizzar (1031726) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374356)

It's not the pro-nuclear group that's the problem. Most pro-nuclear people want to see newer plants built, research into better designs etc. The second group should be politicians, who pander to the first group by not building new plants, and pander to everyone else by not having to courage of their convictions to turn the existing ones off and deal with the consequences. Germany is now the exception to this (ironically due to Frau Flip-Flop Merkell), let's see what happens there...

Re:Low Probability? (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374818)

Yeah, "pro-nuclear" was a bad descriptor as like you said, I think most pro-nuclear types (myself included) want to see the old unsafe reactors dealt with. Politians or even "nuclear power industry" might be better.

But here is some interesting mind food. Lets say you are going to build a new nuclear plant. You only get one! You have an existing (old) nuclear plant and several coal powered plants (which while statistics vary, I think are more dangerous in a less spectacular "kills you slowly and indirectly via mining and polution" kinda way). Would you rather that new nuclear power plant replace the coal plants or the old nuclear plant?

Personally I'd rather a mixture of old and unsafe nuclear plants and newer modern plants replacing all coal and oil produced energy, than a mixture of new nuclear plants and existing coal/oil plants replacing all old nuclear reactors.

Neither is ideal of course... just an interesting thought.

Re:Low Probability? (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376420)

You have the pro-nuclear group that wants all existing plants kept running and new ones build.

No, the pro-nuclear group does not all want existing plants kept running.

Old designs should be replaced by latest-generation designs. Plants which were originally scheduled to be decommissioned by now should be decommissioned, and be replaced with newer designs - and shore-situated (or other wave or flood prone regions) installations should have proper failsafe designs to survive even total submersion - and for god's sake, if you store backup to the backup generators off-site make damn sure the voltage and phase match that of the backup generators, and make sure you keep adequate fuel for the cooling generators.

Even better, why not make reactors misfeasance and malfeasance-proof? Pebble bed reactors should be further developed and mini reactors further developed as well for safe operation by municipalities or even small towns (villages?) in rural areas (see http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/big-idea/08/mini-nukes [nationalgeographic.com] but it's absent of any technical details). With any of those reactor designs you can have a failure, and while the generator may be damaged, the reactor integrity itself will not even in the worst case. In theory anyhow. In tests even forced overstressing resulted in the fuel not being damaged. The mini- and micro-reactor designs are actually intended to be installed, buried, and forgotten about until they need refueling (or just replacement since mass production would make them cheap enough) 30-40 years later.

Mini- and micro-nuke articles:

http://www.nextenergynews.com/news1/next-energy-news-toshiba-micro-nuclear-12.17b.html [nextenergynews.com]
http://www.nextenergynews.com/news1/next-energy-news5.28.08c.html [nextenergynews.com]

I could forsee small neighborhoods or even a single wealthy McMansion owner utilizing Hyperion's units in green home designs, if only people would get over the irrational "ZOMG NO NUCULEAR!" mantra.

It's the irrational fear which is keeping ancient, unsafe (well, less safe) reactor designs in operation because more safe reactors aren't allowed to be built, so the anti-nuke nuts are ironically defeating their own purpose by promoting an unsafe situation.

Re:Low Probability? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373588)

Why do you think they would not already be generating power from the waste heat?

I ask because you seem to think that it would be straightforward for them to generate useful amounts of power from it.

Re:Low Probability? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373632)

And if they wanted to get fancy, they could always put a small generator on site that runs on waste heat in the cooling system capable of generating local power in emergencies.

Grats on re-inventing / summarizing something very close to the deployed RCIC system, and almost exactly describing the IC system in a ESBWR, except instead of passing thru a turbine to generate power, the IC works like a slow cooker, boil at the bottom, condense at the top, drip back down. For those that know what one is, a IC is basically a heat pipe.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_water_reactor_safety_systems#Reactor_core_isolation_cooling_system [wikipedia.org]

The hard part is making something this big, completely tsunami proof... Its probably a heck of a lot easier to make something tiny like a diesel generator and its fuel tanks and its electrical wiring completely tsunami proof...

The killer problem is only new BWR plants can have a IC system. And after this the drooling morons will not allow new plants. So we have to watch all the existing old dangerous BWRs melt down, since they can't be replaced with safe ones for PR reasons.

Re:Low Probability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36374300)

If the grid goes down, there are TWO emergency diesel generators, a couple of thousand horsepower each, in case one does not start. If both of those do not work and all ac power is lost, there are batteries and a steam turbine emergency pump to pump water from a large, couple of hundred thousand gallon, tank into the reactor. As it happened, all got flooded out, nothing worked, and then the meltdown started.

Re:Low Probability? (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374620)

I don't know about waste heat running a cooling system, but modern plant designs don't need offsite power (or any power for that matter) for at least 72 hours - they are passively cooled by convection/gravity/other passive processes. (For example, the ESBWR effectively has giant heatpipes going up to big water pools on the roof.)

The 72 hour number could probably be increased significantly with some more heatpipes and cooling towers - but even with the current ESBWR design, a plain old fire truck within 72 hours is a LOT better than a specialized generator within 6-12.

Re:Low Probability? (1)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377038)

From what I can tell, the Japanese plant (and apparently most around the world) are designed in a way that they will have a 100% chance of a meltdown in about 24 hours if they lose mains power and their generator fails to operate (assuming no outside intervention).

As far as I'm aware, most nuclear plants have at least two backup generators, and new designs either have three or four or don't need them at all. The issue at Fukushima was that they were inadequately protected from external events. I'm fairly sure your data centre wouldn't survive being hit by a 15 metre tsunami either.

Alrady plenty low enough (1)

walshy007 (906710) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373494)

The plant was designed to handle tsunamis, just one 1/3rd the size of the one that hit, no other tsunamis anywhere near that had hit that area etc.

So say they triple the height of the tsunamis it can handle, and then a meteor strikes in the ocean and one 5x the size comes along... still screwed.

It's called diminishing returns, you can't make something safe for all situations (I mean hell try and make something safe for when the sun explodes in billions of years)

Once in an unknown period of time freak of nature natural disasters can and will happen, and designing for these as regular operating procedure will simply retard everyone getting on to cleaner nuclear power.

Put homer simpson on the job (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373498)

He the Safety Inspector at SNPP

.. and Chernobyl? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36373536)

I hear that facility is in need of review.

More bureacratic bullshit from the top. Appease the electorates, and no doubt there was some pushing by those angry corporate types in Germany that are about to lose a lot of money. The Ukraine isn't part of the EU yet, or even a candidate.. but it's vitally important to current EU member states that something is done.

Our lesson (hah, yet again) is that the real work is never done. It's a certainty that future issues of radioactive release at Chernobyl are as serious as the original event - we're not talking about some small leaks into already-radioactive surroundings, but the building collapsing and sending debris off to distant cities and farms.

Simulator rods? (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373592)

Actually, this -would- be doable without huge risk, but at some serious cost and without all the normal profit.

The gist would be to replace fuel rods with "simulator rods" that use non-radioactive, chemical energy source. You -can- produce this much energy by plain old chemistry, although over much shorter period of time (and without net energy profit, making the rods will cost much more than electricity they will produce). Some specifics of reactor, like influence of moderator on speed of reaction would be missed (say, xenon poisoning problem), but failure of any essential system would not result in radioactive leak.

Re:Simulator rods? (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373652)

My understanding (and it's a thin understanding so please correct if I'm way off) is that in most cases, stopping the reaction in a fuel core pretty much ends the life of that fuel core. That's the reason I've been told why they don't just drop in the boron at the first sign of trouble .. because once they do, they can't just raise it up and get rolling again.

Re:Simulator rods? (3, Insightful)

DemoLiter3 (704469) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373818)

The fuel rods are typically used for 3-4 years and go through several planned or emergency shutdowns, so normal SCRAM procedure does not make fuel unusable. A stopped reactor cannot be immediately restarted though, because of presence of neutron poisons such as Xe-135. While the chain reaction is still running, the neutron production is sufficient to overcome this barrier, but from a complete shutdown it's not easily possible. Chernobyl explosion was actually caused by an attempt to restart the reactor which was almost accidentally stopped (it was only supposed to go down to 50% output, but went to 5-10% by mistake) by removing all control rods in an attempt to restart the reaction, which it did, uncontrollably.

Boron injection however will require replacing the water and thorough cleaning:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCRAM

This concern is especially significant in a BWR, where injection of liquid boron would cause precipitation of solid boron compounds on fuel cladding, which would prevent the reactor from restarting until the boron deposits were removed.

Re:Simulator rods? (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374014)

That was intelligent, well worded, and very helpful!

Also sent me on a nice wiki trip. Well done!

Re:Simulator rods? (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374688)

Yup. There are two primary ways of stopping a reaction in most plants:
1) Control rod insertion - No permanent damage, but as stated above, nuke plants have some multi-hour and even multi-day time constants involved, so restarting immediately after a power drop is difficult and potentially dangerous. It CAN be done - the French do a lot of load-following, so do nuclear powered ships, but you have to know what you're doing. The Chernobyl crew were extremely poorly trained in terms of handling xenon poisoning.
2) Borate injection. Boric acid is corrosive, so if the reactor isn't designed to handle it or it isn't cleaned relatively rapidly, it permanently damages the reactor. In first-gen BWRs like Fukushima, borate injection = reactor writeoff. In ABWRs and newer, borate injection does not equal reactor writeoff, removing many psychologicl barriers to doing it.

Re:Simulator rods? (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376086)

This would not be a 1-hour online test doable anytime. Shut the reactor down primarily by allowing the rods to get exhausted. Remove spent rods and replace them with "test rods". Run tests for a couple of days or weeks. Perform servicing, upgrades, repairs and so on. Once everything is fine and dandy insert new fuel rods.

Re:Simulator rods? (1)

squizzar (1031726) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374386)

I thought they did do infrastructure tests using reactor 'cores' that were basically big electrical heaters. They'd test the critical systems and scale up to the full size plant.

Global tests? (1)

black soap (2201626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373634)

Why don't we just test them a few at a time? Seems like that might be a little safer.

We must commit to better nuclear power (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373658)

Unless the average citizen of Western states wants to either drastically reduce their power consumption or accept foreign energy hegemony over their economies, nuclear power is essential at least in the interim. We need to take this as an opportunity to spend money to build better reactors, costs be damned up front, and better facilities for handling waste. The alternatives are simply not acceptable to most people and this isn't something we have the luxury of "having it all on." We need to pick our poison. For my money, I'd rather see the Western governments take some of their budgets and put them directly into fixing this up than seeing a drop in living standards or Russian/Middle Eastern domination of our energy supplies.

Re:We must commit to better nuclear power (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373780)

The U.S. has natural gas coming out of our armpits and giant mountains of coal, I think you are being a little bleak.

I guess hastening a move away from petroleum is probably a good idea, but it still isn't very expensive compared to the infrastructure that would be required to replace it.

Re:We must commit to better nuclear power (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374830)

There is a minor problem with burning lots of gas and coal.

Re:We must commit to better nuclear power (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374872)

Well, GP was talking about burning lots of gas and oil, so talking about burning lots of gas and coal instead is probably reasonable.

(and really, if we *knew* global warming was a minor problem, it is quite likely we would go ahead and burn everything there was to burn)

Re:We must commit to better nuclear power (2)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#36375330)

Oh, we're going to burn everything there is.

And it won't be a minor problem.

Re:We must commit to better nuclear power (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376918)

Natural gas drilling operations in only 5-10 years of hydrofracturing shale plays have contaminated more water supplies and sickened more people than the entire history of nuclear power in the United States.

Prior to Fukushima (triggered by a disaster that killed 25,000+ within hours), it would be more contamination/sickness than the entire history of non-Soviet nuclear power generation.

Note: I'm not counting weapons-related (detonation or production) contamination incidents, since most countries are dismantling weapons instead of building them.

Coal power is also estimated to kill around 14,000 people per year due to air pollution.

Re:We must commit to better nuclear power (1)

fyoder (857358) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377078)

Unless the average citizen of Western states wants to either drastically reduce their power consumption or accept foreign energy hegemony over their economies, nuclear power is essential at least in the interim.

If Germany can pull it off, the interim could be very short -- nuclear replaced by sustainable energy by 2022 [bbc.co.uk] .

We need to motivate management. (1)

ed1park (100777) | more than 3 years ago | (#36373794)

Some simple advice from Warren Buffett and Freakonomics would do. We need to align owner's/management's goals and motivations to that of the public's by making people responsible for their actions for critical and large utilities or companies that are "too big to fail". If they bankrupt a company, they need to become financially destitute as well, with no insurance protection. They should be culpable for any messes after they leave for up to 1 year. If they commit fraud on an Enron/Madoff level, life sentences or death would be appropriate.

In this case, people owning and running nuclear plants would basically bet their fortunes and lives that they are running the facilities with integrity and great care. Any damage to the environment would be their responsibility and for all those who were affected (lost business, land, health issues, etc).

Eliminate any conflict of interest. For instance, did they delay the cooling down of the nuclear reactors with corrosive seawater to save themselves some money? Why did the backups fail? Was it simply because they were lazy and never tested their backups? (would have revealed problems with incompatible electrical plugs.) Did they not want to spend extra money for diesel generators that were properly protected from water like the other surrounding plants that did not fail? Inspections of safety procedures and backup tests should be public knowledge and transparent like they do for NYC restaurant inspections. Anything less than an A is unacceptable.

The same should go for the agencies that are supposed to regulate and protect the public. Nuclear plant owners should not be cozy with those that are supposed to watch and regulate them. Eliminate all conflicts of interest by having members with zero ties to the nuclear industry, with severe financial and criminal penalties for gifts/bribes/consulting jobs, etc. Peoples lives are at stake, and those that violate this trust should be dealt with severely.

And this practice needs to be coordinated and overseen on a global level, as meltdowns can affect people much farther than the immediate area unfortunately. Until we have something basic like this in place, there will be more preventable disasters to come.

Re:We need to motivate management. (2)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374262)

Anything less than an A is unacceptable.

Everyone is fine with this until you tell them what it will cost.

I do agree that the top level should be personally liable though. And not just for large utilities, and even extending to things that don't directly result in loss of life. The threat of serious jail time and ineligability to ever be in such a position again if you screw up should come with the huge salary.

Re:We need to motivate management. (1)

ed1park (100777) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374390)

It didn't cost that much to make the other plants to have diesel generators that didn't fail. Completely preventable.

"other sites had the good sense to have emergency diesel generators protected in buildings. Fukushima 2 escaped unharmed because of this simple safety measure. In contrast, the site at Fukushima 1 had crucial seawater pumps for the backup generators exposed to the environment. Not a smart decision, as it turns out."

http://k.lenz.name/LB/?p=1159 [lenz.name] [lenz.name]

Or how about they just dump seawater on it to begin with? Sure you would have lost the plant, but you wouldn't end up with a meltdown.

Compare that with the cost of *trillions* that tax payers may spend.
http://nuclear-news.net/2011/05/06/fukushima-nuclear-accident-could-cost-tax-payer-trillions/ [nuclear-news.net]

And if we aren't willing to carry that responsibility and cost, then we shouldn't have it to begin with.

Probability (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374094)

'You have to take these severe accidents into account and do more to prevent the very low-probability events.'

As Terry Pratchett said, One-in-a-million chances crop up nine times out of ten.

What bothers me (the zycronium fuel rod claddings) (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36374216)

I've posted this before, but never early enough to get much response. I'll post it again to see if anyone has anything reasonable to dispute my concern.

I've always been a big nuclear supporter of safe nuclear power, and, by safe, I mean ones where the core can reliably melt down to puddle with very minimal impact on the environment around. The thing that bothers me is that I used to believe our current nuclear plants could do this. I am no longer convinced. Indeed, I am openly concerned this is not the case.

In the four cases of partial core meltdowns we have now seen (the Three Mile Island reactor and the three Fukushima reactors), the zicronium fuel rod casings have shown themselves to be a major liability. In all cases, they reacted with the hot steam to produce hydrogen gas, which has then posed a non-insignificant threat to the containment structure. In the case of the Fukushima reactors, we saw this actually happened to unit 3, and on day 3 of Three Mile Island incident, there was significant concern that an accumulated hydrogen bubble would explode damaging the containment structure.

I realize that one in four (25%) is not yet enough samples to exactly pinpoint the probability of containment failure due to the explosion of accumulating hydrogen gas. However, combined with the fact this has been a major concern in all partial core meltdowns experienced so far, it is a figure we should all be concerned with. Containment failure due to hydrogen explosion is not an insignificant failure mode during meltdown, and I have yet to see it mitigated to any reasonably acceptable level.

So, to the nuclear industry out there. Zycronium cladding for the fuel rods is currently used in pretty much every installed reactor. I realize it was chosen due to its low neutron-capture cross-section, but, in operation, it has shown itself to be a significant liability during partial meltdown. It is time to go back to the drawing board and come up with an alternative that does not have this problem. Even if that means a degradation in performance. Until I see this happening, you have lost my support.

Sellafield not included (1)

edxwelch (600979) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374308)

The British are excluding Sellafield from the tests. Obviously, with the likes of "Dirty thirty" and regular data falsification, they don't want anyone poking their nose in there. Anyways, this is no surpise as the stress tests are not binding. Countries can cop out on any excuse.

Re:Sellafield not included (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374858)

Because Sellafield isn't a power plant?

Or because it's already failed its stress test.

GE Mk1 Audit (2)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 3 years ago | (#36374424)

First thing I will say is that despite the criticisms of many "pro-nuclear" folk protesting that newer reactor facilities be built, the reactors themselves performed to specification. They scrammed, shutdown and survived the quake. What they did not survive was the negligence of the operator despite the BDIs known and circulated by GE and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

According to the Seismic design criteria for Nuclear facilities, S and B class facilities (those that contain radionuclides (S) or attached to pressure vessels that contain radionuclides (B) ) should not be affected by the loss of a C class facility (a support facility like a backup generator). The actual quake measured around 140Gal at Fukushima but the plant was designed to tolerate 600Gal (S class). As evidenced the C class facilities were not as the power lines were severed in the quake, and B class facilities (the pumps) were inundated by the tsunami. To quote World Nuclear Association [world-nuclear.org] (note that ALL reactor manufacturers and TEPCO are members of this organisation)

In March 2008 Tepco upgraded its estimates of likely Design Basis Earthquake Ground Motion Ss for Fukushima to 600 Gal, and other operators have adopted the same figure. (The magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Taiheiyou-Oki earthquake in March 2011 did not exceed this at Fukushima.) In October 2008 Tepco accepted 1000 Gal (1.02g) DBGM as the new Ss design basis for Kashiwazaki Kariwa, following the July 2007 earthquake there.

Through two known Basis Design Issues (BDI or DBI if you want to be pedantic) it is demonstrated that a loss of electricity to the plant is the key factor for the loss of cooling for the reactor and the failure of the seals holding water in the spent fuel pools.

The first Basis Design Issue of the General Electric MK 1 reactor revealed comes from the tests of the reactor prototype by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in Brunswick in the 1970's. Testers of the reactor prototype at Brunswick discovered that the reactor would leak when the internal pressure reached 70psi (they are operated at 65psi approx). Quite obviously this is the primary source of hydrogen that led to the explosion at Fukushima as this design has proven itself vulnerable to this kind of failure. The vessel is an "S" class facility.

The second is that a General Electric Nuclear reactor of that design requires a constant supply of power due to the nature of the refueling gate pairs that separate the reactor head from the spent fuel containment pool. I understand that, due to the nature of the seals on the gates, they need to be constantly powered to prevent a loss of coolant. Each pool has a volume of 1300 tons of water, they are 12 meters deep and there is 850 tons of water above the spent fuel in each (except for Fukushima reactor 1 spent fuel pool which is smaller by 400 tons). The failure mode for a loss of coolant event in those spent fuel pools was *exactly* in line with what would happen if plutonium in those spent fuel pools was exposed, hydrogen was produced and, subsequently, an explosion occurred. Without those spent fuel containment pools leaking there should have been several *months* to do something (60 Million calories per hour heating capacity in the spent fuel rods in reactor 1 spent fuel pool, 400Mcal/h in reactor 2 spent fuel pool, 200 Mcal/h in reactor 3 and 1600 Mcal/h in reactor 4)

This clearly proves that the backup power systems were absolutely essential to maintain the safe operation of the Mk1 GE reactor, yet at Fukushima they were not engineered to the same survivability criteria of the reactor for a known Basis Design Issue in *direct* contravention of the Seismic Design criteria for Reactor plants.

Along with the known basis design issues for a GE Mk 1 reactor (pressure vessel limits of 70psi, cooling pool seals require constant power) this is a clear cut case of criminal negligence at Fukushima. The importance of which, internationally, cannot be underlined enough due to the size of the installed base of GE Mk 1 reactors around the world. We need to prosecute the operators immediately and discover what other failure modes were ignored because many of these Mk 1 plants are in operation. They should be audited immediately for failure modes that affect C class facilities, lest we encounter more of these "accidents". And I'll make the call right now on the most pressing need;

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station [wikipedia.org] sits on the Pacific Rim of Fire. There have been earthquakes in Chille, Christchurch, Japan and somewhere else I can't quite recall right now, separated by a bit of time. Prudence suggests shutting it down, moving the spent fuel in the pools and immediately audit it for it's susceptibility to C class failures. Any of those can be done independently of the other.

I'm not saying shut the thing down permanently but right now the risk is extreme for such rudimentary precautions. An accident there would pretty much mean the end of Nuclear power.

LFTR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376682)

A LFTR is a thorium based molten salt reactor.

Walk-away safe. Cheaper than coal. Inexhaustible supply of fuel.

The only problem is that we aren't even looking at it in the US.

Safety: http://energyfromthorium.com/2006/10/27/molten-salt-reactors-safety-options-galore-paper/

Google Talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgKfS74hVvQ

Nukes need better power-out sensors (1)

TheSync (5291) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377124)

It seems to me a lot of the bad mistakes made at Fukushima after the tsunami was because in power-out mode, very few of the sensors in the reactor building were working. No one knew what the water level was in the pressure vessel, spent fuel pools, or even if water was pouring out from the pressure vessel. Sensors could be wired to be able to be powered by remote batteries (even if the batteries need to be helicoptered in).

Of course avoiding a power-out situation is the best. Back-up generators can have problems. Having the ability to easily plug-in a generator that could be flown in by helicopter (in case of closed roads) is a must. At Fukushima they had problems connecting in replacement generators brought in after the accident.

The ultimate stress test (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377204)

Homer Simpson
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