Nuclear power is safer than you think, shocker….

Via Alex Massie, George Monbiot repents:

You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.

A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.

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  • aquifer

    Stockholm syndrome: a term used to describe a paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express adulation and have positive feelings towards their captors.

  • qwerty12345

    Did you read monbiots piece aquifer – it was really pretty good.

  • The article is right that a 1950s design, built in the 1960s, hit by an earthquake and tsunami is testament to the technology. However, modern nuclear power stations are much safer still. They have failsafe designs which means that even if all power is lost they don’t heat up and don’t require active cooling mechanisms.

    Fossil fuel powerstations aren’t sustainable, renewable generation can’t produce the amount of power, so nuclear is the only option for the future.

    Unless, that is, our demand for energy dramatically reduces.

    Now, where’s that power-off button?

  • Mack

    Next week’s installment –

    “Why Lehman Brothers made me stop worrying and love free market capitalism.”

  • Comrade Stalin

    Agreed Mack, it is a slightly bizarre argument.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Stephen,

    However, modern nuclear power stations are much safer still. They have failsafe designs which means that even if all power is lost they don’t heat up and don’t require active cooling mechanisms.

    No Stephen, I don’t think this is true. Three Mile Island was a relatively modern design (and a PWR) and the problems there were because of a coolant loss. The problems in Japan were also because there was no power to operate the coolant pumps. The water overheated and oxidized with the alloys in the fuel rods, which is what led to the hydrogen gas explosions.

    BWR and PWR reactors, it appears to me, are inherently vulnerable to a loss of coolant. It’s nowhere near as serious as Chernobyl (where loss of coolant actually caused an increase in reactor power output) but you can still have fires and the attendant risk of nuclear material spreading. I would expect that in the wake of the incident in Japan all of these reactor designs will need a risk assessment done to ensure that they can tolerate any environmental or human intervention that could lead to coolant being lost.

  • Zig70

    A similar line is used for cigarettes. You don’t always feel any ill effects; some never even die from smoking. Would any one argue it is not a health hazard? The missing bit from this piece is the nuclear waste and the buildup of that hazard. I think it’s a bit sick to say the people in Japan are alright because nobody died. They have poisoned water and food and I’ll predict the cancer rates will go through the roof. I wouldn’t trust a man from a Nuclear energy company with a Geiger counter or a researcher relying on funding. Don’t trust it, don’t want it and pretty annoyed our neighbour dumps the rubbish is the sea my kids could play in.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Zig70,

    “I’ll predict the cancer rates will go through the roof.”

    I’ll predict that won’t happen. Do you know how many people died as a direct consequence of Chernobyl? Only about 40 and there hasn’t been a big increase in cancer there statistically speaking. In Chernobyl, the main increase in cancer was thyroid cancer because of radioactive iodine. This is because the thyroid is the only organ in your body that picks up iodine. In Japan iodine tablets have been given out to “max out” the intake of iodine in the thyroid. Therefore, if you happen upon radioactive iodine it won’t be taken up and pass through your body. That didn’t happen in Chernobyl. So, I’d wager deaths will be way less.

    “Don’t trust it, don’t want it and pretty annoyed our neighbour dumps the rubbish is the sea my kids could play in.”

    Which neighbour would that be? France or GB? The French produce way more than GB thro nuclear. As for scaring the kids, it’s now more or less accepted any increase in leukaemia around Sellafield was due to Sellafield being a relatively isolated population who had little resistance to Leukaemia. Leukaemia now being thought to be caused by a virus. Therefore, when the outsiders arrived with the powerplant they brought the virus with them and more locals developed leukaemia. But not because of radiation. Therefore, encourage your kids to play in the Irish Sea. It’s safe. There’s more radiation in the Mournes…

  • Not only that, but there has been no concrete evidence so far of any adverse health effects as a result of Three Mile Island. Also, the releases of “radioactive gases” at Fukushima Daiichi are mostly nitrogen-16, which has a half-life of 7 seconds.

    If you haven’t yet seen xkcd’s guide to radiation exposure, it’s a must-read: http://blog.xkcd.com/2011/03/19/radiation-chart/

  • Greenflag

    @andrew gallagher ,

    Interesting and informative link . Based on the facts shown I’ve given up bananas and ordered the wife to sleep in another room and am now planning to move out of our brick built house
    into a tent which should reduce our sievert exposure by 70 units per annum 😉