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All French Nuclear Reactors Deemed Unsafe

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the what's-the-worst-that-could-happen dept.

Power 493

hweimer writes "A new study by a French government agency, commissioned in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, found that all French nuclear power plants do not offer adequate safety when it comes to flooding, earthquakes, power outages, failure of the cooling systems and operational management of accidents. While there is no need for immediate shutdown, the agency presses for the problems to be fixed quickly. France gets about 80% of its power from nuclear energy and is a major exporter of nuclear technology."

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493 comments

As the French would say... (5, Funny)

generikz (413613) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095082)

MERDE !

Re:As the French would say... (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095384)

It saves time. They only have to add an R if things don't get fixed.

Re:As the French would say... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095434)

And then they realize that there are no earthquakes nor flooding in France.

Re:As the French would say... (1)

TarMil (1623915) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095528)

No earthquakes indeed. Flooding, though, happens; it is actually considered the biggest natural risk in France.

Re:As the French would say... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095748)

false: there are several sismic places in France, because of the growth of pyrenees and alps. There were huge eathquakes in pyrennes and alps with lot of victims during the 19th century. In Alsace, in Rhone Alpes, many nuclear powerplants are on sismic zones, and even the big ITER project is on a sismic zone. The calm of the underground activity is recent in France: the volcanos of the "massif central" were active just 6000 years ago.

Re:As the French would say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095650)

And not to forget the old fashioned : FAIT CHIER!

Wait! I know this one (5, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095086)

The only alternative is coal. Nucular and coal is all there is. And coal is worse. Coal ash has more radioactive emissions than nucular plants, and arsenic and landslides too.

There is no geothermal. Don't look at geothermal.

Re:Wait! I know this one (-1, Redundant)

rednip (186217) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095142)

Sure that's what they keep telling you on right wing talk radio, perhaps eventually you'll learn that they sell their opinions.

Re:Wait! I know this one (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095164)

People don't like geothermal because of the earthquakes. Also because EGS isn't proven technology yet.

Re:Wait! I know this one (0, Flamebait)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095216)

The "If it's not nuclear, it's coal" fiends are below us now, ranting their "coal is evil" rants as if there were no other options. I'll call that a win.

Coal and nuclear are both proven bad. Why not look at something else?

Re:Wait! I know this one (5, Interesting)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095556)

Because the other options are unworkable pipedreams? Even massive improvements in wind/solar will not change the fact they cannot supply base load in all conditions and you will still need an always-on coal or nuclear plant for the times it can't work. Coal/oil and nuclear happen to be the only options that do not currently require violation of the laws of physics.

Re:Wait! I know this one (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095756)

Nuclear isn't "proven bad."
Coal is "proven bad," because it has continued to consistently kill people en masse. Nuclear has not, short of accidents caused by huge natural disasters and ancient primitive soviet technology.

Re:Wait! I know this one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095244)

What? They seem to like fracking..

http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/11/14/1950245/did-fracking-cause-recent-oklahoma-earthquakes

Re:Wait! I know this one (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095196)

Geothermal, along with wind, solar, and so on, are not yet thought to be cost-effective.

Re:Wait! I know this one (2, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095224)

Cancer is not cost-effective.

Re:Wait! I know this one (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095674)

How come? You think you overpaid for yours?

Re:Wait! I know this one (3, Informative)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095268)

There is no geothermal. Don't look at geothermal.

The problem with your argument is reality. We are still building new coal fired plants today. Not just not shutting down old plants, building new plants. Because it's known, cheap, and legal.

So let's go with your argument that geothermal is better than both coal and nuclear for a second. That doesn't change the fact that nuclear is better than coal, does it? So until we shut down all the coal fired plants, any talk about shutting down existing nuclear plants is an instance of defective prioritization.

Re:Wait! I know this one (-1, Troll)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095304)

We've had a lot of these threads. Forgive me for turning this one away from the well-worn path. We can resume the nuclear vs. coal flamewar in the next one a few days from now, for the folk who prefer tradition.

Natural Gas from Russia (5, Interesting)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095374)

The only alternative is coal. Nucular and coal is all there is. And coal is worse. Coal ash has more radioactive emissions than nucular plants, and arsenic and landslides too. There is no geothermal. Don't look at geothermal.

In Europe I believe the backup plan is buying more natural gas from Russia.

I hope you are joking and not just dim (2, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095386)

Coal ash has more radioactive emissions than nucular plants

I see this comment a lot. It looks like the education cuts since Reagan left their mark.
One professional liar better known for writing books about classic cars writes a propaganda piece in a Oak Ridge Labs newsletter (Alex Gabbard: Soldier, Scientist and Author Extraordinaire!) and suddenly people think coal is more radioactive than the impurities of small amounts sand in it that actually contain those radioactive trace elements. Do the banana dose calculations and you'll see how many tens of thousands of tons of coal you'll need to match a banana.
Maybe it's homeopathic radiation!
The people that believe the crap about ash being nuclear waste should read to the end of the original source article. The "OMG Terrorists making nuclear bombs out of coal!" bit should show to even the dimmest readers it doesn't come within miles of serious science.

Re:I hope you are joking and not just dim (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095400)

That'll be why coal-fired power stations have radiation detectors all over the place, then. Do you know how "hot" the ash coming from these plants is?

Re:I hope you are joking and not just dim (0)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095660)

Wow! WTF does that come from?
How stupid and ill informed do you think the readers are to fall for something as way out there as that?

To top that off, actually I do know how "hot" at least some of the fly ash is NOT from taking a look at a few samples in the 1990s before the press (or anyone apart from a few nutcases or the partisan that knew it was a lie) heard of this "coal is so radioactive we'll never need to mine Uranium" bullshit. I was looking for traces of other elements using backscatter in an SEM and nothing heavy turned up above the noise.
I really cannot understand this tactic of pretending to be incredibly stupid in order to win an argument. You know that there is no such thing yet you pretend to be stupid enough to believe there is. Why?

Re:I hope you are joking and not just dim (2)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095422)

So I'm guessing the "nucular" spelling wasn't enough of a sarcasm clue for you. I'll work on being less subtle. Thanks.

Re:I hope you are joking and not just dim (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095704)

The subject about "joking" was supposed to let you know this is aimed at people that swallowed the bullshit and it appears that some have come out of the woodwork.

you have traced sources incorrectly (4, Informative)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095536)

The data doesn't come from an Oak Ridge Labs newsletter or Alex Gabbard.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation#Human-caused_background_radiation [wikipedia.org]

It was already published in Science magazine in 1978.

Coal plants cause more deaths due to radioactivity (statistically) than nuclear plants. Even in this year, with Fukushima blowing up.

No, per gram fly ash doesn't contain more radioactivity. But coal plants emit a lot more fly ash in a year than nuclear plants consume fuel.

Re:you have traced sources incorrectly (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095688)

That Oak Ridge newsletter article was also written in the mid 1970s.
As for the other comment, it's a divide by zero error because a well run nuclear plant is not supposed to let anything out.

I should add (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095736)

He kept on that theme for a few later articles. Scientific American later used one as a source. I suggest finding that peice of crap that marks the low point of Scientific American online to read the comments from people that actually have a clue instead of Mr Gabbard and the journalist at Scientific American.

Re:I hope you are joking and not just dim (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095750)

I'm impressed by the list of citations in your comment.

Germany must be pissed (4, Informative)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095090)

That's unfortunate - France's nuclear power plants were a key part of Germany's decision to go non-nuclear but still buy tons of nuclear-based power from France. [slashdot.org]

Re:Germany must be pissed (5, Interesting)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095494)

[citation needed]

Their plan is to replace most of their nuclear power with renewables as part of a programme to develop the technology so that it can be exported. Having the option to buy power from France means they can get by with less spare capacity but in the medium to long term they do not want to be dependent on it regularly.

Funny that (5, Insightful)

singlevalley (1368965) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095114)

the report says the plants have to exceed the limits that are planned for/ stated. How can you build a completely fail-proof plant? By not building one...

Re:Funny that (5, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095332)

TFA says they just need a more robust diesel generator backup. Doesn't sound very panic-worthy to me, but that's the media for you...

Re:Funny that (5, Insightful)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095700)

It isn't about complete fail-proofness, it is about risk management - risks change, and estimates of risks change as knowledge about operation is collected. Are you against bugfixes and patches as well? If anything is going to change the mind of nuclear skeptics like myself, it is constant and honest assessments of the risks throughout the life of the plants and adequate measures to ensure that established risks are addressed in a timely and sufficient manner.

The current situation, as exposed by the checks after the Fukushima debacle show exactly the opposite -- insufficient planning, insufficient risk assessments, inadequate procedures, etc, and that happens in the most advanced countries - Japan, Germany, now France. I'm scared to think what's the situation in countries that traditionally uphold highest safety standards like China, India or Russia.

And that is the problem with nuclear (4, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095116)

If a coal power plants fails, it is just a big fire, annoying and hard to put out BUT controllable. A hydro dam that breaks will NOT cause the water to shoot up stream. Sure it sucks for the people down stream and there might be a lot of people downstream but the risk is calculable and limited.

Chernobyl and Fukishama have now both shown that nuclear incidents are ALWAYS worse then estimated and even worse then admitted to afterwards by the nuclear lobby. You can build again on a flood plain, but radiated soil will be unusable for decades.

It is not as nuclear technology can't be made safe but since about the only argument in the past has been that it is cheap, costs are going to have to be cut in the hope that "it" never happens. That is not a very reliable method to prevent accidents. Or at least not reliable enough. The public might want safe power but they are not willing to pay the price of 1 nuclear accident every couple decades.

Nuclear energy is the same as oil drilling, techs that for many reasons are necessary but nobody wants in their back yard OR simply spend enough money on to make it safe. And when it fails, it fails so enormously that people lose all sense of proportion. Hey Japan, sure you lost a sizable area of your country BUT you build your economy on cheap electricity. Surely it is worth it because you thought it was worth it back then when you decided to build them? Oh, that is not how voters think? How unexpected.

Nuclear tech doesn't fit in a capitalist democracy. You can't have reactors build by the lowest bidder at the whim of voters with no accountability.

Re:And that is the problem with nuclear (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095170)

On the other hand, coal power causes thousands of premature deaths per year under normal operating conditions, not to mention the significant contribution to global warming.

As for dam failure, it has been far more catastrophic [wikipedia.org] than nuclear power disasters.

Re:And that is the problem with nuclear (5, Insightful)

tebee (1280900) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095388)

Yes but the deaths are nicely spread out so no one notices them. It's like car accidents vs train or plain crashes. By most statistics more people get killed in the former but what sticks in our minds is the big ones of the latter we see on the news.

It's just a human failing, if one that our addiction to a constant stimulus of easily digestible news nuggets only re-enforces.

It's also one many unscrupulous people exploit for their advantage, drumming up public support for something based on some newsworthy incident that everybody knows about, to push through laws or policies to further their own advantage , but thats a failing of our current democratic system.

Re:And that is the problem with nuclear (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095586)

On the other hand, coal power causes thousands of premature deaths per year under normal operating conditions, not to mention the significant contribution to global warming.

Right, but the accidental deaths are mostly in developing countries where health and safety are somewhat lacking. I don't think many people would advocate giving those countries nuclear technology.

The deaths from pollution are a good reason to stop using coal, but again nuclear is not an option in many countries and not the only (or best) solution either.

Keep an eye on Libya. Expect to see solar thermal plants springing up (like the one in Spain) - free pollution and fuel free power 24/7 all year round. Expect to see the EU investing in them and buying excess capacity. The prospect of power too cheap to meter may actually come around in a few decades. 1% of North African desert could power the entire EU.

Re:And that is the problem with nuclear (5, Interesting)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095378)

I think it appropriate here to point out that the past tense should not be used in describing either the Fukishima or the Chernobyl incidents. Fukishima is a long way from being contained or even put into a "cold shutdown" state. It is known that Chernobyl's sarcophagus will fail, maybe in decades, maybe next year (there are too many unknowns, too much pure guesswork, in the projections to know what to expect).

At this point, the problems with understanding these situations appears to be as much chemical as nuclear. No one has done any serious hands-on research on the chemistry of corium, that constantly changing compound that forms when fuel rods melt, puddle, and interact chemically with casing material, coolant and coolant contaminates, concrete and whatever was in the stone of the aggregate, ground water, water vapor from slowly cooking the aquifer below the corium, etc. We do know from the naturally occurring nuclear reactors [wikipedia.org] that aqueous chemistry is capable of concentrating nucleotides (and moderating neutrons) sufficiently to reawaken chain reactions in sites that had been dormant for geologic periods of time. Things will probably happen much quicker in these man-made corium deposits.

Just exactly how one would do serious hands-on research on the chemistry of corium is left as an exercise for the student.

Re:And that is the problem with nuclear (5, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095380)

If a coal power plants fails, it is just a big fire, annoying and hard to put out BUT controllable.

There are approximately 2300 coal plants worldwide [worldcoal.org]. Pollution from coal plants is estimated to kill 1 million people worldwide each year, or 435 per plant per year. Chernobyl is estimated by the World Health Organization to have caused/will cause 4,000 long-term deaths. So on average, a coal plant operating normally (without any big fires) will kill as many people as Chernobyl every 9 years.

A hydro dam that breaks will NOT cause the water to shoot up stream.

The worst power-generation related accident in history was the failure of a series of hydroelectric dams [wikipedia.org]. Nearly a quarter million people killed. Equal to about 50 Chernobyls.

Chernobyl and Fukishama have now both shown that nuclear incidents are ALWAYS worse then estimated and even worse then admitted to afterwards by the nuclear lobby. You can build again on a flood plain, but radiated soil will be unusable for decades.

Have you looked at the land requirements for the different technologies? Japan has about 47.3 GW of nuclear power generating capacity. Nuclear has a capacity factor of 0.9, meaning it generates an average 42.6 GW for them throughout the year.

Solar has a capacity factor of about 0.15. If you're using 15% efficient panels (125 W/m^2), that means you're getting an average 19 W/m^2 throughout the year. To get an average 42.6 GW throughout the year, you'd need to cover 2.27 billion square meters of solar panels, or 2270 km^2. The evacuation zone around Fukushima is pi*(20km)^2 = 1256 km^2. If Japan replaced their nuclear capacity with solar, it would permanently make more land unusable for agriculture than the Fukushima accident.

Three Gorges Dam in China generates about 80 TWh per year, which works out to an average of 9.1 GW. The reservoir behind it is 1045 km^2. So for every GW of power it generates, that's 115 km^2 of land was flooded and made permanently unusable for agriculture. Dividing Fukushima's evacuation zone by Japan's nuclear power generation comes up with only 29 km^2 of land made unusable per GW of power generated.

So if your concern is km^2 of soil being made unusable for agriculture, you should be even more critical of solar and hydro than nuclear.

It is not as nuclear technology can't be made safe but since about the only argument in the past has been that it is cheap, costs are going to have to be cut in the hope that "it" never happens. That is not a very reliable method to prevent accidents.

The safety of any technology has to be assessed based on the severity of the danger(s), multiplied by the likelihood of accident, normalized by the amount of power generated. This can be simplified to number of people killed per unit of energy generated. The exoticness of the death is not a factor. Whether you're killed by radiation poisoning, a thrown turbine blade, a wall of water, or lung cancer, you're still dead.

When you analyze safety this way, nuclear turns out to be the safest power source [nextbigfuture.com]. i.e. If you wish to generate X amount of energy generated, the technology which can do so with the fewest casualties is nuclear.

The notion that nuclear power is dangerous and we can't make it safe is a myth. Its incredible power density and the exotic nature of its dangers mean we are much more careful with it than with other technologies. This has resulted in (based on statistics from decades of operation) the safest form of power generation man has ever invented. If you use a different measure of safety, like number of people injured per unit of energy generated, nuclear still has the best record [web.psi.ch]. The only measure by which it doesn't come out as safest or nearly the safest is amount of people evacuated per unit of energy, indicating that relative to the danger we are much more cautious about nuclear power than any other energy source.

Re:And that is the problem with nuclear (1, Interesting)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095634)

As usual both sides of this debate have cherry picked the absolute worst examples of nuclear, coal and hydro power. Yeah, China built some crappy dams that failed. The USSR built some crappy reactors that blew up. Merely comparing these two extremes is not very useful.

As even geothermal and solar thermal are largely ignored too. Those two are both clean, work 24/7 and are highly reliable.

Re:And that is the problem with nuclear (1)

epine (68316) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095504)

Chernobyl and Fukishama have now both shown that nuclear incidents are ALWAYS worse then estimated ...

I suppose what you are saying is that people ALWAYS exceed the speed limit unless the speed limit exceeds the reigning land speed record, but that such a speed limit could never be adopted by any social process even though Germany has in fact adopted something not entirely different.

When the sun finally goes red giant, I'm not entirely sure the damage to the planet from nuclear energy will actually be worse than estimated.

I'm pretty much 100% certain that somewhere between 1950 and 2100--as things are presently progressing--we'll gain enough engineering and political competence to make nuclear energy a safe alternative relative to any sane norm in these matters, if by then we still wish to pursue it, which is highly doubtful, but not impossible.

Evidence now appears overwhelming that 1970 fell short of the mark and that 2010 has yet to complete its homework assignment.

Note: you can actually see an impressive long march towards human political competence through a thousand year aperture.

Re:And that is the problem with nuclear (1)

someoneOtherThanMe (1387847) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095546)

Nuclear tech doesn't fit in a capitalist democracy.

On the other hand, the nukes in the Soviet Union were/are incredibly safe.

Re:And that is the problem with nuclear (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095548)

A hydro dam that breaks will NOT cause the water to shoot up stream. Sure it sucks for the people down stream and there might be a lot of people downstream but the risk is calculable and limited.

The Banqiao Reservoir Dam killed an estimated 171,000 people [wikipedia.org]
The Vajont Dam caused around 2,000 deaths [wikipedia.org]
The St. Francis Dam killed more than 450 people [wikipedia.org]
The Johnstown Dam killed 2,200 people [go.com]

This incomplete list lists 23 dam failures between Chernobyl and Fukushima. (Well, one of them was caused by the same tsunami/earthquake and killed more than the nuclear incident.)

So yes the risk is calculable and limited, it just happens to be that it fails more often and kills more people than nuclear power. I guess we are still gong to build more dams, because you know, it's not nuclear.

nothing is safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095552)

The question is not how to make safe, but at which point you want to stop the safety measure. From what I know of the report of their criteria, they erred on the side of safety recommending some change which are beyond their probability of happenning in a French nuclear plant. Some other recommendation I agree with.

Furthermore I would like to point out that the *worst* human generated catastrophe ever, both on ecological level and human death level, were not nuclear but oil and chemical plants. And that is not counting some industry which not only kill by mining (coal) but also with their emmission in the air are noxious (coal again even with good filter) , and also displace population (coal again, see tagsabbau braunschweig). The irony is, since such things happens small bit by small bit, they are not seen as problematic, whereas nuclear catastrophe even if having less death are seen as a boogy man. They are manageable. Nuclear indiustry can be made safer. Coal industry cannot.

Re:And that is the problem with nuclear (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095622)

There have been loads of failures at Nuclear plants, you didn't hear about them because....nothing happened, they failed safe, no radiation leaked ...

However the coal plants, which have the same number or more accidents, people were hurt and died, but it was only local news because it was only a coal plant and no radiation was involved ...

The safety record of Nuclear plants is amazingly good simply because they are run to very high standards (because they have to be), it is only a Nuclear disaster like Fukashima that prompts people to check...

The advise that comes from Fukashima is don't build plants near the sea on the Pacific rim, in Earthquake zones ... France is not on the Pacific, it's plants aren't in earthquake zones .... At least one of the USA's plants is ....

Translation: (4, Insightful)

identity0 (77976) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095122)

"Give us more money"

I'm not against the concept of nuclear power per se, but eveything I've read about the industry and its practices makes me think they're rather untrustworthy and greedy.

Maybe the French industry is different, I don't know.

Re:Translation: (4, Insightful)

Iskender (1040286) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095148)

I'm not against the concept of nuclear power per se, but eveything I've read about the industry and its practices makes me think they're rather untrustworthy and greedy.

If by "the industry" you mean "the energy industry" then I'm right with you.

This isn't pro-nuclear or pro-anything either: I'm just saying that any large-scale energy production has looked corrupt to me. They're all subsidized too.

The way it all appears to suck reminds me of the construction industry.

Re:Translation: (2)

DaveAtWorkAnnoyingly (655625) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095280)

Subsidized? Really? I work for a large scale nuclear generator and we're certainly not subsidized by anyone. The only subsidized "large" scale generators out there are renewable projects, notably wind farms, because they can't generate cheap enough for it to be viable.

Re:Translation: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095302)

Buy insurance much?

Re:Translation: (5, Insightful)

sunspot42 (455706) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095412)

I work for a large scale nuclear generator and we're certainly not subsidized by anyone.

Oh, so you're at a U.S. plant that's started buying insurance in the private market then, and are paying whatever the going free market rate is for your liability insurance?

No?

So in other words, you're being heavily subsidized by the taxpayers already with sweetheart rates for government-run liability insurance. And when there's a catastrophic accident near a major city, the government fund that nuclear power plants have been paying into - for decades - doesn't have enough money in it to begin to cover the liability. Which means more money will be stolen from the taxpayers to clean up your mess.

I'll believe nuclear power is safe and practical when the nuclear industry can buy private liability insurance - from an adequately capitalized insurer, one who has the resources to actually pay out in case of a disaster or two - and still turn a profit.

I'm not holding my breath.

Re:Translation: (3, Informative)

DaveAtWorkAnnoyingly (655625) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095554)

Sweetheart rates? We're insured by a private insurer, but thanks for checking your facts. And when there is a catastrophic accident, the government would support us, just like they'd support you if a catastrophic accident took out your hospital. It's almost as if you don't actually use nuclear power...

Re:Translation: (2)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095738)

All correct facts and logical surmises until:

Which means more money will be stolen from the taxpayers to clean up your mess.

  I'll believe nuclear power is safe and practical when the nuclear industry can buy private liability insurance

No part of the energy industry runs unsubsidised or is practical. Nuclear has government insurance. Oil seems to have limited liability. Both oil and coal have a large license to pollute. None of the other technologies are mature yet.

You could of course argue that all forms of electicity is bad because they're ased on theft from the taxpayer. It's hard to argue that practical electricity is not worth the tax. And tax is not (in general) theft.

Wait a minute... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095134)

How likely is it for there to be an earthquake in France? Why should earthquake protection matter when other bad things are much more likely?

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

TheInternetGuy (2006682) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095186)

Big ones?

Not so likely. The same was said for very high tsunamis in the Fukushima area. The problems is that when it does occur the consequences are great.

More worrying was the fact that the article(and even summary) mention that they where not safe for off site power loss, and flooding.

Re:Wait a minute... (2)

GumphMaster (772693) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095214)

One in 1909 measured 6 on the Richter scale. Nothing of note since then. I would expect that mechanical failures and flooding are orders of magnitude more likely, and a deliberate attack is also possible.

Re:Wait a minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095656)

http://www.planseisme.fr/La-nouvelle-carte-d-alea-sismique.html

Consider for instance Fessenheim nuclear plant north of Mulhouse, Tricastin nuclear plant south of Montélimar, Saint Cassien (major) artificial lake southeast of Montauroux, all in "moderate risk" zones, defined as acceleration between 1.1 and 1.6 m/s^2.

  (Saint Cassien was built to replace the Malpasset dam which broke in 1959).

Stunning (4, Insightful)

DennisZeMenace (131127) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095150)

In related news, all nuclear reactors were deemed unsafe againt a meteorite strike.

Re:Stunning (5, Funny)

TheInternetGuy (2006682) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095202)

This can easily be mitigated by adding new labor laws that prevent meteorites from ever going on strike.

Re:Stunning (5, Funny)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095250)

This can easily be mitigated by adding new labor laws that prevent meteorites from ever going on strike.

It's France, that'll never happen.

Re:Stunning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095252)

BEST COMMENT EVER! :D

Re:Stunning (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095208)

In related news, all nuclear reactors were deemed unsafe againt a meteorite strike.

Well, yes, as a matter of fact they are. You bring up a good point.

As an engineering challenge, I'd like to see someone come up with a design for a nuclear plant such that the plant can be completely pulverized and still not cause radiation/contamination to spread to the surrounding area.

I don't know if such a thing is anywhere near possible, but until someone comes up with something like that, nuclear will be regarded as riskier than many of its competitors.

Re:Stunning (1)

darth dickinson (169021) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095258)

Do pebble bed reactors meet this requirement? From what I understand (and IANA Nuclear Physicist) that you can remove the control rods and shut off the coolant pumps, and all that happens is the reactor vessel gets really, really hot.

Of course, you said "pulverized", so in reality I don't think any reactor will survive that and not contaminate the surrounding area.

Re:Stunning (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095404)

What happens in practice is you get localized hot spots and then the pebbles 'pop' releasing radioactive goodness.

Re:Stunning (3, Informative)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095428)

Yes, that's kind of the whole point of pebble-bed reactors. The "pebbles" are designed so that when they get hot, they expand and move the fissionable materials apart from each other, limiting the maximum reaction rate. If you're pulling heat out of the system then the reaction will increase in an attempt to reach this stable state. As soon as you stop blowing dry nitrogen through the reactor it will heat up and idle.

In theory, you could handle the pebbles with thick gardening gloves and not actually die if it was a real MacGyver-level emergency.

Re:Stunning (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095448)

"I don't know if such a thing is anywhere near possible, but until someone comes up with something like that, nuclear will be regarded as riskier than many of its competitors."
Seriously? How many zeros are needed behind that 1:x00.... probability chart?
Chance of meteor hitting earth x chance of it hitting land x chance of it hitting the miniscule % of land where nukes are x chance it is big enough to "pulverize" the plant.

As opposed to the known side effects on health from pollution from coal & oil.

Riddle me this... (5, Insightful)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095200)

Which is worse:

Taking the risk of a few nuclear catastrophes during the next couple of centuries, or to keep dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere ignoring the fact that it pretty darn definitely has some effect in the long term...

Wild prediction: People 200 years from now are going to look upon us like idiots who thought relocating people due to a nuclear accident was harder than getting all that 'effing carbon dioxide back where it belongs and restoring the climactic balance to a reasonable degree.

Re:Riddle me this... (4, Informative)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095212)

PS. TFA does say that they apparently aren't planning to close, only upgrade the plants, which sounds quite sensible.

Re:Riddle me this... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095240)

lol so suckers like you actually think nuclear is "green"? riddle me this, which is more dangerous, nuclear waste that remains dangerous for thousands of years, or carbon dioxide that plants live off of?

Re:Riddle me this... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095334)

what about this? you can control where nuclear waste goes after you're done with it. we have no way of containing the excess CO2 not needed to keep those plants alive... which i'm pretty sure they have no issues getting CO2 at the moment.

Re:Riddle me this... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095264)

Taking the risk of a few nuclear catastrophes during the next couple of centuries, or to keep dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere ignoring the fact that it pretty darn definitely has some effect in the long term...

Based on the projected risks predicted in the IPCC report, CO2 would probably be less risky. It depends on what kind of nuclear catastrophes you're talking about, though. 3 mile island, no problem. Chernobyl, bad bad.

Re:Riddle me this... (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095358)

Based on the projected risks predicted in the IPCC report, CO2 would probably be less risky. It depends on what kind of nuclear catastrophes you're talking about, though. 3 mile island, no problem. Chernobyl, bad bad.

If we can develop the technology to repair damage caused by ionizing radiation, and that's a big if, then the CO2 might be a bigger problem. Most wildlife has shortish lifespans, long lived humans have bigger issues of course. But we really have a pretty poor idea how we are changing the planet, so I think trying to use less energy and avoiding oil/coal makes sense until we have better alternatives.

I don't claim to be informed, just blabbering here. ;)

Re:Riddle me this... (4, Insightful)

sunspot42 (455706) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095444)

Which is worse:

Taking the risk of a few nuclear catastrophes during the next couple of centuries, or to keep dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere ignoring the fact that it pretty darn definitely has some effect in the long term...

Nuclear power is far more expensive than coal power - especially if the plants were forced to buy private liability insurance. Even if a country the size of the United States replaced all of its coal burning plants with nuclear power plants, all that would accomplish would be to lower the price of coal, providing an incentive for poorer countries to build scores of coal fired plants.

So the idea that nuclear power is somehow going to save us from the horrors of global warming is an economic fantasy. You'd be better served praying to Zeus - at least that wouldn't waste a ton of energy building useless, dangerous nuclear power plants, ultimately increasing the amount of greenhouse gasses pumped into the atmosphere.

The best way to prevent global warming is to use less energy by boosting energy efficiency as quickly as possible. The next best way is by continuing research into alternative sources of energy which are carbon neutral. Finally, money that would otherwise be wasted on deploying nuclear power (and dealing with its dangerous waste) could instead be invested in researching and deploying better ways to sequester the CO2 emitted by plants which burn fossil fuels.

"a few" (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095450)

Would you call this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_and_radiation_accidents [wikipedia.org] a few? Also, putting the carbon dioxide back where it belongs is actually really easy. Just don't cut the trees and put trees back where we cut them. The rest comes naturally.

Re:"a few" (1)

borrrden (2014802) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095592)

How many on that list are actually "catastrophic"? One of them is even "Instrumentation systems malfunction during startup, which led to suspension of operations".....

Re:"a few" (1)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095608)

I guess to be fair we should compare a list of all the coal related disasters. Wouldn't want to do that, though, because it would show how meaningless the nuclear list really is.

The ongoing problem... (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095210)

The chronic problem is that, no matter how good your technology gets, you can always find a way to produce "almost as good and a lot cheaper". If nobody is looking too closely, you can probably go with "not actually almost as good; but cheaper still".

There are engineering problems that are simply at the outer bounds of present technology and inherently risky. For most everything else, though, the heart of the problem has more to do with some combination of lousy risk assessment, active dishonesty, or the fact that it isn't hard to take risks so that the rewards accrue to you and the consequences to somebody else.

This is why I'm somewhat pessimistic about our ability to innovate our way into safety: team science, and their applied brethren in engineering, have enormously expanded the scope of what we can do; but have had relatively little effect on the fact that we basically want it fast and cheap and the 'we' doing the choosing frequently aren't the 'we' doing the living next to it...

Re:The ongoing problem... (4, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095312)

The chronic problem is that, no matter how good your technology gets, you can always find a way to produce "almost as good and a lot cheaper". If nobody is looking too closely, you can probably go with "not actually almost as good; but cheaper still".

That's not a very fair comment to make about a very immature technology.
Even taking a look at the more mature technology of later designs we've got decisions such as planning construction of a whole lot of AP1000 reactors when the first prototype has not been activated yet. Even that is still a 1980s design.
It's not really a nuclear problem but a management one. The current unbuilt designs that the fanboys pretend are the status quo should be built as a prototype and tested, and then we can move on from there to something viable and worth producing in large numbers. Instead there's been the rush to deploy worse than the state of the art yet still unproven.
One problem is the economic model for civilian nuclear power mostly grew out of being the peaceful side of the bomb but inherited some of the worst problems of defence procurement. When something doesn't actually have to work very well for the players to get their money and competition is almost non-existant you get the stagnation that dominated the US nuclear industry until Westinghouse adopted the current state of the art from Japan (Toshiba). Whether nuclear power is a good idea or not becomes irrelevant when far more is spent on lobbying and advertising than on R&D - you'd end up with a crap product in any emerging technology with that sort of mismanagement.

Half the planet inundated (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095254)

Of course, if the tsunami from the Pacific Ocean is still 49ft feet high when it hits France, the whole world is pretty screwed anyway.

Told you so (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095256)

You shouldn't build large numbers of an experimental design until you've actually had time to run the experiment.

Slashdot comment drones to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095266)

Leave it to Slashdot commenters to immediately jump to the aid of the poor defenseless energy industry. It's always funny to see how eager many here are to defend a corrupt industry by repeating the same old tiresome mantras "Nukular is safe LALALAICAN'THEARYOU" and "There's no alternative, stop looking!!!1".

Re:Slashdot comment drones to the rescue (1)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095462)

What alternative is there?

Wind and solar aren't economical, and solar has toxic waste problems of its own.

Coal is dirty, contributes to global warming, and is a dependence on fossil fuels.

Natural gas is better, but has a lot of the same issues.

Geothermal is hypothetically pretty cool, but it's expensive and there's that annoying problem with earthquakes.

Hydro probably will never be able to cover close to all of the world's energy needs, and floods places.

Fusion is thirty years away, and has been since at least 1960.

What am I missing?

Safe-guarding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095274)

We need one or two armies to safe-guard these reactors.

US: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9q7b_2tkMo
or

China: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n50xmLNalIM

BTW, does France still have an army or is it an over-arching EU Army? Wikipedia didn't tell.

Re:Safe-guarding (-1, Flamebait)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095362)

For historic reasons France doesn't have an army, just a white flag.

Re:Safe-guarding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095446)

For historic reasons France doesn't have an army, just a white flag.

Go back to your cave, Troll.

This editor should be shot! (5, Informative)

DaveAtWorkAnnoyingly (655625) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095320)

OK, I'm a reactor operator for a nuclear reactor and this report is talking about "beyond design basis" faults. Faults which were not taken account for within the safety case for the plant. Now, bear in mind that this area of the world is not susceptible to the kinds of earthquakes Japan is, and also the fact that tsunamis just cannot happen to most of France's plants because they're inland, would make the event that happened in Japan certainly beyond design basis. Now, that's not to say that more safety cannot be added. Many of France's plants are relatively old and new ideas have been integrated into newer plants. All this report is talking about is that more things can be done to address big bang type stuff, stuff that's practicable and useful, like adding more generators and installing them onto roofs. Not prohibitively costly, and can be useful in most faults. There's always more things that can be done to all plants, it's a judge of whether it's practicable, economical and in all probabilities, worth it. If statistically, an event is not likely to happen for 10,000,000 years, are you really going to design it out?

This report isn't saying that France's plants are unsafe. The editor should be shot. In my opinion, Fukushima was a success. These plants were due to be taken out of service within a year, they were very very old, old design and old in age. Yet, even with a massive earth quake, and a beyond design basis fault that wasn't understood during their design phase, no-one died due to radiation and contamination is well controlled and understood. It's also worth noting that all the modern PWRs in Japan surrounding Fukushima all shut down properly with no issues.

Re:This editor should be shot! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095426)

> "Fukushima was a success"

I think you summarized your piece of fiction in that one sentence...

Re:This editor should be shot! (2)

sunspot42 (455706) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095486)

Now, bear in mind that this area of the world is not susceptible to the kinds of earthquakes Japan

We don't know how susceptible that area of the world is to enormous earthquakes. We know they don't happen frequently, but we also know large quakes do happen hundreds - and in some cases thousands - of miles from plate boundaries, and at infrequent intervals. The New Madrid quakes that hit the middle of the United States in the 1800's are a prime example. Such events are infrequent, but because of the nature of the mid-continental crust, can cause enormous devastation over a much wider area than quakes along the mountainous margins of a continent.

Re:This editor should be shot! (3, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095630)

There is a limit to what you should plan for.

These nuclear reactors are not built to withstand a magnitude 10+ quake, for example. Nor can they withstand the impact of a major asteroid, or an attack with a nuclear bomb or super heavy conventional ordnance. These events are simply too rare, and also the destruction caused by the event likely dwarfs the destruction caused by the nuclear reactor's problems. The latter argument can also easily be applied to the Fukushima plant.

Re:This editor should be shot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095510)

Fukushima was a success

and you wonder why people don't trust the nuclear industry?

Re:This editor should be shot! (1)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095616)

And yet you don't question all the deaths in coal/oil/"green" (hydro electric is one of the most dangerous forms of energy, fyi). Makes you look a bit like one of those Sky Is Falling Greenpeace people. I trust the nuclear industry ten times as much as I trust you and your Luddite kin.

electricity != all power (4, Insightful)

optimism (2183618) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095414)

From the summary:

France gets about 80% of its power from nuclear energy and is a major exporter of nuclear technology.

No. France generates almost 80% of its electricity from nuclear energy. Not its overall power.

I'm sick of this consistently sloppy reporting about energy usage in the mass media. And sick of the idiots who think that electricity consumption is the big issue (oh noes! we need solar to make teh watts, and CFLs to save teh watts!). Dumbshits.

France's planes, ships, trucks, cars, and more still run on OIL. Not nuclear. Do the math. Electricity is relatively small component of power usage.

Libya (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095430)

This was the actual reason for the Libyan war: France (*the* world nuclear superpower) needed to silence the media talking about the Fukushima accident.

How much will you pay for safety? (5, Insightful)

kombipom (1274672) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095728)

Of course the plants can be made safer. Everything can be made safer. We could all wear crash helmets 24/7. All cars could be made crash proof (take the wheels off). "All the dams in France bursting at once and flooding the plants", if that happens the least of your problems is the nuclear reactor. Just like the problems at Fukushima were the least of the worries of the 20,000 killed by the earthquake and tsunami. No industry in the world spends money on preventing staggeringly unlikely events causing harm like the nuclear industry has to. Do you want to double your electricity bill so that the chances of a disaster move from 1 in 10 million years to 1 in 20 million according to the design calcs? Humans are staggering bad at risk assessment and the nuclear (and terrorism) panic proves it conclusively. You would think that a bunch of geeks could figure some basic stats.

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