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Thread: Implications of Fukushima

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    Implications of Fukushima

    I propose to put such news in here to avoid polluting the status report thread.



    Germany to Shut Seven Reactors

    Germany said it would shut down its seven oldest nuclear reactors during a three-month "safety review," a surprise reversal by Chancellor Angela Merkel whose government just months ago vouched for the plants' safety.
    Ms. Merkel said production at seven reactors built before 1980 will be wound down before June 15 as the government reviews a plan it set last fall to extend the life of some of the country's 17 reactors by as much as 14 years. The government said it hasn't decided whether to restart the plants after the moratorium, but given the deep public skepticism over the aging plants, bringing them back online would be extremely controversial.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...ws_us_business

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    This probably is more politics than science. I wouldn't be surprised to see knee jerking going on. I intend to write to my MP, who also happens to be important in the government, after the situation is resolved to make the case for not overreacting.

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    Although, having just seen a pic of a Daily Mail front page, there could be a serious problem. The Daily Mail is an awful, awful publication but it is widely read. The crazy spinning toward the hysterical will have an impact on the public psyche. Sensibly, all our new planned reactors are on existing sites, so the locals are more accustomed to it and even dependent on it for their economy, so it there may be a chance where it counts.

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    It's too early to tell how things will turn out in Japan. But, if they can succeed, the argument can be that the systems worked. Then nuclear power supporters can go about how that natural disaster can't happen wherever they are, and that the plants were old and newer ones are even better and safer. Moreover, new plants can have additional safety systems for the spent fuel after what was learned in Japan and even make the argument for reprocessing.

    Personally, I think it was a bad idea to have the plants that close to shore and sea level. They should have buried them underground and further inland and up the hill.
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    Being close to water is needed for tertiary cooling unless you want to have the large unsightly cooling towers.
    It's also what made control possible, since there was a ready source of much water even with a broken infrastructure.
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    Maybe you could argue that having too many units in one area was a problem. The reason why everything has been going wrong in Daiichi is because problems in one cause problems in the neighbour eg the hydrogen blasts. It's kind of the Apollo 13 situation. Oxygen tank 2 blows up damaging oxygen tank 1 so afterwards, they learn to keep another oxygen tank on the other side of service module. Redundancy through isolation. I'll be interested to see if anyone picks up on that.

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    If it's true that the loss of coolant occurred because the tsunami took out either the diesel generators or their fuel tanks, then the weak link must have been the estimate of the worst possible tsunami. I'm sure such an estimate was made, even 40 years ago, but the science probably was not very advanced. I worked on a Preliminary Safety Analysis for a proposed plant in the Philippines in 1976, my very first assignement. I worked on the Probable Maximum Typhoon, but others in my group developed the Probable Maximum Tsunami. IIRC, it ran up 15 meters on an open coast; the typhoon wave runup was similar. The plant grade was set at 18 meters. That plant was never built. I can't tell from photos of Fukushima how high above sea level it is, but I fear the original designers were not conservative enough in addressing the tsunami hazard. I would be extremely surprised if they overlooked it.

    Correction, the Philippines plant was built but never operated, never loaded with fuel.
    Last edited by MAPNUT; 2011-Mar-17 at 02:22 PM. Reason: Correction

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    The tsunami wave that hit the plant measured at least 7 metres in height, compared to the maximum 6.5 metre case the plant was designed to cope with.
    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS...3_1303111.html

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    The idiocy continues:

    Minister-President of German Land Brandenburg, Matthias Platzeck and representatives of Berlin authorities have expressed hope that after the nuclear catastrophe in Japan the Polish government would reconsider its plans to build the country's first nuclear power plant, DPA reported.
    [...]
    Meanwhile, spokesperson for the Berlin Senate Richard Meng said that "nuclear energy is not an option." "One can only hope that the nuclear catastrophe in Japan will prompt a change of mind regarding nuclear energy," Meng has told Der Tagesspiegel newspaper. He added that this change of thinking should lead to the departure from nuclear energy in Germany and the resignation from plans to build nuclear power plants in Poland.
    http://en.trend.az/capital/energy/1845959.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by HenrikOlsen View Post
    Being close to water is needed for tertiary cooling unless you want to have the large unsightly cooling towers.
    It's also what made control possible, since there was a ready source of much water even with a broken infrastructure.
    They can pipe water up through pipes and hold it in tanks/ponds/cisterns nearby . The plant near me is two miles from the river from which it gets its water, but that plant also has cooling towers and it's a PWR too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAPNUT View Post
    If it's true that the loss of coolant occurred because the tsunami took out either the diesel generators or their fuel tanks, then the weak link must have been the estimate of the worst possible tsunami. I'm sure such an estimate was made, even 40 years ago, but the science probably was not very advanced. I worked on a Preliminary Safety Analysis for a proposed plant in the Philippines in 1976, my very first assignement. I worked on the Probable Maximum Typhoon, but others in my group developed the Probable Maximum Tsunami. IIRC, it ran up 15 meters on an open coast; the typhoon wave runup was similar. The plant grade was set at 18 meters. That plant was never built. I can't tell from photos of Fukushima how high above sea level it is, but I fear the original designers were not conservative enough in addressing the tsunami hazard. I would be extremely surprised if they overlooked it.
    Also remember that the Fukushima area ubsided by as much as 75cm(2 feet), which would put such estimates badly off.
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    But will those pipes survive a quake? Will the tanks?
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    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    Well you know how vulnerable Poland is to tsunamis.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HenrikOlsen View Post
    But will those pipes survive a quake? Will the tanks?
    I suspect it's easier to make pipes more quake resistant than tsunami resistant. Ponds would probably survive okay; water tanks might take more doing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glom View Post
    Well you know how vulnerable Poland is to tsunamis.
    The fun part is the plant in question is to be located quite far from Germany, in North-Eastern Poland (near the border with the Russian Kaliningrad). It gets even better, when you consider that the Russians are very willing to build a plant on their side of the border to serve the same customers. I mean, if we move a nuke plant across the fence then it magically becomes safer, right?

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    Quote Originally Posted by HenrikOlsen View Post
    Being close to water is needed for tertiary cooling unless you want to have the large unsightly cooling towers.
    It's also what made control possible, since there was a ready source of much water even with a broken infrastructure.
    A nuclear power plant happened to be my literal neighbour (we used to play at the fence surrounding the site and sleigh of the site's dikes) had 2 huge cooling towers. (175 meters high, 130m wide at their thickest). I loved their elegant curves. I still get attracted to women's curves due to seeing these cooling towers in my youth. OK, maybe that has a different reason. But anyway, I like the sight of (some) nuclear cooling towers. Still I like my power plants close to a huge water resource, just in case. My neighbour's plant had this, as he was right next to the river (which 2 of the 4 reactors used directly without cooling tower for their cooling).

    Burying plants underground might get the reactor vessel closer to ground water, which isn't safe in case of meltdown. I can also imagine that it might make it more difficult to assure accessibility and functionality after an earthquake. So putting the plant above ground right next to the shore was a logical decision. They just didn't stand the combination of a freak earthquake with freak tsunami that well.
    With sufficient thrust, water towers fly just fine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HenrikOlsen View Post
    Also remember that the Fukushima area ubsided by as much as 75cm(2 feet), which would put such estimates badly off.
    Is ground movement even considered when they make estimates?

    I'm concerned that we're heading back to the 70s all over again, just when the word "nuclear" was beginning to be something okay in the public eye. Hopefully facts about this can be used in a educational and positive way to emphasize that even in combined catastrophes, designs do work to some degree, and learning what didn't work can only help future developments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicolas View Post
    Burying plants underground might get the reactor vessel closer to ground water, which isn't safe in case of meltdown. I can also imagine that it might make it more difficult to assure accessibility and functionality after an earthquake. So putting the plant above ground right next to the shore was a logical decision. They just didn't stand the combination of a freak earthquake with freak tsunami that well.
    I would be worried about groundwater too, but experience shows that a meltdown most probably would never progress that far. I'm also not worried about quakes causing failures in a buried structure that would be as over-engineered as a nuclear reactor containment building.
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    It seems to me that the only real problem here is that perfection was expected. These reactors withstood a truly immense earthquake and then an extremely large tsunami. Their 'that should never happen' failure mode is now in play, and so far, things are going about as well as expected. None of the reactors has cracked yet, and probably wont. The total amount of radiation released is only dangerous if you were trying to get irradiated.

    Assuming one of the plants dosent fully fail, this is just a TMI situation, where hype by the media has probably already killed more than the event itself. History is going to list this as a very expensive, hard to clean up footnote.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    The fun part is the plant in question is to be located quite far from Germany, in North-Eastern Poland (near the border with the Russian Kaliningrad). It gets even better, when you consider that the Russians are very willing to build a plant on their side of the border to serve the same customers. I mean, if we move a nuke plant across the fence then it magically becomes safer, right?
    Fence technology has come a long way.

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    We only know what we've been told so far by the Japanese government, nuclear industry spokespeople and a very sensationalist media. It's too early to make decisions about the future based on Fukushima. In coming weeks, full knowledge of the chain of events and weaknesses of the systems should become public knowledge. One thing we do know is that was a very inherently dangerous location to build a nuclear plant, especially one with multiple reactors.
    "There are powers in this universe beyond anything you know. There is much you have to learn. Go to your homes. Go and give thought to the mysteries of the universe. I will leave you now, in peace." --Galaxy Being

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicolas View Post
    They just didn't stand the combination of a freak earthquake with freak tsunami that well.
    Call me ignorant, but I thought that earthquakes out at sea generally will cause some sort of tsunami, and so wouldn't a freakishly large earthquake be expected to cause a similarly large tsunami?

    Another thought - it doesn't seem their safety margins are very impressive, if they thought they might get a 7m wave, so they placed it at 8m above sea level. That sort of safety margin wouldn't fly in most other construction, why does it in the building of a nuclear plant?

    Don't get me wrong, I think nuclear plants are likely a big part of the future of power generation, I just wonder about possible skimping on safety for the financial gain.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Glom View Post
    Maybe you could argue that having too many units in one area was a problem. The reason why everything has been going wrong in Daiichi is because problems in one cause problems in the neighbour eg the hydrogen blasts. It's kind of the Apollo 13 situation. Oxygen tank 2 blows up damaging oxygen tank 1 so afterwards, they learn to keep another oxygen tank on the other side of service module. Redundancy through isolation. I'll be interested to see if anyone picks up on that.
    I think you're correct about that. However, the fact that multiple reactors are put on one site is a common thing in Japan (and probably elsewhere), and I think there are good reasons for doing it. It's extremely difficult and expensive to get communities to agree to host a nuclear plant, so once you get that approval it's much easier to expand the site than to get permission for a new site. Of course, there are risks, which we are seeing now.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Luckmeister View Post
    We only know what we've been told so far by the Japanese government, nuclear industry spokespeople and a very sensationalist media. It's too early to make decisions about the future based on Fukushima. In coming weeks, full knowledge of the chain of events and weaknesses of the systems should become public knowledge. One thing we do know is that was a very inherently dangerous location to build a nuclear plant, especially one with multiple reactors.
    Do we know that? Sure, we know about the earthquake and tsunami now, but was it known, based on the geology, that this location in Japan was an exceptionally riskier loacation to place a plant than other parts of Japan?

    I agree that the engineering evaluation will have to wait, and the decisions on how to improve safety should be based on that, but what I fear is that this will be used as an excuse to stop nuclear plants, and not improve them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    Do we know that? Sure, we know about the earthquake and tsunami now, but was it known, based on the geology, that this location in Japan was an exceptionally riskier loacation to place a plant than other parts of Japan?

    I agree that the engineering evaluation will have to wait, and the decisions on how to improve safety should be based on that, but what I fear is that this will be used as an excuse to stop nuclear plants, and not improve them.
    And that is what I'm cautioning not to jump the gun on. You're right, in hindsight it was a terrible location for the plant but anywhere on the Japanese coast would have risks. I guess the big lesson is that the plants must be more bulletproof, which is what industry people are saying is the case with newer designed plants.
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    Quote Originally Posted by korjik View Post
    It seems to me that the only real problem here is that perfection was expected. These reactors withstood a truly immense earthquake and then an extremely large tsunami. Their 'that should never happen' failure mode is now in play, and so far, things are going about as well as expected. None of the reactors has cracked yet, and probably wont. The total amount of radiation released is only dangerous if you were trying to get irradiated.

    Assuming one of the plants dosent fully fail, this is just a TMI situation, where hype by the media has probably already killed more than the event itself. History is going to list this as a very expensive, hard to clean up footnote.
    Excellent point. Our current (western? US?) society assumes a zero risk tolerant posture. If there is any chance of failure, it is unacceptable. While tragic, sometimes freak occurrences occur. To insure against the extremely improbable is cost prohibitive. My opinion is that it is likely the designers of the Japanese nuclear plants made the correct safety assumptions, they just rolled snake eyes. 10 times in a row.

    I suspect after the accounting for this tragedy is done, we'll find that nuclear power has a better 10 year track record than traditional fossil fuel power. In the same way flying is safer than driving, it catches the eye when the death toll has a spike, rather than the low, consistent rumble.
    Last edited by evilbill; 2011-Mar-16 at 05:50 AM. Reason: grammar... and speling

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    Quote Originally Posted by korjik View Post
    It seems to me that the only real problem here is that perfection was expected. These reactors withstood a truly immense earthquake and then an extremely large tsunami. Their 'that should never happen' failure mode is now in play, and so far, things are going about as well as expected. None of the reactors has cracked yet, and probably wont. The total amount of radiation released is only dangerous if you were trying to get irradiated.

    Assuming one of the plants dosent fully fail, this is just a TMI situation, where hype by the media has probably already killed more than the event itself. History is going to list this as a very expensive, hard to clean up footnote.
    Tapco now has said that at least 2 reactors have their metal casing cracked (1 and 2 or 1 and 3, it was a bit unclear), and radiation went up to over 2000mSv/hr last night. News is unclear, but it appears that there are some casualties at the plant and multiple injured, plus 50 people who are get a lot of radiatioin. We really are past TMI now. Even if every separate reactor would be at TMI level now, that'd still be 4 to 6 TMI's at once. They estimate up to 70% fuel melting in one of the reactors.

    But anyway, this way we're getting *again* 10 threads on the same subject.
    With sufficient thrust, water towers fly just fine.

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    i just came across this page.. yes, it's one of those sensationalistic "knee jerk" sites that generally has a certain slant to it, but how much truth is there in what it's saying?

    http://www.infowars.com/alert-fukush...lown-sky-high/

    my gut tells me that it's just a tad bit overblown and mostly uses "truthiness" as explanations, but i really don't know what to make of it..

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    Implications of Fukushima? Well for one thing it just became even more difficult to finance a nuclear reactor. This is because even though new reactors are unlikely to release dangerous amounts of radiation in an accident, events in Japan will focus attention on the chance of a multi billion dollar investment becoming a multi billion dollar radioactive albatross with huge clean up costs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by evilbill View Post
    Our current (western? US?) society assumes a zero risk tolerant posture. If there is any chance of failure, it is unacceptable. While tragic, sometimes freak occurrences occur. To insure against the extremely improbable is cost prohibitive. My opinion is that it is likely the designers of the Japanese nuclear plants made the correct safety assumptions, they just rolled snake eyes. 10 times in a row.
    A couple of things I don't agree with here. For nuclear power plants, zero risk is the only acceptable, rational and even financially sound criterion. We do our best to design against the "extremely improbable". That's why we design for Probable Maximum Flood, Maximum Credible Earthquake, and all the combinations of failures we can think of. We can now see that any additional money that could have been spent to prevent this event would have been worthwhile, considering that six units will never operate again and cleanup will cost billions, to say nothing of human life. While I can't second-guess the analysis that led to the low tsunami design level, it's clear that if the plant had been built just a few meters higher, there would have been no problem achieving cold shutdown. The only cost of a higher plant would have been additional power for pumping cooling water throughout the life of the plant. That's a significant cost - possibly as much as 1% of the plants' output - but now the cost of the under-design is 100% of the plants' output, plus cleanup, plus lives.

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