Japan's Tsunami/Earthquake and nuclear meltdown, one year later 5 replies

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Commissar MercZ

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#1 6 years ago

March 11th will be the one year Tsunami and Earthquake that hit Japan last year, and then the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Plant which presented a global scare. Debates over nuclear energy raged again, within Japan and internationally.

Japan had a considerable mess to clean up- and is still cleaning up- as the economic impacts of the disaster hit an already struggling and stagnant economy.

The plant is not 'clean' yet and people are not able to return to homes that ended up inside the exclusion zone. Due to reviews of nuclear plant standards and safety, only two of Japan's 54 Nuclear Plants have been active, the rest have been idle during this time.

To that end the government will be holding observances tomorrow, along with displaying programs that they say have helped people cope with and move beyond the disaster. You can see some of that here, including a program where children made art projects with debris from the disaster.

There is a feature on the New York Times which lets you see pictures of certain areas- as they appeared on the time on or around the disaster, and later. Each of the pictures has a 'slider' you can move back and forth across the picture to see before and after.

Side-by-Side Look at Destruction and Renewal in Japan - Interactive Feature - NYTimes.com

Not much else to comment here, guess it was something I wanted to share.

Some other pictures

Japan's nuclear refugees - The Big Picture - Boston.com Japan tsunami pictures: before and after - The Big Picture - Boston.com




MrFancypants Forum Admin

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#2 6 years ago

I read an interesting article about boiling water reactors, their shortcomings and what has been (not) done after Fukushima to correct these problems in the US: How Safe Are U.S. Nuclear Reactors? Lessons from Fukushima: Scientific American

Another option is to get rid of nuclear power entirely, like Germany did. Considering how corporations are likely to compromise on safety for the sake of profits that may not be such a bad idea.




Pethegreat VIP Member

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#3 6 years ago
Another option is to get rid of nuclear power entirely, like Germany did. Considering how corporations are likely to compromise on safety for the sake of profits that may not be such a bad idea.

The problem with phasing out nuclear power is figuring out what to replace it with. Solar and wind are still too expensive and inefficient for widespread use. The sun does not shine all the time nor does the wind always blow. Coal power plants are considered too dirty. Many countries are considering placing caps on CO2 emissions which would price coal power plants out of existence.

Germany has been slowly phasing out nuclear power for years now. They now have to buy electricity from neighboring countries. Ironically they get the majority of their imported electricity from France which uses nuclear reactors to generate 75% of their electricity.

I see nuclear as the only option for power generation in the future. It is the only energy source that can provide reliable base-load power without emitting CO2. The technology is mature and the costs can be reduced to a manageable level.

A reactor design from the 1990's would have withstood the earthquake and tsunami without melting down. The reactors that melted down were designs from the mid 1970s. I feel that complaining about the reactors in Japan being unsafe is the same as complaining about how the 1970 Ford Pinto that you drive every day is unsafe. Government should not give license extensions for the operation of these reactors. At the same time the government should make it easier and faster to get approval for a new reactor of a modern design like the AP1000.

In the 60 years the world has had nuclear reactors Fukushima was the first accident that was not caused by human error. To date we have only had 2 major accidents and a handful of minor accidents. I would say that we have done fairly well in managing the risks from a technology that has the potential to do so much harm.




Nemmerle Forum Mod

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#4 6 years ago

Even if renewable sources could theoretically provide all the power you needed, they remain vastly more expensive than nuclear energy - and the only way to get the sort of load-levelling (not to mention the sweet spots for different types of power generation) that you'd need, would be to interconnect your power-grids with those of nearby countries. Once you interconnected the grids anyone who went with nuclear power would be able to massively undercut the renewable industry.

I'm one of the people who thinks with careful rationing renewable energy could work. But it's only a theoretical, 'could.' People can't afford to move into modern, well insulated homes that cut the energy requirements down far enough for it to even begin to make sense - and as our population grows the problem is only going to get worse.

With other fossil fuels coming up on their expiry dates, I expect electricity to take a fairly large increase in demand for transport as well.

I've really got to agree with Pete here - at least in that nuclear power seems to be the only viable option.

Do I think that the Americans will retire their unfit reactors? No. Those things are expensive. And the irradiation of twenty miles or so for fifty years, in a country that's the size of America, is doubtless viewed as an acceptable risk in light of the millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs they provide.

What can be done about it? Well there are some excellent new generation designs. Some of which, IIRC, are just inherently unable to melt down - most of which produce very little long term waste.

I don't even really think the Japanese will do much about it. Japanese government is very corrupt. Before the tsunami they were building tsunami defences that people kept on telling them wouldn't work. People kept on warning them about their nuclear reactors but....




MrFancypants Forum Admin

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#5 6 years ago

Pethegreat;5620377The problem with phasing out nuclear power is figuring out what to replace it with. Solar and wind are still too expensive and inefficient for widespread use. The sun does not shine all the time nor does the wind always blow. Coal power plants are considered too dirty. Many countries are considering placing caps on CO2 emissions which would price coal power plants out of existence.

I see nuclear as the only option for power generation in the future. It is the only energy source that can provide reliable base-load power without emitting CO2. The technology is mature and the costs can be reduced to a manageable level.

A reactor design from the 1990's would have withstood the earthquake and tsunami without melting down. The reactors that melted down were designs from the mid 1970s. I feel that complaining about the reactors in Japan being unsafe is the same as complaining about how the 1970 Ford Pinto that you drive every day is unsafe. Government should not give license extensions for the operation of these reactors. At the same time the government should make it easier and faster to get approval for a new reactor of a modern design like the AP1000.

In the 60 years the world has had nuclear reactors Fukushima was the first accident that was not caused by human error. To date we have only had 2 major accidents and a handful of minor accidents. I would say that we have done fairly well in managing the risks from a technology that has the potential to do so much harm.

Don't get me wrong, I like the technology as well. The problem is the gap between what is technologically possible and what happens in reality. Old reactors exist all over the place. Japan was a good example of how bad goverment regulation in combination with ruthless corporations can lead to rather bad safety situation even in a rich industry nation. Now just think how bad it must be former Soviet block countries.

The same can be said about disposal of nuclear waste, which is a more important issue than the relatively low probability of a metldown: governments promised to take care of the waste for decades. In reality most waste is in temporary storage and few countries have operational permanent storage. As that sci-am article says, the problems in Fukushima were exacerbated due to the common practice of storing depleted fuel close to the reactors.

Germany has been slowly phasing out nuclear power for years now. They now have to buy electricity from neighboring countries. Ironically they get the majority of their imported electricity from France which uses nuclear reactors to generate 75% of their electricity.

Not exactly. The government under Schröder wanted to slowly phase nuclear energy out. The current government (Merkel) reversed that decision and wanted to continue to operate reactors. After Fukushima Merkel decided to take all nuclear powerplants offline immediately.

As for France - yes, we do import energy from them, but in recent months we actually exported electricity to France. Germany invested a lot of money into green technologies, including emission standards for housing. France didn't. The result is that France needs more electricity to heat houses in winter than Germany even though it has a much smaller population (60 million compared to Germany's 80 million).




Pethegreat VIP Member

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#6 6 years ago
The same can be said about disposal of nuclear waste, which is a more important issue than the relatively low probability of a metldown: governments promised to take care of the waste for decades. In reality most waste is in temporary storage and few countries have operational permanent storage. As that sci-am article says, the problems in Fukushima were exacerbated due to the common practice of storing depleted fuel close to the reactor

The waste problem can be solved with reprocessing of spent fuel. Most of the nasty long lived radioactive elements also make good fuel in reactors. The other nasty elements decay away to safe levels within 400 years. It is far easier to find some place to store something for 400 years rather than a few million.

The French re-process fuel, so do the Japanese. The Americans do not because of proliferation fears which have no backing in reality. I would be worrying more about less secured spent fuel being used for a dirty bomb than some well protected low enriched plutonium being taken for a nuke. Re-processing also allows the world to stretch the uranium supplies much further because of the use of other fissile materials like plutonium in the fuel.

The practice of storing spent fuel in water filled pools is a necessity of either an open fuel cycle where everything in the fuel is thrown away, or a closed fuel cycle with reprocessing. After removal from the reactor the fuel needs to spend several years to cool enough via decay for the fuel to be placed into dry storage or reprocessed. In the US there is a lack of space to store spent fuel for the long term so more fuel is sitting in these pools than is necessary. In the even of a accident similar to the one in Japan there would be a larger amount of radioactive material to deal with.