Fukushima Daiichi Open and Update Thread #5

The problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continue to be worked on, with no short-term resolution in sight. Here are eight recent notable happenings, compiled from various sources (see list below):

1. Reports indicate that some fuel melted and fell to the lower containment sections of units 1-3, where it dispersed in a fairly uniform residue — but this does not seem to have breached containment in any of the reactor pressure vessels. Re-criticality of this ‘corium’ seems very unlikely, but no details can of course be confirmed until the reactor cores are finally dismantled — which may be years away.

2. Two automated PackBot robots entered units 1 and 3, took photos, and measured temperature, pressure and radioactivity within the buildings. Peak levels were 40-60 mSv/hr.

3. An anti-scattering agent is being sprayed on the ground around the damaged units (about 1,200 square metres in area) to prevent further spread of radionuclides (see photo above).

4. Excess radioactive cooling water continues to be transferred from unit 2’s basement and tunnels to a waste processing facility.

5. Further surveys are being made of the area surrounding the Fukushima evacuation zone and the exclusion area is being policed more strictly. Highest levels were measured at Itate, at about 4 microsieverts per hour (by comparison, the background level is 0.2 — 0.4  uSv/hr).

6. TEPCO have now released a roadmap plan for the restoration of stable conditions at the site, over a 3 — 6 month timetable, leading to a cold shutdown at units 1-3 and various other stability targets. They also released a 27-slide presentation on the timeline of the accident and current situation, that is definitely worth a look through.

7. This is a really useful summary post describing one of the pressing needs facing engineers at Fukushima Daiichi: Day 42: How is a core cooled? In short, heat exchangers are the key…

8. From NEI Nuclear Notes, Russia’s atomic energy chief (Kiriyenko of Rosatom) sees Fukushima as a strong policy incentive for moving more quickly to current- and next-generation reactor designs (I’ll have more to say on this topic in future BNC posts):

Kiriyenko said the impact from the Fukushima plant disaster would not only increase safety concerns but also quicken demand for new reactors to replace the industry’s ageing plants.

“There will be a need to build new plants more quickly to more swiftly replace previous-generation plants,” he said.

He added that Russia may speed the retirement of its older generation plants in the wake of Japan’s nuclear accident.


Please use this post to put any new comments about the Fukushima situation (including technical information, situation updates, analysis, questions, reflections, etc.). As such, I consider the earlier FD Philosophical and Technical threads closed — these strands of discussion can now be carried on here, as the pace of comments has died down to a small fraction of that at the height of the crisis.

Here are some other channels I recommend you check on regularly, for up-to-date situation reports on Fukushima Daiichi:

— World Nuclear News (the two latest posts are Changes to evacuation zones and Dust control steps up at Fukushima)

ANS Nuclear Cafe news and updates (includes links to official reports like JAIF and TEPCO and news feeds from NHK, NY Times, etc.), see also NEI updates

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) update website (last updated on 21 April, has reactor status and radiation monitoring reports)

— Will Davis at Atomic Power Review blog continues to do an excellent job at providing regular updates and interesting technical analysis on the situation

Note that the Open Threads on BraveNewClimate.com are a general discussion forum; please follow the commenting rules, although the ‘stay on topic’ rule obviously does not apply as strictly here.


  1. While there are substantial efforts being made by TEPCO and its subcontractors, the overall situation is evolving in a manner that profoundly discredits nuclear power.
    The contamination that has already forced the people within 20 km of the plant to abandon their homes, with no obvious recourse, is still spreading and a larger evacuation zone has just been announced, with no certainty that that is the end of the problem.
    The site situation is characterized by the NRC as ‘static but fragile’, not exactly reassuring. The NRC conspicuously did not use the word ‘stable’.
    A month after the accident, there is no coherent recovery plan, just a wish list largely devoid of practical implementation details.
    TEPCO is entirely unable to manage the liabilities that are accruing. Their decision to slash employee bonuses and cut pay 5% may be financially correct, but cannot help build morale.
    An international nuclear disaster agency that can react fast and mobilize the entire industry’s capabilities for disaster management without causing political heartburn is needed.
    Without it, the industry is loosing the public consent it needs for longer term survival.


  2. Thank you, Barry,

    Perhaps I missed something in another thread, but could you point us to the reports you mention on the molten fuel dropping to the lower containment section ? Am I also correct you mean the ‘lower pressure vessel section’, i.e. below the core support structure, but inside the RPV ? Otherwise, the RPV pressure values seem impossible to explain…


  3. OK, found it, thanks for the clue. The UPS story Barry linked above cites the Atomic Energy Society of Japan. Searching their site I found what appears to be the origin of the claims reported here:

    It’s dated April 18th. It goes through status of the units; I’ll quote below a big chunk from the Unit 1 portion only; see that link above for the PDF file

    “… 1. Unit 1 (1) Core status
    •The core is considered to be severely degraded due to insufficient cooling in the initial phase of the accident. There was considerable time delay between the uncovering of fuel from cooling water and the injection of seawater. The core pressure was still high when the seawater injection was started, which prevented efficient injection of water into the core. Core damage fraction is estimated as 70% based on the measurement result of CAMS (Containment Atmospheric Monitoring System). Anther estimation on the core damage fraction would be difficult based on the currently available information.
    •Part of fuel debris is deposited on the core support plate and/or the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel.
    •If the measured temperature at the feed-water nozzle is correct, generated vapor in the core is superheated by the uncovered fuel, i.e., part of the fuel would have emerged from the water.
    •If the measured temperatures at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel and the measured internal pressure of the reactor vessel are correct, the fuel debris deposited on the bottom of the reactor vessel would be cooled enough and be in the form of a solid.

    (2) Reactor pressure vessel
    •Injection rate of water (currently borated fresh water) is 6 t/h and generation rate of vapor by decay heat in the core is estimated as approximately 2 t/h. Thus fresh water would be added in the core at the rate of approximately 4 t/h.
    •The internal pressure of the reactor vessel shows saturation trend. This trend suggests possibility of water vapor leakage from the safety relief valve and/or vapor/liquid leakage from the reactor vessel.
    •Since the reactor vessel holds higher internal pressure than atmospheric pressure, the leakage of the vapor and/or liquid does not seem to be very large. However, the variations of pressure in the reactor vessel and the containment vessel showed similar trends when the inert gas (N2) was injected into the containment vessel in order to prevent hydrogen explosion. These variations of the pressure may suggest the internal pressure of the reactor vessel may be similar that in the containment vessel, i.e., there would be possibility of anomaly on the measurement value of the internal pressure of the reactor pressure vessel. In the latter scenario, the leakage from the reactor pressure vessel may not be small.

    (3) Containment vessel
    •The internal pressure of the containment vessel is considered to continuously rise when the vent line from the suppression chamber has not been activated. However, the measurement value of the internal pressure is almost constant.
    •The internal pressure of the containment vessel was increased when the inert gas (nitrogen) was injected in it. However, the internal pressure showed saturation trend at a later time.
    •The above observations suggest that there is small leakage of the vapor.
    •There are no measurement data that suggest degradation of the suppression chamber.”


  4. Also worth quoting from that same report:

    “4. Spent fuel storage pool
    Continuous cooling is essential for the spent fuel storage pools. Heat generation rate of the spent fuel pool of Unit 4 is large thus needs special attention….”

    In the PDF, you can find the current heat generation rates listed for the Core (units 1-3) and the Spent fuel storage pool (units 1-4)


  5. Last Wednesday a panel discussion here considered electric power generation. I assume it was convened as a response to the Fukushima Dai-ichi situation. From the student newspaper’s article on the session, every panelist seems to have drawn the correct conclusions from the events in Japan.

    These conslusions are so similar to Barry Brook’s [as I understand his views] that it is pointless to abstract the panelists’s remarks. However, I did find this heartening, especially as one of the panelists was associated with the environmental studies group.


  6. While the 5% pay cut and bonus-cut is fairly minor compared to what has happened to some American workers in the past few years, it can nevertheless hardly build morale.

    People who see a declining standard of living simply WON”T put out their 110% like when standards are rising.

    Of course, the only ones who realize that are the workers themselves —– not the corner-cutting corporations.

    I actually sympathize with TEPCO, as the tsunami was NOT of their doing. Nevertheless, the last place TEPCO should cut right now is nuclear workers’ pay. If TEPCO’s situation is dire, lay off unrelated IT or administrative or management personnel…..


  7. > the tsunami was NOT of their doing

    Not an excuse. It was an external event that needs to be dealt with. After prevention comes reaction, and that hasn’t been stellar either. Besides, similar plants at similar locations north by other operators (Tohoku Electric) withstood the event without major impact (according to German media, due to voluntary increase of safety standards that Tepco chose not to take [sorry, no reference]).


  8. i am surprised that people on this blog completely ignore the unnecessary hardship that the workers at the plant are exposed to:


    “Workers other than senior officials work in shifts of four days on and two days off, but cannot even take a bath during the four workdays despite sweating heavily in impervious radiation-protective gear, Tanigawa said.

    “Being unable to feel refreshed, they are not only vulnerable to various diseases and skin disorders but also may commit errors in their work,” Tanigawa warned.”

    without washing, there is no decontamination. Why can something like that happen, weeks after the accident?


  9. IAEA says: Unless something significant develops …

    “IAEA Briefing on Fukushima Nuclear Accident (21 April 2011, 16:25 UTC) … (Note: Unless there are significant developments, no further written brief will be issued until Tuesday 26 April.) ”

    According to this news story, the Unit 4 fuel pool has beenheating up. I wonder if that’s related to the plan — mentioned in the slideshow Barry links above — to shore the Unit 4 fuel pool up by adding supports from underneath to keep it from collapsing.


    “the temperature at reactor four’s fuel pool had risen to 91 degrees Celsius (196 degrees Fahrenheit), forcing workers to add more water to prevent the rods from being exposed and releasing radiation, TEPCO said Saturday.

    “The company is considering sending a waterproof CCD camera into the pool, but the temperature is now at 91 degrees C, which is too high,” … to check on the condition of the fuel rods and see if any had melted.” Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.

    Still no news on the “smoke” plumes that I’ve found.
    Anyone heard anything about what that material is or whether it’s been sampled?

    I’d think they could have stuck a vacuum hose on the end of the concrete pump boom and sampled the material, if they can’t fly the drone through it.


  10. Watcher, what about the 25000 people that died in the tsunami and earthquake?

    Does the government of Japan have no excuse there?

    Can we blame the government of Japan, or any other organisation for that matter, for not building a 20 meter concrete wall all around Japan’s eastern coast?


  11. Pingback: Fukushima update | A world at war

  12. “Can we blame the government of Japan, or any other organisation for that matter, for not building a 20 meter concrete wall all around Japan’s eastern coast?”

    Not sure if you are serious here or not. Of course the answer is no.

    An earthquake and tsunami are natural disasters. A serious nuclear accident is a man-made disaster, in this case triggered by a natural disaster. Saying otherwise would be an excuse. In fact, you could even argue that the main damage to the plant and resulting releases of radiation cannot be fully attributed to the quake and tsunami, but to the hydrogen explosions (triggered by the natural disasters, of course).

    You cannot claim that a nuclear facility is safe if it cannot resist such an external event. It is immaterial whether the event was predictable or not. Any operaional risk professional worth his salt knows that that residual risk results from events, or a chain of events, that are unforeseeable. Then you have to decide whether that’s acceptable. That is subjective and we have to see what the Japanese population will think (not the politicians, see Germany).


  13. There has been a lot of focus on how the nuclear accident has not killed anybody. There needs to be some more focus on the financial and economic cost of the nuclear accident. Anecdotally the costs are huge but it would be good if somebody could present some actual financial data and perspective.


  14. Watcher, if you ‘watched’ closely you will see a zero radiation death toll for this nuclear ‘disaster’. That’s impressive in a natural disaster with a total death toll over 20,000.

    I can easily claim nuclear is the safest way to generate electricity:


    Nothing is safe. Stairs for example are very dangerous. Alas, it turns out making electricity is dangerous business. Nuclear is the least dangerous of the options. Its not perfect, but its the best we’ve got, and thats what matters in the real world where choices have to be made on energy supply. That said new plants especially the ones with passive cooling features can do much better.

    The real disaster would be if countries build less nuclear capacity so more deadly fossil fuels are used. This could easily kill millions.


  15. Cyril, you can t be serious about that link. 104 deaths by nuclear?

    and using chinese coal deaths?

    how about we imagine that China will run its nuclear power plants like they run their coal mines? did you factor this into your calculation in any way?


  16. I have already said in a previous comment that a death toll to measure incident severity is both unethical and not a precise enough scale for severity. Besides even the possibly attributable deaths will be debatable (see tobacco). Also a fatality is the most extreme and most unlikely outcome. Psychological impact (often neglected, not dramatic or visible enough?), homelessness, environmental impact, illness, economic etc. just to name a few, aren’t they “good enough” as measurable consequences?

    “Nothing’s safe” or “not perfect” just isn’t good enough for something like this. It’s got to be safe, it’s got to be perfect but we know it can’t be. Is that good enough? Ask the people in Fukushima, who have to live in a sports gym and will be fined or arrested if they tried to return to their homes. Tell them also that nobody has died yet, so it can’t be so bad. See what they say.

    [Unsubstantiated personal opinion deleted]


  17. “An earthquake and tsunami are natural disasters. A serious nuclear accident is a man-made disaster, in this case triggered by a natural disaster.”

    And building and living in cities in a tsunami zone is also a man-made disaster, in this case triggered by a natural disaster. In spite of that, I haven’t seen much written saying that the Japanese should never have put tens of thousands of lives at risk by building and living in a tsunami zone. Apparently, that was an acceptable risk compared with the risk imposed by nuclear power stations.


  18. Question to the experts: What do you think about the evacuation efforts?
    4 microsieverts per hour equals 0.1 mSv per day. That means that after 100 days at this level the dose would be equivalent to a CT-scan.

    Evacuation is quite a drastic measure with many negative (unhealthy) consequences . So why did the authorities choose this measure? How is it justifiable?



  19. Watcher, on 23 April 2011 at 2:44 PM said:

    Besides, similar plants at similar locations north by other operators (Tohoku Electric) withstood the event without major impact (according to German media

    A map of March 11th, Tsuanami energy from USGS

    Click to access EG_Tsunami.pdf

    In addition runup height can vary widely based on local offshore geology.

    Unfortunately, our understanding of Tsunami’s is currently less then perfect. The city of Long Beach Washington evacuated in the middle of the night. The Tsunami runup in Long Beach Washington ended up being less then 12 inches. The ‘error bars’ on the prediction models are quite large.

    The largest ever Tsunami runup height was 1,720 feet.

    We can take a ‘simplist view’ and decide that since the largest recorded Tsunami was 1,720 feet we should build nothing at an altitude of less then 1,720 feet which would mean relocation of entire countries. (Tsunami’s occur in the Atlantic basin as well as the Paicific basin)

    Or we can try with our less then perfect knowledge to make reasonable estimates of what the Tsunami height might be in a specific location given a specific event.

    Since our knowledge is less then perfect we are going to end up over protecting some places and under protecting others.


  20. @Watcher:
    >“Nothing’s safe” or “not perfect” just isn’t good enough for something like this. It’s got to be safe, it’s got to be perfect but we know it can’t be. Is that good enough?

    The usual strategy of raising the bar as high as necessary to have nuclear power fail meeting it, I see. Sorry but that is a line of argument that asks to be dismissed out of hand.

    Nuclear energy is all about how much risk you are willing to take. Given that no plant has catastropically failed here in Germany, nor in neighboring countries, through the decades, nuclear energy is a risk I am willing to take.

    >Ask the people in Fukushima, who have to live in a sports gym and will be fined or arrested if they tried to return to their homes. Tell them also that nobody has died yet, so it can’t be so bad. See what they say.

    I wouldn’t say that. I would say that Japan has been benefitting from nuclear energy over the last decades and that they will have to endure now because TEPCO and their government have been letting them down. They failed to take the necessary precaution to avert a 15m tsunami. In fact the standards should be so high that a seaside npp should be able to withstand a 25m tsunami.

    And if there is ever a tsunami higher than that too, that’s an acceptable risk they and their society can take.

    Won’t help them in their situation though.


  21. Sod, don’t be rediculous. You’ve not even read the link completely – it shows a total cumulative death toll of 15,000 for nuclear, being 0.07 per TWh. Including Chernobyl, and no-one is building RBMKs anyomore. Compare to coal in the US at 15 deaths per TWh, extremely dangerous, even in a modern country.

    The 104 death toll is for one year. Please read the links provided better, thank you.

    For comparison, PV is several times the nuclear death per TWh as nuclear including Chernobyl. Working on roofs isn’t safe, nor is using 10x the materials per kWh that solar PV does compared to old nuclear plants. It turns out mining for materials is quite dangerous business and not very environmentally friendly. Nuclear has the lowest mining even with uranium lifecycle included.


  22. As an ordinary reader, my guess is the evacuation is because they’re in a bind.

    They are cooling the three reactor cores and four fuel pools by pumping water into them — and that water isn’t under control after it runs through the hot spots and exits carrying radioactive material into the groundwater around the plant, which is pretty waterlogged already.

    How long before the foundations on which the buildings are built start to sink into the wet ground?
    Anyone seen any information on this idea of building a dike in the ground around the site to contain the water?


    “… Progress in repairing the heavily damaged plant continues to move at a slow pace.

    A day after workers began removing highly radioactive water from parts of the No. 2 reactor complex, the level of contaminated water …. in a trench holding pipes and electric cables running to the No. 2 reactor complex was only one centimeter (about 0.4 inch) lower after 24 hours of pumping, according to the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

    The trench is 81 cm away from overflowing with radioactive water that is 100 million times the legal limit….

    The water is believed to have come from Reactor No. 2’s pressure vessel, leaking through the bottom of the reactor’s suppression pool and causing flooding in the turbine building as well as in the trench…..”


  23. Hmmmmm …. can you create liquefaction by saturating the ground with water, or does it require also having an earthquake shake it up? I know the aftershocks are predicted to include a large number of large quakes, proportionate to the size of the main quake.

    “… April 19, 2011
    Liquefaction Key to Japan Earthquake Damage
    Oregon State University
    CORVALLIS, Ore. – The massive subduction zone earthquake in Japan caused a significant level of soil “liquefaction” that has surprised researchers with its widespread severity, a new analysis shows.

    The findings also raise questions about whether existing building codes and engineering technologies are adequately accounting for this phenomenon in other vulnerable locations …..”


  24. “The 104 death toll is for one year. Please read the links provided better, thank you.”

    your link is not really clearly written, but if the 104 deaths for nuclear is n annual number, then so are the 1000000 for coal…


    and here is a quote from the second part:

    “A concern about the original analysis is about the fact that there are predictions that many more will die from Chernobyl. The credible studies indicate that very few people have died so far (50-200 people). ”

    (sorry but any report that claims less than 200 dead from chernobyl is complete garbage. we found a serious number of helicopter crew killed alone in that last post!


    i also get a little angry about the constant comparison with people dying in Chinese coal mines.

    why not compare, let us say, death in coal mining in Germany over the last decade, with nuclear deaths in the Ukraine in the 80s?

    how can anybody think that “Chinese are really careless in their coal mines, they should run nuclear power plants instead” is an argument that will win the hearts and minds for nuclear power?


  25. Some volume numbers:


    This news story is cited to “The Yomiuri Shimbun”

    “…. According to Tepco, it has poured about 7,000 tons of water into the No. 1 reactor’s pressure vessel. The company said it believes almost all of that water is still inside the pressure vessel and the containment vessel. However, the firm said it has injected about 14,000 tons of water into the No. 2 reactor and 9,600 tons of water into the No. 3 reactor since cooling operations began. In both cases, the amount injected exceeds the about-7,000-ton capacity of the reactors’ containment vessels. …”

    That followed this:

    “The Yomiuri Shimbun

    TOKYO — The Japanese government is considering building an underground barrier near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to prevent radioactive material from spreading far from the plant via soil and groundwater, a senior government official said.

    Sumio Mabuchi, a special adviser to the prime minister, revealed the plan Friday at the Japan National Press Club building in Tokyo. The plan is the first attempt to address the risk of contaminated water spreading far from the plant through soil.

    According to Mabuchi, the barrier would extend so far underground that it would reach a layer that does not absorb water. The wall would entirely surround the land on which reactors No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 stand.

    Mabuchi is a member of the unified command headquarters set up by the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. to deal with the nuclear crisis. He serves as the head of government representatives on a team dealing with medium- and long-term issues, including how to contain the spread of radioactive materials from the plant.

    The process of filling the containment vessel of the Fukushima power plant’s No. 1 reactor with water is progressing steadily, according to Tepco.

    Tepco plans to continue injecting water into the containment vessel until the fuel rods inside are fully submerged in what the power company has called a “water coffin.”

    At a press conference held Friday, Tepco said it believed pressure suppression pools at the bottom of the No. 1 reactor’s containment vessel were full of water, and that the top section of the containment vessel was about half full. Under normal circumstances, the pressure suppression pools are about 50 percent full with water….”

    This option of filling the containment with water adds some risk:

    “… • mounting stresses placed on the containment structures as they fill with radioactive cooling water, making them more vulnerable to rupture in one of the aftershocks rattling the site….”

    (That’s from the leaked report discussed here previously) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/06/world/asia/06nuclear.html

    Containments intended to eventually be full of water, ground already full of water, talk of a cofferdam being built around the whole site to _keep_ the water under the plant where it is, and more quakes.

    “Aftershocks Threaten More Damage to Crippled Japan Nuclear Plant
    April 14 (Bloomberg) -April 23, 2011 –
    Aftershocks…. as big as magnitude-7 are likely to continue hitting in eastern and northern Japan for at least six months,’ said Teruyuki Kato, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Earthquake Research Institute…..


  26. “Including Chernobyl, and no-one is building RBMKs anyomore”

    The full deathtoll of Chernobyl is not even set yet (ie terminal cancers not terminal yet).

    Celebrating the 0 deathtoll is premature in Fukushima.

    Fukushima will have a similar deathtoll to Chernobyl and it was not RBMKs. Favorable wind conditions is probably offset by having a higher population density.


  27. A bit more from Businessweek, pertinent and useful article (click the link to read the whole thing)


    “… Hundreds of aftershocks, including three stronger than magnitude-7, have struck the region….

    Reactor containment vessels at the nuclear plant that have been flooded with tons of water to keep fuel rods cool are at risk in the event of another big quake, said Kazuya Idemitsu, a professor of nuclear engineering at Kyushu University.

    ‘One of my concerns is that the containment chambers may have been compromised to some extent,’ he said. Another strong aftershock might damage parts such as ‘pipe joints and cause more radioactive water to leak.’

    Still, the pressure vessels inside the containment chambers that surround the cores shouldn’t be at risk, said Idemitsu. ‘The pressure vessels can withstand another magnitude-8 earthquake,’ he said.

    No Damage

    Tepco spokesman Takeo Iwamoto said the company hasn’t found damage to the site after the aftershocks. A magnitude-6.1 quake struck off Japan at 5:57 a.m. today, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

    ‘The worst-case scenario is for a 10-meter tsunami to swamp the Pacific Ocean coast in northeastern Japan if a magnitude-8 aftershock strikes offshore,’ Kato said.

    ‘The integrity of the core facilities at Fukushima Dai- Ichi will probably be maintained because they are designed to withstand earthquakes,’ said Tomoko Murakami, a nuclear researcher at the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan. ‘The big problem is the radioactive water that is hampering efforts to bring the cooling system on line.’….”


  28. Pingback:   “Japan Nuclear Watch, April 23: Can You Rebuild a Cooling System Inside a No-Go Zone?” and related posts | Global News

  29. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it recently, and in light if Fukushima, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d rather live next to any nuclear power station than any coal power station. If I lived next to any nuclear station, including an RBMK (Chernobyl type) the worst that could happen is that I’d have to evacuate in case of an emergency. I’d keep some iodine pills in my cabinet and my car filled with fuel. Living next to a coal power station, risks to my health are still remote, but my worst case scenario is that I will develop some kind of respiratory disease due to the plant.


  30. If you’re looking for information, try this site, it’s pretty consistent. Doesn’t cite sources but Google finds them consistently and the blogger is getting the information right, for everything I’ve followed up so far:


    “…there are now multiple reports that NISA is questioning the quake resistance of the reactor buildings at Fukushima Daiichi if the dry wells are filled to the level of active fuel. This would be a considerable mass of water; we haven’t seen any figures quoted yet, but that much mass that high up in reactor buildings already very seriously damaged is surely something worth thinking about.

    TEPCO is clearly thinking about getting the still possibly semi-molten fuel masses covered in the reactors, and with the known leakage in the recirc pump loops the only way to get water level inside the pressure vessel above the level of the inlets of the jet pumps is to raise the level OUTSIDE the pressure vessel above them. Yes, there will be some contact cooling at the lowest radii of the lower pressure vessel head and maybe some along the pressure vessel barrel itself but the primary goal is to raise water level INSIDE the pressure vessel, all the way through and not just in the outer annulus. As we mentioned before, there is probably no direct flow through the cores at all if only the normal feed lines are in use; TEPCO either needs to send water through the spray nozzles / spargers or else fill the dry wells; it’s that simple.

    This presents a very ugly catch 22 situation. Further, there are structural integrity questions now about the spent fuel pool in No. 4 plant, already mentioned on this blog, and so we find the situation now that in order to do what it must — cool the reactor cores, and cool the spent fuel pool in No. 4 plant — TEPCO must risk structural failure in one building and seriously reduced earthquake resistance due to higher level, or altitude if you will, water mass in the others.

    Perhaps the biggest news of the day is the discovery on-site of a chunk of building material that is reading 90 R/Hr. This is a pretty hot piece of building material; it’s been taken away and stored. One wonders just how this chunk got this hot .. where did the contamination come from, and where inside the reactor buildings will they find the area where it used to be? Will that area be just as bad, as a whole zone or rad field? This piece was found by No. 3 reactor building. Surely TEPCO will try to quickly analyze this thing to find out what’s on/in it.

    More details as they come out.. but it’s Saturday, and news is fairly quiet in Japan on weekends, it seems….”


  31. Environmentalist
    What you seem unable to comprehend is that, without nuclear power fossil fuels will continue to be burned to produce electricity to run a modern civilization. That means climate change will continue unabated and that means millions will die, that is as well as those who have already died due to increasing natural disasters. Your totally unproven extrapolations of how many have/might die because of Chernobyl and how many might suffer the same fate because of Fukushima, pales into insignificance when set against these figures.


  32. Environmentalist, 5 deaths due to tsunami and quake, none of them due to radiation!!

    25,000 deaths total due to the tsunami and quake, 5 of which in nuclear plants, zero due to radiation.

    The deaths for US coal are included in the link, not just Chinese coal deaths. The link is clearly written for someone who actually tries to read the entire thing before coming back here to respond about some nitpick.

    Saying things like ‘fukushima will kill as many as Chernobyl’ makes me wonder why Barry lets you guys post here. Please stop this trolling.


  33. @Gerald:

    It’s an interesting question. Suppose the contamination were from Cesium-137,
    having a half-life of 30.17 years.

    Cesium-137 decays 95% by a 0.51 MeV beta to Barium-137m, which then emits a
    0.662 MeV gamma, 2.55 minutes later.

    The other 5% of the decays are betas of 1.174 MeV to the ground state of
    stable Barium-137.

    The activity of Cesium-137 is 3.22 TBq/gram, based on its half-life.

    So how much energy is contained in the decays from 1 gram of Cesium-137?

    Let’s assume the average energy of the betas is half their endpoint energy:
    then they’re not very penetrating (at most a few mm into the skin). So we can
    neglect betas in the calculation of the energy of the decays and only worry
    about the gammas.

    Then we have E/decay = 0.667 MeV.

    So the integrated energy flux, over 4*pi solid angle, for the gammas emitted
    from one gram of Cs-137 is 3.22 x 10^12 Bq * 0.667 MeV * 1.6 x 10^(-13) J =
    0.34 J /s.

    Unfortunately, we are missing a key element here: at what distance from the
    piece of concrete was the measurement of 0.9 Sv/hr taken? The dose rate drops
    rapidly with distance. Leave that aside for a moment, though.

    From one gram of Cs-137 we have potentially 1237 J/hr of energy released in
    gamma decays. If this energy is completely deposited in a 70 kg human being
    in the form of ionisation, that amounts to 17 Gray/hr, or 17 Sievert/hr, since
    the quality factor is 1 for gamma radiation.

    At 2m from such a source, if it is a point source, the flux would be about
    0.35 Sv/hr/m^2.

    A human being has a frontal surface area of something like 0.6 m^2 (height
    180cm, waist 102cm around). So at 2 m, you could expect to get 0.175 Sv/hr
    from 1 gram of Cesium-137. At 1 m, that might be 0.7 Sv/hr (ignoring the fact
    that this is a distributed source of about 30cm x 30cm).

    The measured dose rate doesn’t seem very wildly inconsistent, then, with
    contamination by about 1 gram of Cs-137.

    Remembering that the total atmospheric release of Cs-137 was estimated at
    about 12 PBq, or 3 kg, and that Cs-137 is also highly water soluble, and
    remembering that there are also other possible contaminants, some with higher
    activities, I suppose that it’s just possible that this is a piece of concrete
    that was in contact with some very highly contaminated coolant water that then
    evaporated and deposited all of its contamination on the concrete …


  34. Barry,
    I would really like to see some kind of clue as to how many people are going to permanently lose their homes as a result of the Fukushima accident.
    I doubt there will be many extra deaths from it, but people having to stay permanently out of the evacuation zone is also part of the cost.
    For example, what are the levels of radiocesium that have been detected in various places within the evacuation zone? How high of a level would render a place uninhabitable? Is radiocesium the main reason people might have to stay out of there, or maybe other radioactive elements?
    What is the biological half-life of radiocesium? It’s shorter than the radioactive half-life because the radiocesium goes out of the food chain after a while.
    How many people have been evacuated?
    I don’t think anyone can make a definitive prediction, but we could have some facts that would give us an idea of how many people might have to stay out of there permanently.


  35. Biological half life of radiocesium is around 2 to 3 months. It doesn’t accumulate in any particular organ, either. Its excreted out of the body with other dead cell matter.

    The Japanese will probably chose to clean things up rather than permanently closing large areas. Its expensive because of the large area, though not particularly hard.

    Currently there appears to be over 100 square kilometers of area that needs investigation for cleanup. All of it northwest of Fukushima Daiichi.


  36. “Saying things like ‘fukushima will kill as many as Chernobyl’ makes me wonder why Barry lets you guys post here. Please stop this trolling.”

    You think I am trolling BECAUSE YOU DO NOT READ MY POSTS!!!

    “Environmentalist, 5 deaths due to tsunami and quake, none of them due to radiation!!”

    Read it again, when compared to a PV farm 5 people died in a nuclear plant. there are no cranes in a PV farm nor infrastructure that can collapse on you.

    And if you do not believe there will be a similar deathtoll to Chernobyl then you are in denial, Liquidators are much safer but the bulk of the casualties will be civilians in the long run.


  37. Haha, oh wow. So we now have people that oppose nuclear because there could be cranes on site that could kill you in case of a tsunami? Really, are you serious? Considering the death toll in the region, the nuclear plant was most likely the safest place to be along the coast. Do you have any idea how ridiculous (not to mention morally reprehensible) it is to blame nuclear power for five deaths not inherent to nuclear energy generation during a disaster that killed over twenty thousand?

    Does it make you feel good that you can use this disaster that affected millions for your personal political agenda?

    But okay, let’s do a little thought experiment here. Replace the Fukushima plant with coastal wind farms. The nuclear plant generated 4000 MW so it would take 2000 wind turbines at 2 MW a piece to replace it. How high do you estimate the odds that there would be at least five people on site performing maintenance on some of them that could be killed if a similar quake struck that area?


  38. There are more people working in a PV farm so you get more casualties easily. PV requires more mined materials so more casualties there. Rooftop working is also dangerous. Hence, the higher death toll number for PV compared to nuclear:

    Nuclear: 0.07 deaths per TWh
    PV: 0.44 deaths per TWh.

    More importantly:

    Coal: 15 deaths per TWh even with pollution control. Without pollution controls, 160 or higher.

    You’re clearly not much of an environmentalist, nitpicking nuclear death toll over PV when the big killer is coal. Penny wise, pound foolish.


  39. TEPCO is clearly thinking about getting the still possibly semi-molten fuel masses covered in the reactors, and with the known leakage in the recirc pump loops the only way to get water level inside the pressure vessel above the level of the inlets of the jet pumps is to raise the level OUTSIDE the pressure vessel above them.

    If I am reading the above correctly, this means there are reactor vessel nozzel(s) below the top of the fuel. I did not think ANYONE allowed ANYBODY to build such installations. One of the fundamental design criteria is that if you put water into a loop via any path it will fall on to the top of the fuel and if there is a leak in a loop it cannot uncover the fuel.


  40. Cyril,
    Biological half-life isn’t the right term, rather ecological half-life, that is how long till half as much radiocesium is in the food chain. Cesium in the soil apparently migrates to deeper levels, see http://www.environmental-studies.de/Radioecology/Radiocesium/Cs_E7/Cs_E8/Cs_E8-1/cs_e8-1.html
    and I read elsewhere that it gets bound to minerals in the soil or something. So the effective half life of radiocesium is shorter than 30 years. But certainly not as short as a few months.
    How long there’s a danger from radiocesium would depend on a lot of things. I read that in Sweden after Chernobyl, the radiocesium got concentrated in lichens, which reindeer ate, so they were limiting the sale of reindeer meat. But perhaps non-lichenivorous :) animals were less contaminated with radiocesium.


  41. Firstly, thank you Barry for continuing your hosting on this Blog. I have found the discussions useful in clarifying my own views about what we need to do about energy sources and the problem of climate change. Let me add fuel to the fire on two points:

    1/ There has been quite a bit of discussion about nuclear and PV as enegry sources and I think it is useful to point out that neither source will likely dominant worldwide energy production in the time frame that climate change requires. Nuclear won’t becasue we can’t build enough plants in 20 years to occupy that big a slice of the energy pie, and PV won’t because even if the price is right, the grid integration and storage technologies are also 10 to 20 year projects. I do believe our path should be sustainable on a multi-generation basis and that it should not require government to assume liabilities for the what ifs of either construction cost overuns or failure scenarios. These requirements to me mean that renewable energy needs to be taken very seriously to solve long term issues surrounding climate change, energy production, and sustainability. Cost will be what they need to be to meet the multiple requirements demande by society, that may mean higher costs.

    2/ A problem I see coming up at Fukushima that has not been addressed anywhere in the world is the decison of what radiation level people will be asked to move back to, rather than TEPCO or the Japanese government buying them out. Obviously TEPCO and the Japanese government will want to reduce costs of of compensating people for lost property, so there will be pressure to legalize exposure levels that minimize overall compenastion costs. So, my question to the knowledgeable people here is – what radiation level will be acceptable to require people to move back into – given that their option might be to either move back, or not be compensated for their property? How this is dealt with at Fukushima will have a significant positive or negative affect on the public view of the end result of a significant nuclear accident.


  42. @Mike Keefer:

    The jet pump inlets are in the downcomer, about 2/3 of the
    way down the fuel I think. But the jet pumps draw water from
    the downcomer, inside the RPV and outside the plenum. They
    push some of the feedwater first back up, and then drive it
    down to below the bottom of the core where it makes a 180
    degree turn and comes back up through the core. in normal
    operation. So the jet pump circuit is internal to the

    The recirc pump inlets are a bit higher than the jet pump
    inlets; above the top of the fuel, I think, but I’m not
    completely sure. The main feedwater inlets and steam outlets
    are way up at the top of the RPV, far above the core.

    There are nice diagrams on Will Davis site explaining and
    diagramming this if you look back through his old posts
    since Fukushima hit the news.


  43. A boiling water reactor vessel has lots of holes below the top of the fuel because the control rods are inserted from the bottom of the reactor vessel. The new pressurized water reactors feature having no holes in the reactor vessel below the level of the fuel.


  44. Ms Perps,
    While I support the idea of building as many NPPs as we can, it is unrealistic to think that this can have a noticeable effect on carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

    Even if you could wave a magic wand and convert every fossil fuel power plant to nuclear over night, CO2 levels would keep on rising owing to motor vehicles, industrial processes, domestic heating, aeroplanes etc.

    Electric power generation is not the major source of man made CO2.


  45. @Mike Keefer

    An actual diagram of a BWR/3 doesn’t agree with what I said above. Both the recirc pump inlet and the outlet appear to be below the level of the core. So Will Davis’ argument makes sense if the core has melted through it’s bottom support plate, I suppose. There are systems above the core for injecting water, but if there’s a leak in the recirc lines, then it would be hard to raise the level much unless valves can be closed …


  46. Regarding the question raised by Steve Lapp and maybe others regarding safe dose limits and the time requirement for return of the evacuees : although I’m more of a specialist in materials than in source terms, cleanup and radiobiology, I believe there are a few important things to consider.

    The radiation dose in the evacuated towns around the Daiichi power plant are governed to a large degree by the ground contamination from the deposits of iodine and cesium (and maybe some strontium). In Tchernobyl, the dose rates were also governed by so-called ‘hot particles’, which are aerosols created by the explosion of the reactor and which contain a lot of insoluble elements (explained to some degree in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster#Radioactive_release). The aerosols ‘mature’ as they are spread by the wind and air streams and therefore deposit at distances as far away as Europe (contamination of deer meat in Sweden, Finland and Norway after Chernobyl : http://www.iaea.org/inis/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Public/28/041/28041597.pdf).

    In the case of Fukushima, we have at worst a very mimimal spread of fuel material (a little may have been dispersed by the spent fuel pool fire at reactor 4 or maybe even the wet well breach in reactor 2, but never as much as 6t of fuel in Tchernobyl by a core explosion and fire without containment). The released radionuclides will therefore be volatile and probably mostly in a water soluble form. That means rain may go a long way in cleaning the land and diluting the radioelements in the soil layers and the ground water down to safe contamination levels and quickly reduce the background radiation. I’m inclined to therefore believe that, as soon as releases from the plant are fully stopped and we have had a few days of rain in the neighbourhood, one may expect levels to drop rapidly. I believe some human efforts will be required to clean up around Iidate, though. Are there any specialist around that can comment on these assumptions ?

    As far as safe dose limits are concerned, I would only like to offer this link (was given by others before) to put things in perspective : http://www.ecolo.org/documents/documents_in_english/ramsar-Monfared-HLR-06.ppt


  47. Ms Perps, David, Barry,
    One simply can’t get away with much here. Any sloppy stuff is pounced on! That is one of the main things I like about this site; one can learn from people who present reasoned arguments.

    Thank you also for being patient and not simply writing me off as a hopeless case.

    The links David provided were interesting but lumped things together that I want to separate. Barry’s link was was a glimpse of an energy future to 2060.

    Casting around I could not find the information I wanted for the world as a whole so here is an analysis for the USA based LLRL’s famous diagram for US energy sources and uses in 2008:

    Quads %
    Wind 0.51
    Geo 0.35
    Solar 0.09

    (Whatever happened “Rational Debate”?)


  48. Ooops!, I must have pressed the “Submit” button by mistake. Here are the numbers summarized from the LLRL diagram for US energy in 2009:

    Renewables (Hydro, Geo, Wind &Solar) = 3.9 Quads
    Nuclear = 8.5 Quads
    Carbon (Petroleum, Natural gas, Coal & Bio) = 82.3
    Total energy = 94.6 Quads

    Electricity production only (Quads):
    Renewables = 3.7
    Nuclear = 8.5
    Carbon = 26.2
    Total electricity = 38.2

    My magic wand would replace the 26.2 Quads of carbon based generating plants with nuclear, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of the USA by 26.2/82.3 = 32%.

    As the USA is an intensive user of electricity I suspect that the world wide reduction would be less than 30%.

    Whatever the correct figure, do any of you believe that a reduction of this magnitude would have a significant effect on atmospheric Carbon Dioxide concentrations?

    My point is that there are much better reasons for building NPPs than reducing carbon dioxide emissions.


  49. gallopingcamel, 32% is better than you are going to get from any other single program. And replacing the other non-electrical carbon combustion energy also requires a source of energy; why not nuclear?

    Having said which, I agree with you that there are other reasons to go nuclear, but none that penetrate the public consciousness as effectively as reducing carbon emissions.


  50. Hi GC,

    I would agree that the CO2 reduction capacity of nuclear is but one of many very persuasive benefits to nuclear power. That being said, the reason for first attacking the electricity sector of energy generation with nuclear is that electricity is the form of energy that current nuclear design addresses most effectively.

    More to your point, I don’t think a straight across comparison between the electricity sector and overall fossil consumption gives an accurate picture of CO2 contributions, due to the carbon intensity of the fuels used. Of the “Big 3” (coal, petro, nat gas), quad for quad, coal by far produces the most CO2.

    As to whether the other reasons for NPP’s are “better”, I leave to everyone’s personal sensibilities… the important thing is that they are cumulative and don’t detract from each other,. making the case we all agree on that much stronger… not to mention palatable to a larger and more diverse cohort.


  51. Gallopingcamel, transportation on land can be almost completely electrified so you get that too. Plus heating of buildings and hot tap water can be mostly passive solar & heat pumps powered by nuclear electric. So you get that as well. Then there are many industries that use fuel oil, natural gas heat etc. that can use high temperature acoustic heat pumps and such, plus replacement of industrial diesel pumps with electrical pumps, that again make society more electric. Getting a 50% fossil fuel reduction with all this on nuclear electric isn’t hard. Add to that some agricultural change and reduction of deforestation and other unsustainable land practices can cut CO2 emissions even further, around 60-70%.

    Ships and aircraft are harder. Synthetic fuel is actually easy technically, but economically this will be hard to justify when there are still things to electrify with nuclear electric. Ships could be nuclear, but the economics are kind of dubious so far. Aircraft are really hard. LNG isn’t a bad source for aircraft. We’ll have to make do.


  52. @gallopingcamel… another point on your post.

    You asked,

    “Whatever the correct figure, do any of you believe that a reduction of this magnitude would have a significant effect on atmospheric Carbon Dioxide concentrations?”

    My response would be, it’s a move in the right direction in any case, and what we are conspicuously lacking is significant progress of any sort! Disregarding temporary historical blips in reduced energy consumption due to economic reversals (with its consequent reduction in CO2 production), the trajectory is clear… fossil fuel consumption has only increased over time. It will continue to do so unless a targeted plan is instituted to specifically reduce it. To start with the biggest producers only makes sense.

    Perhaps it wasn’t your intent, but the way you phrase the question conveys a sense of futility in pursuing the effort at all… to wit, does anyone believe this will have any significant effect?

    If AGW was the sole reason for supporting a conversion to a NPP dominant electricity sector, and one was not particularly motivated by that issue, then I supppose one could plausibly support a sense of futility, but what about the other equally important reasons you mention (I won’t say “better”)? Here’s one for your consideration…

    Global security/economic instability. We have already entered the era of energy resource wars, and contrary to the normal current of conversation on this site, the energy source causing the mayhem is not electricity, it is transportation fuels. Any developed country experiencing electricity scarcity today is in that condition due to choice, bad planning, or both… not inherent global scarcity of a fuel source. Transportation is a different matter entirely.

    Maintaining the future of transportation (the largest fraction of the remaining 70% fossil consumption referenced in your comment) can only go two ways… electrification or manufacture of portable fuels. The days of pumping high grade petroleum out of the ground are coming quickly to a close, and as the supply diminishes, mayhem will expand and intensify.

    In an electrification scenario, a well developed nuclear infrastructure (ie: implementation of better reactor designs, recent experience in constructing the hundreds of NPP’s necessary to replace coal electric plants, the streamlined regulatory scheme and improved public acceptance such an expansion would require and promote, development of a robust manufacturing base for reactor parts, etc, etc, etc…) would be a perfect compliment.

    In a manufactured fuel scenario, due to unaviodable conversion losses, the energy penalty would be immense, and using fossil sources to artificially manufacture hydrocarbons is a “rob Peter to pay Paul” arrangement… AGW aside, the environmental/health consequences would make this scenario untenable. If this approach becomes necessary, only nuclear provides the energy density, at low enough environmental/human cost, to support such inherent inefficiency.

    Looking forward, our biggest enemy is Time. We have squandered decades. Urgency is called for, and there is no room for futility. We must make a start, and if the US commited to, and accomplished the task of building the 400 odd NPP’s necessary to replace domestic coal, it would go a long way to laying down the foundation of a sustainable global energy infrastructue.


  53. @ Cyril R…

    I’m not as sanguine as you on the statement, “transportation on land can be almost completely electrified”… barring a revolutionary breakthrough in portable elctricity storage, or a drastic change in lifestyle/quality of life in the estimation of many people, I’m not persuded that the current battery technology is up to the task. (This from a resource availability, cost, and environmental impact perspective, in addition to inadequate capacity).

    On the other hand, I fervently hope you’re right… electrification of transportation is the ideal solution in my opinion. However, since I consider it at the root of our current straits, I have a low opinion of wishful thinking.


  54. Not necessary, use plugin hybrids, 80 to 90% reduction in liquid fuel use with limited battery capacity. Like the Chevrolet Volt. As batteries get better and cheaper, use more battery and even less liquid fuel. At some point you’re almost completely electric vehicle.

    More electric trains can be done easily. Century old technology, works well everywhere in the world. Disadvantage is that it requires more infrastructure to be built – more railway – but the advantage is fully electric proven technology.

    Trains will be needed for more medium to long distance transport. Remove more from medium to long distance road and plane transport because that’s hard to electrify.

    Residual is ships and airplanes, hard to do. LNG will unfurtunately have to be used for this.

    Hopefully people will drive and fly less also. I’ve sold my car 3 years ago and its almost never a big problem for me.

    Heat pumps are easy and are getting cheaper and more efficient lately. Great for places where passive solar isn’t applicable such as cities.

    Future nuclear plants will operate at higher temperature, taking care of the high temp industrial heat market too.

    That takes us more than halfway where we need to go. Not a bad start, and there’s perspective for the getting rid of residuals with nuclear.


  55. The real contribution of nuclear to the CO2 issue is going to be its use by emerging economies. Guaranteeing that they don’t start burning coal and gas is probably more important than the actual reductions that converting Western dirt-burners will realize.

    As for electric ground transport, practical storage (or other technology) does exist for much of it to be converted right now. The limiting factors are cost and political will, but there are signs that there is a drift towards that solution occurring anyway. With some luck, a tipping point will come where market forces will kick in, and the rising price of motor fuels is bringing that day closer.


  56. Could we please have an article on BNC about converting transport, heating, industry to electric/non-fossil sources please? I’m sure there are a couple of good posters here who could write something great.


  57. Enviromentalist : “Read it again, when compared to a PV farm 5 people died in a nuclear plant. there are no cranes in a PV farm nor infrastructure that can collapse on you.”

    There is not 5 but just 1 worker deceased in a crane accident caused by the earth quake, but at Fukushima 2, where all reactors safely stopped in cool mode. 2 other workers have died at Fukushima 1 because of the tsunami.

    Anyway, your accounting doesn’t hold waters so to speak. Many teachers have died in kindergardens because of the earthquake then tsunami. Following your logic, kindergardens would be much more lethal than nuclear plants.


  58. Where could I find information on the maximum allowances of radiation in drinking water and air? I’ve read about the reccomendations for drinking water in Japan (300Bq/kg of I-131), but what about the US?

    there is a lot of discussion (and false claims) on how much radiation there is in rainwater in the US, for example, but I was unable to find any guidelines on this apart from the Japanese ones.


  59. I believe that vehicles that need longer range than batteries can provide should be bi-fuel, either CNG/petrol or CNG/diesel. That way public or private CNG filling stations can develop slowly as liquid fuels phase out. Methane is quite energy dense on a weight basis, about 40 MJ per kg. The required 220 bar compression is similar to scuba tanks. Something will have to be done about the 3% fugitive emissions.

    A problem with a massive shift to CNG for vehicles (recently hinted at by Obama) is that stationary users of gas will lose the price war. That is a major flaw in the uptake of gas fired electrical generation. Some claim fracking will treble world gas reserves but we’ll have to see.


  60. Joffan, John Rogers, Cyril R et al.,
    The last thing I would want to convey is the idea that it is futile to pursue a NPP dominated energy future. That is where we are inevitably headed and what bothers me is that little will be done until fossil fuels are running out.

    I support Barry’s vision for a 2060 with electric automobiles in the ascendant and therefore a massive increase in electrical generating capacity. I support the idea of building a “Nuke” per day until the whole world and especially today’s “have nots” can access cheap electricity.

    How do we get there from here? Legislation in the USA makes NPPs a dubious investment here. Australia has a flat out prohibition. The Brits have fallen in love with windmills. The French have lost their nerve as evidenced by shutting down advanced projects such as Super-Phenix. The Germans are rushing around like chickens with their heads cut off. Who knows what will happen in Japan following Fukushima?

    There is good news. The Russians see Fukushima as a reason to speed up the introduction of new, safer NPP designs. The Chinese are building NPPs faster than anyone. The Czech Republic and India are building Thorium cycle reactors while ORNL talks about them. Canada remains a source of hope.


  61. @gallopingcamel – Make no mistake about it: the enemy of nuclear energy is fossil-fuels. They are lobbying in the background to keep nuclear expensive, and funding the groups that are whipping the masses up over the supposed dangers of nuclear. The evidence is glaringly obvious if anyone wants to look for it. Big Carbon wants to hold nuclear off because they, and they alone will suffer from a loss of revenue.

    Meanwhile we get hung up arguing with windbags, that don’t even know enough about the subjects they are for or against to mount a descent argument, or marshal the available facts. As entertaining as sparing with them might be, it is a sideshow to the real fight.

    In the end the only thing that will get nuclear energy moving at the rate that it needs to be to make a difference, is a groundswell of public support. We know that it can be done because we saw it happen to nuclear, when public pressure stopped it in its tracks thirty years ago.

    We need leadership, organization, and funds to make a difference, and until these are forthcoming we are spinning our wheels.


  62. “…. details from the general Japanese press …. TEPCO has shown a map of the rad levels on site. The discovery of a general 300 mSv area (30 R/hr) has been noted and our previously reported finding of a piece of debris reading 900 mSv (90 R/hr) has been repeated. This helps explain why TEPCO is now working so hard on using the remote controlled vehicles …. TEPCO now sees a rising water level in the No. 3 and No. 4 plant turbine buildings… and this water is now much more highly contaminated than it was one week ago. There doesn’t seem to be much use in speculating where the water in each building is coming from; it may be one water mass, essentially, through fissures and voids in the ground / concrete / foundations and there could be water from all the plants in communication….”



  63. Update today on progress (lack thereof) preparing for another similar situation:


    “… TOKYO (Kyodo) — Most nuclear reactors in Japan would fail to achieve a stable condition in the event that all regular power sources are lost, even though plant operators have prepared new backup power sources as well as electric generators following the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Kyodo News found Monday.

    … the backup power sources do not have enough capacity to operate all of the devices needed to keep the reactors cool.

    Many reactors still effectively have no alternative power source should emergency diesel generators fail to work ….

    … utility sources said that the power supply can only run measuring gauges and small-scale water injection devices. “They are far from being described as backups to emergency power generators,” one of the sources said.

    … onlyTokyo Electric Power Co., … said it can keep cooling four of its operating reactors at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power station in Niigata Prefecture by using one 4,500-kilowatt power-supply vehicle and four 500-kilowatt ones.

    Among the operators that have not secured sufficient backups was the Japan Atomic Power Co., which said that it needs about 3,500 kilowatts to safely keep cooling its No.2 reactor at the Tsuruga power station in Fukui Prefecture, but only has deployed a 220-kilowatt and a 800-kilowatt power-supply vehicle.

    The company is trying to secure three 1,825-kilowatt power-supply vehicles with the hope of deploying them by around March next year, the sources said.

    Chubu Electric Power Co. has installed nine more diesel power generators for its five reactors, including two reactors that are in the process of being scrapped, at its Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka Prefecture. The plant is at risk of being hit by a big earthquake expected in the Tokai region.

    But the diesel generators, which have been placed on higher ground so that they would not be affected by tsunami, have only a small power capacity so the utility plans to locate three gas turbine generators at the site, the sources said.

    Hokkaido Electric Power Co. has also deployed one 3,200-kilowatt power-supply vehicle at its Tomari power station, but the capacity is not enough to achieve stable shutdown of the reactors and it plans to add a second vehicle within two years, the sources said….”


  64. I’m a bit confused about the radiation in the exclusion zone. On p15 of the slideshow from TEPCO, the highest radiation I can find is 270µSv/h. But the latest update from IAEA says:
    “Dose rates are also reported specifically for the eastern part of Fukushima prefecture, for distances beyond 30 km from Fukushima Daiichi. On 19 April the values in this area ranged from 0.1 to 22 µSv/h.”
    “For Fukushima on 20 April a gamma dose rate of 1.9 µSv/h was reported”

    This are quite differing numbers..


  65. Hello:

    I’m a bit confused about some of the figures we are reading this days regarding reactor 1 water level.
    It is announced that, since several days, water is being injected at a rate of 6T/h. That means 6 cubic meters per hour. Hank Roberts has posted that steam generation is in the range of 2t/h, so effective water injection must be 4T/h, or 4 cubic meters/h.
    Data from reactor 1 vessel says it’s 20m tall and 4,8m in diameter, so it will have near 362 cubic meters. At that rate, in 90 hours it will have to be completely full… Where am I wrong? Or where is the missing water?
    Thanks for any idea! And thanks for your interesting blog!



  66. > Manal
    > 2t/h

    You’re referring to something I quoted, after I found it (it’s the source for something Barry Brook quoted earlier in the thread).

    That’s not something of my own knowledge. The original source is:

    It’s consistent with the ongoing reports, for example at http://atomicpowerreview.blogspot.com/2011/04/further-brief-details-on-fukushima.html

    I quoted a brief excerpt on the water numbers from atomicpowerreview above:


  67. > JD, on 26 April 2011 at 8:57 PM said:
    > I’m a bit confused … p15 of the slideshow from
    > TEPCO, the highest radiation I can find is 270µSv/h.

    The labels on that page don’t match the explanation — it explains three of the four numbers shown in each box, but doesn’t explain the number inside the angle brackets. Your example I think is from

    Station number [33]
    Accumulative dose 10120 microsieverts
    Unexplained number 270 in angle brackets
    Dose per hour (11.1) microsieverts

    Anyone figure that one out?


  68. TerjeP, the article doesn’t really argue that. It asserts “some say” that, in a couple of paragraphs tagged on the end.

    The half-argument they make is that Japan is an advanced nation, whereas the Soviet Union – the first nation to orbit a satellite, and a man – was some backward bunch of rock-bashers. They abuse the phrase “out of control” to suggest continuing problems of comparable magnitude, but what is actually happening is that the reactors are being contained in their damaged state and gradually brought back towards a full controlled shutdown state.

    Not really news so much as more sensationalism-surfing. Ride that wave of readers!


  69. The quotes in the CSMonitor article seem to be from UBS. They don’t describe the USSR as “rock bashers” but as having “no tradition of industrial safety” compared to Japan’s engineering. Dunno; Murphy shows up everywhere.

    This seems to be the key quote from the CSMonitor piece, and it’s been picked up by going on 50 blogs so far.


  70. oops, _this_ seems to be the key quote:

    ““At Fukushima, four reactors have been out of control for weeks – casting doubt on whether even an advanced economy can master nuclear safety,” wrote UBS analysts in the study, released April 4.”

    Three reactors and four spent fuel pools, to be precise. Close enough for bank analysts.

    One of these three items from UBS might be the source, I didn’t read them, but here’s the search:


  71. Joffan says: They abuse the phrase “out of control” to suggest continuing problems of comparable magnitude, but what is actually happening is that the reactors are being contained in their damaged state and gradually brought back towards a full controlled shutdown state.

    I’m afraid I have to take issue with the general attitude of that statement, and particularly with “… are being contained in their damaged state”.

    It’s clear just from this thread that the radioactive elements are not contained. Highly radioactive water is leaking from at least two reactors and a spent fuel pool; TEPCO is hoping to shore up the SFP before leaks overwhelm them. A pool of water outside reactor 3 is emitting 300 mSv per hour, and debris has been found at .9 Sv/hour. Highly radioactive water continues to accumulate as water pumped into the cores and SFP leaks out.

    The government is making part of the evacuation zone continue indefinitely.

    My guess is that the situation will be resolved over the coming months. This is far from assured, however: the worst case is still pretty bad.

    This is not what I would characterize as “contained”. Your mileage may vary.


  72. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42772893/ns/world_news-the_new_york_times/

    “… In Japan, the web of connections between the nuclear industry and government officials is now popularly referred to as the “nuclear power village.” The expression connotes the nontransparent, collusive interests that underlie the establishment’s push to increase nuclear power despite the discovery of active fault lines under plants, new projections about the size of tsunamis and a long history of cover-ups of safety problems.

    Just as in any Japanese village, the likeminded — nuclear industry officials, bureaucrats, politicians and scientists — have prospered by rewarding one another with construction projects, lucrative positions, and political, financial and regulatory support. The few openly skeptical of nuclear power’s safety become village outcasts, losing out on promotions and backing. ….”


  73. This Union of Concerned Scientists’ article makes it clear that “Murphy” makes appearances at US nuclear plants.


    While this article from the same source would indicate that there is also a US “nuclear power village.” or at least a serious culture problem that makes it difficult to address safety issues.



  74. > Murphy

    I missed when Murphy married Cassandra; clearly they’re working together on this stuff.

    From the article Ted links to just above — this is the sort of thing where the most avidly pro-nuclear enthusiast ought to be getting up and howling that yes, it _does_ have to be done _right_.

    With great nuclear power comes great nuclear responsibility.

    But gad, look at that article. Cassandra warned years ago this would happen. Murphy m


  75. … Murphy made it happen.

    “… The NRC granted our request for a public meeting for us to communicate our concerns to the agency. About 15 minutes into that meeting on October 1, 1993, the NRC project manager for Susquehanna was sound asleep and snoring in the first row.

    The issues were resolved at Susquehanna by the owners’ commitment to always operate with the spent fuel pools connected to each other. In case of an accident involving the Unit 1 reactor core, the systems on Unit 2 could be used to cool both spent fuel pools without adversely affecting conditions inside the Unit 1 reactor building, and vice-versa. The owner also took steps to install additional instrumentation to enable operators to monitor spent fuel pool water levels and temperatures and resolve the standby gas treatment system design issues.

    However, little to nothing has been done to address the spent fuel pool vulnerabilities at other BWRs in this country.

    Following this incident, I authored Nuclear Waste Disposal Crisis, a book about spent fuel storage issues. It was released by PennWell Publishing in January 1996. Chapter 8 outlined spent fuel pool safety issues. Chapter 9 detailed our spent fuel pool concerns at Susquehanna. And Appendix A summarized actual spent fuel pool problems that occurred at U.S. nuclear power reactors…..”

    Look at that. Cassandra.
    Look at Fukushima. Murphy.

    Look at the rest of the industry with this skeptical eye and say — get it right. Get it together. Understand the power requires better management.


  76. Manel, on 26 April 2011 at 11:13 PM said:

    >>.Data from reactor 1 vessel says it’s 20m tall and 4,8m in diameter, so it will have near 362 cubic meters. At that rate, in 90 hours it will have to be completely full… Where am I wrong? Or where is >>the missing water?.

    4.8m X 20m tall sounds like the reactor vessel. They are flooding the containment vessel which involves flooding the wet well(torus) and the containment building.

    To flood the containment building up to the top of the fuel is about 10,000 m3 of water.

    Details of the flooding-


  77. Murphy’s Law? Hank Roberts, I though you were a scientific person ; )

    Murphy’s Law might have predicted that the seawater injection cooling didn’t work – but it did. It might have predicted that the containment would fail, because it can, but it didn’t.

    The newer plants are consecutively less damaged: 70% fuel damage, 30% fuel damage, 25% fuel damage, newer ones in the area had no fuel damage. That’s the effect of newer, improved technology.

    One of the strengths of nuclear power has turned to its demise at Fukushima Daiich: nuclear plants last a long time. If you don’t upgrade old technology (as is done more in the US following TMI) you’re stuck with old technology for a long time.

    Still, the invention of the Mark I BWR containment has saved many lives from the dangerous fossil fuels, and Japan’s nuclear financial balance is similarly showing a fat positive cashflow with about 5 trillion kWhs from nuclear in total over all years. And now it’s time to move on with newer ABWRs and ESBWRs, and further out with the IFRs and LFTRs many more can be saved from fossil fuel pollution deaths.


  78. Cyril, Murphy doesn’t say everything that can go wrong will go wrong all at the same time. If you don’t see Murphy demonstrating what Cassandra warned about, I suggest looking again at the references.

    Compare Cassandra
    http://allthingsnuclear.org/post/4814761753/susquehanna-spent-fuel-pool-concerns-and-how-i-ended (warning against the ‘answer’ that if one reactor fails, the one next door will handle cooling)

    with Murphy (ongoing, not done yet)

    Seawater hasn’t worked — yet — for values of “work” better than “disaster”

    Containment has failed — for values of containment better than “slow leak rather than hot melted core”

    Seriously — if we want to implement the huge rollout of nuclear power needed to displace fossil fuel with the amount of climate change already committed — with sea level rise, temperature and rainfall changes, and the rest — these sorts of warnings need to be taken seriously.

    The nuclear industry needs to take itself more seriously — not pretend they weren’t warned or that nothing bad has happened yet.

    Murphy would go to some other country and pull some other surprise. Cassandra would say “told you so” — so, who’s listening?


  79. Lots more news and photos posted over at http://atomicpowerreview.com

    “… TEPCO has released the fact that the robots detected a rad field of 112 R/hr inside the No. 1 reactor building, although it is not apparent just where this was.

    In another development, TEPCO is becoming sure that the spent fuel pool at No. 4 plant is leaking somewhere, since the rate at which it’s adding water can’t be evaporating fast enough to account for the daily level loss. ….
    6:00 AM Eastern Wednesday 4/27”


  80. IAEA:

    “White smoke continues to be emitted from Units 2 and 3. No more white smoke was seen coming from Unit 4 as of 21:30 UTC on 25 April.”

    That’s still unclear, for a while they called it
    white “smoke”
    with added quotation marks

    Anyone know if this is just bad translation for “steam” or “water vapor” coming from boiling fuel pools or venting steam from the reactor vessels?


  81. In earlier news:
    “Saturday, March 26th, 2011
    … emergency scenarios… What if a … flood …?
    What if an F-5 tornado hit Brown’s Ferry in Athens, Ala., at the same time?…
    … Browns Ferry — a near twin of the Japanese Fukushima Dai-ichi plant….

    News today from Browns Ferry:


    “… shutting it down in the aftermath of severe storms and tornadoes that have pounded the state. Tennessee Valley Authority began the process Wednesday afternoon, declaring an ‘unusual event,’ the lowest of four emergency levels as the storms damaged electricity transmissions lines powering the plant…..”


    “… Severe storms and tornadoes …, causing three nuclear reactors in Alabama to shut and knocking out 11 high-voltage power lines ….
    All three units at TVA’s 3,274-megawatt Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama tripped about 5:30 EDT (2230 GMT) after losing outside power ….
    … the plant’s diesel generators started up to supply power for the plant’s safety system.
    … more severe weather was forecast ….”

    “… a storm system moving across the Great Plains could trigger violent thunderstorms ….
    … tornadoes were most likely to occur in the first half of Friday night across eastern Oklahoma, southern Missouri, northern Arkansas, and southern Illinois….”


  82. Nothing new there, Hank – tornadoes trip plants by cutting their power every year. Maybe it just feels more significant after Fukushima Daiichi’s woes.

    I’ve been assuming that the “smoke” description just means an airborne discharge of unknown character. Good on you for pursuing it, but I fully expect that it is mostly water. I seem to remember that there are laser systems that can get some information about composition of such discharges remotely (eg. from 1km).


  83. Joffan, the linked articles describe added precautions developed since the Fukushima events.

    I omitted the link for the first quote, it’s dated Saturday, March 26, 2011

    A bit more from that:

    “… to be prepared with lesson learned from the tragedy across the ocean.

    “We’ve started doing stacked events [in tabletop exercises,] and saying what if,” … that includes looking at having three reactors impacted simultaneously.”

    … TVA officials have recognized that they want more emergency generators at Browns Ferry….

    ..Lochbaum is a nuclear engineer who has worked at both TVA’s Brown Ferry plant and as a Nuclear Regulatory Commission training officer.

    A major concern for Lochbaum is the three spent fuel pools that sit atop Browns Ferry reactors in the same location where hydrogen explosions ripped away the tops of two Japanese reactors.

    “When I worked at Browns Ferry, we had high winds that tore the metal sheeting away. The pools in that plant design are not in containment,” …

    Lochbaum has suggested that TVA and other nuclear plants decrease the amount of spent fuel in the pools by transferring it to cask storage. Moving the waste would provide less danger if something goes wrong.

    Swafford said Friday that the concrete beneath the pool storage at Browns Ferry is strong and likely would not be impacted in an F-5 tornado, but he acknowledged that the pools could be “a mess.”

    He also said TVA has positioned hoses up the stairwell to provide a ready access to water should normal cooling systems be compromised.

    “We’re going to look at everything,” he said.

    This is good news. With more tornados predicted across the same area tonight (the usual peak season being in May) it’s good they started early.

    That’s what’s new there.


  84. White Smoke

    There is a whole article in Nature why the IAEA is using the term ‘white smoke’. Basically, as an international body they can’t ‘potentially modify’ the meaning of a member states official decrees.


    According to the nature article..the official phrase used by japan was


    Which translates in Google translation to
    White smoke like steam


  85. A bit more news from Alabama, to set the scene for what’s been happening there (and more predicted this evening):


    “… As a meteorologist, I must say that yesterday here in North Alabama was simply amazing. Virtually every thunderstorm that formed was rotating, and I hear we had 50 tornadoes just in the Huntsville area and surrounding communities. It lasted all day long….

    Tornado Update from Alabama
    April 28th, 2011 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.
    The power is out here in Huntsville and over much of northern Alabama. Everything is shut down….

    As a meteorologist, I must say that yesterday here in North Alabama was simply amazing. Virtually every thunderstorm that formed was rotating, and I hear we had 50 tornadoes just in the Huntsville area and surrounding communities. It lasted all day long….

    … By evening, all the tornado sirens had lost power, one local TV station’s weather radar was blown away, and the NWS Hytop radar also went down. There were still tornado warnings, yet there was no way to warn people. Callers into the few radio stations that had backup power were letting people know where the storms were as they arrived….

    … Browns Ferry nuclear power plant, which is now shut down after the 500 kV lines out of the plant were taken out, probably by the same tornado. That damage path was quite wide, about a half mile.

    They are saying maybe 4 or 5 days before power is restored …”


  86. Hank Roberts, on 29 April 2011 at 9:06 AM said:

    added precautions developed since the Fukushima events.

    A transcript of the Shaw Construction Groups Earnings call on April 15th.
    Some discussion of the things they made some money on post 9/11 at the nuclear plants they service and what they expect to make more money on as a result of the ‘Fukushima review’.



  87. > transcript … Shaw Construction

    Thanks, Harry, that’s a good one.

    “… in the case of Units 1, 3 and 4, the hydrogen explosion there caused that roof to disassemble….”
    “… to compare that with the AP1000 …. you could literally walk away from this site for 72 hours and not have an issue….
    …. you don’t need AC power, a direct power for safe shutdown, no operator action for 72 hours….
    …. the passive technology of the Westinghouse reactor, okay, does not need, in case of an event, does not need external electricity for pumps and generators to cool the fuel during the first few days of an event…..”

    That’s good. They are emphasizing that this is not a foolproof walk-away design, it’s 72-hour-delayed-response design.

    This is clearer than many statements I’ve seen.


  88. Cyril, how long will the Unit 4 Fukushima fuel pool need active management to keep it cool?

    (That fuel had been removed at the end of its last operating cycle, late in 2010)

    Your image appears to claim a period of 10 days to cool to zero. That can’t be right.

    Can you label it better?


  89. Hank, the figure claims 0.3 percent full power after 10 days, which certainly isn’t zero! Notice also that it appears somewhat asymptotical, so it won’t get down to zero for a very long time.

    Most nuclear engineers I’ve talked to suggest half a year is the absolute minimum for BWR fuel to reside in spent fuel ponds, and 1-10 years is quite normal. It depends on how good your passive dry casks are at cooling and on your operating philosphy. Expect a big shift to earlier dry cask storage post-Fukushima at nuclear plants around the world in that operating philosophy respect.

    I suspect that TEPCO’s 9 month cleanup estimation is mostly dictated by the decay heat load making decommissioning difficult.

    Your link makes sense, BWRs have half the power density of PWR fuel so that’s half the decay heat per volume at any given time. This is an advantage in a severe accident (core uncovery).

    It seems the newer reactor units have had less damage possibly due to increased fuel margins and the use of coolant spray injection that is more effective at cooling the top rods when they are exposed (unconfirmed – its not clear if the emergency seawater injection use that line).


  90. Cyril R., on 30 April 2011 at 4:10 AM said:

    I suspect that TEPCO’s 9 month cleanup estimation is mostly dictated by the decay heat load making decommissioning difficult.

    IMHO The contaminated water will dictate the schedule.

    87,500 tonnes now, adding 500 tonnes per day with a June start date of a 1200 tonne per day filtration system. So they’ll have 100,000+ tonnes of contaminated water by the time the filtration system is installed. They’ll still need to inject 500 tonnes per day into the reactors. Which leaves 700 tonnes per day excess capacity for ‘catch up’. It’ll take them 142 days from the start in June to ‘catch up’ with the water problem.


  91. Hank, the figure claims 0.3 percent full power after 10 days, which certainly isn’t zero! Notice also that it appears somewhat asymptotical, so it won’t get down to zero for a very long time.

    A PDF linked earlier by Roberts says unit 1 now, or recently, was at 1.4 MW. That’s a thousandth of full power.

    The log-log format is bad. Time shown logarithmically is fine.


  92. Hank, your picture and the one given by Cyril basically show the same thing.

    as G.R.L said, the only difference is the label on the y-axis, being also logarithmic.

    the most important aspect on the graph for Fukushima is this one: we were very lucky, because the diesel back up git wiped out (by Tsunami) later than the power line. (earthquake)

    so the reactors were already pretty “cool” at that moment.


  93. Yes, “pretty cool” and “decay heat is biggest during the first 72 hours” are both correct.

    Assuming “half a year is the absolute minimum for BWR fuel to reside in spent fuel ponds” — then how could 72 hours be “the period in which the Fukushima Daiichi units likely received all damage” — that doesn’t make sense to me as an assumption.

    It _might_ be true, it will be wonderful if it turns out to be true, but — is it safe to assume?

    An AP1000 needs active managed cooling after 72 hours — it’s a limited window for delayed human response, not a “safe to walk away” design.

    That’s all I’m saying. I want to argue for the approach, but not out of optimism.

    I want Cassandra and Murphy standing behind me grinding their teeth in frustration because they can’t figure any way to screw up the new plants.

    So we get an EMP or solar flare, during a drought or after an earthquake that emptied the lake required to be provided next to the AP1000 (did you see that requirement? It’s at least in the Chinese specs, a lake nearby to draw on for the longterm cooling) …..

    Just sayin’ the thing about probability is, there’s no guarantee that a one-in-a-million chance won’t turn up during the first 50 years of your timeline.

    I’m looking for convincing arguments that don’t have any extra added optimism to them. Arguments that will hold off Murphy and Cassandra.


  94. Oh, and this is why — too many choices, meaning it’ll be hard to really think them through without effortt by everyone to get all the nasty inconvenient facts out early and often.

    “… Advanced water-cooled-reactor nuclear energy system concepts have been identified as part of the Generation IV International Roadmap evaluation [1] and R&D planning activity; i.e., involving international laboratories, academia, and industry groups from countries including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, Russia, Switzerland, the UK and the U.S. This activity resulted in the proposal of over thirty-eight specific reactor designs…..”

    That’s from http://web.mit.edu/hmtl/www/papers/CORRADINI.pdf
    Rohsenow Symposium on Future Trends in Heat Transfer: MIT, May 16th 2003


  95. Hank, the thing to remember with Fukushima is that they used seawater emergency cooling injection. This is easy for 0.1 percent power, but much harder to do just after shutdown when power is say 1%. The top fuel rods can get damaged as they are not submerged in this cooling mode. Newer BWRs have highly redundant core spray systems which are like big showers that keep the top fuel rods cooled even if they are not submerged in water during an emergency…

    As for the AP1000 keep in mind that the design has a large heat transfer even when dry: there’s a big chimney effect over a *huge* steel containment which is a rather good heat transfer mechanism. Analysis by Westinghouse shows that containment failure will not occur even during dry containment passive cooling only mode:

    Click to access AP1000Reactor.pdf


  96. Cyril, “containment failure” isn’t the reason that active management is required.

    Your source says:

    “Analysis shows that during severe accidents the AP1000 containment is likely to remain intact and to not be bypassed. As a result, the plants have a significantly reduced frequency of release of large amounts of radioactivity following core damage in an accident. …. In addition, even with failure of water drain, air-only cooling is capable of maintaining the containment below the predicted failure pressure…..
    … very low core melt and large release frequencies, that are significantly below those of operating plants ….”

    That’s dated 2003.

    Imagine a full page color advertisement for this product. This is not the text you want on that page:

    “…. significantly reduced frequency of release of large amounts of radioactivity following core damage in an accident.”

    We don’t have a “safe to walk away” option yet.j

    That document seems to claim 30 days:

    “…. passive safety systems provide long-term core cooling and decay heat removal without the need for operator actions and without reliance on active safety-related systems. For limiting design basis accidents, the core coolant inventory in the containment for recirculation cooling and boration of the core is sufficient to last for at least 30 days, even if inventory is lost at the design basis containment leak rate.”

    But then we read — direct quote — this:

    “Severe accident phenomenon have been address with AP1000 design features.”

    But if you go to the NRC website and look, they’re up to the 18th revision of the design as of late 2010.

    Quoting from one of those late changes, the “Reactor Cooling” link — does this sound familiar compared to the problems from Fukushima?

    “… Westinghouse explained that the present Loop 1 location of the narrow-range device is a problem because pressurizer outsurges will cause erroneously high signals for some of the T-hot channels. The faster the RCS temperature is decreasing, the larger the resulting outsurge will be, and the higher the indicated Loop 1 temperature. Westinghouse concluded the most appropriate of several solutions is to relocate the narrow-range device upstream of the pressurizer surge nozzle. The NRC staff agrees that the relocation of these RTDs would alleviate the influence of pressurizer outsurge and finds this to be acceptable.
    In addition, AP1000 post-accident monitoring requirements also require that both wide-range T-hot RTDs be located at the top of the hot legs in order to detect voids. DCD Table 7.5-1, “Post-Accident Monitoring System,” specifies two RCS wide-range T-hot measurements and one PRHR heat exchanger inlet temperature measurement. Therefore, the wide-range protection and safety monitoring system (PMS) hot leg RTD (TE-135A) needs to be relocated upstream of the PRHR nozzle to validate PRHR post-accident monitoring requirements. This location would also provide the desired direct post-accident reactor outlet temperature and PRHR inlet temperature….”
    The AP1000 design is not _done_ yet, while the Chinese version is being built now. Will they go back and revise them after they’re built? Not likely easy to do.


  97. Ah, here’s the 72-hour limit mentioned: Chapter 23,
    Dec. 10, 2010 Design Changes

    Click to access ML103440283.pdf

    “Westinghouse proposed changes to the design of the ancillary diesel generator system. These design change apply to the nonsafety-related ancillary diesel generators and include the following changes:
    • Increase the rating (from 35 KW to 80kW) and physical size of the ancillary diesel generators ….
    … the ancillary diesel generators since they are nonsafety-related, commercial grade equipment…..
    “… The ancillary diesel generators are designed to provide the post-72 hour power requirements following an extended loss of onsite power sources. The ancillary diesel generators are not safety-related but provide electric power for Class 1E post-accident monitoring, main control room (MCR) lighting, MCR and division B and C instrumentation and controls room ventilation and for refilling the PCS water storage tank and the spent fuel pool when no other sources of power are available.”

    Not safety-related, eh?


  98. Pingback: Remote controlled camera shows Fukushima fuel pond 4 has no significant damage … | Koi fish pond

  99. Why is it hard to place monitoring equipment in a different place?

    Anyway, I think the main point is not that you can have a zero chance of core damage. There’s not a zero chance that we’ll be hit by an asteroid big enough to kill 5 billion people somewhere in the next century. There will always be some limiting fault which you can’t design for, and if you do the PRA well you’ll include those. I make PRAs and HAZOP analysis for large oil terminals, and this is how professional level risk management works: risks will never be zero so you cut back risk until you accept the residual risk. The worst case scenario is the entire oil terminal explodes killing up to half the citizens of Amsterdam. This is trade secret and you will never hear the industry say this – they’ll just say their PRA or QRA is accepted.

    Seriously though, for the AP1000 you just assume that core damage will occur and use a core catcher with full passive cooling (physics, let things run HOT). This core catcher will mitigate concrete-corium interactions and guarantee containment integrity while the passive steel containment cooling keeps things cooled down below postulated containment failure temperatures. But you’ll never get rid of all residual risk – even with a passive pebble bed reactor systems you could have a limiting fault causing common mode failures.

    As an engineer I want to go to extreme lengths to guarantee safety of industrial installations, but its an amateur illusion to think we’ll ever get down to zero risk. If that were the goal we’d have to shut down every single industry in the world, chemicals, transport, you name it, all closed down.


  100. So, there’s your Murphy/Cassandra problem.

    Solar flare (or EMP attack) takes out the grid, the semiconductor electronics, and the motor windings
    — and you’re down to bucket brigades to keep cooling.

    We _know_ another large solar flare is inevitable, we just don’t know when.

    We’ve designed our latest and safest nuclear plants to be susceptible to the known effects.


  101. Sure, EMP doesn’t penetrate thick reinforced concrete. It’s a Farday’s box with concrete insulation, it doesn’t get better than that.

    Besides it doesn’t damage large circuitry such as large electric motors, large relays and such, because of their heat capacity, absorbing energetic bursts. Circuit boards are most at risk. I suppose one could put them in steel Faraday’s cages if they aren’t already in reinforced concrete buildings.

    Solar flares are pretty weak EMP sources on the ground as all energy gets diluted over earth magnetic field lines, diffusing the burst. Its a big problem for sattelites, no so much for equipment on the ground.


  102. Hank Roberts, on 30 April 2011 at 11:44 PM said:

    We don’t have a “safe to walk away” option yet.

    From this document –

    Click to access AP1000Reactor.pdf

    Probability Calculations per reactor year(CMF = Core melt)

    Operating(existing) AP1000
    CMF with operator action ~4 E -5 2.4 E -7 / yr
    without operation action ~2 E -3 1.8 E -5 / yr

    The probabilities are not zero…so the second question is how large an area will be impacted and how much time are we likely to have in order to minimize loss of life.


  103. Hank Roberts, on 1 May 2011 at 12:03 AM said:

    “So, there’s your Murphy/Cassandra problem.”

    You thereby have the natural threats to NPP pretty well covered, but you don’t credit Murphy with enough imagination.

    Here’s your worst case scenario.

    An aging dictator of a moderately sized technically adept country wishes to leave a legacy to be remembered by and funds the following:

    Your technical staff at an AP1000 plant is successfully infiltrated by a cadre of politically, religiously or even just criminally motivated individuals.
    A diversionary attack is made on a large public gathering a few dozen miles distant from the NPP. This distracts the local authorities other than the immediate plant security.
    Demolition charges destroy the piping from coolant stores and breach the coolant reservoirs as much as possible (lakes are hard to blow up.)
    Shaped charges breach the secondary, primary containments and the reactor pressure vessel. This is done while the plant is at or near full power production and physically prevent control rod insertion.

    Similar attacks are made at the SFPs.

    I hope our intelligence agencies stay on top of this.

    Face it, this stuff is dangerous, but probably necessary if we want to keep our technological civilization going. We should probably build them far underground, rather than the halfhearted man-made caves currently under design.


  104. How large an area will be impacted?

    You need to use the CRF then not CMF. When the core melts onto the core catcher you’re still fine in terms of external (ie public) safety if the containment holds.

    CRF= core release frequency. This requires major core damage and major containment damage, usually the chance of this is 10-100x lower than major core damage alone.

    How large an area will be impacted in this one in ten/hundred million year event? I don’t know! Good question.

    There is this one thing I know though. The interesting thing about the AP1000 is that the containment water spray system acts as a gas scrubber, removing fission products. This is similar to how gas scrubbers in coal plants work (remove 98-99% of sulphur).

    Its actually pretty easy to refill the upper reservoir because there are hardened standpipe connections at ground level and there is full containment inertization and/or passive hydrogen recombiners that prevent hydrogen explosions. You can even add seawater for a very long time if you’re in an emergency, and it would be much less problematic than in Fukushima because the containment cooling water is outside containment, secondary water, rather than part of the primary loop water…


  105. Anon, building underground has advantages, but also disadvantages: no easy access, no good thermal management (rock conducts heat like shit).

    Probably the best combination is to build fully below grade but not fully underground: pool type reactors. These offer substantial inherent safety while retaining accessibility by cranes and such (in fact water or molten salt pools are excellent radiation shields so makes crane access much easier).

    And you can’t physically prevent the control rods from inserting by placing shaped charges on the reactor vessel. First you would have to be a suicide terrorist and you would rapidly succomb to delirium due to the radiation field next to the pressure vessel, second even if it works you can’t prevent all control rods from inserting (they have considerable margin so a few not inserted means very little).

    Nuclear doesn’t have to be perfectly safe; it just has to be safer and better than the alternatives, which it already is. Until people realise this, we’re fighting a losing battle.


  106. Hank and Cyril, do either of you have any knowledge about this claim concerning the AP1000?

    “John Runkle, an attorney for NC Warn, said there is precedent that supports the group’s petition to delay AP1000’s final approval. After the Three Mile Island accident in 1978, the commission suspended “all licensing” until investigators traced the source of the problem, he said.

    Warren noted that Dr. John Ma, a top structural reviewer with the NRC, in November filed a “non-concurring” opinion with the commission that said the concrete shield building, as proposed, would be too brittle and could shatter “like a glass cup” if it was hit by an earthquake, object propelled by a tornado or a plane”.



  107. The AP1000 shield building has been in review for this and it looks like it will pass through, but might need some modification.

    This is a general design challenge for top-heavy construction: seismic energies are aggrevated. I’d suspect Westinghouse is correct in suggesting that the building is robust, but truth be told, they might agree with the NRC to strengthen it if they can’t convince the NRC that their models show it’s seismically robust. This isn’t a major cost criterion but the problem is that it does delay the project and companies hate this.

    Personally I think the NRC is extremely sluggish. Nuclear Regulatory Snail I’d call them. I’m fine with high standards but these regulatory procedural time periods are absurdly long. Even simple procedures take months, which is plain nonsense. I work with regulatory agencies all the time, and 1 year is about the maximum for a complex industrial project total licensing procedure, including pre-formal communications. Why these nuclear procedures take years is beyond me and smells of bureaucratic incompetence and non-professionalism.


  108. Thanks, Cyril, but your reply said nothing about Dr. Ma’s concerns but only expressed your personal frustrations with NRC delays. Perhaps a little more regulatory delay and analysis could have avoided the Fukushima situation?


  109. A little more regulatory analysis would suggest all coal plants to be shut down immediately. Personally I don’t understand why new coal plants get licenced in OECD countries when nuclear facilities are delayed on basis of risk analysis. We babble endlessly about what could go wrong with nuclear plants when hundreds of thousands die every year due to air pollution.

    It shows how risk-deluded our society is. This risk delusion is the product of the illusion of risk aversion by inaction, deluding ourselves that doing nothing is the safe fallback alternative.

    Regulatory delay in this case, has the flaw of limited scope boundaries and therefore doesn’t do anything productively for society; Fukushima Daiichi saved tens of thousands from air pollution deaths compared to the fossil alternatives.

    That said it is obvious that nuclear plants shouldn’t be fully reliant on electricity for all safety systems. There are some simple additions to older BWRs that can solve all Fukushima problems, such as submarine grade lithium batteries to run steam powered decay heat removal systems for a month, passive hydrogen recombiners, larger onsite freshwater supplies (artificial lakes) and hardened spent fuel pool spray systems.

    For future builds the big one will be passive safety systems such as in the AP1000 and the ESBWR.

    According to this document the shield building seismicity concerns of the AP1000 have been resolved:

    Click to access ML103370648.pdf


  110. On SBS TV tonight 9.35 pm AEST the documentary ‘Gasland’.

    On a recent SBS show ‘Coast’ they interviewed the manager of a natural gas pumping station in Nyhamna Norway. They use hydroelectricity to pump the gas 1200 km to the UK. The manager seemed to be saying that since the Brits squandered their share of the North Sea gas Norway is happy to take the money while avoiding gas use themselves. Couldn’t happen to us.


  111. Thanks David Benson, that supports my own analysis of the heat profile of the spent fuel ponds (using cell based thermo model software tools). With open atmosphere free cooling, and individual fuel rods that make no more heat per meter than a standard office fluorescent light tube, fuel damage threshold of 1000 Kelvin cannot be achieved even with the pool half dried up!


  112. Steven Moss, most likely the culprit is radiolysis of water into hydrogen and oxygen, causing a hydrogen explosion. Spent fuel makes lots of gamma rays that split water like electrolysis splits water by applying current. So it normally makes lots of hydrogen. Older plants use active systems to recombine hydrogen and oxygen into water. These require electricity to work. No electricity, no hydrogen recombination, big explosion hazard if you wait long enough. The space above the spent fuel pool in BWRs Mark I containments is not inerted.

    This problem can be easily averted by using numerous redundant passive hydrogen recombiners, and/or full inertization of containment and spent fuel building with nitrogen or argon. The latter is often not very practical for the spent fuel pools since they need human access sometimes, so the passive hydrogen recombiners tend to be my favorite solution. (especially because you can place them everywhere and they can’t all be plausibly taken out, whereas a loss of inertization gas could be a serious problem without passive recombiners).


  113. True, radiolysis isn’t simple. But the amount generated by radiolysis is in all cases considerable and needs to be dealt with or you’re in for unpleasant suprises. Splitting the hydrogen oxygen bond only requires a few eV whereas gammas can easily be in the high thousands to millions of eV.

    We use arbitrary conversion factors to determine equilibrium and non-equilibrium hydrogen, H2O2, and HO generation. The gamma spectrum from spent fuel is fairly well known. The temperature dependence is fairly well known.


  114. Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan says a $20 carbon tax will add $2.60 to the cost of making a tonne of steel. If a tonne of steel co-generates 1.7 tonnes of CO2 a thorough $20 carbon tax would add $34.

    Swan also wants half a million new workers to build gas pipelines and work in the mines. I suggest caution in case it all goes bad. If those workers are to enjoy the current Australian lifestyle they’ll each need 5kw of average power consumption (low carbon of course) and nearly a megalitre a year of fresh water. That includes long after the gas boom has subsided.


  115. @Cyril R.

    “A little more regulatory analysis would suggest all coal plants to be shut down immediately. Personally I don’t understand why new coal plants get licenced in OECD countries when nuclear facilities are delayed on basis of risk analysis. We babble endlessly about what could go wrong with nuclear plants when hundreds of thousands die every year due to air pollution.”

    If you want to convince those of us with mixed feelings about nuclear power generation, you’re not going to do it by advocating relaxing rather than increasing independent oversight of the industry. I too abhor coal fired plants and think building new ones should be outlawed and that existing one should be highly regulated and gradually retired. The question is (at least in developed economies) weather substituting more nuclear plants is advisable? For instance, in the US a concerted country wide effort to improve the efficiency of the electricity used could retire more coal plants faster, cheaper, and safer than building new nuclear plants. California has demonstrated this for decades and still has a large potential for improved efficiency.


  116. Pingback: Carnival of Nuclear Energy 50 - forex world | forex world

  117. Ted Nation, California uses a lot more electricity not less. This is a tenacious myth floating around the Internet. The growth in California electricity is slightly less than US average; but this can easily be explained by the high cost of electricity, pushing industry out of state. Pollution elsewhere, loss of jobs to boot. In fact the only periods of time when energy consumption halted briefly is during economic recessions. I don’t think people want continuous economic recessions, Ted.

    Energy efficiency doesn’t cut the musterd, and neither do wind and solar. These are marginal endeavours that provide dangerous distractions to energy realities.

    If the death toll of coal plants versus nuclear doesn’t convince the public, its clear the public isn’t reasonable and fair. This is of course correct. Most are not able to do basic risk analysis, indeed most don’t understand the difference between a kWh and a kWe.

    A sad state of affairs in any democracy.


  118. Ted gave a graph that shows per capita use of electricity.

    Cyril again chose absolute numbers, because it supports his point better.

    but how can absolute numbers measure energy savings in a growing population?


  119. John Newlands, you’re confusing C and CO2. The link you provide doesn’t have anything to do with steel production. Assuming, however, that you have the right value of 1.7T CO2 and a $20/T tax on carbon you’d need to multiply out like this:

    12/44 * 1.7 * $20 = $9.27/T

    I’ve no idea where they came up with 2.60, but can say why 34 is wrong. 12/44 is the mass ratio between C and CO2.


  120. Per capita use of electricity doesn’t make CO2 a problem, its total CO2 emissions from largely fossil fuel grids.

    Its not about supporting points better. Its about solving REAL problems rather than imaginary solutions such as emissions intensity.

    France has had a growing electricity demand yet it has reduced fossil fuel use in that electric sector due to nuclear’s ability to provide an 80% solution.

    Sod, you’re such a troll. Why don’t you think about things that have been said for a couple of weeks before you come back here? You might need some time to ponder. I know I did. I used to be a solar-good-nuclear-bad guy like you, Sod.


  121. @Cyril R

    “Ted Nation, California uses a lot more electricity not less. This is a tenacious myth floating around the Internet. The growth in California electricity is slightly less than US average; but this can easily be explained by the high cost of electricity, pushing industry out of state. Pollution elsewhere, loss of jobs to boot. In fact the only periods of time when energy consumption halted briefly is during economic recessions. I don’t think people want continuous economic recessions, Ted.”

    Yes, California’s population has grown by 50% since 1974 because jobs have left the state? The graph was an illustration of what can be accomplished with a commited effort. I clearly stated that there was much more potential savings remaining and these could be supplemented with renewable sources. Here is other discussions of the potential.


    Click to access vteefinalreportjan07v3andappendices.pdf

    Joe Romm has a post on ClimateProgess discussing alternatives and what the nuclear industry needs to do to become viable.



  122. Cyril, again:

    how do you want to show energy savings when you look at total numbers? it doesn t make sense, when the population is growing significantly.

    i saw this “google public data” links for the first time. pretty cool stuff (hope the link works)



  123. Ted Nation yes electricity intensive jobs have left the state. Aluminium smelters are up North in Washington state because of cheap hydroelectric, for example. California population grew 50%, so did average USA population in that time; however California has MORE UNEMPLOYMENT than the US average:

    Hank Roberts, try looking better next time, the graph clearly shows GWh. 250 thousand GWh. That’s two hundred fifty billion kilowatthours.

    I’m trying to use science but you guys just keep debating over unimportant things like emissions intensity and other diversions of truth, while researching the issue on ad-hoc basis. Please stop doing that.

    This is typical lawyer science: it doesn’t matter what substance someone has, its the way he puts it. Sorry, I’m an engineer and I care about the truth. I’ll take it blunt and raw.

    How’s this for science: we emit over 30 billion tonnes CO2eq. The climate scientists say we need to get down to less than 10 billion quickly and eventually under 3 billion to be safe. Population will increase 50% and affluence way more. That’s why we need absolute reductions, very ‘deep’ reductions technology. This requires non-marginal technology such as nuclear electricity and heat, heat pumps, passive houses, electric cars and hydro-electric power. Marginal technologies such as wind are solar, or false non-scientific ideologues of the “soft energy path” as advocated by the traditional, either moronic or dishonest “environmentalists” are a dangerous diversion of time, money and other precious resources.


  124. Ted Nation, on 1 May 2011 at 2:29 AM said:

    Warren noted that Dr. John Ma, a top structural reviewer with the NRC, in November filed a “non-concurring” opinion with the commission that said the concrete shield building

    The NRC commissioners noted the objection and approved the AP1000 anyway.

    A long correspondence stream between ‘top’ structural engineers at the NRC.

    Click to access ML103370648.pdf


  125. “Ted Nation yes electricity intensive jobs have left the state. Aluminium smelters are up North in Washington state because of cheap hydroelectric, for example. California population grew 50%, so did average USA population in that time; however California has MORE UNEMPLOYMENT than the US average:


    Cyril, i am not sure what you are trying to tell us. do you think that the lower per capita use of electricity (which california has since the 70s) has caused the recent spike in unemployment in 2009?

    here is a source looking at reasons for unemployment in California. here is, what is NOT the reason:

    “The state’s manufacturing job losses outside of construction were less than in the nation. So manufacturing did not cause the state’s higher unemployment rate.”



  126. Thanks, harrwr2, this is the sort of information I was looking for before the red herring of how bad coal plants are was broached. My preliminary judgment is that Dr. Ma presents a substantial concern, although it is hard to follow given all the redactions and my rusty engineering knowledge.


  127. Steve Moss I cant find the Wiki article that gives 1.7t CO2 per t steel but this Indian company for example emits 2t

    That’s CO2 not C that the proposed tax will be based on. CO2 is emitted in the coke oven before the coke is used in the blast furnace. Additional CO2 comes from limestone (calcium carbonate) used as flux.

    ABARE tell us (again link lost) to use 2.4 tCO2 per t black thermal coal. That is less than 44/12 the ratio of the atomic weights of CO2 and C. Coal has light volatile components ‘benzenoids’ and incombustibles like silica.

    The answer to steelmaking CO2 emissions would be to use hydrogen as a reducing agent. However even at $2/kg it’s too expensive compared to say 20c for coking coal.


  128. > the graph clearly shows GWh. 250 thousand GWh.
    Of what measured how? power generated? power purchased? maximum or actual generating capacity?

    It’s hard to get good information.

    “According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2008 the nation’s total electric generating capacity from all sources was 1,010 gigawatts.”

    > electricity intensive jobs have left the state.
    > Aluminium smelters are up North in Washington
    > state because of cheap hydroelectric, for example.

    Not an example. That aluminum industry was built for World War II aircraft production, where hydroelectric power (from government-owned systems) was available, in Washington, and in Canada. Hanford also was built in Washington for cheap government wartime power, not to escape state utility rates–they weren’t paying market rates.

    The market has been hard on smelters; gas prices closed this one: http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/jom/0202/binczewski-0202.html

    Yeah, as long as production can be moved offshore to cheaper countries and shipping finished aluminum products by sea is cheap, this process will continue.

    So we need cogeneration plants, not because that’s what the market will build but because foresight says that’s the only way to avoid these whiplashes.

    Every nuclear plant ought to be surrounded by multiple alternative power sources, some of which can survive multiple problems–some combination of quakes, flood, drought, heat wave, tsunami, tornado, nitwittery. Those sources shouldn’t be considered competitive with nuclear, they’re necessary parts of a nuclear power system, as we’ve learned.

    A combined power system like that can sell cheap enough power when there’s no emergency–and much of that power can be diverted to cooling down the reactor after another Cassandra Murphy event.

    Remember this?
    “Overall, about one-third of all water used in Europe is used for cooling electrical generators, including those powered by both nuclear and fossil fuels….”


  129. Hank, look at it this way: how long is that water used for? In the case of cooling loops for generators, the answer is probably a few minutes, on average. Then it is returned in a suitable state for other uses. In other water usages, it is extracted from the water cycle for days at least and may not return in suitable state for further use until it has once again evaporated and fallen as rain. So in terms of water usage by duration, I’d think power station usage is one or two percent at most.

    If you are beating the broken old drum about heatwaves closing nuclear power stations, there are a number of flaws in that argument. It might affect a few plants – not sea-cooled plants, for example – for a week or two every two or three years; not a huge amount of disruption. It doesn’t mean that nuclear can’t do enormous good the rest of the time. And if it becomes a real problem, the societies affected will have to make a choice: heat their already-warm rivers a little more, or suffer blackouts. I think I know what they’ll choose.


  130. cooling towers “use” water.

    as we have been talking about per capita vs absolute numbers before, here is a nice example of the nuclear industry downplaying the use of water:

    “A typical nuclear plant supplies electricity around the clock for 740,000 homes. A nuclear power plant that returns cooling water directly to the source consumes the equivalent of six to 16 gallons of water per day per household. The same plant would consume the equivalent of 20 to 26 gallons of water per day per household if it used cooling tower systems. By comparison, the average U.S. household of three people consumes about 300 gallons of water per day for indoor and outdoor uses, according to the USGS.”


    here is a nice source for water use in nuclear plants:

    Click to access 20071204-ucs-brief-got-water.pdf


    and basically all analysis of the Hukushima accidents completely ignores how problematic a similar accident cooled by river water would have been.
    (in general, all the releases of radioactive material to the sea are basically ignored)


  131. Hank Roberts, on 3 May 2011 at 3:02 AM said:

    Since 1974, California has held its per capita energy consumption essentially constant, while energy use per person for the United States overall has jumped 50 percent

    It’s always hard to make state to state comparisons.

    I’ll make a ‘laymens’ case.

    My parents live in Connecticut and they didn’t have air conditioning until 1980. Very few homes had air conditioning in Connecticut in my youth. Now almost everyone has at least a window air conditioner. Central Air is standard on new homes.

    The Climate in California is moderate due to prevailing winds off the Pacific Ocean. The same is true for much of Oregon and Washington. So while people have air conditioning, the number of days it’s used heavily is not many.

    Even at a ‘temperature is equal’ I would be much more comfortable at 85 degrees in Los Angeles rather then 85 degrees in Iowa or Connecticut or North Carolina.

    Now, as to why electricity is expensive in California. Some of it has to do with the NIMBY nature of California. Some has to do with environmental regulation.

    A lot of it has to do with off peak load in California in April is 20 GW/hr with at least 4 GW coming from the Pacific Northwest and 50 GW peak load in during a heatwave with none of it coming from the Pacific Northwest.

    So there is at least 30 GW of generating capacity in California that is only occasionally used. Someone has to pay for that capacity.


  132. Joffan, on 3 May 2011 at 8:42 AM — There are three ways to cool at the end of a Rakine cycle:
    (1) air cooling, used by a few coal burning plants. No existing NPPs use this AFAIK.
    (2) once-through water. This can overheat a river and damage the ecology, so limits are set by (responsible) governments.
    (3) water evaporative cooling. The water is then considered consumed as it is no longer returnable to a river.


  133. > the climate in California is moderate

    You’re describing climate zones 1 and 3 — a narrow band along the coast. It’s a big state with extreme conditions inland.

    Look at the heating and cooling degree day charts for each climate zone:

    Click to access california_climate_zones_01-16.pdf


    Californians managed to cut electric use about six percent during the last energy crisis–considerably better than any of the experts believed possible, because individuals took more responsibility than expected.

    Japan’s coming up on a 25 percent shortfall this summer, or something on that orde

    > air cooling … NPPS

    “”An envisioned air-cooling system would look like those already used in French nuclear plants,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, spokesman and deputy director general of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. Tepco is sounding out potential manufacturers, the agency said.”

    Supercritical coal plants run hotter than atomic fission power plants; this new one uses air cooling:
    “… Completely Chinese-designed and -built, the cooling system is a part of a power plant project, owned by state-owned power generator China Huadian Corp, in Lingwu city, Ningxia Hui autonomous region.

    “China has the intellectual property rights to the core parts of the cooling system, including the fan blades, the finned tube and the tube bundle. Their use will reduce China’s reliance on imported air-cooling technology” …..

    The metallurgy needed to manage temperatures for these highest-end coal plants already has to handle the temperatures expected for Gen4 fission plants or the “30 years away” fusion plants.


  134. When I was resisting the building of a new coal fired plant together with a cross state 315 KVA line in Colorado in the late 70s and early 80s we were constantly reassured that one shouldn’t worry about over capacity because California represented a bottomless pit of energy demand. We argued that increasing prices and California policies were making that proposition highly questionable and that the local GTA would be risking bankruptcy if anticipated demand didn’t materialize. The facilities were build, the demand wasn’t there, and the GTA (Colorado Ute) went bankrupt.

    If you don’t like the California example of what sustained policies can do to hold down consumption, play around with these World Bank graphs of per capita consumption by country.


    Germany, for example now uses about 1/2 the electricity per capita that the US does and 17% of that is from renewable sources, and they still have opportunities for more savings. If the US just matched their success we could retire 1/2 our electrical plants.


  135. http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/cooling_power_plants_inf121.html

    “… Hardly any US generating capacity uses dry cooling, and in the UK it has been ruled out as impractical and unreliable (in hot weather) for new nuclear plants. A 2009 US DOE study says they are three to four times more expensive than a recirculating wet cooling system. All US new plant licence applications have rejected dry cooling as infeasible for the site or unacceptable because of lost electrical generating efficiency and significantly higher capital and operating costs. There are also safety implications relating to removal of decay heat after an emergency shutdown. It is unlikely that large nuclear plants will adopt dry cooling in the foreseeable future.

    Both types of dry cooling involve greater cost for the cooling set-up and are much less efficient than wet cooling towers using the physics of evaporation[12] since the only cooling is by relatively inefficient heat transfer from steam or water to air via metal fins, not by evaporation. In a hot climate the ambient air temperature may be 40 degrees C, which severely limits the cooling potential compared with a wet bulb temperature of maybe 20ºC which defines the potential for a wet system….”


  136. > heat their already-warm rivers a little more

    Joffan, this is physics, not ecology.

    > heatwaves closing nuclear power stations …
    > might affect a few plants – not sea-cooled plants

    It’s not hypothetical; it’s already happening; projections need to take climate change into account; the old numbers assuming stable climate aren’t working. You don’t just turn the power knob up and down on reactors to match the cooling water temperature; the efficiency changes when the power level changes. Point is to consider this not deny it’s a problem. As with all these issues.

    “… low water temperature is an important criterion for power plant location. For a planned Turkish nuclear plant, there is a one percent gain in output if any particular plant is sited on the Black Sea coast with cooler water (average 5°C lower) than on the Mediterranean coast. For the new UAE nuclear power plants, because the Gulf seawater at Braka is about 35°C, instead of about 27°C as with the Shin Kori 3 & 4 reference units, larger heat exchangers and condensers will be required….”


  137. Pingback: Power plant water usage « SeekerBlog

  138. Hank Roberts, “this is physics”.

    Nonsense, phyisics isn’t the limiting factor. Look at the delta T of nuclear plants. 10 Celcius more or less is just going to affect the output a little; the limiting factor is, or is claimed to be, ecology. It is not hard to deal with this with the right flow diffusors and sufficient capacity pumps. But if you design things badly, or have to deal with eco-maniacs that want to solve little environmental problems (such as fish larvae kills) by causing big enivironmental problems (more fossil usage due to anti-nuclear stance) then you can get into trouble.


  139. @ Ted Nation. From your link, Germans used 1590 kWh of electricity per capita in 1960. And 7149 kWh of electricity in 2008, an increase of 350%!!! Per capita this is mind you!!!

    So Germany proves that energy efficiency gets you ‘only’ 4.5 times the electricity consumption, around 7000 kWh per capita, upon economic development.



    You people are crazy! Your own links prove you wrong!

    Now imagine 10 billion people as ‘efficient’ as the Germans. 10 billion times 7000 equals 70,000,000,000,000 kWh per year.

    That’s 70 TRILLION kWh of electricity per year. Compare this to today’s global consumption of 18 TRILLION kWh of electricity per year.

    Now add electric vehicles, heat pumps, and electrification of industries.

    Oops!! No energy saved. Need more nuclear plants!


  140. Water use by sector in Australia:

    Oops! Power plants don’t use a lot of water. 90% is used in agriculture+domestic water. 80% is used by agriculture alone.

    If we want to reduce water consumption, dry cooling is possible, but a very expensive method to do so. It is much cheaper and far more effective to build agricultural systems that use little water, such as drip irrigation, and closed greenhouses, or even agriponic farms.


  141. Hank Roberts… water consumption…

    You seem to have lost your scientific attitude a bit. The reason why nuclear plants APPEAR to use a lot of water is that many systems are once-through cooling systems, which don’t use up the water, only about 1-2% of the water actually is evaporated. Add to that other usage water consumption (steam blowdown, plant consumption etc.) and you still get at use up only about 5-10% of all withdrawals. So the difference in consumption versus withdrawal is a factor of at least 10!


  142. @ Sod:

    “here is a source looking at reasons for unemployment in California. here is, what is NOT the reason:

    “The state’s manufacturing job losses outside of construction were less than in the nation. So manufacturing did not cause the state’s higher unemployment rate.””

    Wrong, California chased their energy intensive industries away long ago, so it appears to not show up significantly recently; you can see though that unemployment in manufacturing is much lower than US average at MINUS 13 percent.


    Again the antis are referencing links they don’t fully comprehend. References that don’t support their positions at all, and indeed prove them wrong. Its kind of funny. And sad.

    The damage has long since been done to California. However expect further damages also to the rest of the nation as continued subsidies for unproductive and unreliable energy sources are given:


    Get ready for high electricity price induced recessions. The Great Recession will look like child’s play.


  143. > California chased their energy intensive industries
    > away long ago

    Unfortunately, many of them moved upwind:

    “almost twelve percent of pollution in the western U.S. comes from [overseas], as opposed to about ten percent in the eastern U.S….Forty-five percent of the U.S. population now lives in areas that exceed the health standard limit for ozone…. some of that air pollution is actually coming from the other side of the ocean.”


    It doesn’t work forever to push dirty manufacturing overseas then ship the crap back in dirty diesel vessels. We have to clean it up eventually.


  144. That’s exactly what I said earlier, Hank! Pollution elsewhere – the California way. If you’ve read David Mackay’s “sustainable energy – without the hot air” you will know that the energy embedded in ‘stuff’ as Mackay calls it, is the single biggest energy hog of modern times! Around 25 kWh/person/day for the UK for example.

    Scaring this biggest single energy category away with high energy prices and bureaucratic regulators, to overseas where there are cheap coal plants and less tight regulators, and then claiming domestic energy consumption has gone down, when its really just hidden imported energy is a dishonest and terrible way of propagandizing the “soft energy path”.

    We must learn from the Californian and German soft energy failures. Physics cannot be fooled by a wishfully thinking politician and a naive ignorant public.


  145. @ Cyril R

    “Germans used 1590 kWh of electricity per capita in 1960. And 7149 kWh of electricity in 2008, an increase of 350%!!! Per capita this is mind you!!!

    So Germany proves that energy efficiency gets you ‘only’ 4.5 times the electricity consumption, around 7000 kWh per capita, upon economic development.”

    Interesting cherry picking of starting points! Try using a starting point of about 1985 when energy policies regarding energy efficiency in the US and Germany diverged. The Germans have held their per capita usage essentially flat while ours, starting from a much higher level, continued to increase.

    I brought up energy efficiency to counter your claim that nuclear plants were the only alternative to relying on coal fired generation. I even left open the possibility that they might be for rapidly growing developing countries and I certainly believe that they might have a role as long range base load in industrial countries, particularly if IFR technology can be proved economic and safe. However, nuclear reactors aren’t a short term solution to mitigating global warming. They are too expensive and take a long time to build.


  146. Ted: If energy efficiency can hold demand flat in an already-industrialized nation, well and good – but it isn’t relevant to a debate about which generation technology to use, especially in countries where development is key to population control. Efficiency is a reasonably good bet to pursue for any system – unless it intrudes too far on flexibility.

    Nuclear reactors take 3-5 years to build. At about 1GW average power, that’s at least 200MW/year. I have not seen any renewable project that adds capacity at as fast a rate – I challenge you to come up with an example.


  147. Ted Nation, on 4 May 2011 at 1:37 AM said:

    Interesting cherry picking of starting points! Try using a starting point of about 1985 when energy policies regarding energy efficiency in the US and Germany diverged.

    Per Capita Energy Consumption(not just electricity) peaked in 1979 in the US.

    Click to access sec1_13.pdf

    There are lot’s of energy intensive things that may or may not show up in ‘electricity’ statistics. I.E. 57% of US steel is produced using electric arc furnaces compared to Germany’s 31%.


  148. Ted Nation: Cherry picking, not a chance! I used the start and end point data from the World Bank. Standard setting! Again it shows that you anti’s are not reading your own references. Maybe you are used differently from moronic blogs, but simply citing sources doesn’t get you points on this site Ted. Siting sources that disprove the very point you’re trying to make just discredits you.

    It does not matter which starting point you take, all the trends for countries which are developing are showing the same upward trend of electricity consumption. This will go up as future driving forces increase, prominent examples being the rise of electric vehicles, compressor heat pump technology, and information technology (servers use LOTS of electricity and use more every year despite serious and rapid energy efficiency improvements)

    The point behind your reference is simple: energy efficiency isn’t enough at best, and doesn’t work at all at worst (due to driving energy intensive industry away out of state/country). There are several take-back mechanisms to be considered as well, for example more efficient cars mean people can live further from home, thus driving more, etc. There are many such effects and quite a few require years to decades to play out, which is why Jevon’s Paradox is both correct in effect and controversial in causes.


  149. sorry, but i might be a little bit slow.

    it all started with this graph, which shows that California took a different path in electricity per capita than the rest of the USA since the 70s.

    Cyril seemed to say, that this reduction was bought by the removal of manufacturing costs and is the reason of high unemployment.

    but his own picture shows, that while unemployment was higher in California most of the time, the difference was rather variable. so i have serious doubts, that high energy prices are the cause of unemployment in California.

    instead, as the wonderful google public database (this is fantastic, isn t it!) shows, personal per capita income was higher in California, even with all those high electricity prices..


    and this graph simply provides a shocking picture: same GDP growth, less electricity.


  150. @harrywr

    “Per Capita Energy Consumption(not just electricity) peaked in 1979 in the US.”

    I don’t know what point you’re trying to make but this probably reflects the improvement in efficiency after the oil crisises in the late 70s, but it occurred in all industrial countries, most of which started at much lower levels and maintained them. Germany has even managed to actually reduce per capita consumption even more.


    “Nuclear reactors take 3-5 years to build.”

    Please give me references for any plant outside of China that was constructed in this time frame.


    @Cyril R

    “That’s exactly what I said earlier, Hank! Pollution elsewhere – the California way. If you’ve read David Mackay’s “sustainable energy – without the hot air” you will know that the energy embedded in ‘stuff’ as Mackay calls it, is the single biggest energy hog of modern times! Around 25 kWh/person/day for the UK for example.”

    I have often used a similar argument about embeded greenhouse gases in imported products when arguing with those who want to point at China’s rising carbon footprint as an excuse for doing nothing here. However, it is totally absurd to blame the hollowing out of the US industrial base on California energy policies. How does this account for the much more serious erosion of industry in the Midwest where coal generated electric prices are comparitively low? For an explanation, why don’t you look into the lack of a US industrial policy and the “free trade” mania that has dominated political decission making for 30 years. And, by the way, Germany has managed to keep much of her industrial base!


  151. @ Ted Nation.

    We have proven so far that energy efficiency is not an alternative to nuclear power plant construction, from your own references. Yet you continue to quibble about trivia. Well, allright.

    Germany has managed to keep their industrial base because they have a good deal of cheap nuclear plants and are a huge cheap coal user, brown coal really cheap stuff, and very dirty. But yeah, good for steel smelting and such. I’d like to move on fully to nuclear power to get the same advantages that fossil fuels provide, with much fewer of the disadvantages.

    Click to access DEELEC.pdf

    Germany gets most of its power from cheap nuclear and coal plants, which is a great help for retaining industry. However recently industry is getting at risk because of excessive subsidy cost for solar. This is no joke, see for example these calculations from Robert Hargraves for the US case:


    Germany is a fossil fuel hellhole, but people always consider it the wonderful example of green energy policy. Shows how stupid (or clever but dishonest) most people are.

    And regarding the US, just because there have been bad policy, does not mean we have to make it worse by mandating expensive unproductive energy and energy efficiency measures (not all energy efficiency measures are cost effective; some are way not cost effective). Its bad enough allready with Chinese low labor costs, lets not make it worse with high energy prices (the other important cost criterion for industry!). See Robert Hargraves analysis of what mandating expensive unreliable unproductive energy sources can do to the economy.

    Ted, it seems you want to slightly reduce energy usage. I want to do that too, and then build as high a penetration of nuclear as possible. France is a good example, 80% nuclear, 10% hydro, that’s a 90% solution. I also want a transition to electric vehicles and heat pump water/space heating to tackle those big loads also, requiring more nuclear plants. And electrify industry, eg replace natural gas and oil heaters with high temp heat pumps or resistance heaters, replace diesel pumps with electric pumps, etc.

    A general problem is most people do not know the difference between a kWh and a kWe or kWth. They don’t know how to read basic graphs or how do to basic maths. They don’t know how to do basic energy analysis. As a result, people have mental images of solar and wind powered worlds, and don’t see the huge fossil related problems we have and don’t realise that wind and solar are utterly marginal technologies that will lock us into fossil forever, with their concomittant problems.

    A further problem is people don’t understand basic risk analysis. They worry about a millisievert of radiation, when they don’t know how much that is, but they smoke cigarettes, touch fertilizer, get CT scans or eat food that exposes them to far more radiation. We worry about nuclear plants danger so in stead use fossil fuels that kill hundreds of thousands if not millions of people EVERY YEAR.

    The terms of the debate are unfair. This must change. Basic risk and energy analysis should be included in basic educations.


  152. Regarding build rates, simply take a look at a nuclear case study where a nuclear transition has already been made: France, 80% nuclear in 19 years:


    Click to access FRELEC.pdf

    Sweden, about 40% nuclear in about 15 years:

    Click to access SEELEC.pdf

    It boggles me that people can argue that it takes too long to build a nuclear powerplant so it won’t help. Germany has had a strong solar policy since around 1991 (the “thousand solar roofs” – like that’s going to make a difference lol), with big subsidies all along, yet solar provides only 3% or so of Germany’s electricity after a similar time it took France to get to 80% nuclear!!!!!!!!!!!!


    Sure the Germans can install a few solar panels quickly. And it will deliver trivial amounts of power; 11% of the time on average, meaning it is not there 89% of the time. Cannot be turned on when needed.

    Now a nuclear plant may take 5-10 years in Europe, but it gets you a gigawatt plus of affordable much more reliable, steady power.

    Olkiluoto, the most expensive European nuclear reactor, costs about 5 billion Euros. Germany could have replaced all their coal plants with around 20-25 of those units. In stead that 100 billion euros was spent on guaranteed solar subsidies, a prepostrous system that displaces very little if any coal power at all.


  153. Here, we can see where Germany gets all of its energy from:

    Click to access DETPESPI.pdf

    Lots of coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear and burning trash. Not usually considered green. The amount of wind and solar barely shows up, after a hundred billion euro plus subsidy guarantee for the installations. Oops!

    Now France has done much better, and has succeeded in removing coal from their total energy supply:

    Click to access FRTPESPI.pdf

    Next step is to remove oil and gas via electrification of cars, more railroads (French are good at that already), electric compressor heat pumps to heat buildings and tap water as well as provide low grade industrial heat, and high temperature heat in the form of acoustic heat pumps and electric arc furnaces, etc.

    France is now well positioned for this next step.

    Germany, needless to say, is still drowning in the swamp.

    The French may be ornery at times, but when it comes to energy policy, they pay attention to this little thing called reality.


  154. “Next step is to remove oil and gas via electrification of cars,”

    Cyril, i think you are too optimistic about this. the electric car has immense synergy with alternative sources like wind, that will pump electricity on the market for free at the right time.

    in a nuclear environment, i don t see any move towards electric cars at all!


  155. Ted, South Korea has been pretty good on those schedules. Shin Kori #1 was constructed slightly faster than my lower limit, from first concrete in Dec 2007 to grid connection in Aug 2010.
    Olkiluoto 3 will probably take 8 years for a variety of reasons. Still close to 200MW/year.

    I’m waiting for your response on build rates for other generating technologies (excluding combustion).


  156. @ Cyril R

    When I suggested that improving energy efficiency was a quicker and cheaper way to reduce carbon emissons I linked a major study by McKinsey and Company analizing the potential for abatement in several major economies including the US. Here it is again:


    I suggest that you at least look at the Executive Summary for the US section and particularly at the US Midrange Abatement Curve – 2030 about 4 pages down showing their evaluation of the abatement potential by sector for <$50 per ton of CO2e. They known "how to do the math" and come up with a large role for efficiency improvements (mostly at negative cost) and a very small role for new nuclear.


    By the way, i'm glad the French subsidized their nuclear industry into existance and I would much prefer the constrution of a new well regulated nuclear plant in the US rather than a new coal plant.. But I remain convinced that neiter is required if we pursue least cost solutions first.


  157. @Ted Nation, – Instead of skimming the Executive Summary for evidence of what you think it saying, maybe you should read the whole report, and read it for comprehension.

    It is rather obvious that you have not, or have and you are attempting dissemination, or you have and you lack the intellectual skills to understand it.

    One way or the other the McKinsey report does not support your arguments.


  158. @David B. Benson, the warm waters from cooling operations near NPP are just as often beneficial to fish. Some of the best fishing in the Greater Toronto Area is by the Pickering Nuclear Plant. This was even before the screens went on to keep eggs and fry from being sucked up after Greenpeace made a fuss.


  159. @David B. Benson – I can find no good data for France, however the greatest losses of marine life near Southern U.S. thermal plants have been from temperature shock in the winter – when the plant shut down for some reason or another. This effect was not limited to NPP particularly.

    The bottom line is that other than hydro, thermal plants are the only way to produce power in significant amounts, reliably enough to support industry, and thus thermal pollution is going to be an issue if not dealt with. Mitigation is the proper way of addressing the issue, not demands to stop building this sort of facility


  160. DV82XL, on 4 May 2011 at 12:00 PM — Thanks for the infor. In France and in the SE US there have been times in the summer when the thermal plant had to shut down because of water temperatures and rgulatory requirements. So the ecology did not suffer.

    There certainly are means of overcoming this thermal problem. One which might work in some locations is to have a sizable pond to let the once-through water cool before returning it to the river.


  161. The point is that thermal pollution is not just a nuclear energy issue. Any heat-engine, (like from transportation) any metal conversion process, and most large-scale chemical processes are huge sources of waste heat that winds up in the environment. Attempting, as antinukes do, to tar NPP with this, as if this was a major issue, unique to this technology is hyperbole at best, mendacity at worse.


  162. Woomera restricted military area will be opened to uranium mining

    If new mines are developed where will the water come from? Olympic Dam gets water from two bores on the edge of the artesian basin. Woomera only 72 km away by road (per GoogleMaps) gets water from the River Murray hundreds of kilometres away. The proposed desal on enclosed Spencer Gulf appears doomed due to marine ecology concerns.

    A magical new energy source is needed to desalinate seawater on more exposed coastline, pump that water inland to the mines and supply electricity as well.


  163. @ Sod. Of course nuclear has better synergy with electric cars than wind! Nuclear is much more reliable and is there on almost all nights, thus nighttime excess electricity can be used for vehicle charging. That would not work with wind because often it is not there and its intermittency is greater than diurnal. With solar its worse because at night when all those EVs could be charged there is zero sunshine!!!

    The nuclear plants can run full out during the night, retaining their advantages of very high capacity factors, while providing the very best of synergy with electric vehicles.

    You really have not yet thought this through very well, have you Sod?


  164. David B. Benson: that’s not my point. Fish are important, but:

    1. Fish larvae kills have never been a major population killer for fish (unlike overfishing for example)
    2. Global warming is worse in terms of livelihoods as well as ecoysystem impacts. Global warming can kill lots of fish populations – and then some.

    In areas where fish larvae kills are a problem, wet cooling towers can be used. But they are ugly and people will wine about it. However cooling towers can be made quite beautiful in my opinion, take a look at this one, very nice I think:


  165. @ Ted Nation. Like DV82XL says you have obviously not read the report.


    Take a look at e.g. exhibit 3 for a case in point (Poland). You can see that before nuclear some 80 MTCO2eq of FUTURE abatement is possible at negative cost, out of total of 384 MTCO2eq of CURRENT emissions. Now what is your plan for the other 300 MTCO2eq of emissions? That’s the other 80% mind you, and that’s BEFORE economic growth negates much of the 20% you actually saved. The end result is that Poland will emit just as much CO2 in 2030 after the abatement as it does today!!!!

    This is more of the 20% solution in 20 years nonsense. We need 90% and we needed it yesterday. Because of economic growth we need plans for deep reductions to eliminate fossil fuels. Otherwise you’re just playing at keeping the status quo.

    We need to get CO2 emissions down to under 3 billion tonnes CO2eq/year. Energy efficiency is at best not nearly enough.

    We need those nuclear builds. Even with lots of nuclear builds and electric vehicles and heat pumps it will be very very hard to get down to 3 billion tonnes of CO2eq/year, because we still have to find solutions to air and water transport and non-fossil CO2 emissions. Without nuclear we’ll have lost before we even get started.


  166. Looks like I’ve even underestimated the CO2eq global emissions, they are currently around 50 billion tonnes CO2eq!!

    Be sure also to check exhibit 5 here for global curves:


    We can see that with only the energy efficiency measures (much less than 80 euros/tonCO2) emissions will increase all the way through the graph. Oops! So much for conservation. Now WITH nuclear power included and several others (up to 80 euros part of the graph) you can see that maybe we’ll only be emitting 50 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalents by 2030. Not good. Even with “all hands on deck” so to speak, it will be very hard to get CO2 emissions reduced.

    You anti-nukes or efficiency-only delusionists really, really have to start reading your own references. They, uhm, might, just *might* not support your contentions.


  167. “@ Sod. Of course nuclear has better synergy with electric cars than wind! Nuclear is much more reliable and is there on almost all nights, thus nighttime excess electricity can be used for vehicle charging. That would not work with wind because often it is not there and its intermittency is greater than diurnal. With solar its worse because at night when all those EVs could be charged there is zero sunshine!!!”

    Cyril, you are wrong on several things.

    for a start, electric cars will be plugged in for recharge all the time. (apart from while driving) they do NOT depend on a night time recharge, but will recharge while people are at work as well. sunshine will do a lot of recharging!

    they do not need reliable (cheap) electricity either. for the start, electric cars will be introduced as secondary cars for shorter distances. (until we get (payable) solutions for really long ranges)
    these cars can very often wait a week for reloading.


    here is, why nuclear and electric cars will not work together:

    in the long run, electric cars will only be successful, if they are cheaper in NORMAL USE than those running on gas. they also must have similar properties to the usual car. (range, space, speed, …)

    but for introduction and a small penetration of the population, there are different rules.

    1. people will buy electric cars, because they are “green”, if the cost is not totally absurd.
    this will not work well with nuclear, as the majority of these type of customer does still not accept nuclear energy.

    2. people will buy electric cars to go energy independent.
    doesn t work with nuclear energy at all.

    3. people will buy electric cars if they can save money by “atypical use”. these are people who are prepared to wait a long time for a recharge, in case prices are high because of little wind/solar. (can only be done by people who are ready to switch to bike or public transport to avoid costs)
    very little opportunity for these people with nuclear power.

    4. people will buy electric cars, because they think they can save/earn money and boost about it. even if in reality and the practical world this doesn t happen.
    people are ready to invest significant money, into the feeling that they refuel their car for free )during peak wind) and reselling stored electricity at peak prices. (as with many gadgets, this is more about feelings than about it really being the best investment possible)
    this depends on the massive price differences that only solar and wind provide.

    in short, alternative energies will speed up introduction of electric cars by a lot. nuclear power will not do this and at best doesn t hinder the introduction.


  168. sod, on 4 May 2011 at 6:30 AM said:

    the electric car has immense synergy with alternative sources like wind,

    If I pay attention to teh Bonneville Power Wind Statistics….

    The wind blowing on average 1/3rd of the time doesn’t translate into 8 hours/day of ‘wind power’.

    It’s just as likely to be it blows good for a week then not at all for two weeks.

    I know of no electric car that can hold enough charge to accommodate a two week commuting period on a single charge.


  169. DV82XLon 4 May 2011 at 9:46 AM; you mean “dissimulation”.

    Ted Nation: I’m still waiting for your response on build rates for other generating technologies (excluding combustion).


  170. EMP yes Hank you should pay attention better, because I replied to your earlier.

    Here we go again. A nuclear plant is protected from EMP by the Faraday’s cage that is the reinforced concrete buildings, including containment, turbine and diesel buildings. EMP are radio waves and are stopped by the conducting metal rebar as its lattice pitch is lower than the magnitude of EMP waves (1 foot or more).


  171. Hank, it’s more important to identify and acknowledge distractions (ie; fantastic disaster scenarios that have always been the bread and butter of the anti-nukes)… and ignore them. Trying to “fix” the endless mind games the anti-nuke imagination is constantly engaged in is frivolous and a waste of time.

    Your concocted threat is being treated with the silent contempt it so richly deserves.

    Move on to your next shotgun blast of vaguely connected cut and pasted non-arguments.


  172. Ah, contempt. How charming the site becomes when the purveyors of attitude join the conversation.

    Read, guys. We need all the power systems set up to support fission plants, to avoid more multiple-system failure events along the lines of Fukushima. These problems are predictable, describable, anticipated, observed, modeled.

    Look it up for yourself.

    Contempt doesn’t inform anyone; contempt for warnings of known problems characterized Tepco for years. Why play on the wrong team?


    “… although the solar storm electric field is much lower than MHD-EMP, the solar storm effects on the power system are greater due to their much longer duration….”


    “… current induced by solar storm, namely the geomagnetically induced current (GIC) has been discovered in Jiangsu and Guangdong power grids as well as in other provincial power grids with the development of the long-distance power transmission system in China in recent years …. GIC influence on Sichuan power grid under the strong magnetic storm is not optimistic; it should pay a sufficient attention to this problem.”


    “… the occurrence of geomagnetic induced currents (GICs) in Southern America and its consequences. It shows that, although GICs have been believed to occur only at high latitudes, there are evidences of this phenomena in tropical regions-specially South America, deeply affected by the South Atlantic Geomagnetic Anomaly (SAGA)….”


    “… Oak Ridge National Laboratories estimated that only a solar storm just slightly stronger than the
    13 March 1989 storm (Dst = 589 nT) would have the capacity to produce a cascading blackout
    involving the entire Northeastern sector of the United States. So the question is “What damage
    would a spawned geomagnetic storm like the one of 2 September 1859 (Dst = 1,760 nT) bring?”

    … With current technology, protecting the network from GICs would cost several billion dollars. Instead of making these costly investments, most utility companies rely on contingency strategies for weathering severe magnetic disturbances.15
    A solar storm can attack the power grid across many points simultaneously and can produce a multi-point failure….”


  173. @Joffan – The poor francophone is let down by the spell-checker again, thanks for catching it.

    @Hank Roberts, – Nobody runs longer lines through a geomagnetically active an area as we do here in Quebec. Design and operating steps can be taken to reduce the risk from solar storms, and are. Is it a problem that needs to be addressed? Yes, however it is not one that requires the elimination of long transmission lines. This is yet another red herring that is being dragged through this debate in lue of real issues.


  174. Eliminate long transmission lines because of solar storms?? — can you cite a source for that notion???

    I agree it’s a red herring. I suspect it’s one of those debater’s claims made up to attribute to the ‘other side’ — but if you can cite it to an actual proponent I’d sure like to know who’s suggesting that solar storms require removing the grid.

    Everything I’ve found says _protect_ the grid, _improve_ the grid, _harden_ the grid, and _supplement_ the grid, not eliminate it.

    Weird notion. Citation, please?


  175. DV82XL: you’re welcome. However I don’t know what excuse you can use for getting “lieu” wrong :-).

    Cyril R., on 5 May 2011 at 1:53 AM: you have addressed it; Ted has not, and I do still await his response.


  176. @Hank Roberts – This is one of the ‘issues’ raised by those that would see everyone generating their own power, or a best being part of some highly local ‘energy internet.’

    I really don’t have the time or the inclination to look for references, if you haven’t seen this argument then consider yourself lucky that you haven’t had to wade through the dreck where it came from.


  177. Hank Roberts, on 5 May 2011 at 2:32 AM said:

    Read, guys. We need all the power systems set up to support fission plants, to avoid more multiple-system failure events along the lines of Fukushima.

    I’m confused as to what a geomagnetic/solar storm would do to a NPP other then cause a grid trip. Grid trips happen frequently in NPP’s. Browns Ferry grid tripped just a few days ago.


  178. I think Hank’s concern might be that the diesel generators will be destroyed by the EMP. However, the diesel generators will be ‘off’ when the solar storm hits. Such equipment is not particularly vulnerable to electromagnetic attenuation overload. The diesel generators are also in Faraday cages which go by the name of ‘rebar’. Ever tried listening to the radio in a bunker? Doesn’t work. EMP are radiowaves. Stopped by the rebar in reinforced concrete. If diesel generator buildings do not have lots of rebar, then that is a design flaw and has to be fixed; I’m not aware of any safety class diesel generators that are not in hardened locations, so doubt this would be a problem anywhere.

    The discussion reminds me of a rather similar principle in those microwave oven grid protections. You know that sheet with little holes in it, in the transparent microwave glass/plastic door. It stops microwave frequencies because the holes are smaller than the size of the microwaves. So you can look at how your food is boiled without getting your own brains boiled.


  179. sod, on 4 May 2011 at 10:31 PM said:
    “electric cars will be introduced as secondary cars for shorter distances”

    Well, the #1 most useful application for electric cars is the millions of people who drive their car to work & back each day, with a commute distance less than about 100 miles – I believe most electric cars can do at least that much between recharges?

    Particularly given the rising price of oil & thus gas/petrol, a small electric car would be an awful lot cheaper to drive to work & back five days a week, not to mention significantly more efficient.

    I average about 40km per day in my car. An electric vehicle would be *ideal* for my daily driving. Instead, I have a european-build turbo diesel, which uses about half the fuel of the japanese-build petrol vehicle I drove previously. I used to go through a tank of fuel a week, now I only fill up every 2-4 weeks (depending on how bad the traffic has been).

    As it turns out, nuclear generation would probably result in a lot of cheap power overnight, just when everyone needs to recharge their electric vehicles…


  180. I doubt that pure battery cars will catch on. A reality check is here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12138420
    People with limited budgets and parking space want a vehicle that will travel say 300 km on a fill up or charge, that can run a heater or AC and zoom across mountain passes mixing it with SUVs. All for a sticker price less than say 50% of their annual salary.

    Note liquid fuels currently retail for 4-5c per MJ of heating value. Natural gas for industrial users costs 10-15% of that. When $200 a barrel oil arrives in a couple of years I think CNG/petrol and CNG/diesel bi-fuel cars will be all the rage though NG filling stations will take a while to become common. Vehicle demand seems likely to make NG prohibitive for use in power stations.

    Both Obama in the US and our own energy minister Ferguson have hinted at NG for vehicle fuel but nobody has hit the panic button yet. Right now we imagine the roads crammed with battery cars but let’s see if it happens.


  181. > solar flare ….
    > other then cause a grid trip

    A long grid trip, of all the connected power systems. Fukushima started with a grid trip. Mostly they don’t get worse. But we know how big a flare can be and could get another big one any time, and we know it’d make Fukushima look like a little local problem.

    “A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences found that if a storm that severe occurred today, it could cause $1-2 trillion in damages the first year and require four to 10 years for recover ….”

    “Space Weather On the Radar Screen
    Written by Marcia Smith
    Tuesday, 08 June 2010 22:49

    Quoting Woody Allen’s famous line — “One path leads to despair, the other to destruction. Let’s hope we choose wisely.” — Dan Baker wrapped up a one-day symposium on how the scientific community and the federal government are dealing with the potentially catastrophic effects of a major space weather event. …
    The comment pretty much captured the mood at the meeting …. Speaker after speaker emphasized the challenge of getting the attention of the public and policymakers to the potentially catastrophic impacts of such a low probability event….”

    There’s the place the local-electricity and the grid-protection people have the same problem the fission plant people do — nobody wants to fund the cost of protecting from the improbable failure of the grid.


  182. John Newlands: I agree, pure battery cars aren’t likely to be the majority, but there’s still a very large niche where they could be of use. However, a plug-in hybrid where the ICE is replaced with a fuel cell might be quite a nice viable alternative (would still require significant investment in refuelling infrastructure, depending on what feedstock you use for the fuel cell).

    Oil at $200/barrel might provide enough incentive for the relevant R&D. At the very least, it’ll provide incentive for people to get out of their 15mpg SUVs and into more fuel-efficient vehicles. I worked in Detroit for a while, and was amused by the number of people that would drive huge SUVs & pickups to work & back every day. I’d say 95% of the pickups I saw on the road had completely empty trays (i.e. they weren’t used for cargo during the work week). I heard one guy on the radio complaining, when fuel was $3 a gallon, about how he couldn’t afford to drive to work any more. His daily commute to his desk job was in a three-ton pickup with a 6-litre V8 engine that got 12 miles to the gallon…


  183. Workers enter reactor building #1

    Workers at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant have entered one of its reactor buildings for the first time since it was hit by a powerful quake on 11 March, say officials.
    The plant’s operators said the workers were installing ventilation systems in reactor one to filter out radioactive particles from the air.
    The Tokyo Electric Power Compancy (Tepco) said earlier on Thursday that the 12 workers would work inside the reactor building in shifts of 10 minutes.

    According to TEPCO’s forward plan this air filtration should then produce an environment inside the bulding generally lower than 1mSv/hour, allowing the new cooling system to be installed.


  184. Hank Roberts, why do you blatantly ignore my comments.

    Fukushima was caused by 15 meter tsunami and indefinite station blackout due to all backup power failing in common mode by the tsunami. Just the eartquake didn’t do it – the diesel generators started fine and worked fine up until the tsunami hit.

    If you have no power from the grid due to EMP, you still have the diesels as they are in Faraday cages. Large diesels and motors aren’t vulnerable to EMP anyway – the problem is in little tiny circuits that get fried because they don’t have enough heat capacity to soak up the EMP without overheating.


  185. “The wind blowing on average 1/3rd of the time doesn’t translate into 8 hours/day of ‘wind power’.

    It’s just as likely to be it blows good for a week then not at all for two weeks.

    I know of no electric car that can hold enough charge to accommodate a two week commuting period on a single charge.”

    the wind not blowing 24/7 is GOOD for electric cars. this gives big price differences at peak supply times.

    please remember what people here repeat over and over: wind has a low capacity factor. having 20% wind energy actually means that at some time you have 100% of demand filled with wind. aiming for over 20% wind gives over 100% of demand at certain times.
    (this causes trouble for grid and might also need back up at other times, but for electric cars it is wonderful!)

    can you give an example of 2 weeks with no wind at all in the USA or Europe?


    “I doubt that pure battery cars will catch on. A reality check is here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12138420
    People with limited budgets and parking space want a vehicle that will travel say 300 km on a fill up or charge, that can run a heater or AC and zoom across mountain passes mixing it with SUVs. All for a sticker price less than say 50% of their annual salary.”

    the average person that you talk about will NOT be a member of the avant-garde that will buy the first big wave of electric cars.

    as i said, normal people will buy electric cars, if they get the same performance at a similar price. (at best, you can hope that they will do the exchange of a higher starting price for lower consumption costs)

    the people who buy the first wave are different.

    the people who have an electric car right now are “extremists”. they basically accept to pay twice the price for half performance, either because they don t care about costs at all, or because they really really want the electric car.
    the problem with this group is, that it is too small to move the car into mass production and to have an effect on the electric power supply, which is the big hope of EVs.

    the first big wave being sold, will go to a different group of people. this will happen, when prices and performance becomes reasonable. (though still above/below a normal car)

    people will buy cars at such a higher cost, because they want to do something for the environment. and like it or not, but the majority of them doesn t thing that nuclear power is good for the environment.

    people will also do this, because they see an opportunity to save money by using the car in a special way. for example reloading it only, when the price is incredibly cheap. (this does never happen with nuclear)


  186. “I average about 40km per day in my car. An electric vehicle would be *ideal* for my daily driving. Instead, I have a european-build turbo diesel, which uses about half the fuel of the japanese-build petrol vehicle I drove previously. I used to go through a tank of fuel a week, now I only fill up every 2-4 weeks (depending on how bad the traffic has been).

    As it turns out, nuclear generation would probably result in a lot of cheap power overnight, just when everyone needs to recharge their electric vehicles…”

    your use of the car mine is very similar) sounds perfect for electric cars. i guess that you (like me) don t buy one, simply because the price is still much too high.

    but for the second time now: electric cars will NOT depend on being reloaded at night. they will be plugged in whenever they stand still.

    i do not think that nuclear energy and electric cars work together well, because having many electric cars will decrease the price difference for night electricity and will that for increase the cost of driving the car.
    i saw numbers that suggest that an electric car might cost between 1/3 and 1/2 to drive. and with night time electricity being at 2/3 of daytime price (and increasing with increasing EV use), people might lose nearly the majority of the fuel price advantage.

    the complete opposite happens with alternative energy. everybody understands the power of “refueling your car for free” or “making profit, by reselling car fuel”

    this is a psychological effect that is much bigger than the actual money being saved might suggest it is.


  187. Cyril asks Hank Roberts, why do you blatantly ignore my comments.

    I’m not Hank, but I’m going to guess that Hank is looking for a little stronger backing for the assertion that the diesels will be just fine than what some guy on a blog says.

    Hank’s a lot like that. He likes to see references, citations, published literature, peered review. He’s like that, mind you, for assertions that everything will be fine or that we’re all screwed and gonna die.

    I understand what you’re saying. The diesel engines themselves should be fine from any sort of pulse. Whether the generators are fine depends on a number of things, like whether they’re connected to the grid or not, whether they’re adequately shielded via your faraday cage, whether the electronics that control the starting, stopping, and provide regulation and frequency control get fried in the hypothetical pulse.

    It’s not that hard to imagine cascading failures where the diesels are fine but the starting and control mechanisms are lost, making them effectively useless. This is something that *could* be protected against. It’s not clear to me that it is automatically protected against, or that anyone is thinking about protecting against it.

    Who would have said two months ago that they couldn’t just fly some replacement diesels in? Who would have believed that “the plugs wouldn’t fit”? I watched it happen and even in hindsight *I* can’t believe it. What higher priority did they have over there for a generator than emergency cooling of nuclear reactors? N/m, that’s clearly a rhetorical question.

    Like Hank says, these are real concerns that ought to be addressed, not waved off. He’s ignoring your casual dismissal of the problem while looking for real answers. You might consider following his lead.


  188. And, Joffan, with the grid out for months, transportation and fuel production also are impacted. Remember the problems hauling batteries and diesel fuel to Fukushima? Prolong that for months with far more widespread need for the fuel and power competing.

    The quake/tsunami was a small local example of the sort of disruption predicted for a flare like the one that took out the telegraph systems.

    Those who ignore Cassandra hear from Murphy eventually.


  189. Joffan, the blackout in 2003 was caused by a short on some powerlines and an overload of the system. There was no significant damage to the infrastructure. Starting the grid back up was a challenge.

    What Hank is talking about is the loss of much/most/all of the infrastructure. Imagine bringing the grid back up when all the major transformers have been destroyed. Imagine the computer systems used to control the grid destroyed, as well as the systems required to make new ones. Imagine that at the same time all the global communications infrastructure is out.

    Given those results from the EMP/storm how comfortable are you that a nuclear power plant can get to cold shutdown safely?

    Have I got that right Hank? Those are possible/likely results of the sort of solar storm you’re thinking of?


  190. Hank, it seems you’re not getting the main point – thick, heavily reinforced concrete is excellent EMP shielding. If the diesel generators are not within thick reinforced concrete hardened locations at nuclear plants, this is a major design flaw, as e.g. a design basis tornado or hurricane could take out the whole building, so yes in that case it has to be fixed anyway.


  191. Hank Roberts, on 6 May 2011 at 1:20 AM said:

    Remember the problems hauling batteries and diesel fuel to Fukushima? Prolong that for months with far more widespread need for the fuel and power competing.

    The power required to achieve cold shutdown is an order of magnitude above the power required to maintain cold shutdown.


  192. “Hank, it seems you’re not getting the main point – thick, heavily reinforced concrete is excellent EMP shielding. If the diesel generators are not within thick reinforced concrete hardened locations at nuclear plants, this is a major design flaw, as e.g. a design basis tornado or hurricane could take out the whole building, so yes in that case it has to be fixed anyway.”

    when i visited a nuclear power plant the last time, the emergency diesels were inside a rather shabby looking shed. has anybody got any informations on this?


    i do not think that EMP is among the worst problems that nuclear power faces, but i think it should be considered.

    at the moment, the nuclear industry seems to be extremely reluctant about testing their power plants. the proposed European stress test has been turned into a farce. basically it will be restricted to only testing against natural disasters.



    there also has been an important talk between the WHO and critics of the agreement with the IAEA..

    i can t find a good english source, of the talk, only this:


    but the leftish German paper TAZ has a very interesting summary.


    the WHO doesn t have any significant expertise in radiation left and Chan promised to find out what happened to unreleased documents from the Chernobyl conferences.


    at the same time, some additional German nuclear power plants have been switched of for regular maintenance, so there are only 6 out of 17 still running.
    Had anyone proposed that this should be done, it would have been declared impossible 2 months ago…


  193. You don’t need a lot of diesel. In the first day for a large reactor you’d need 200-400 kWe for the pumps. Long term its more like 10-20 kWe. Couple of cubic meters of diesel per month is plenty.

    Data centers are far more serious, being real energy hogs.


    You need a lot less to run the steam driven pumps valve automated systems, maybe half a kWe.

    If submarine grade lithium-ion batteries (used by deep sea divers for underwater lights etc.) then a 1 month supply to power the steam driven cooling pumps would only be around 100k USD extra battery cost. That sounds like a good idea to me. Shutting down a good steam driven system because you’ve run out of juice is really stupid. The batteries can be inside containment as they have no exhaust or air intake requirement. Bunch of passive hydrogen recombiners around the spent fuel pool and all inside the containment, a hardened ground level standpipe connecting to an emergency spray system for the spent fuel pool, and maybe throw in an extra diesel generator at the top floor next to the refuelling crane, and you are all good to go. Fukushima-proof.


  194. > this is a major design flaw

    One last try:
    Plan for the grid to go away _everywhere_ for months, from _all_ the facilities. Cassandra says so.

    No diesel fuel deliveries.

    When that happens you need local power beyond what diesel and batteries can provide.

    It’s a business case, for the people maintaining and extending the service of any reactor currently in use.

    It’s an opportunity to cooperate and share costs, by including as part of longterm backup power: local windfarms, solar thermal systems, hot salt storage — with a handy rare-emergency switch to divert output to the nearby fission plant.

    For months. Until the grid comes back.

    Yes, Gen4 will obsolete all the other stuff. So will fusion. But those are 30 years away.

    Plan for trouble now. Cassandra says.

    —- quote—
    “[t]he commission estimates… that we could probably put ourselves into a situation where we could neutralize this particular threat, at least to the extent that it… wouldn’t be a catastrophic, society-destroying threat and we would be able to recover.” Some of the cost estimates have been reasonable, e.g., Dr. Pry has quoted a figure of about $2 billion. …. emergency responders ought to be trained in how to handle a large-scale outage as might be expected from a severe geomagnetic storm.
    —-end quote—

    The big utilities will opt for hardening the grid and stockpiling big equipment — leaving the whole fission power industry unprotected _until_ the grid is guaranteed not to fail. Anything to avoid supporting the alternatives.

    But the alternative power sources could be building in around every fission plant right away — competing selling to the grid until the grid goes down, whenever it does.

    Maybe we won’t need that kind of security.
    I’m watching the Sun, not feeling particularly lucky.
    As they say in the movies:

    “It’s quiet. Too quiet…..”


    People went into the first reactor on 10-minute shifts, says the press release. What’s new there?


  195. People went into the first reactor on 10-minute shifts, says the press release. What’s new there?

    Nothing new as such; they’re just quickly setting up the air extraction & filtration piping that will lower exposure rates in the building for subsequent work. See the Tepco presentation.


  196. Unlike an earthquake, solar storms can be seen developing and the path of ejecta plotted giving a fair period of time to prepare for a major geomagnetic event. Simply shutting down the grid while the storm passes, and keeping breakers open would minimize the damage, and indeed plans to do just that are in place.

    A NASA project called “Solar Shield” will provide a node-by-node forecast of geomagnetic currents. During extreme storms, engineers would safeguard the most endangered parts of the network by disconnecting them from the grid. This itself would cause a blackout, but only temporarily. Equipment protected in this way would be available again for normal operations when the storm is over.

    So this is well in hand already, and it is unlikely that the die predictions of the Cassandras will come to pass.


  197. @2v82xl 04 May

    “One way or the other the McKinsey report does not support your arguments.”

    And just what are my arguments?

    On May 1st I posted a question about the seriousness of Dr. Ma’s concern about the design of the AP1000’s concrete shield building. (An NRC staff member commenting on a new reactor design,not a proposed plant). Later the same day Cyril R responded pretty much ignoring Dr. Ma’s issue but attacking the NRC for being too sluggish generally. I responded that maybe a little more regulatory delay might have avoided the Fukushima situation. Cyril then lauched into a tirade about how much worse coal fired generation was. On May 2 I posted a reply agreeing with him about the need to get rid of coal fired generation but suggesting that in developed economies there were safer, faster, and cheaper alternatives and calling particiular attention to improvements in the efficiency with which we use electricity and used the California experience as a example of what could be done utilizing only part of the efficiency potential. Cyril then responded attacking California energy policy and the potential of efficiency improvements plus solar and wind. On May 3rd I responded defending the California case linking the McKinsey abatement study and some other studies to show the potential for efficiency improvements. Later in the day I linked some per capita electricial usage charts for selected countries and called out Germany as an example. Cyril proceeded to dismiss the German case too, using an absurd date range covering a period before German energy efficiency policies were adopted. (Perhaps he should have used his vaunted skills to calculate just how much less CO2e the US would have added to the atmosphere had we matched the German experience over time?)

    Now just how does the McKinsey report fail to demonstrate the huge potential of efficiency improvements?

    I am not anti-nuclear. I don’t says there is no role for nuclear. I just insist on reactors being well regulated by indepent bodies. I also think nuclear is unlikely to play a big role in the US in the near term. (I think that agrees with an earlier statement you made about nuclear playing its greatest role in developing economies).

    I am terrified and sadened by the effects of global warming. I think we have already destabilized the cryosphere and face the inevitability of rising sea levels for centuries. We may have already crossed other tipping points that could produce on-going feedbacks. I would welcome a WWII type of effort to mitigate the release of greenhouse gases even if it included constructing thousands of nuclear reactors. Unfortunately the fossil fuel industry blocks even a limited effort!


  198. @Ted Nation – Let us get one thing straight, most of us here have been around too long to buy into the “I’m not antinuclear but..” posturing that some use in an attempt to avoid outright dismissal. You are antinuclear.

    Now as a matter of convention in these matters the onus is on you to show how and where your references support your argument. You, after all are the one trying to convince us. Floating some document and stating that this shows you are right is just not good enough, because I don’t see anything in this report that shows that there is a huge potential of efficiency improvements, that does not involve moving the consumption elsewhere.

    Now provide quotations, along with page numbers and we will debate. Do not and expect to be dismissed as not worth answering.


  199. Ted Nation, the McKinsey report says even with all efficiency improvements together, global CO2 emissions WILL STILL RISE.

    Since you can’t read properly, I will repeat.


    Therefore efficiency is *NOT* an alternative to nuclear.

    Furthermore, if the cost of the efficiency improvements is indeed largely negative as the McKinsey report suggest, then there is Jevon’s Paradox that comes into play.

    Efficiency is at best not enough and at worst has zero effect due to various rebound effects (which makes its cost per ton of CO2 avoided infinite, ie ineffective).

    Now try to polish up on your reading skills, or stop trolling. And try to actually *read* your own references, it makes you look so stupid if you don’t.



    Cyril, i do not get your argument. Ted was speaking about electricity. about saving energy while saving money. and about the possibility that the entire USA could have a per capita electricity use like california or some European countries.


    are you seriously trying to tell us, that CO2 output for electricity in the USA would still rise, if they would half their use? this would be a completely bizarre claim!


    your link has basically no connection to what Ted said. it is talking about global energy use, is not restricted to electricity at all (Exhibit 6 contains stuff like reforestation) and it is also not restricted to measures that save money, while also saving electricity.



  201. > solar storms can be seen developing
    > and the path of ejecta plotted giving a
    > fair period of time to prepare for a major
    > geomagnetic event

    This does not happen, as the links given above make clear. It’s wishful thinking.

    > … NASA … solar shield

    It’s a suggestion, not a program. Citing sources helps because it’s hard to deny what’s in the source if you actually read it.

    I recommend reading this. It makes the point clearly that we have a problem being widely ignored.



  202. @ Sod. Yes CO2 output rises because:

    1. You can’t halve electricity use per capita. California electricity use per capita, as well as German electricity use per capita, have only INCREASED over the years. It DID NOT HALVE IT DOUBLED OR MORE.
    2. When you get more efficient at negative cost (ie market failure alleviations) then you can produce more competitively. This increases electricity usage.
    3. Reducing energy consumption can only be done by increasing cost of electricity, forcing conservation and chasing away industries, which is very hard politically. California has some of the highest rates in the USA, yet it has not reduced per capita CO2 emissions. It has increased per capita CO2 emissions, just a bit less fast than the average US.
    4. Economic growth happens in all scenarios.

    Don’t blame me for the data. I wish it wasn’t as bad as it is. Energy efficiency isn’t enough at best, and more likely doesn’t work at all. You can chase industries away and force conservation by high electric rates, requiring you to import more stuff “pollution elsewhere” but you won’t save energy or reduce CO2 on absolute terms.

    Again Sod is quibbling and trying to divert attention from the main problems.

    Are all you anti-nukes so innumerate? I can see with people like Sod that Germany has the worst energy transition policy in the world.


  203. @dv82xl

    Thanks for reading my mind and telling me what I think! You guys are poor public advocates for nuclear power if you think you can overwhelm any safety and economic concerns with put downs.

    @Cyril R.

    “Furthermore, if the cost of the efficiency improvements is indeed largely negative as the McKinsey report suggest, then there is Jevon’s Paradox that comes into play.”

    This effect is much exaggerated and could be entirely eliminated with a carefully designed rate system. See:


    There have been several posts comparing electrlic rates by country and power source. These articles would indicate that rates are much more influenced by rate design than power source.




  204. The summary from the NASA page:

    “… CME … sun-Earth … typically takes 24 to 48 hours, the Solar Shield team prepares to calculate ground currents…. “at Goddard’s Community Coordinated Modeling Center (CCMC),” … The crucial moment comes about 30 minutes before impact ….
    … With less than 30 minutes to go, Solar Shield can issue an alert to utilities with detailed information about GICs.
    … A small number of utility companies have installed current monitors at key locations in the power grid to help the team check their predictions.”

    More Information on Solar Shield from NASA:

    Solar Shield — project home page
    Community Coordinated Modeling Center (CCMC) — This is where Solar Shield calculations are done
    Severe Space Weather-Social and Economic Impacts — (Science@NASA) A summary of the 2008 National Academy of Sciences report
    High-Impact, Low-Frequency Event Risk to the North American Bulk Power System — A Jointly-Commissioned Summary Report of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and the U.S. Department of Energy’s November 2009 Workshop”
    Super Solar Flare — (Science@NASA)

    Don’t miss the pictures.

    Saying it’s not a problem won’t make it go away.
    Coping with it might.



  205. and the blog sotware borked the 3rd and 5th of those last five links quoted from NASA. If you click one that doesn’t work, look behind the colored text and delete the extra added crap to get the working link.


  206. @ Hank Roberts, yes making energy expensive can be very effective in reducing energy consumption, both by chasing away industries and importing the embedded energy in products so that it looks like per capita energy is reduced (but of course its just imported to a greater extent in embodied energy from dirty Chinese energy systems), and by forcing people to use non-cost effective energy efficiency and lifestandard-reducing conservation down their throat.

    Thank you for proving my point.

    Meanwhile, CO2 emissions are still increasing, with or without energy efficiency.

    We actually get more efficient all the time. It makes us more productive, allowing a better standard of life. It’s great. And it doesn’t reduce fossil fuel consumption.


  207. Now, we can see how well California is not reducing CO2 emissions here:

    Well, that didn’t work. Its not too late for California though – they can use nuclear power and electric vehicles plus heat pump heating in winter and ice storage airconditioning to take advantage of nighttime nuclear ‘cold charging’.


  208. Just for the record, the previous graph completely ignored embedded energy in stuff and clutter that is imported from other countries, so is a gross underestimate of CO2 emissions for California. Want to guess what powers those Chinese factories?

    And yet China is so good in energy efficiency!

    China has the best energy efficiency improvement rate (GJ/GDP) of any country. Yet they are building a coal plant, sometimes two, every week.


  209. Ted Nation, on 6 May 2011 at 8:55 AM said:

    Dr. Ma’s concern about the design of the AP1000′s concrete shield building… I responded that maybe a little more regulatory delay might have avoided the Fukushima situation.

    The original application for design certification on the AP1000 was submitted to the NRC in March of 2002.


    The AP1000 is an enlarged version of the AP600 which was submitted to the NRC for approval in 1992.

    19 years of review…how much more ‘regulatory review’ would be adequate?


  210. @Ted Nation: I will take your long silence on other power generation build rates as an admission that nuclear build rates are acceptable and do not pose a real objection to nuclear power. I trust you will pass your new knowledge back to whatever source you originally used for the baseless objection.


  211. @harrywr2

    I believe the AP1000 previously received certification but Westinghouse resubmitted design changes in May 2007 that would reduce costs. So the delay in the review wasn’t all the NRC’s fault. Still even 5 years seems a long time and I take your point.


  212. @Joffan

    “Ted Nation: I’m still waiting for your response on build rates for other generating technologies (excluding combustion).’

    “Ted Nation: I will take your long silence on other power generation build rates as an admission that nuclear build rates are acceptable and do not pose a real objection to nuclear power. I trust you will pass your new knowledge back to whatever source you originally used for the baseless objection.”

    I never raised other alternative renewables but focussed on improvements in efficiency. These are on-going but could be greatly accelerated with universal utility rules allowing ultility investments in customer efficiency improvement to be included in the rate base. Roll out is essentially as fast as improvements can be identified and completed.

    The build rate of wind and solar obviously depend on the size of the project and whether the planning and permitting are included. For a medium sized wind farm five years from initiation to completion is fairly typical but only two years of this is contruction time. But of course there is the example of the offshore Cape Wind Project taking 10 years to get through the permitting and legal delays. Central solar facilities are also complex undrtakings taking several years to constuct..

    The real issue is how much capital is tied up in the construction phase which is a much longer period for nuclear plants. This adds considerable to their cost and to risk incurred.


  213. @ Ted Nation

    The build rate of wind and solar obviously depend on the size of the project and whether the planning and permitting are included

    You’re missing the point. For a proper comparison, you need to look at (for example) how long it will take to replace > 80 % of Australia’s electricity generation, which is currently supplied by fossil fuels. This could be assessed for a variety of energy mix options.

    The fact still stands that France pretty much managed to do it in 10 years. The obstacles here are political, not technological or economic.

    Of course we could throw all our eggs in one basket, go for the “100 % renewables” option, cross our fingers and hope that technologies which have never replaced a significant portion of fossil fuels will do the job. Of course, that would be plain stupid.


  214. @ Sod

    the entire USA could have a per capita electricity use like california or some European countries.

    Yes. And every government in the world could completely cut funding to military and warfare. Use that money to fix the energy and climate problems – also have world peace! On Planet Sod.

    Not to mention (as others have pointed out) that these per capita energy uses, while still burning fossil fuels, simply don’t cut it.


  215. Gas man favours nuclear and c.t.

    I don’t see a line to the effect that NG is too valuable to burn in baseload power stations but that could be implied. The gas industry will make top dollar from CNG and GTL transport fuels before long and being forced to sell cheap to power stations could hurt the industry.

    However I still think export LNG should be carbon taxed (say $25 a tonne on top of $400 ) which overcomes the question of domestic use of gas to power LNG trains. The importing country gets the tax refunded if they make a good enough case. We should aim to keep gas affordable by 2050 at least.


  216. Both the USA and Germany have more than tripled their per capita electricity consumption. The Germans started out lower but grew almost as fast as the USA. This is not what traditional (ie those who are still innumerate) environmentalists have in mind when they think of saving electricity.

    Even with a much stronger push to energy efficiency across the globe, and even assuming rebound effects are small, you will still have to deal with the reality of growing energy and CO2 emissions on the absolute scale.


  217. A useful definition of ‘irony’?

    7) Are there any solutions, can we roll back denial?

    Yes there are, which is the frustrating part. Denial is a delusion that has become a pathology that will cause huge impacts on ecosystems and the societies that rely on them. Yet we can break free of denial and accept reality – and we have to. We can roll back denial by examining our worldview and ethics, our ideologies, by accepting related problems such as population, by moving to a steady state economy, by focusing on ecological sustainability, by getting the message across better, and by using multiple strategies that work. The technological solutions exist, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency, and we discuss these. We also discuss ‘false’ solutions such as nuclear power and carbon capture and storage, which involve their own denial of problems.

    I shakes me head. He wrote a whole book on this, and he never bothered to look in the mirror?


  218. Barry, remember the book-publishing schedule means they must have been done well before Fukushima. Everyone’s certainties have been shaken and some solutions have changed.

    I recall Krugman pointing out that capitalism has survived several major crises, but not in its original form — a different capitalism emerged after each crisis.

    Ditto nuclear power, it’s survived several major crises. The previous certainties about what’s reasonable and what’s too risky have changed each time, and are still changing.

    Imagine the nuclear future as it was being imagined before the Japan events — lots more of the old Gen2 type reactors being built in China, extending the period they’re common for another 50 years or more.
    That just changed, they’re reconsidering.

    A whole lot of _bad_ choices that were being sustained by economic pressure and “hey what could go wrong?” thinking — are now reconsidered.

    And a great many people who have had the chance to consider relative risks have gotten clearer about why a lot of biologists and climate scientists are favoring the new — not the existing, but the new — fission plant designs.

    House of mirrors, lots of mirrors for everyone.

    It will take some years to sort out which positions were proven false — with the prediction of force 8 _aftershocks_ from the force 9 earthquake, plus the odds of “ordinary” force 8 events, Japan has changed some permits dramatically. That’s the extreme case.

    BUt don’t write off the book because it made a one sentence statement about the old solutions –t he ones everyone has reconsidered.

    That’s a peril of publishing in paper form — the world can change between final editorial signoff and the press run. The world of nuclear power changed in the last few months, for the better.


  219. the entire USA could have a per capita electricity use like california or some European countries.

    In Washington State, we have 2% of the US population but we produce 25% of the US Aluminum.

    There are reasons that other areas the the US have higher energy intensity then California that have absolutely nothing to do with how ‘environmentally aware’ or ‘environmentally responsible’ we are.


  220. “Both the USA and Germany have more than tripled their per capita electricity consumption. The Germans started out lower but grew almost as fast as the USA. This is not what traditional (ie those who are still innumerate) environmentalists have in mind when they think of saving electricity.

    Even with a much stronger push to energy efficiency across the globe, and even assuming rebound effects are small, you will still have to deal with the reality of growing energy and CO2 emissions on the absolute scale.”

    you are wrong on several points again, Cyril. for a start, a comparison starting in the 60s is stupid. you have to compare what happened, after Germany decided to save energy/electricty. (about the 80s, with the rise of the Green party)


    even if you ignore the drop in the 90s (this was caused by reunion with east Germany. a problem with per capita measurement) y<ou can clearly see a flattening of the curve, while the US keeps going up, possibly even faster.
    it is also simple to show, that electricity use must not grow constantly. for example total energy use (per capita) didn t grow any longer and possibly is in decline.


    neither Ted nor I can do more than say this: there are examples in the world and inside the USA, which use half the electricity of the whole USA per capita. they do so, while remaining economically competitive and reducing electricity consumption can even save a lot of money. (see Kinsey study often linked above)


    but as this topic is about Fukushima, i think you folks do miss important developments. for example it turns out that TEPCO so far has not done medical examinations among the workers in the plant.


    TEPCO also has failed to improve working conditions so far, and is only starting with the most basic improvements (food, showers, beds) "soon".


    temperature in Reactor 3 has been reported rising to 240°C.

    Please be aware that giving a reference with a brief one-liner intro is outside the commenting rules and may, in future, be deleted


  221. Hank Roberts, on 8 May 2011 at 2:31 AM — Earthquakes are measured in units of “moment magnitude”, often abbreviated “magnitude”. Only winds are measured in units called “force”.

    And, by the way, there have already been two aftershocks of magnitude 8.0 from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan.


  222. @ Ted Nation: You asserted that nuclear power plants “take a long time to build”. I gave you a reasonable mid-range figure for the rate at which bulding a nuclear power plant adds power to the generating grid – 200 MW/year, based on average power delivery. I challenged you to come up with other figures that demonstrate other build rates. You have so far failed to do so, although you attempted to cast doubt on my figures.

    Numbers, please. Actual example projects. And when we’ve done that we can talk about other aspects, but let’s nail this “too slow” business first.

    Incidentally, as you have been told by various people again and again, efficiency is not an alternative to nuclear power. It is a completely separate component of power management that is independent of what other generation choices are made. Nevertheless I’d be interested to hear you also describe a electricity use reduction rate for an efficiency project, as well as a generation project.


  223. It is very difficult for me to keep track of comments here with respect to adherence to the basic rules — only so many hours in the day, and many tasks at hand! I also think the vast majority of us appreciated greatly the efforts put in my emergency moderator during the height of the Fukushima crisis. As I’d like to keep a consistent feel to the blog, and provide an environment where everyone can contribute comments collegiately and in keeping with the principles of BNC (evidence, logic, not playing the man, etc.), I’ve invited the moderator back in a permanent role. Thankfully, she has accepted. She has her own login now, to avoid confusion, BNC MODERATOR. The moderation brushstrokes will be applied as lightly as possible whilst still ensuring the rules — and the spirit of the rules — are maintained.


  224. The debate at Skeptical Science continues:
    Hayden Washington

    Barry Brooks seeks to make an ad hominem attack that since I doubt the usefulness of nuclear power I am either ironic, insulting or misinformed. Well sorry Barry I am not being ironic, nuclear is too little too late, too expensive and too dangerous. You dont solve one major problem with another. You might consider it if it was the only alternative – but it isnt. As was shown in your debate with Dr Mark Diesendorf at UNSW, renewable energy is a far better alternative to put our development money into than nuclear. Issues such as baseload power are now solved. Spain is spending $20 billion on installing Concentrated Solar Thermal. It is time for Australia to make use of our fantastic renewable resources, not follow some Cornucopian nuclear fantasy. Renewable are both feasible and sustainable. Its time to accept reality and move rapidly to a renewables future. Both Mark Diesendorf and Barry Pittock in their books (plus Beyond Zero Emissions in their Stationary Energy Study)show this can be done.

    My reply:

    Hayden Washington, I cannot see how my comment would be construed as an ad homenim. To do this, I would have to disparage your character, and use that as a basis for dismissing your arguments. Instead, I saw in your comments a number of things:

    1) Ironic: “using multiple strategies that work. The technological solutions exist, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency”

    Multiple strategies that apparently do not include nuclear energy, which we know WORKS and has been the only low-carbon energy technology, excepting large hydropower dams, that has been successful to date at displacing coal, or in running an electricity system at high penetration (France). The best non-hydro renewables have done is 19% (Denmark).

    2) Insulting: “We also discuss ‘false’ solutions such as nuclear power and carbon capture and storage, which involve their own denial of problems.”

    You are disparaging me, as well as other climate scientists such as Jim Hansen and Tom Wigley, and other prominent thinkers like David Mackay, James Lovelock, Mark Lynas, George Monbiot, Chris Goodall, and many others, who have evaluated the situation logically and cannot see a viable solution without a significant role for nuclear (along with renewables and energy efficiency). Instead, you accuse us of denial and offering ‘false’ solutions, as though we were trying to hide from some truth or deliberately dissemble. As I said, this is insulting.

    3) Misinformed: That applies to both 1 and 2 above. Further, if you would become better informed about nuclear power, then you might not be so ready to dismiss it. If you are as concerned about the extremely serious consequences of climate change, as you profess, you should judge nuclear power’s benefits alongside its faults (real and perceived) and make a prudent decision that is explicit about this very serious trade off.

    I support renewable energy and any other practical solutions to displacing fossil fuels. I have set up a research project (Open Science) called Oz Energy Analysis (http://oz-energy-analysis.org) to assess how Australia might reach as much as 50% renewables by 2030. However, I also subject renewable energy to the same scrutiny as I subject any scientific hypothesis, and that is why I am surprised and disappointed that the two critiques of the BZE 2020 plan has received exactly zero responses:




    We must face up to reality if we are to solve these extremely difficult problems. Your approach seems cavalier at best and grossly irresponsible at worst.

    “not follow some Cornucopian nuclear fantasy”

    Throwing such straw men at me serves no purpose other than to undermine your credibility. Since when did I claim this? Indeed, my guest post on Skeptical Science, Can animals and plants adapt to global warming?, shows my research focus – ecology, evolution and extinction, and the impacts of human activity on the biosphere. I understand the concept of ecological limits better than most, so I’d ask that you do a little more background research in future before throwing around such aspersions.

    In short, if the above arguments you presented are in any way indicative of the quality of writing in the book, then I’m unlikely to purchase a copy or recommend it. Which is a shame, because I have a great deal of respect for the work that John Cook does on this site.


  225. Thankyou Barry for inviting me back after a breather.
    Although now a permanent moderator, I am still a part-time volunteer so moderation will occur only once or twice on most days. I ask BNC commenters to advise me of any breaches but to be aware that action on their concerns may not be immediate.


  226. Barry,

    I don’t have a skeptical science login, but I feel compelled to point out that Diesendorf himself (whom Dr Washington appears to hold in high regard) pretty much slammed the BZE plan (which he also touted) here: http://www.ecosmagazine.com/paper/EC10024.htm

    They never responded to that either as far as I’m aware.

    Despite its flaws, this brave study prepares the ground for future studies that will be less constrained in their assumptions. The authors deserve recognition for their work.

    Or in other words, “The report made wild, fantastical assumptions. But they tried hard.”

    It’s obviously okay to throw around names when it suits one’s side of the story, and ignore it when it doesn’t. Denialism? Maybe.


  227. Ted Nation above claimed that James Barret at Climate Progress debunks Jevons Paradox.

    Not really. He at best debunks the claim that rebound effects at the level of the individual unit of consumption or production trump efficiency gains.

    But the real question, as Barret himself realizes here and there and points to in his conclusion, is whether energy efficiency can trump exponential growth.

    The focus on the strict version of Jevons paradox blinds the all renewables pro growth group to the obvious about capitalism. That capitalism contains a growth imperative and that exponential growth can never be trumped at the level of the world economy by energy efficiency savings. Even Barret notes that there has been no evidence for this up to now.

    While it should be obvious that efficiency cannot trump economic growth so as to reduce absolute energy use in a capitalist world economy, that doesn’t keep people from trying to disprove the obvious.

    So Makijani at IEER invents a hypothetical economy that grows 3% a year (his example is just the United States, not the world economy) while reducing energy use 1 % per year for 45 years. In this fantasy scenario, the economy would nearly quadruple in size by 2050 while energy falls from 100 to 66 quads.

    While there’s nothing remotely resembling an empirical example of this for either the U.S. or the world economy, it’s still useful to think thru what happens after 2050.

    Can anyone in all seriousness continue to assert 3% annual growth with 1% annual reduction in energy use? Exponential growth with exponential decline in energy use for the next 50 years–much less forever? The economy would grow to 14 times its current size while energy use would fall from 100 quads to 40 quads. Keep doing the iterations.

    At some level, most pro renewables people realize that efficiency cannot trump growth which is why they call for a steady state economy–like Barry’s opponent above or someone like Ted Trainer.

    But even a steady state economy on a world scale would require a large amount of energy such that it would be irrational and probably impossible to supply it cleanly and reliably without nuclear power.


  228. “Dear Isaac, You frequently desire me to give you some Advice, in Writing. There is, perhaps, no other valuable Thing in the World, of which so great a Quantity is given, and so little taken. Men do not generally err in their Conduct so much through Ignorance of their Duty, as thro Inattention to their own Faults, or thro strong Passions and bad Habits; and, therefore, till that Inattention is cured, or those Passions reduced under the Government of Reason, Advice is rather resented as a Reproach, than gratefully acknowledged and followed.”
    “Every prudent Man ought to be jealous and fearful of himself, lest he run away too hastily with a Likelihood instead of Truth; and abound too much in his own Understanding.”

    “The strongest of our natural Passions are seldom perceived by us; a choleric Man does not always discover when he is angry, nor an envious Man when he is invidious; at most they think they commit no great Faults. Therefore it is necessary that you should have a MONITOR.”

    “Most Men are very indifferent Judges of themselves, and often think they do well when they sin; and, imagine they commit only small Errors, when they are guilty of Crimes. It is in Human Life as in the Arts and Sciences; their Plainest Doctrines are easily comprehended, but the finest Points cannot be discovered without the closest Attention; of these Parts only the wise and skilful in the Art or Science, can be deemed competent Judges. Many Vices and Follies resemble their opposite Virtues and Prudence; they border upon, and seem to mix with each other; and therefore the exact Line of Division betwixt them is hard to ascertain.”

    “It is therefore necessary for every Person who desires to be a wise Man, to take particular Notice of HIS OWN Actions, and of HIS OWN Thoughts and Intentions which are the Original of his actions; with great Care and Circumspection; otherwise he can never arrive to that Degree of Perfection which constitutes the amiable Character he aspires after. And, lest all this Diligence should be insufficient, as Partiality to himself will certainly render it, it is very requisite for him to chuse a FRIEND, or MONITOR, who must be allowed the greatest Freedom to advertise and remind him of his Failings, and to point out Remedies….”

    “Most Men see that in another, which they can not or will not see in themselves… If such a Monitor informs you of any Misconduct, whether you know his Interpretations to be true or false, take it not only patiently, but thankfully; and be careful to reform. Thus you get and keep a Friend, break the inordinate and mischievous Affection you bore towards your Frailities, and advance yourself in Wisdom and Virtue. Remember that if a Friend tells you of a Fault, always imagine that he does not tell you the whole, which is commonly the Truth; for he desires your Reformation, but is loth to offend you.”

    Benjamin Franklin – Excerpts from “A Letter from Father Abraham to his Beloved Son”

    Due to the stakes involved, this conversation is understandably passionate… appropriately so. That there will be lapses in etiquette and protocols is natural… the inevitable result of the inherent weaknesses of the human condition.

    Ol’ Ben would heartily approve of the insertion of a MONITOR into this debate, though he may have further advice for those that volunteer for the task… no doubt to warn them of its thankless nature. Dear Moderator, it is my hope that your contributions will be accepted in the grateful spirit Franklin advocates above. When it is not, take comfort in the knowledge that the blame falls on the offended party… they lack introspection/restraint. And “till that Inattention is cured, or those Passions reduced under the Government of Reason, Advice is rather resented as a Reproach, than gratefully acknowledged and followed.”

    Thank you, and good luck… you’ve got your work cut out for you.

    Thank you John for your encouragement. I do hope BNCers take time to read and assimilate your supplied Benjamin Franklin quote.
    As I have already gone through the baptismal fires of moderator during the Fukushima crisis (1 million hits in a week)I think I can handle anything :-) – but I have to say it ain’t easy!


  229. sod, on 8 May 2011 at 6:23 AM said:

    there are examples in the world and inside the USA, which use half the electricity of the whole USA per capita. they do so, while remaining economically competitive and reducing electricity consumption can even save a lot of money. (see Kinsey study often linked above)

    The paint is not even dry on BMW’s first ‘electricity intensive’ carbon fiber plant in Washington State and they are talking about building 5 more.

    Press article on BMW’s carbon fiber plant expansion in Washington State.


  230. @ sod:

    there are examples in the world and inside the USA, which use half the electricity of the whole USA per capita. they do so, while remaining economically competitive

    Perhaps the true metric should be overall energy consumption, including the energy embodied in the production of goods produced elsewhere but consumed in these regions of lower than average energy production. California shifting its energy-intensive manufacturing to China, sourcing much of its power from out of state, and then claimin g great progress in green energy status is not exactly an uplifting model to follow. Neither is coal-addicted Germany.


  231. Finrod is exactly right. This reminds me of the great gains claimed in pollution abatement made in the 70’s which were nothing more than shifting these processes to jurisdictions with softer laws. In some extreme cases the net emissions turned out to be worse than what was being done initially


  232. @Finrod

    Perhaps the true metric should be overall energy consumption including the energy embodied in the production of goods produced elsewhere

    That gets closer but then we still have issues with how to account for energy consumed for basic adaptation.

    How do we compare the efficiency efforts of someone in Fairbanks Alaska with someone in a Beach Front Condo in Southern California?


  233. All strategies based on energy efficiency are red herrings, and completely miss the point. We need to expend a certain amount of energy to reach certain results. Good engineers will design systems that are as efficient as reasonably possible (which usually wont be as efficient as theoretically achievable, because that would require tradeoffs compromising the other aims of the system). What we are really after is an energy production system which minimises environmental impact while still providing for the needs of civilisation. Using efficiency as a metric of success implies a commitment to environmentally damaging generation systems. The aim should be to go to a system where efficiency has its usual place in the scheme of things, but no more than that.


  234. Using efficiency as a metric of success implies a commitment to environmentally damaging generation systems.

    The above should read:

    Using efficiency as a key or sole metric of success implies a commitment to environmentally damaging generation systems.


  235. “Perhaps the true metric should be overall energy consumption, including the energy embodied in the production of goods produced elsewhere but consumed in these regions of lower than average energy production. California shifting its energy-intensive manufacturing to China, sourcing much of its power from out of state, and then claimin g great progress in green energy status is not exactly an uplifting model to follow. Neither is coal-addicted Germany.”


    this story is getting a little confused. i do not think that energy per capita is the best metric to use ever. but we were talking about saving energy as a mean to reduce electricity use. and for that purpose, electricity use per capita is obviously better than total electricity use. looking at totals, population growth can hide all effects of savings.

    if you factor in products requiring energy produced elsewhere, you also have to deduct these numbers, when looking at the use in the other countries.


    “You should read this book. Goes to the core of what Finrod said about needing to account for total energy consumption, including embodied energy.”

    i have seen this link before. 8i have been often send there by climate change “sceptics”. i think it is a pessimistic approach.

    for example on photovoltaics, the German wikipedia article makes this calculation:

    “Energie erforderlich. Die heutige Stromerzeugungskapazität beträgt gemäß der gleichen Quelle ~138 GW. Bei einem Modulwirkungsgrad von z. B. 12 % und der Berücksichtigung eines Wechselrichterwirkungsgrades von 96 %[45] ist demnach für die Bereitstellung der Leistung von 726 GWp bei einem angenommenen Flächenverbrauch von 20 m²/KWp[46] eine Fläche von 14.520 km² nötig (12 % Modulwirkungsgrad entspricht 120 W/m2). Deutschland hat eine Fläche von ~357.112 km². Es würden dafür also 4 ,07 % der Fläche Deutschlands benötigt. Als Vergleich: 2007 belegte die Siedlungs- und Verkehrsfläche 46.789 km² oder 13,1 % der Bodenfläche Deutschlands[47].

    Nach Ecofys eignen sich mehr als 2300 km² Dach- und Fassadenfläche (0,65 % der Gesamtfläche Deutschlands) für die Nutzung durch PV-Anlagen.”


    so 5% of Germany would cover 100% of our electricity. (well, in reality, we would need some storage, of course) but 1% would be rather easy, and could mostly come from rooftops, with ZERO space being used.

    that doesn t sound bad.

    ps: i would move any further discussion of renewables to the new renewables topic.


  236. finally Japan has made the decision to shut down the Hamaoka nuclear power plant at least until better tsunami protections are build. with 70000 people in a 6 mile zone, and a 125 mile distance to Tokio, the plant is a very big risk.


    this list shows which nuclear reactors are down in Japan at the moment.


    we have an update about radiation inside reactor1 of the Fukushima plant.


    up to 700 millisieverts per hour, quite a harsh working condition.
    Sod – you are again breaking the BNC citing rules. One liners plus links are not good enough, particularly when the article explains a lot more than your one-liner. Further breaches will be deleted.


  237. On moderator request, re-posting of the recriticality concerns in the spent fuel pond of Daiichi number 4.

    Its easy to see that this recriticality thing is plain nonsense; iodine is decreasing not increasing. The ‘new study’ cited uses VERY old data. Recently, more cesium has been leaching in from the rods in the nr. 4 spent fuel pool, increasing the concentration. When you add water the concentrations will all decrease again. Iodine however never increased, because it is not there in old fuel rods (well relatively; its still a highly active nuclide compared to cesium, even after a few months of storage you still get significant iodine in terms of Becquerel activity).

    Click to access 110509e3.pdf


  238. sod, on 9 May 2011 at 10:55 PM said:

    but we were talking about saving energy as a mean to reduce electricity use.

    That isn’t valid either. If total energy consumed to make a ton of steel using an electric arc furnace rather then other methods then reducing ‘electricity use’ becomes a poor goal.

    We can also ‘save electricity’ by forgoing carbon fiber and aluminum manufacturing at the cost of increasing oil consumption.

    We can also remove heat pumps as an efficient way to heat in some climates and replace it with direct fossil fuel heating.

    There are hundreds of ways that ‘decrease electricity use’ that actually increase energy consumption.

    In Washington State we use lots of electricity making light weight materials that reduce someone else’s energy consumption.

    The same is true for Australia..1/6th of their electricity consumption is for Aluminum smelting. The Australian’s are not using all that aluminum themselves.


  239. Discussion on this site suffers from a lack of focus on how decision on alternatives are made within a capitalist economy. These decisions are made at the margins by consumers and utility companies – not by gestalt analysis of one generalized alternative versus another. If one is going to promote a largely nuclear solution, it is necessary to show how deployment would occur decision by decision.

    It also seems to me that there is a general assumption that nuclear is cheaper than alternatives which doesn’t jib with with any analysis I have read.

    In the US, even with liability limited by Price Andersen and loan guarantees ($18.5 billion under Bush and now $36 billion under Obama) limiting the financing risks, utilities have been slow in committing to new nuclear plants. Here is a January, 2009 analysis the details of which you may disagree with, but which I thought stated tne need for a business case clearly:

    Click to access nuclear-costs-2009.pdf

    And here is a somewhat more authoritative analysis from July 2008 on nuclear construction costs:


    Estimated costs and uncertainties have only gotten worse with some of the recent delays and cost overruns. Areva’s Olkiluoto EPR plant is a prime example. Originally, it was approved in 2000 and was to go on line in May of 2009. Now after a series of delalys and cost overruns it’s promised for the later half of 2013. The accident at Fukushima hasn’t helped the business case either. Citing the accident, NRG is writting down $481 million it has invested in 2 Texas reactors.


    Its true that France, at the time of the 1973 oil shock, was able to make a national commitment and, using a state owned company, pick a uniform reactor design and convert fairly quickly to a largely nuclear power generation base. This was not without problems, however, and their success seems to have dissipated with the attempts to privatize Areva and adopt new non standard reactor designs. China may be attempting something similar (without the standarization). We will have to wait and hope for a successful outcome. Maybe the US can develop a few prototypes using the current subsidies, standardize on the best one, and rapidly deploy them as a national necessity to replace coal fired plants, once the public wakes up to the seriousness of climate change. (Assuming efficiency improvements and other alternatives have proven inadequate). Until then, I don’t see new nuclear as a large player in US energy supply.

    Speaking of alternative renewables, here’s a hopeful article on whether they can scale today. Like nuclear, their deployment is limited by their ability to made the business case but they seem to be overcoming that obsticle.



  240. > develop … and rapidly deploy them as a national
    > necessity to replace coal fired plants

    Replacing just the coal heat source with a reactor that operates below the temperature they get from burning coal cuts the efficiency of the plant. Matching the temperature from burning coal is a challenge, last I recall.


  241. “the global research effort into Generation-IV systems coordinated by the Generation-IV International Forum (GIF). In fact, six types of Generation-IV systems are currently being investigated. Four are fast neutron reactor designs, one is a thermal neutron reactor (very high temperature reactor, VHTR) and one is a supercritical water reactor (SCWR), which could be operated as either a thermal or fast reactor.”

    “… to develop fast reactors that can also burn the minor actinides recycled from spent fuel. At the moment, when minor actinides are separated from the spent fuel, they end up in the waste, where they are responsible for much of the heat and radiation produced by the waste in the long term. By recycling the minor actinides back into the reactor, and by careful design of the fuel and operation of the reactor, they can be burnt in the core (transmuted) into less radiotoxic and shorter-lived radionuclides. This is not only an effective way of reducing waste quantities, but the recycling of the minor actinides along with the plutonium also greatly reduces the risk of proliferation because pure bomb-grade plutonium is at no point separated ….”



  242. Ted Nation, in my country there is a moratorium on building nuclear power plants. How’s that for decision-making.

    Nuclear is hampered for political reasons, which is allowed because the public is largely ignorant of the science and benefits, and is led astray by the effective fear campaigns of Greenpeace et al.

    As a result the attitudes toward nuclear are decidedly hostile. Ignorance and fear are the things we must fix. Then things look much better for rapid nuclear deployment. People need to see how pathetic solar and wind are by comparing them direcly on energy productivity with nuclear and coal plants. People need to understand that energy sources that are not there 80-90% of the time are dangerous diversions from the collision course we’ve set ourselves into.


  243. Ted Nation, on 10 May 2011 at 4:55 AM said:

    Citing the accident, NRG is writting down $481 million it has invested in 2 Texas reactors.

    Some basic facts.

    Average cost of steam coal in Texas is about $30/ton. Compared to $80/ton in Florida and $90/ton in South Carolina

    Source EIA – http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/coal/page/acr/table34.html

    So in Texas the economic case for building nuclear power is weak at best. At to that the fact that the Texas reactor was going to be a joint venture between NRG and Tepco(which is cash strapped at the moment) and the project doesn’t go forward.

    On the flip side…Vogtle #3 and Vogtle #4 in Georgia(USA) are proceeding..VC Summer #2 and #3 in South Carolina are proceeding.

    Nuclear isn’t cost competitive everywhere..and neither is coal, wind,oil,natural gas,solar,geo thermal or hydro.

    Nuclear is ‘in the ballpark’ with steam coal at $80/ton(delivered price), natural gas(delivered price) at $6/Million BTU’s and oil at $36/barrel.

    There may be other reasons to chose nuclear over fossil fuels…


  244. If one is going to promote a largely nuclear solution, it is necessary to show how deployment would occur decision by decision.

    Rubbish. It just needs to be allowed to compete (i.e. not banned), and compete fairly. If renewables, CCGT/OCGT and coal with CCS get subsidies, so should nuclear. If the externalities of burning fossil fuels are taken into account, and legislation put in place to prevent expansion, nuclear becomes by far the most practical, attractive (minus the bogey-man factor) option.


  245. There’s a chart I’m looking for online, and I can’t find it. Can anyone help me find it?

    I’m pretty sure it was published by Bernard Cohen, in one of his webpages or papers or books.

    It shows a histogram of the number of fatalities caused by natural gas, and the number of press reports on the dangers of natural gas, the number of fatalities caused by electricity, the number of press reports on the dangers of electricity and the number of press reports on radioactivity, implying that one would expect to be able to extrapolate that level of press attention to a truly enormous number of deaths caused by radioactivity… a number that of course does not exist.


  246. Cyril, on the chart (p4) of that JAIF link,

    “Seawater at the point where High-level Water was flown out”
    (assuming they mean “flowing out”)

    is still above the standard concentration limit line.

    But the “Sand Lances fished at the points around 40-60 km south of 1F” is down almost to the allowable food limit.


  247. http://atomicpowerreview.blogspot.com/2011/05/fukushima-daiichi-update-wednesday-511.html

    “In other Fukushima Daiichi news….

    Feed nozzle temperature at No. 3 plant was about 192C at 6 AM on the 11th; the latest figure is 214.5C at 11 AM on the 10th. This increase is beginning to look worrisome; TEPCO needs to accelerate its efforts to cool this reactor plant. Looking at data from JNTI, the rate of increase is itself increasing….
    8:30 AM Eastern Wednesday 5/11


  248. An article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists questions whether the NRC has taken adequate steps to protect existing reactors from damage from terrorist attacks or power failures like the one at Fukushima Daiichi. Specifically, it discusses what was released from the B5b requirements and whether the measures are sufficient and whether the release is consistent with passed NRC statements.


    The Union of Concerned Scientists also has a post showing that Murphy is alive and well within the NRC. Their illustration is to contrast the scathing report the NRC issued after the shut down of the gas cooled Fort St Vrain reactor, for failure to take seriously the threat posed by nearby natural gas lines, with the current, even worse, situation with gas lines at the Indian Point plant.



  249. Ted Nation, on 12 May 2011 at 6:45 AM said:

    An article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists question

    It would appear that the article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was written by a Senior Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

    It’s not surprising that an article written by a staff member of the union of concerned scientists would agree with an article written by a staff member of the union of concerned scientist.

    Unfortunately, circular references don’t count as ‘independent confirmation’.
    Thanks for pointing that out – it saved me a lot of editing work:-) Better to let TN’s remark stand to illustrate your point.


  250. @Hank Roberts

    Full table of all temperature readings for unit #3 for the last 11 days. Some are going up, some are going down, some are flat.

    Click to access en20110511-2-5.pdf

    Then buried in this release

    Click to access en20110509-1-3.pdf

    May 7th 9:22 Suspended the transfer of stagnant water from the Turbine Building Trench of Unit 2 (Stagnant water with high‐level radioactivity) to the Radioactive Waste Treatment Facility in order to carry out piping work of Reactor Feedwater System for Unit3 Emphasis mine.


  251. http://atomicpowerreview.blogspot.com/2011/05/tepco-nisa-serious-water-loss-at-no-1.html

    “… Japanese media outlets are reporting a downgrading of the condition of the reactor pressure vessel, in estimation, at Fukushima Daiichi No. 1. Now, TEPCO is saying that a serious leak in the pressure vessel has prevented the water from rising any higher even with the increased injection rate. The water, as guessed a number of times, is probably going to the primary containment.

    Both TEPCO and NISA have apparently now decided that some fuel melt and relocation to the bottom of the pressure vessel has occurred, but also indicate that ccoling of the fuel in No. 1 plant is adequate for the moment. …”

    This is quite a change — perhaps it would be worth editing the top post (or starting a fresh thread)?

    Also note http://atomicpowerreview.blogspot.com/2011/05/tepco-pressure-vessel-model-photos.html


  252. Now, TEPCO is saying that a serious leak in the pressure vessel has prevented the water from rising any higher even with the increased injection rate.

    My reading of the various reports is that the water level in the containment vessel isn’t rising as fast as expected.

    IMHO Given the temperatures being report the water level in the containment vessel(dry well) being 4 meters lower then the bottom of the fuel rods is plausible. The water in the pressure vessel being 4 meters below the bottom of the fuel rods seems improbable.


  253. “IMHO Given the temperatures being report the water level in the containment vessel(dry well) being 4 meters lower then the bottom of the fuel rods is plausible. The water in the pressure vessel being 4 meters below the bottom of the fuel rods seems improbable.”

    this is what Tepco is reporting, after they repaired the instrument. it is also Tepco reporting the melt and Tepco reporting a big leak.


  254. @harrywr

    “It would appear that the article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was written by a Senior Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

    It’s not surprising that an article written by a staff member of the union of concerned scientists would agree with an article written by a staff member of the union of concerned scientist.”

    It is reasonable to point out that the two articles were written by people that were part of the Union of Concerned Scientists, however, it is unreasonable to dismiss them by saying it is not surprising that one supports the other when they are about separate issues. Are the portions of the B5b requirements that were released reassuring and consistent with previous statements from the NRC? And separately, are the gas lines at Indian Point, with automatic shut off valve removed, a serious safety issue?

    “the automatic shut-off valves relied upon to terminate the flow of natural gas from a ruptured pipe and lessen the threat to Indian Point’s safety equipment have reportedly been removed. The original safety studies for Indian Point credited the automatic shut-off valves with closing within four minutes to stop the release of natural gas. But the valves were removed from the pipelines by 1995 because they tended to close spuriously, thus interrupting the intended flow of gas.”



  255. “…. after repairing a gauge in the No. 1 reactor earlier this week, TEPCO discovered that the water level in the pressure vessel that contains its uranium fuel rods had dropped about 5 meters (16 ft) below the targeted level to cover the fuel under normal operating conditions.

    “There must be a large leak,” Junichi Matsumoto, a general manager at the utility told a news conference.

    “The fuel pellets likely melted and fell, and in the process may have damaged…the pressure vessel itself and created a hole,” he added.

    … Based on the amount of water that is remaining around the partially melted and collapsed fuel, Matsumoto estimated that the pressure vessel had developed a hole of several centimeters in diameter.”



  256. Given the amount of shaking that the reactors got with the earthquake, I’d guess that a pipework fracture in one of the lower water inlet pipes may have been responsible for the initial leak. If it was a big enough crack, it may have resulted in the core draining into the dry well over the space of a few hours – particularly once backup power was lost.
    I would have thought that some damage to pipework would have occurred with a magnitude 9.1 quake, and it’s certainly been the biggest concern I’ve had. Note, this is all my own conjecture & opinion – I don’t recall seeing anything talking about the condition of the pipework around & in the reactors.


  257. All the “plugging” of leaks is happening at the downstream/downhill end, they’re making the leaking water slow down, spread out, and soak into the ground under and around the plant, when they plug the cable trenches through which it has been running out directly to the ocean.

    In the press accounts when you see “liquid glass” they are referring to sodium silicate, aka “water glass” — it sets up as a soft solid. Kind of like Jello gelatin.

    Video: http://www.japanprobe.com/2011/04/07/video-how-sodium-silicate-water-glass-stopped-fukushimas-radioactive-water-leak/


  258. “… So-called water entombment operations to fill the containment chamber with water are continuing in an effort to cool the reactor. But the water level in the chamber cannot be clearly determined, and water is likely leaking from it, the utility said.

    TEPCO said the temperature in the pressure vessel is stabilized at 100 C to 120 C but that the water-entombment plan, in which water was expected to be filled to about 1 meter above the top of the fuel rods, needs to be reconsidered. The company is considering increasing the amount of water injected into the pressure vessel, which currently stands at about 8 tons per hour….”



  259. A bit more from the same yomiuri page:

    “… The company believes that most of the 190 tons of water injected every day is leaking from the pressure vessel, which is likely to be damaged more seriously than previously thought.

    More than 10,000 cubic meters of water had been injected into the reactor as of Thursday, exceeding the combined 360-cubic-meter capacity of the pressure vessel and the 7,800-cubic-meter capacity of the containment chamber.

    It is highly likely that water is leaking from both the pressure vessel and containment chamber and flowing into underground parts of the reactor building and the adjacent turbine building, TEPCO officials said.

    To proceed with the water-entombment, it is necessary to accurately grasp the water level in the containment chamber and the conditions of pipes that take in or release cooling water, experts said.
    (May. 13, 2011)”


  260. So in hindsight, it looks like all three scrammed reactors at the site leaked their primary coolant early on, and still leak water as it’s being pumped in.

    When they say they “sealed the leak” they mean they’ve blocked water flowing out down by the ocean–but that means it has to be going somewhere else.

    “… Tepco said on Friday that the discovery of leaking water from the stricken plant’s No.1 reactor could complicate its plan to set up a more permanent cooling system for the facility. Some outside experts have been skeptical for weeks about Japan’s plan to stabilize the Fukushima Daiichi reactors by January.

    Kaieda said a delay in that timetable was now likely.

    “I think this is a major factor that will require a change in Tokyo Electric’s road map for bringing the situation under control,” Kaieda said.

    Earlier in the week, Tepco said it had sealed a leak of radioactive water outside the plant’s No.3 reactor. The No.2 reactor developed similar leaks which were sealed in April with liquid glass and other substances….”



  261. http://www.npr.org/series/134592647/explainers-inside-japans-nuclear-crisisl

    A series of web pages: “An exploration of the science and health questions raised by the situation in Japan”

    Excerpt following is from:

    Q: “What do you think about the idea of studying health effects from the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident?”

    A: “I think it would be very unwise. There just isn’t any evidence that there are enough exposed people at high-enough doses to expect to see any health effects that are measurable.”

    Q: “But even if it showed no health effects, wouldn’t it be a good idea to use this opportunity to settle that question — or at least add more evidence on what low-level radiation doses actually do or don’t do?”

    A: It just wouldn’t work. We have no idea what actual doses people got. I would not expect to see significant new data emerge from that type of project. And it would take 30, 40 or 50 years to get an answer….”


  262. Running out of battery power?
    No worries in the USA now — we have hand-operated cooling water pumps for backup.


    “The NRC told members of Congressman Henry Waxman’s staff that … this situation would have been avoided at a US boiling water reactor because operators would have been able to manually operate the RCIC pumps, avoiding a core meltdown with an hour to spare….
    … personnel would need to physically open and close valves in a room in the reactor building with no ventilation and no lights, and to measure the water level in the reactor vessel without any electrically powered instrumentation available…”


  263. Coverage continues; this is from a Tokyo blogger who has posts going back to the beginning, some with details and pointers to sources.


    “… Even after pumping more than 10,000 m3 of water, the water level in the 7,400 m3 containment is still below half, not even reaching the bottom of the RPV, let alone its top.

    If the water level doesn’t rise further because of leaks then it seems quite unlikely that it will be possible to repair those leaks using manual labour, especially at dose levels of 10 millisievert and more per hour. Even when it looked like the plan might work for unit 1, it was questionable if the same procedure could then be applied to unit 2 or 3, which were already assumed to have a leaky containment.

    TEPCO has not yet discussed any alternative plan if flooding the containment won’t work for some or all of the units….”


  264. Not hand operated pumps, hand operated valves. You couldn’t pump enough by hand, we humans are too feeble for that. Steam driven pumps using decay heat generated steam work well. The valves will still need actuation. Manual can be done. The disadvantage to this is the hostile environment to humans, and while manual valve control is a useful worst case scenario backup, I’d prefer a much increased battery capacity.

    I’ve asked a nuclear operator about this, and it appears only half a kWe is needed for the valves and controls. 1 month of steam driven pump decay heat removal (300 kWh) would thus only cost a few hundred thousand dollars in advanced submarine class lithium batteries. These can be put inside containment since they have no exhaust. So easy to protect them. A direct DC connection and you’re all set. These BWRs apparently make enough steam to run the turbine driven pumps for a month or longer…


  265. Cyril there are obvious technical solutions to the majority of problems. in Fukushima, a higher wall towards the sea and better placement of the diesels would have been a good start.

    the real problem is, that the nuclear industry is trying to avoid even small costs and prefers to accept higher risks.

    at the moment, as shown by the links provided by hank above, we know that water is leaking. we know that we are pumping in water that does vanish. this is in contradiction to what Barry wrote in the original post:


    “. Reports indicate that some fuel melted and fell to the lower containment sections of units 1-3, where it dispersed in a fairly uniform residue — but this does not seem to have breached containment in any of the reactor pressure vessels. ”


    containment has been breached.



  266. A higher wall would be good, but there’s always a possibility of a freak tsunami that just happens to be a meter higher than the wall. I’d prefer to just assume the plant will get flooded and make it resistant to that by having all electric components submarine grade and having diversity in decay heat removal, such as turbine driven pumps with lithium batteries, diesel generators, and gas turbines placed higher up with seperate electric circuits. This minimizes common mode failures (Fukushima is a giant common mode failure).

    Its not fair to claim that nuclear industries are avoiding small costs. Chinese solar companies are dumping carginogenic byproducts into rivers and soils so that they can make a penny. Companies are in it for the money, whether solar or nuclear, and regulation must be enforced to prevent external costs as much as possible. Yet the external costs of nuclear are the lowest of any form of electric generation. Solar has 10x the lifecycle materials requirement which has severe external costs because of mining and manufacturing impact (they are very large).

    We need to make technical adjustments to the old plants and keep them running because replacement with fossil or energy-that-is-never-there (both boil down to the same) is unacceptable, it will increase external costs. Meanwhile we need to look to the future and build modern Gen III+ plants with passive features while developing and engineering Gen IV to commercialiation stage.


  267. @Hank Roberts 10:33 AM

    Thanks for your link to the interview with Evan Douple, associate chief of research for the Hiroshima-based Radiation Effects Research Foundation. I think Douple’s closing remarks captured the scientific viewpoint:

    Given what you said about the impossibility of doing the kind of long-term study you mounted of the atom-bomb survivors, can we learn anything from the current episode?

    On the basis of our current estimates, there shouldn’t be measurable numbers of cancers. So you won’t be able to count them, ever. But once the dose estimates are put together and extrapolated, you should be able to make a crude estimate of the health effects, based on the RERF data. And I think that estimate will surprise a lot of people.

    And they’ll be surprised because?

    They’re so low.


  268. The Atomic Power Review blog is reporting that Unit 1 definitely lost containment and speculates that a corium/concrete reaction may have been the source of the hydrogen that produced the explosion that destroyed the reactor building.


    “NHK is carrying the report, from TEPCO apparently, that there is a hole in the bottom head of the pressure vessel at No. 1 plant.”

    “TEPCO has reported over 3000 tons of highly contaminated water in No. 1 plant turbine building, with the amount increasing fairly rapidly. There is now absolutely no doubt in any quarters that TEPCO has lost containment on this plant.”


  269. Oh my god we’ve lost containment! We’re all going to DIE!

    DIE I tell you!

    Oh wait. No one’s dying of radiation.

    Ted, you might want to check out how BWRs work. It’s a direct cycle – the primary circuit runs all through the turbine hall, condensers systems, and back.


  270. > the interview with Evan Douple

    Exactly. That NPR web page on the science is doing a very good job presenting the risk assessments, explaining how _low_ the risks are.

    It’s refreshing to see a site discussing the science and free the ranting from “either side” of “the debate” — no sides, no debate. Just the facts as best we can figure them out.


  271. Ted Nation, if you don’t want hyperbola response, try posting something new.
    Steady up Cyril – this is how things get inflamed. I have appended a note to Ted’s comment.


  272. Hyperbole is attitude; hyperbola is trajectory.

    Thanks bks for the link. I wonder how long the government and utility have known that little fact.

    Everything we thought was based on the notion that the plant survived the quake. Sounds like they’ve known for a while that wasn’t the case.

    No wonder the other old plants are being looked at so carefully, the event apparently proved their weakness rather than their strength as we’d been thinking for the past month — if that report is correct.

    —-> SUGGESTION <—

    READ the cite before posting your disbelief.



  273. Amazing flurry of news stories now.


    “… “Without the injection of water [by fire trucks], a more disastrous event could have ensued,” said Mr. Matsumoto.

    Tepco also released its analysis of a hydrogen explosion that occurred at unit No. 4, despite the fact that the unit was in maintenance and that nuclear fuel stored in the storage pool was largely intact.

    According to Tepco, hyrogen produced in the overheating of the reactor core at unit 3 flowed through a gas-treatment line and entered unit No. 4 because of a breakdown of valves. Hydrogen leaked from ducts in the second, third and fourth floors of the reactor building at unit No. 4 and ignited a massive explosion. …”

    15 May 2011 Last updated at 08:46 ET

    “Japanese engineers have abandoned their latest attempt to stabilise a stricken reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant….”

    Japan left with no choice but to widen nuke evacuation zone
    May 16, 2011 1:12AM


    I wonder how stable the foundations of the reactor buildings can be, with all the water that’s been poured through them that’s disappeared into the ground. They say there’s an impermeable layer some distance below the plant. Either the water’s pooling on top of that, or running off at that level along whatever slope that impermeable layer takes it.

    They must be planning or doing some drilling to try to locate and maybe pump out the contaminated groundwater– but they won’t likely get to that until they get the buildings pumped out so they can go in and try to deal with the reactor cores.

    Let’s hope the foundations of the reactor buildings are very, very stable even when they’re sitting in mud. Liquefaction from another quake or settling would be very bad news.


  274. I’m finding bits of what was apparently a long press conference; has anyone seen a transcript of the whole session anywhere?

    Another bit:

    “TOKYO (Kyodo) — Data taken at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on the night of March 11 showing a high level of radiation at a reactor building suggest the possibility that key facilities there may have been damaged by the quake itself …. a utility source said Saturday.

    The revelation may call for a review of preparedness against quakes at various nuclear power stations … as they have [been] assuming that reactor facilities at the plant were unscathed by trembling.

    On March 11 …. Workers entered the No. 1 reactor building in the night to assess damage to the reactor but a few seconds later their dosimeter’s alarm was triggered, according to the sources at Tokyo Electric Power Co. The building was believed to be filled with steam with high radiation dose, prompting the workers to evacuate….
    … a result suggesting a large amount of radioactive materials from nuclear fuel in the reactor was already released [by containment failure; cooling failure but an intact pressure vessel] is thought to require a much longer time before such building is filled with steam.

    “A source at TEPCO admitted the possibility of key facilities having been compromised before the tsunami waves, saying, “The quake’s trembling may have caused damage to the pressure vessel or pipes.””

    My guess — the large scale evacuation we’ve seen happened because this was known, but the facts had been kept from the public for “reassurance” while evacuating. Just my guess. Words above in square brackets are mine, trying to clarify the very muddy language found in the translations.


  275. Hank Roberts, on 16 May 2011 at 3:57 AM said:

    Let’s hope the foundations of the reactor buildings are very, very stable even when they’re sitting in mud. Liquefaction from another quake or settling would be very bad news.

    According to my limited knowledge of geology as a resident of a subduction zone, liquefaction is associated with specific soil types.

    University of Washington Article on soils susceptible to liquefaction -http://www.ce.washington.edu/~liquefaction/html/how/susceptible.html


  276. http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-04-cites-liquefaction-key-japanese-earthquake.html
    “… a significant level of soil “liquefaction” that has surprised researchers with its widespread severity, a new analysis shows.
    The findings also raise questions about whether existing building codes and engineering technologies are adequately accounting for this phenomenon …”

    The soil wasn’t saturated at the time of the earthquake. Is it now, after water has been pumped into the area? I dunno. Any soil that’s saturated behaves very differently than the same soil when dry. It’s very rare for this kind of artificial flood to soak a large site; when that happens, it causes problems.

    It’s the silence about this that bothers me. Surely someone there has tried a test well and figured out where the water is going and how wet how much of the site has become.

    But egad, they knew the first day that they had more radiation in the building than could be explained by the ‘venting steam’ story that’s been spun out until yesterday, and now we know that the claim given for all this time was “reassuring” but false.

    Maybe reassurance is all we’re going to get.

    Remember this? http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/03/has_fukushima_daiichi_reactor.php


  277. Re: Core totally demolished at Fukushima Daiichi No. 1
    Will Davis has a good summary of the latest TEPCO releases. Will notes that even though it appears there was quake damage to RPV and PCV, that the tsunami remains the root cause of TEPCO’s troubles with unit 1 – because of the SBO station blackout.


    It isn’t clear what the new TEPCO strategy will be. It is clear that all of the injected water is exiting as contaminated water into the building and soils.


  278. (deleted personal opinion on motives)
    The headline writers are getting more caustic.

    This one’s about Unit 3:


    ” TEPCO concealed radiation data before explosion at No. 3 reactor 2011/05/14

    Tokyo Electric Power Co. concealed data showing spikes in radiation levels at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March, one day before a hydrogen explosion injured seven workers.

    The Asahi Shimbun obtained a 100-page internal TEPCO report containing minute-to-minute data on radiation levels at the plant as well as pressure and water levels inside the No. 3 reactor from March 11 to April 30.

    The data has never been released by the company that operates the stricken plant.

    The unpublished information shows that at 1:17 p.m. on March 13, 300 millisieverts of radiation per hour was detected inside a double-entry door at the No. 3 reactor building. At 2:31 p.m., the radiation level was measured at 300 millisieverts or higher per hour to the north of the door. …”


  279. Anybody know the plumbing of the sewage systems in Japan? Old US systems mixed stormwater and septic together, but those have mostly been replaced by separate systems to keep toxics washed off streets and roofs out of the septic sewers (except during big storms).

    I ask because I’m wondering how the fallout got into the sewage systems– I’m guessing they have the old combined system and the radioactivity is from rainfall going into sewer systems.

    “Sewage plants in Fukushima perplexed over how to dispose of highly radioactive sludge – Mainichi, May13”

    Source of the story is:

    I found it here:


  280. http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110514p2a00m0na014000c.html

    “… They washed with special shampoo at the nuclear crisis operations center about 20 kilometers away from the plant. However, three of them were unable to completely decontaminate themselves. They tried again at a TEPCO facility but failed to completely remove radioactive substances from their bodies. TEPCO subsequently issued a certificate specifying the areas of their bodies contaminated with radioactive material, and they returned to work….

    TEPCO said the certificate specifying the areas of workers’ bodies contaminated is issued if high levels of radiation are detected during screening, but claimed that such workers are completely decontaminated before returning to work.”


  281. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-16/kan-says-timetable-to-resolve-nuclear-crisis-hasn-t-changed-1-.html
    Kan Says Timetable to Resolve Nuclear Crisis Hasn’t Changed
    By Yuji Okada and Takashi Hirokawa – May 15, 2011 8:59 PM PT
    “… yesterday Tepco confirmed the No. 1 fuel assembly melted within 16 hours of the disaster.

    The cores of reactors 2 and 3 may also have melted by the same amount, Junichi Matsumoto, a general manager at Tepco, said today. The company will make an announcement on the status of the two reactors later, he said, without giving a timeframe….

    “In terms of achieving cold-shutdown status within six to nine months, I believe we should be able to proceed without changing the timeframe,” Kan said today in parliament. “Tokyo Electric will announce a revision to its road map tomorrow and the government will also issue its view on how to go forward with the plan.” “


  282. sorry, I failed to repeat the full cite; what you deleted was attributed to the source fully cited in the immediately previous note– immediately above.

    I didn’t realize you’d deleted it til today.

    I’ll duplicate the full cites from now on when I put quotes into separate posts.

    Seems to me nobody else here is following events at Fukushima, so I’ll quit commenting til Barry starts a fresh thread and updates his own discussion.


  283. What I really want to know, with the weekend’s talk of full-core disruption/meltdown at reactor #1, is why the hell there was that stupid “70% damage becomes 55% ” story two weeks earlier. Did I miss something in translation?


  284. @Hank Roberts

    Seems to me nobody else here is following events at Fukushima, so I’ll quit commenting til Barry starts a fresh thread and updates his own discussion.

    Hank I’m following Fukushima, including all your comments — which have said what needed to be said, so I’ve had nothing to add.
    I had same question. A possible explanation of the difference is the first access to #1 control room. John Timmer at Ars Technica summarized the latest TEPCO release yesterday, covering much of the same ground as Will Davis (that I linked yesterday). But also including some info that was new to me:

    The new analysis was enabled by the recent installation of air purifiers that let personnel reenter the reactor control room for the first time. Once inside, they were able to recalibrate some of the instruments that have been monitoring the reactor core; the revised numbers have enabled TEPCO to better understand what happened in the wake of the tsunami.

    Timmer also linked the new TEPCO slide deck. That presentation is worth a careful read. Note the “Temperatures around RPV” chart at the end with diagram of sensor locations.
    The bottom line from TEPCO is
    1. RPV cooling water leak is likely
    2. RPV significant bottom damage unlikely (inferred from temp/pressure data)
    3. The corium on bottom of RPV “considered to be sufficiently cooled inside the RPV”
    Not discussed are the leak(s) from the PCV, where the contaminated water is going, and what they are going to do next. In particular how are they going to achieve recirculation cooling?


  285. I’ll do a fresh open thread on Fukushima, with a brief summary of current conditions, tomorrow. Thanks to those who’ve otherwise been using this thread for its intended purpose, and continue to post updates. Just be aware that a few have not got through moderation, because of their excessive use of “OMG, this new finding is catastrophic, the authorities ought to be hung, drawn and quartered” type language. Please, stick to the facts, folks.


  286. Did you erase those earlier posts becuause providing a link to the source in one post, then saying “from the previously cited source” is unacceptable?

    It would help to understand why you’re deleting direct quotes from identified sources reachable by a click on a link.

    You want the full cite in every post, not in the prior post? Is that the idea?
    As Barry has explained, commenters are not supposed to slip in a quick one-liner accompanied by a link or reference. More detailed comment that shows you have read and understood all the suggested links and your own evaluation, not just slabs of quotes from the articles, is required. Otherwise it is just like a news-feed. In one instance I deleted a comment that looked to be outside these criteria, but I realised after that it was a link that you had inadvertently left out of a previous comment so that was an addition to your previous longer post. Sorry for my mistake there. Re-post the link and I will append it to your relevant (remind me of the time of that posting)comment.


  287. Always easier commenting on problems in hindsight.

    One of the significant issues seems to be the inability to have good data on status of reactors post ‘problem’.

    I am hopeful that later models of reactors incorporate temperature and pressure sensors and radiometers that are resistant/survivable post calamity. In this instance the exposure of fuel rods would always have resulted in hydrogen explosion. Design for that

    The complete exposure of fuel rods seems to have occurred within a very short time and the cascade of events including explosions was projected. The subsequent actions over the next month showed that the information data gathering systems were not up to expectations (especially those of the public).

    Lessons learnt seem to be shut down or take off stream >50% of nuclear reactors in japan – I hope that they are okay, but more importantly that useful modifications can be put in place. It is not enough to ensure that each recator will survive the next calamity. It is imperative that each facility can be MANAGED post calamity.


  288. forgive me if this was covered previously but I have not been able to locate any comments indicating such… assuming damage to #1 is factual and there are holes in the bottom of the RPV and there is damage to the containment, allowing water pumped into the reactor to leak out, what good is it to recirculate the water? don’t they have to plug the leaks as well?


  289. I believe TEPCO has now admitted that operators on #1 turned off the ECCS after the quake due to low pressure, which may have exacerbated the issue when the Tsunami hit… several hours it was apparently down.
    Schla – please remember that on BNC you are required to submit references to support your “beliefs” that are quoted as facts.. Please do so in future comments or risk them being deleted as per BNC Comments Policy.


  290. schla, on 18 May 2011 at 5:41 AM said:

    allowing water pumped into the reactor to leak out, what good is it to recirculate the water? don’t they have to plug the leaks as well?

    In laymans terms-
    Instead of a cold bath, the fuel is getting more of a cold shower and rather then the water being pumped out via the designated drain line it’s being leaked out by via an unexpected hole in the tub into the basement.

    At some point they will need to plug the leaks in the containment vessel.

    A ‘closed loop’ system is preferable in order to minimize the quantity of radioactive water.


  291. @harrywr2, thanks for the link. In the 17 May TEPCO Progress Status

    Click to access 110517e2.pdf

    I see for the first time the plan to reuse the contaminated water leaking into the turbine building — which should address my concern that they would be overwhelmed by the volume of contaminated leakage. On this issue they say:

    Issue 1. Reactors: revision of prioritized countermeasures due to the coolant leakage

    ・ Entered into R/B in Unit1 after improving work environment. Confirmed status of R/B and calibrated instrumentations (reactor water level, etc.)

    ・ As a result, it turned out that the coolant leakage from PCV occurred in Unit 1 as well as in Unit 2. There will be the same risk in Unit 3.

    ・ Accordingly, as a major countermeasures to achieve “cold shutdown” in Step 2, revision was made to prioritize “establishment of circulating injection cooling (please refer to the figure in upper right)” over flooding operation (flooding the PCV up to the top of active fuel). In circulating injection cooling, contaminated water accumulated in buildings is reused to be injected into the PCV after being processed.


  292. I like David’s point that the key monitoring instruments need to be as robust as possible to allow for accurate data collection during and after an event. That’s an upgrade well worth considering.

    I couldn’t disagree more that “Lessons learnt seem to be shut down or take off stream >50% of nuclear reactors in japan”… this would be an overreaction and just make a bad situation worse.


  293. This daily updates from TEPCO is also worth reading. TEPCO refutes, with rather convincing evidence in my opinion, a former researcher’s claim that the Unit 3 had another meltdown 10 days later which caused molten fuel leakages out of the PV. This has been widely reported in the papers.

    In the Asahi Shimbun article titled “Report suggests second meltdown at reactor at Fukushima plant”, it is reported that Unit 3 might have melted twice. TEPCO’s position is shown below:

    “A second meltdown likely occurred in the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, a scenario that could hinder the current strategy to end the crisis, a scientist said.
    In that meltdown, 10 days after the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake, the fuel may have leaked to the surrounding containment vessel, according to a report by Fumiya Tanabe, a former senior researcher at what was then the government-affiliated Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute. “

    (TEPCO’s comment)
    – As for the status of the reactor core around March 21, even though water injection was not sufficient, we do not believe additional large amount of radioactive materials were released into the PCV from damaged fuels based on the fact that indication of CAMS in the drywell had been decreasing during this period.
    – On May 24, we have reported reactor core status in the “Analysis and evaluation of the operation record and accident record of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station at the time of Tohoku-Chihou-Taiheiyou-Oki-Earthquake “. In this report, assuming the reactor water level was not maintained, the analysis showed that the RPV was damaged although part of fuel remained in the vessel.
    – The result of the analysis and plant parameters indicated majority of the reactor core was damaged and moved downward from its original position but we believe most of the fuel is under stable cooling.

    “Between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. on March 21, the pressure within the pressure vessel of the No. 3 reactor core increased sharply to about 110 atmospheres, likely caused by an explosion within the pressure vessel due to a lack of cooling of the fuel. That was probably the start of the second meltdown, Tanabe said.”

    (TEPCO’s comment)
    – In our plant parameter release as of 5:00 on March 21, as we described “at 3:58 reactor pressure indicator switched from B to A due to malfunction of the pressure indicator”, we do not think the pressure increase to 110 atmospheres was actual pressure response.

    “As for the sudden pressure increase, Tanabe points to the possibility that the clump of melted fuel in the pressure vessel may have fallen apart due to a lack of cooling. The magma-like substance with high temperatures may have leaked out of the vessel and emitted large amounts of steam when it came in contact with water. “
    (TEPCO’s comment)
    – If “clump of melted fuel ・・・ leaked out of the vessel ・・・” was correct, very large increase of radiation level in the PCV is expected. However, we do not see any such increase from the drywell CAMS data. The CAMS data shows decrease during this period.

    (Full article)

    TEPCO Washington Office: 202-457-0790
    Kenji Matsuo, Director and General Manager
    Ikuo Nishimura, Deputy General Manager,
    Masayuki Yamamoto, Manager, Nuclear Power Programs


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