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Posts Tagged ‘Japan Earthquake’


Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

April 2, 2011 

Nuclear Townhall
When Patrick Moore is asked the inevitable question, “Would you live next to a nuclear reactor,” he replies, “I’d be happy to live inside a nuclear reactor. It’s safer than living outside.”  
Seventy-five miles north of Fukushima, 240 homeless victims of the earthquake and tsunami are finding out what Moore means. They have been offered shelter inside the Onagawa reactor complex and are finding it very comfortable. “Those sheltering at the plant live in relative luxury compared to many other survivors,” says this AP report. “Most of Onagawa is still covered in a thick layer of dust. There is no running water or cell phone service, and only a few neighborhoods have electricity. Nearly 1,100 of the 10,000 residents are dead or missing, and 5,500 more have moved into schools and civic centers. Within the nuclear plant, facilities are pristine, electricity flows directly from Japan’s national grid, and evacuees can use its dedicated phone network to make calls.”
The plant is normally closed to the public and reporters have still not been allowed onto the site. The band of displaced persons originally found shelter inside the outside visitor’s center, but electricity and running water weren’t functioning so plant officials moved them inside the gate. "We felt it was the right thing to do," company spokesman Yoshitake Kanda told AP. 
Just outside the reactor complex, protests groups have mounted a billboard proclaiming “Eliminate Nuclear Power!”  But inside the refugees are more favorable. "If we get too sensitive, it’ll bring us down," 84-year-old Masuo Takahashi told the AP. "So we just have to trust that there won’t be an accident like Fukushima here."
Read more here


Thursday, March 31st, 2011

March 31, 2011

Nuclear Townhall
Measures taken to protect U.S. nuclear reactors from terrorist attacks after September 11th have unwittingly made them much better prepared for natural disasters like the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, according to this report in National Review Online.
Lou Dolinar, a retired reporter and columnist for Newsday, takes an extensive look at the preparations and compares them favorably with Japanese technology, which has not created such extensive back-up systems. 
“Power operations are a good example of the difference between response here and in Japan,” write Dolinar. “The Fukushima Daiichi cooling systems apparently functioned for a time on battery backup power, but when that ran out, emergency generators failed, and the reactors began heating up, eventually leading to explosions and further damage that still has the plant on shaky footing. An early power-up could have prevented all that, but the Japanese took days to string new lines to the site.
”U.S. plants appear better able to maintain cooling and power ­ and to restore both fairly quickly if lost. A Tennessee Valley Authority facility recently displayed for the New York Times and several other outlets have portable backup batteries and some manual controls onsite to manage critical systems. As the Times’ Matthew Wald wrote, `One cart could power the instruments that measure the water level in the reactor vessel, an ability that Japanese operators lost a few hours after the tsunami hit. Another could operate critical valves that failed early at Fukushima.’
“`They’re like a backup to the backup,’ Keith J. Polson, the T.V.A.’s vice president for the Browns Ferry site told the Times. `That’s what we think the Japanese didn’t have.’”
Although he is critical of negative press coverage, Dolinar notes that one reason the word has not gotten out is that much of the preparation has been kept quiet for security purposes. Dolinar notes that the chain-of command in U.S. reactors is also better and that decisions can be reached quicker. He cites the delay among Tokyo Electric officials in flooding the reactors with seawater and the resulting charges that they were hesitant to ruin the facility. But he also says that the confusion and disarray resulting from the earthquake probably played a part as well.
Dolinar points to several other steps that have been taken to strengthen American reactors over their Japanese counterparts. He also notes that the Japanese have crowded their nuclear parks with twice as many reactors as is normal for the U.S. But he says the one place where American reactors are more vulnerable than their Japanese counterparts is in the volume of spent fuel at the sites. “[T]here’s one guy to blame,” he says, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”  Still, blame won’t do if spent fuel becomes the focus of a nuclear accident. It’s good that other Senate Democrats are already discussing serious steps to revive Yucca Mountain or even begin a reprocessing effort in the United States.
Read more at the National Review.


Friday, March 25th, 2011

March 25, 2011
Nuclear Townhall

Three Republican Senators stepped up to the plate Thursday morning and reiterated their support of nuclear power, despite calls for a moratorium or shutting down reactors in the face of the Fukushima accident.

"We don’t have a form of energy production in the United States with a better record than nuclear power," Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee told a press gathering at the nation’s Capitol.  "I don’t think we should be making long-term, domestic U.S. policy based on something that happened in another part of the world," added Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky.  "We certainly need to observe it, learn from it."

Senator Alexander has been a leading figure in the effort to revive nuclear, calling for the construction of 100 new reactors over the next twenty years. 

Democrats at the press gathering were more cautious.  I think we all pause and examine what happened and what these plants look like. Of course, I mean, we need to have a lot more information than we have now," Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio told the audience.     "We need to have a way for a complete safety assessment," added Senator Diane Feinstein of California. "I think that’s the important thing, particularly plants that are of vintage, plants that are close to faults, plants that are close together. Seems to be that’s the emerging no-no."

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama warned against a moratorium on the model of oil drilling after the Gulf oil spill.  "I am not for delays," he said.  "They delayed in the Gulf and they still haven’t started drilling again."  Texas Republican John Cornyn added that safety issues in nuclear had already been given extensive scrutiny.  "We’ve had a virtual shutdown of new reactors for the last 30 years, so I don’t think we need any more brakes on it, especially if we’re going to make ourselves less dependent on foreign sources of energy," he said.

Although the Senate does not have any particularly nuclear issues before it now, the debate may be joined if the issue of extending loan guarantees or reviving Yucca Mountain come to the floor.

Read more about it at WAMU News Radio


Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

March 22, 2011
Nuclear Townhall

Chairman Gregory Jaczko has announced that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will conduct a 90-day study on the significance of Fukushima for American reactors with updates at 30 and 60 days.

The announcement came yesterday as top NRC officials said the situation in Japan did not warrant any immediate changes at American nuclear plants. “Every single day, we assess whether or not there is some additional regulatory action that needs to be taken immediately in order to address the information we have to date,” R. William Borchardt, executive director for operations, told the full commission in a televised hearing. Borchardt said that every day NRC inspectors double-check emergency equipment at each reactor “to make sure they haven’t fallen into disuse because they haven’t been used.”

Attention has already focused around the ventilation pipes, which have been hardened in U.S. reactors but may not have been similarly upgraded in Japan. If the pipes at Fukushima remain as simple ductwork, they could have been overpressurized when workers vented the steam, which led to several hydrogen explosions.

Dramatizing how serious the NRC’s responsibilities will be, another division of the agency issued a 20-year license renewal for Vermont Yankee even as the commission was holding hearings. Vermont Yankee is a twin of several of the Fukushima reactors. Commissioners said there would be further review of the relicensing as details of the Japanese accident come to light.

Overall, the commissioners expressed confidence in their ability to continue regulating nuclear development.  “Some may characterize that our faith in this technology is shaken,” said Commissioner Kristine L. Svinicki. “But nuclear safety is not and cannot be a matter of faith. It must be a matter of fact.”

Read more about it at the New York Times