Yes Nukes?

UPDATE 3/14/11

Crossposted at: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/14/956348/-Yes-Nukes

An Associated Press report states:

Meltdown threat rises at Japanese nuclear plant

SOMA, Japan -- Water levels dropped precipitously Monday inside a Japanese nuclear reactor, twice leaving the uranium fuel rods completely exposed and raising the threat of a meltdown, hours after a hydrogen explosion tore through the building housing a different reactor.

Water levels were restored after the first decrease, but the rods remained partially exposed late Monday night, increasing the risk of the spread of radiation and the potential for an eventual meltdown.

And under my crosspost on Daily Kos, OtherDoug wrote:

Nuclear will be part of the generating mix for decades to come regardless of what results from Fukushima Daiichi. If we were to pull all nuclear offline now it would be replaced with coal with all its destruction, death and GHG pollution. Given that the plants that are currently under construction or recently completed will most likely serve out their projected lifetimes I think we need to work on the assumption that nuclear is remaining in the mix for the foreseeable future.

Having said that, what do we need to do now to insure the safety of aging plants that are still in commission? Which plants pose the greatest risk and deserve the most attention? If plants are to be taken offline because of safety and performance issues, what should they be replaced with? They can't dependably be replaced with renewables at this point aside from hydro. It would be disastrous to replace them with fossil IMHO. Is it feasible technically, economically and politically to replace them with Gen4 reactors?

These are the issues that weigh on my mind right now. I hope that it's possible to have a rational discussion about those issues, but the climate at this moment is not conducive to rational discussion. Perhaps when we know how Fukushima Daiichi plays out it will be possible. In the meantime those opposed to nuclear power are organizing around the ongoing disaster. It behooves those who feel nuclear must be considered to speak up now, even though this is the hardest time to do so. ... I support renewable energy development. I support energy efficiency efforts. And I support safe, sustainable nuclear power development.

*****

(Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co (9501.T) has begun preparation to release radioactive steam from a second reactor at its quake-struck Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility, a spokesman said.

- March 12, 2011

I was away at summer camp in 1979 when was an activist group founded in 1979 by Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, Bonnie Raitt, and John Hall founded an activist group called Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE). The group advocated against the use of nuclear energy, forming shortly after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in March of that year.

MUSE organized a series of five No Nukes concerts held at Madison Square Garden in New York. That September almost 200,000 people attended a large rally staged by MUSE on the then-empty north end of the Battery Park City landfill.

I managed to get a copy of the album No Nukes. I was in high school. It was the cool thing to do. Who could resist Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Chaka Khan, The Doobie Brothers, Jesse Colin Young, Gil Scott-Heron, Tom Petty, Poco and others on the same bill with the musicians stated above?

I was in adolesence: Cool musicians. Cool album. Therefore, I was against "Nukes."

When you hear the words "nuclear power," different images may flicker through your mind: concrete coolant towers emitting torrents of steam, a mushroom cloud rising high into the sky or even Homer Simpson asleep at the control panel.

Some peopl­e praise the technology as a low-cost, low-emission alternative to fossil fuels, while others stress the negative impact of nuclear waste and accidents such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. There's a lot of discussion out there about nuclear power's role in our lives.

- from HowStuffWorks.

Ronald Reagan (who certainly wasn't cool in my book) said that “All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk.” Nuclear power plants have been called infinitely safer than eating, because 300 people choke to death on food every year.

In 2009, 13–14% of the world's electricity came from nuclear power. Also, more than 150 naval vessels using nuclear propulsion have been built.

Republican Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch seem to agree. They co-sponsored the Nuclear Power 2021 Act.Legislation requiring the U.S. Department of Energy to work more actively with the private sector on nuclear energy partnerships

The bill would increase the number of small modular nuclear reactors available to produce clean, alternative energy. More than half of the development costs would be
paid for by private investors. Other sponsors of the bill include Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico), Committee Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Senators Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) and Mark Udall (D-Colorado).

"The principal risks associated with nuclear power arise from health effects of radiation," said Idaho State University scientest Bernard L. Cohen. "This radiation consists of subatomic particles traveling at or near the velocity of light---186,000 miles per second. They can penetrate deep inside the human body where they can damage biological cells and thereby initiate a cancer. If they strike sex cells, they can cause genetic diseases in progeny."

But Crapo says to go full speed ahead;

A growing, bipartisan group of Senators have sponsored this legislation, showing the recognition that nuclear power is receiving as we increase our alternative sources for new power. The Idaho National Lab, as the nation's lead nuclear laboratory, is in a good position to assist with that expanded nuclear research and development.

And Cohen states that:

The nuclear power plant design strategy for preventing accidents and mitigating their potential effects is "defense in depth"--- if something fails, there is a back-up system to limit the harm done, if that system should also fail there is another back-up system for it, etc., etc. Of course it is possible that each system in this series of back-ups might fail one after the other, but the probability for that is exceedingly small. The Media often publicize a failure of some particular system in some plant, implying that it was a close call" on disaster; they completely miss the point of defense in depth which easily takes care of such failures. Even in the Three Mile Island accident where at least two equipment failures were severely compounded by human errors, two lines of defense were still not breached--- essentially all of the radioactivity remained sealed in the thick steel reactor vessel, and that vessel was sealed inside the heavily reinforced concrete and steel lined "containment" building which was never even challenged. It was clearly not a close call on disaster to the surrounding population. The Soviet Chernobyl reactor, built on a much less safe design concept, did not have such a containment structure; if it did, that disaster would have been averted.

Risch adds:

America's need for electricity requires that we pursue clean nuclear energy that provides the needed base load power for our homes and businesses. These small modular reactors are a key part of ensuring our energy security. Idaho's history in nuclear technology and the INL's position as the nation's preeminent nuclear energy research lab makes us a natural leader in this public-private endeavor.

On the flip side, the Reuters report said that an official from Japan's nuclear safety watchdog said earlier on Sunday that it had received a report from Japan's largest power producer at 5:10 a.m. that the facility's No. 3 reactor had completely lost its emergency cooling function.

Increased reliance on nuclear power: an idea who's time has come, or a setup for disaster?