Fukushima Thread: March 18, 2011

Agency: Japanese nuclear crisis on par with 3 Mile Island

Tokyo (CNN) -- Japan's nuclear and industrial safety agency on Friday raised the level for the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant from a 4 to 5 -- putting it on par with the 1979 incident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island.

According to the International Nuclear Events Scale, a level 5 equates to the likelihood of a release of radioactive material, several deaths from radiation and severe damage to a reactor core.

Radiation Fears and Distrust Push Thousands From Homes

YAMAGATA, Japan — Neither last week’s earthquake, nor the tsunami that followed, nor days without electricity, water or heat could drive 70-year-old Sadako Shiga from her home. What finally caused her to flee was something invisible, but to her mind far more sinister: radiation.

As explosions and fires crippled a nuclear plant 18 miles from her home in northeast Fukushima Prefecture, Ms. Shiga and her family loaded their car with blankets, water and food and headed to the mountains. “We were running for our lives,” she said Thursday.

IAEA chief says Japan's crisis extremely serious

The International Atomic Energy Agency chief says he views Japan's nuclear crisis as an extremely serious accident requiring international cooperation.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said Friday that he plans to meet with top Japanese officials and to visit the area struck by the devastating earthquake and tsunami a week ago that knocked out power for the cooling systems at a nuclear power plant, setting off Japan's crisis.

Radiation Spread Seen; Frantic Repairs Go On

WASHINGTON — The first readings from American data-collection flights over the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northeastern Japan show that the worst contamination has not spread beyond the 19-mile range of highest concern established by Japanese authorities.

But another day of frantic efforts to cool nuclear fuel in the troubled reactors and in the plant’s spent-fuel pools resulted in little or no progress, according to United States government officials.

Scientists Project Path of Radiation Plume

A United Nations forecast of the possible movement of the radioactive plume coming from crippled Japanese reactors shows it churning across the Pacific, and touching the Aleutian Islands on Thursday before hitting Southern California late Friday.

Japan official says scale of disasters overwhelmed government, slowed its response

TOKYO — The Japanese government acknowledged Friday that it was overwhelmed by the scale of last week’s twin natural disasters, slowing the response to the nuclear crisis that was triggered by the earthquake and tsunami that left at least 10,000 people dead.

Confusion in a Crisis: Just How High Is Japan's Radiation Risk?

The ongoing struggle to snuff out the nuclear crisis occurred amid mounting confusion about key elements of risk now in play. At a hearing in Washington on Wednesday, the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Gregory Jaczko, called the radiation levels at one of the plant's units "extremely high." He added that "for a comparable situation in the United States, we would recommend evacuation for a much larger radius than is currently being provided in Japan." And he said his information suggested that there was no water left in the pool containing the spent fuel rods in Reactor 4, an assertion which, if true, makes a significant release of radioactive gases from the burning fuel rods stored there much more likely.

Operator: may connect power to Fukushima No.4 reactor Saturday

(Reuters) - Electricity could be restored on Saturday morning at the No.4 reactor at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeast Japan, the plant's operator Tokyo Electric Power Co said on Friday.

Nissan scanning vehicles for radioactive material

Tokyo (CNN) -- Nissan has started scanning vehicles made in Japan for traces of radioactive material, a company official said Friday.

Japan: the many aftershocks

It is not difficult to make the calculations of population movement that will ensue if large amounts of radioactivity are released into the atmosphere, particularly by one reactor which uses a mixture of uranium and plutonium. About 70,000 people have already been evacuated from a 20km radius around the plant, but double that number, who live within 30km, have been told to stay indoors. This advice has been contradicted by the US and Canadian governments, which have instructed their citizens who live within 80km of the plant to leave. Germany's embassy moved its operations from Tokyo to Osaka. If the Japanese government issued the same instructions to residents within 80km of the plant, you would have a major evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people. Where would they all go?

With U.S. Nuclear Plants Under Scrutiny, Too, a Report Raises Safety Concerns

With Japan’s nuclear industry facing intense scrutiny after the devastating earthquake and tsunami, critics of nuclear power in the United States are increasingly shining a spotlight on American regulators and power companies.

U.S. Official Affirms Nuclear Loan Guarantees

With many riveted on Japan’s reactor crisis, the head of the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program has affirmed that it will continue to finance nuclear projects in the United States.

“Assuming there is a desire in the Capitol to move forward, nuclear remains an important part of the energy mix,” Jonathan Silver, executive director of the Energy Department’s loan programs office, said on Wednesday in a presentation at the Cleantech Forum conference in San Francisco.

Uranium Tumbles On Japan Crisis

The most volatile market since the Japanese earthquake isn't Japanese or U.S. stocks. It is uranium, which until Friday was a little-noticed pocket of the commodities markets.

Losing sight of real risks in fog of fear

CATASTROPHE. Apocalypse. Such words have been used by people in authority to describe the week's events in Japan. They were not referring to the earthquake and tsunami that have killed thousands, probably tens of thousands, of people, but to events at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The crisis is real, but reaction has been hysterical. The series of disasters - the earthquake, the tsunami and the reactor cooling failures - has exposed public and political difficulties in making risk assessments based on fact, not fear.

Assumptions and accidents

If we want to continue with nuclear energy, we should think the risks of nuclear power through to their logical conclusion.

Learning from disaster after Sendai

Is it possible that the nuclear meltdown in Japan is linked to a Faustian bargain with the West?

What next for nuclear power?

The disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant has forced countries around the world to reconsider their energy plans. But global electricity consumption is still rising fast, and the need to cut carbon emissions hasn't gone away. So what does the future hold for nuclear power?

A nuclear panacea no more

Nuclear power was beginning to look like a panacea -- a way to lessen our dependence on oil, make our energy supply more self-sufficient and significantly mitigate global warming, all at the same time. Now it looks more like a bargain with the devil.

Go slow for nuclear power projects

BEIJING - The nuclear crisis in Japan may slow down China's feverish pace of expansion in the nuclear power sector and is likely to encourage the government to lift standards for newly-built plants, said Ni Weidou, a senior academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, on Thursday.

"China's pace of nuclear power development is too fast. I reckon the unfolding nuclear crisis in the neighboring country will slow down our progress in the sector," said Ni, also an adviser of energy strategy for the central government, at a forum in Beijing.

Climate change could spell the end for nuclear power, not vice versa

No matter how well they build them, nuclear power plants require lots of water. As such, the plants need to be either on the coast or near a large body of water at an inland site. The loss of off-site power commonly happens during storms, particularly at coastal locations. So a strong storm, probably stronger than the historical records used in the estimates for design, could cause flooding that leads to an accident similar to the one we are witnessing.


NHK Feed: Best source for the timely news

Japan Radiation by Prefecture (map)

World Nuclear News

JAIF: Japan Atomic Industrial Forum

A Drop of Rain: Archive of useful links

(Any other suggestions for links that should be featured here?)

Here is a link for unbiased and detailed information regarding Fukushima:

Site is maintained by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is (by their own assessment:

"...the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

What began as a collaboration between students and faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1969 is now an alliance of more than 250,000 citizens and scientists. UCS members are people from all walks of life: parents and businesspeople, biologists and physicists, teachers and students. Our achievements over the decades show that thoughtful action based on the best available science can help safeguard our future and the future of our planet."

Union of Concerned Scientists, Is biased antinuclear.

I was about to say that some people are going to see this site as biased, but it is an important balance to the overwhelming chorus of very well funded pro-nuke sites an voices. And these are not some bunch of uneducated nitwits. Their research is well documented and cannot just be written off.

I'd much rather have truly unbiased sources, rather than trying to let opposite biases duel it out in your head.

Studying an issue in-depth and coming to a conclusion is not bias. Bias is never really investigating because you already know what answer you want.

I believe the bias lies in your assertion.

There is no such thing as unbiased.

Create false and misleading spin and propaganda, fund it heavily, promote ones interests financially and politically, then posit that as a valid pole, then say people who oppose it due to more reasoned approaches are biased. This is so standard re how the current system runs it's not even worth future discussion. Same goes for climate warming: get huge corporations who make billions, have them fund false and biased research, present that as one side, then call fairly independent and autonomous groups like climate change scientists 'biased'.

It's going to be hard getting out of this hole, there's too many heavily entrenched interests who want to profit before they drive the system to failure. They are always focused and funded, and individuals cannot resist them over time, it's like erosion, they wait, they fund, they pay people, while life goes on for the rest of us and we have to deal with the outcomes. This has always been by far and away my least favorite part of theoildrum, but I think it's just how it is, the solutions won't come from these people, I need to remind myself of that more before wasting time with their self-interested views.

I have appreciated your comments here recently, but now I have to ask: Solutions to what? What problem are we solving?

Non-sustainable way of life.

I can't put it any more simply than that. All systems are flashing bright red warning signs, every year more are going off. Leanan does a great job posting in every single drumbeat more of these warning alerts. Ignoring them is suicide.

To realize the depth of our mania and culturally ingrained bias, totally non reasoned, and absolutely irrational, realize that all arguments against a sustainable way of life are directly arguments for a non-sustainable way of life. This is pathology. No healthy organism strives to destroy itself, it adapts itself to its ecosystem, interacts with it, and finds a way to achieve a bumpy equilibrium. Nature, not man, writes the rules. Failure to grasp this and internalize it means failure to survive. This is absolute, you can't outwit the process by clever toys and gadgets.

Human nature is not pathological unless certain traits are allowed to dominate the culture. Most religions frown on these behaviors, but not all. Most stable cultures have strong taboos against them. A taboo is stronger than a law. Humans have solved these problems many many times in the past, just as they have failed to solve them many times. The ones that failed to solve them failed to survive, the ones that didn't fail, did well, until their time ended and the next bunch rolls on up

More non-sustainability does not solve non-sustainable issues, just as more debt does not solve a debt crisis. Our debt is growing out of control to mother nature, the ecosystem, and we don't have very long to start paying it down. The ability to see this is simply not in the current deep bias that drives us as a culture, at least in the present mainstream.

There are people who understand this, but they are not entrenched interests, nor are they parts of the problem. They are all around you, doing things in their ways, daily. I support them with all my resources, and refuse to support the pieces that are parts of the problem, to the best of my ability and to the limits of my finite resources.

No healthy organism strives to destroy itself, it adapts itself to its ecosystem, interacts with it, and finds a way to achieve a bumpy equilibrium.

I think that's a stretch. How about the yeast which makes alcohol which eventually kills it? There are many more examples in nature. But then maybe you'd call it an unhealthy organism? (especially in service of humans....)

Ah, our yeast friends. Yeast in nature, that's the one we need to pay attention to, it requires an environment to live in. Were it to kill that environment it could not live. So yes, yeast follows the same rules.

Yeast's environment isn't the mixing bowl or brewing pot, it's the entire system around us.

I just read a great book on Fungi, very very cool. While fungi might kill a host, it is on purpose, it's to continue on in the larger course of its habits..

Your example is too local, yeasts are in a larger space than the single one where they die as individuals, and they aren't killing my bread when I bake it, and they are I assume fine in terms of reproducing as needed, it's not about individuals, it's about the species. Every breath you take has yeasts in it from what I understand. Technically, as I just learned, yeast is a generic term for a wide range of species and genera, it's I guess more of a descriptive term than a biological taxonomy thing. So they don't really have a yeast species at all, just types of fungi that are yeast. Not to get picky, heh.

So no, some dying in location x or y doesn't kill their ecosystem, nor does it disable their ability to reproduce and interact with that ecosystem, it all works quite well in nature, almost perfectly in fact. Equilibrium is achieved after all sides give in and compromise until they find a point that works for all of them.

Kingdom Fungi the book was called, very good read, albeit very academic and jargon filled.

I don't recall the natural role of yeasts so I'll skip more talk, but they successfully release spores generation after generation, so your example is pretty meaningless re the larger point.

I no longer will insult yeasts by comparing them to modern industrial humans, that's not nice, yeasts do their job well, I value their positive, non toxic, and bubbly contributions.

Maybe slime molds or bacteria, don't know. But they do fine too, everything fits in nature.

Modern man likes to think of species existence as a struggle for existence of individuals, helps in marketing or something, not sure, but I see species as a way to perpetuate the gene pool etc of the group. That's why natives often just go off to die rather than burden the tribe, for example. No human exists or can think without language, and no language exists in the real world without a society to carry and sustain it. That is the organism I'm referring to. If individual members of that organism die to protect it, that's generally considered very honorable. That's why we hopefully respect and admire the Japanese nuclear workers who are subjecting themselves to serious radiation poisoning for the good of the larger social body.

Nature does not move linearly, but in a sawtooth fashion. Yeast live within a complex system, not in a petri dish, so they do not actually just go about offing themselves unless you put them into that unnatural condition.

When one says nature has no waste, it does not mean nature does not go in and out of imbalance, but that imbalance is abundance for a different loop in the overall system. Death from overabundance and the resulting crash is input to bacteria and carrion feeders which redistribute that excess energy and material.

One would never design a nuclear energy input to the system because there is no useful output for the waste stream. That's really all we ever needed to know about nuclear energy: it's waste product had no use, so overall it can only be a pollutant. It should have remained on the drawing board until there was a use for that pollution, making it an input.

One would never design a nuclear energy input to the system because there is no useful output for the waste stream.

Coal, natural gas, oil? I think you are a little parochial in your view of energy sources. As to nuclear LFTR can be fed waste from PWR & BWRs, and after getting the other 99% of the energy out of the uranium it leave a waste stream of about one ton per year that will decay to the level of the ore in about 300 years.

Parochial? Please do not patronize. Your views are narrow, not mine. You consider only that which allows what you wish, which is narrow, indeed. My comments are based in principles of design that do not ignore problems. Had we not taken the paths we have, we would not now be in overshoot. Had we implemented only those changes that fit within a sustainable framework, growth would have been allowed only to the point it was healthy.

Your implied assumption that technology is inherently good is being proven fatal. 300 years? Show me where all the dumping grounds of 300 years ago are today.

If you don't add pieces to the system that do not fit, you don't create the problems in the first place. That is not parochial, it is intelligent.

pri-de, perfect statement, thank you.

Hope you don't mind if I quote this in the future, as you have probably noted, I am unable to construct short sound bite type statements.

Isn't it interesting how you can see engineers and scientists post here year after year, claiming to be rational, but virtually every single one of them ignores this deep baseline scientific fact and truth? The one out of which flows all understanding of what sustainable actually means?

Thank you for putting it so succinctly.

Your statements apply to almost all, if not all, industrial systems and production, and this is the real core deep logic that we are denying every day of our present industrial world.

That logic cannot be denied, it's like saying you can live off a single canister of air and never renew it.

I am glad I dip into serious biology now and then, they tend to understand these things better than basically all engineers and non living system oriented scientists, except the genetic engineers, who also think they can just make up new rules whenever they feel like it.

However, the poster is not patronizing you, what he's doing is what I am now thinking of as being a pylon. Pylons form obstructions to change and have to be navigated around. They don't move themselves, they have to wait for the road maintenance workers to come along and put them in place. This is how most people get their ideas and understanding, it's normal and healthy, it's how human culture is meant to work, although it's annoying when you have to move around a lot of them all at once. You do not stop on the freeway to discuss with a pylon why it's in your way, you drive around it. If people want to be pylons, that's their privilege, it's actually the norm in human cultures to never question or change, only a few among the group really processes and handle change, today is no different. But your words are just fantastically terse and to the point no matter that issue.

OK, just checking. Many are trying to find ways to preserve our non-sustainable way of life, and for a moment I was not sure where you were coming from. I'm enjoying your giving the industry shills hell, but you may want to keep in mind that there are a lot of people reading (and some commenting too) that have long ago reached similar conclusions as you have. There are others here who get it.

twilight, you can rest assured if you weren't here, and others like you, neither would I be. I can't take the others, the pylons obstructing real progress, at all, or only in small doses, or only in the context of learning from their engineering or science skills about a topic, without some form of sanity here it would be impossible to contribute or read the threads. Normally I totally ignore them, since I know from experience that trying to reason with a pylon is waste of time, it's easier to just steer around it and go on.

Also keep in mind, when writing in a comment thread, you are not writing to me or others in it, you are primarily writing to the readers, most of whom never post. Many posters are unaware that they are in fact creating a real time live scrolling publication, which is read by often thousands of people, or more, every day. You and I and everyone else who takes the time to post are creating a sort of communal communication in the process, which fades over a week and then is largely gone from sight and memory, only to pop up in some obscure google search in the future.

I used to track page hit counts for various forums, and was surprised to learn that the ratio, except on highly specialist forums, was almost 1000 eyeballs to every 1 posting.

I know there about 10 or twenty active posters out there who aren't part of the problem, and I know you are one of them, though I don't actively track the ones that are good and sensible.

I'm giving the shills hell because I don't like their dishonest use of what is a fundamentally public resource, and lying and misrepresenting themselves constantly, by pretending to be what they are not. So readers who aren't aware should be exposed to this truth, most people think online forums are filled with honest discussions, industry shilling is big business now, and social media/forum / blog manipulation is so prevalent it's kind of disgusting. TOD attracts these shills precisely because it's a primary resource, and it's just another day at work for them, more lies spread, more future destabilized and ruined.

But to me, the very worst ones here are the financial speculators, who are trying to find a way to get some gain out of this stuff by getting an edge. They almost never identify themselves either, but they are sort of obvious in general.

Heh - I haven't got the time or the frankly the interest anymore to do what you're doing recently, but it's sure been fun watching you go! TOD has changed of course, but still the character and characters during a crisis such as this are rather obviously different than during quieter moments, so I think what you are doing is worthwhile, lest it go the way it did during BP's disaster. In the end the believers in a world without limits will cling to their vision, and the shills will sell their snake oil, but perhaps there are some reading who are starting to see how this stuff is all connected and would benefit from pointing out the disinformation. Keep at it!


Yes, we must gain control of our media, our communication channels.
I wanted to say "get back our...", but we never had them, really.
But the current corporate monopolistic ownership of the common information channels of radio and television (net neutrality is under attack, too) is abhorrent compared to the situation decades ago.

In the 80's I finally noticed the emerging polling trick of broadcasters fielding a story and then going out and interviewing the public who, of course, simply regurgitated what they had just heard.

But your statement beginning:
"This has always been by far and away my least favorite part of TOD..."
What does it mean?

The presence of shills, speculators, etc. People who are deeply involved in the problem, and are creating and expanding it. And who will not change no matter how will they understand the outcome and results. And who then argue that the problem should be made worse because it cannot be fixed, not seeing that it cannot be fixed precisely because people choose to support the status quo, which is rapidly becoming non-viable.

The pros, the serious people, etc, I like those, quite a bit. Those are really why I read this, and are also why I try to almost never comment. This is a unique situation now with Japan and something made me do it, no idea what or why. heading out, I read his sunday thing almost every week, rockman, is great, if we had a few tens million more types like him the US would be a good way towards solving these issues. shelburn, all the real engineers, the real scientists, there's a core, they are ignoring the noise of these daily threads and I don't blame them.

I also believe we have just crossed a major global inflection point starting in 2010, not trivial, and I find the way enablers of this non sustainable system struggle to make excuses and rationalize irrational behavior truly fascinating and very educational.

I don't deal with people like this in my life so it's good to see how they think.

h2:I have to say I do appreciate your passion,articulation, and can relate to your restraint.I too, appreciate this core group here, Rockman, Shelburn,et al. I love heading out and his tech talks, especially. I'm not a formally educated man myself,just a retired working stiff,and have a desire to learn from these folks here. It's a pretty good bunch. I cant really contribute much, but I sure like learning things here!I, for one, am glad you are posting. So, there it is.

Indeed they are strongly against nuclear power. Yet, they do provide linkage to studies, documentation and data that the pro-nuclear side never does. The pro-nuclear side is content to say, "We've studied the issues and concluded the risk is very low. Trust us."

There's a danger going forward that a lot of information needed to adequately assess risk will be hidden behind the veil of Homeland Security secrecy. If that happens to any significant degree then it will be very hard to have an open debate on the issues. Dealing with that on top of the "garbage in, gospel out" complex methodology of PRA (Probabilistic Risk Assessment) would make it very hard to come to any sort of rational, well-informed decisions.

Got any evidence?

Did you pick through their detailed studies that show current nuclear power and expansion schemes are uneconomic and show us the factual/logical errors?

My take is that they are not biased, they're just calling things as they see them, and the facts are that nuclear power is not as safe as it could be, that plant operators/vendors tend to resist safety improvements,
and that the NRC has allowed unsafe conditions (like leaks) to continue in violation of rules.

Did you look thru the Three Mile Island history link that JonFreise posted in http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7675#comment-778531

The consistent impression (and from the official reports I have packed away), is that the plant operators and other industry people would ignore evidence of how severe the accident was, until the evidence was forced into their faces.

The nuclear industry and regulators need to do some soul searching.

I would like to see a nuclear renaissance, IF it's much safer, cleaner and actually economical. But with their history of lies,
they need to step up and commit to the truth.

Citizens groups like the Three Mile Island Alert didn't just spring up from nowhere - they were tired of hearing "it's safe, the rules are being followed and enforced", then finding out it's not.

Didn't a 'concerned' Einstein start this party?

Precisely, it was that ignorant techno-Luddite Einstein.

More fundamentally, if there is a well-informed source, they are likely to have a reason that they are attempting to be well-informed in the first place. Rather than a Unicorn hunt after the fictitious "well informed, unbiased" source, it makes more sense to look to technically competent sources that are honest as to what their agenda is, so their agenda can be taken into account.

The last article particularly struck me.

Not only will rising sea levels imperil the many nuclear reactors that are at or near sea level now, increasing intensity of storms will mean that the others, along inland water ways, will also see more and more risks of intense flooding.

Again, the whole industry requires everything to go relatively smoothly all the time, but we are entering a world of greater and greater uncertainty on every level.

Unfortunately, at this point there is no good solution for what to do with all the spent fuel...except to stop producing the darn stuff.

It's really sobering to look at Nuclear through the CC lens, whether it's Shore-based, Lake Based, Desert Air-Cooled. There are several environmental conditions that could conspire to put other reactors in a state like Fukishima is in today. Heat Waves, Droughts, Hurricanes, Forest Fires..

I've said this regularly,

NUCLEAR POWER depends on a stable grid, supply chain, economy and environment far more than it can help to create these things.

It's the most complex and least resilient way we could possibly contrive to bring us our basic power needs.


Without very well-educated people in our economy, we cannot maintain the levels of sophistication required to maintain nuclear power.

The Congress is now poised to cut education down to a bloody stump.

You cannot have nuclear with a Homer Simpson public. The show is a cartoon and a parody on this very problem.


'You cannot have nuclear with a Homer Simpson public.'

Nicely put. That's why it's doubly ironic/tragic that rupubs are rabidly pro-nuke even while they are hell bent on cutting all support for funding of education and for the (mostly) informative programs such as are found NPR.

Meanwhile, that newly restored power does not seem to be of much use yet:


Reports from Japan today indicate that the 1.5 kilometre line from the Tohoku Electric Power Co to be installed by the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) is in place, but that workers have not been able to hook it up to the No 2 reactor yet because radiation remains excessive.

Yesterday, there had been little observable reduction in the radiation being measures at the site. Once yesterday, a rise from 3,700 millisieverts to 4000 millisieverts was detected after hours of dousing.

'You cannot have nuclear with a Homer Simpson public.'

Unfortunately, you could say the same for democracy. Look at the weak-minded, misdirected rage of the Tea Party and their ilk and how they have perverted national policy on issues like climate change, fossil fuel use, and on and on.

It's damn hard to be hopeful.

The movie "Idiocracy"...
2505, and advertising leads to crops being irrigated with "Brawndo".

This would be true of this 40 year design. the newer generation post 3 mile island have many passive safety designs.

And how many of these 40 year old design are still in operation and being given 10-20 year operation/license extensions? Just because a new design is said to be "safer" doesn't seem to make any of the older ones magically go away.

None of which are relevant to the problems here:

1] If you don't continuously cool spent fuel rods they go bananas..

2] Any reactor that is producing megawatts of heat at SCRAM needs the heat removing. Without circulation they go bananas.

3] Any reactor containing dirty spent fuel produces a lot of decay heat. This needs active cooling - circulation or it goes bananas.

If you remove power from any of the above, or misuse the system through error or sabotage - it will go bananas.

This is completely different from fission control and stability. Lets guess how this would have behaved with a few tonnes of molten sodium not being pumped around...

""Lets guess how this would have behaved with a few tonnes of molten sodium not being pumped around.""

From Wiki..."Sodium reacts exothermically with water: small pea-sized pieces will bounce across the surface of the water until they are consumed by it, whereas large pieces will explode. While sodium reacts with water at room temperature, the sodium piece melts with the heat of the reaction to form a sphere, if the reacting sodium piece is large enough. The reaction with water produces very caustic sodium hydroxide (lye) and highly flammable hydrogen gas. These are extreme hazards (see Precautions section below). When burned in air, sodium forms sodium peroxide Na2O2, or with limited oxygen, the oxide Na2O (unlike lithium, the nitride is not formed). If burned in oxygen under pressure, sodium superoxide NaO2 is produced."

Back in the days of being an Operating Engineer, Journeyman, I would amaze the newbies out of college with some Sodium bombs. Waukesha Engine company used Sodium filled exhaust valves in the large VHP series oil field engines. Take a carbide bit and drill a hole in the valve head, then toss it into the pond.....KABLOOIE!!!! The only good way to explain what happens when a cracked valve comes into contact with coolant in a blown engine. Engine law number 5, Do Not, overspeed and put piston in contact with valves.

Now, my sodium comes on the rim of a glass. With Chloride.

The Martian

1] If you don't continuously cool spent fuel rods they go bananas..

2] Any reactor that is producing megawatts of heat at SCRAM needs the heat removing. Without circulation they go bananas.

3] Any reactor containing dirty spent fuel produces a lot of decay heat. This needs active cooling - circulation or it goes bananas.

If you remove power from any of the above, or misuse the system through error or sabotage - it will go bananas.

Not with LFTR. 1&2 ) After the freeze valve melts the contents of the core drain into a natural convection cooled dump tank. No pumps needed. 3) The normal shutdown method is to turn off power to the plant just like they did with the MSRE project back in the late sixties.

And if pigs could fly...

What is the implications for thorium fuel cycle technologies? One of the flaws of LWR technology from a strong sustainability perspective is that its field of application is intrinsically limited in that only the insane would want to see one in operation in Nigeria or the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It might be suggested that a fuel cycle that by design has no meltdown if things fall apart would be more promising, but the question remains to what extent it is a technology that we cannot risk being operated in the ramshackle nation states that we should expect to see more of under the pressure of climate chaos.

jokuhl, well said.

What I'm seeing here is a simple thing, I explored it in a recent thread which I have to give up on since the noise destroyed the signal finally, the warning sign is the increase of complexity to solve problems. This is not something to celebrate, when you run out of fresh water, having to use expensive desalination for example means you are in deep trouble, and need to fix the fundamentals immediately.

Apparently people who are financially wedded to the status quo, or who directly profit from it personally, will not and cannot see that these are systems that require highly complex, centralized, deeply technological societies to run. Since you cannot argue with people who live off of this stuff, I believe one has to simply treat them as pylons on the road, existing but largely useless in terms of finding a workable future. Good to pay attention to, don't want to hit a pylon, want to avoid it, especially at speed. This is how I treat cars, for example. Pylons that move and have no fixed principles beyond short term personal gain however are harder to deal with, but they are still just obstructions to our real future. I guess that's also why I follow TOD, I rarely see or meet or talk to such types in my real life, so it's good to see them as they really are.

This is what I learned: It's the most complex and least resilient way we could possibly contrive to bring us our basic power needs.

This appearing in the 60s means we hit the initial approach to max consumption then, not now. Oil maxing now is simply the inflexion point, and the marks the actual change of the curve.

We will not have the technology or resources to deal with waste, or anything of other toxic nature in the future, assuming so is willfully ignoring all human history and cultural truths, and is in my opinion inexcusable. But rational behavior is not what drives us, and I need to remind also myself of this fact before asking that behavior of others. Self interest, greed, personal arrogance, etc, is what we idolize in our culture, and those are all negatives that should be condemned by any healthy culture. We don't, so that's our set of pylons. Positive changes will only come from people who are not driven by such short term ideologies, this is totally clear from following these threads. If this is truly an inflection point, which I believe it is, most people will resist changing, which is normal, and expected, while some will find a way forward that does not jeopardize our remaining future. The resistance to change will get more frantic, it already is, that's why the tea party is growing here, but it won't help because it has no positive offerings, only reactionary talk and negative solutions that make things worse. All expected from a population like you find here, sadly. I expected it for years. Doesn't work, doesn't help, but that's how it goes, you have to get the notions to become so far out of sync that reality forces a renewal of the notion's core, then you can see things improve. For now, the pylons will get more mobile and will try to block things more and more, even though it's their future they are blocking, but only reason can tell them that, and reason isn't a tool they use to make decisions, so I guess patience is in order.

We will be cursed by all future generations. This is our legacy, I guess we should get used to it. When they look back at the types of excuses that were offered by short term minded people only pursuing personal gain with no thought to the future, they will ask: what were they thinking? We should print up some of these threads in book form so they can see what they were thinking, so they could learn from it, create taboos, again, that ban such behaviors on deeper social levels, again.

The answer to what the Easter Islanders were thinking has always been found here, and everywhere else in our culture.

Solutions that increase complexity accelerate collapse.
Much on TOD back in mid 2010 about the fall of civilizations.
Complexity adds cost.
The reflex is to increase complexity in an effort to maintain BAU.

This appearing in the 60s means we hit the initial approach to max consumption then, not now. Oil maxing now is simply the inflexion point, and the marks the actual change of the curve.

Yes. I believe (and unfortunately, it is a belief, as the data is not accessible) that could we fully account for the EROEI of all our energy sources, we would find that net energy - and especially net per capita energy - peaked in the 70's, so we were approaching said peak in the 60's. Hard to prove, but if one looks closely at what Hall et. al. have been saying about EROEI, then what you say makes sense. We rode a bumpy plateu of net per capita energy from about 1980-2005. What we see around us now is the result of the beginning of decline.

Many thanks for your strong voice during this time on TOD.

thanks, and thanks for the reminder. In fact, one thing I have noted is that the people who maintain that these levels can be maintained, in fact have pointed to exactly that drop in net per capita energy over that time period. But they do this to try to trumpet the claim that we are growing without that expansion, which I believe if you carefully studied real debt and inflation levels, you would find that is false.

Now I remember it. What they are not pointing to, because it's inconvenient to their misleading statements, that global debt levels have also risen during this time, until they have reached a present point where they must totally reorganize and restructure the entire system. Few connect the dots, the plateau we have been on net as you note is also the end of real growth, and that is why our debt loads are so large.

As soon as direct maximum of production is hit, with oil, the subject of this site primarily, we had an instant disruption of those pre-existing debt structures, which were already totally out of control, and are now feeding the debt meter at rates absolutely unimaginable only 10 years ago.

This is in my opinion absolute proof that growth actually stopped in real terms in the 60s or 70s, 85 at the latest I'd say, we are on the brink now, and we are not dealing with the problem tight fuel supplies are creating.

It's increasingly obvious to me that our current system isn't functioning without cheap coal and oil, if it was, we wouldn't be about 65 trillion in total debt in this country alone, that's probably risen since last year I'd guess. I am amazed at how people really cannot see this, it's totally clear public and obvious. Soros is right, humans do not deal with any fundamental reality as a rule, except in a very limited case of science etc, in general they deal with the world their biases allow them to perceive, which in turn colors how they act in the world, which colors how the world actually is. We were designed this way because it worked very well when we lived within our means, you want people to do what the culture tells them to do, that's how you sustain a culture over centuries. It doesn't work at all when people try to use the same method to preserve the unpreservable and non-sustainable, but it is exactly how we are supposed to think and act, that's what makes our circumstances now so hard. The intense cynicism of some parts of this planet doesn't help, nor does the greed, but they are just using their understanding of how we work to their own short termed advantage.

EROEI maybe hasn't been well explained or written up, but I think you're onto something there with that observation.

However, following Soros again, I think the key is that once our core biases adapt to this, which they have to, we'll start seeing new biases form that will be better suited to the new path we'll be on. No idea how long that takes, sometimes we change heck of fast when we need to.

Shall the good old concept of MSR be put in practice finally instead of building these hazardous water boilers even these days, would address most safety and nuclear waste matters.
Some say it is being held in the background by the nuke supply industry for it does not require such massive and expensive hardware like the LWR/PWR technology, and doesn't rely on industrially manufactured fuel pellets/rods, again not a cheap stuff. I don't know, but it's quite suspicious. Despite MSRs could burn all that nasty crap the current ones produce (and produced so far) by gradually transmuting it into far less toxic forms, besides that they are safer, cheaper to build, require less maintenance... and, guess what: no one builds it.
Using current reactor tech in the long term now looks more and more a mass suicide.

And what happens when you stop pumping a molten sodium reactor?

MSR == Molten Salt Reactor

n.b. Molten Salt Reactors generically use molten salts as coolants.
Molten Salt Liquid Fuel reactors also have the fuel dissolved in the salt.

The freeze plug thaws,
the salt flows into the emergency storage tanks that are designed to
hold the molten mixture as it cools.
The storage tanks are/should be designed with enough surface area/geometry to allow
cooling without any active cooling or concern for criticality.


p.s. if you do stop pumping a liquid sodium cooled reactor, one gets a fuel meltdown, like that which rendered the Fermi 1 reactor in Detroit unusable.

"if you do stop pumping a liquid sodium cooled reactor, one gets a fuel meltdown,"

not always true;


"In April 1986, two special tests were performed on the EBR-II, in which the main primary cooling pumps were shut off with the reactor at full power (62.5 megawatts, thermal). By not allowing the normal shutdown systems to interfere, the reactor power dropped to near zero within about 300 seconds. No damage to the fuel or the reactor resulted. This test demonstrated that even with a loss of all electrical power and the capability to shut down the reactor using the normal systems, the reactor will simply shut down without danger or damage. The same day, this demonstration was followed by another important test. With the reactor again at full power, flow in the secondary cooling system was stopped. This test caused the temperature to increase, since there was nowhere for the reactor heat to go. As the primary (reactor) cooling system became hotter, the fuel, sodium coolant, and structure expanded, and the reactor shut down. This test showed that it will shut down using inherent features such as thermal expansion, even if the ability to remove heat from the primary cooling system is lost."

What this does prove is that you have to design passive safety in from the beginning. I may also prove that bigger is not better and more small plants would be a better thing even if the accountants do cry all week.

By the way, on that last point, when does a PWR get big enough to require boron in the coolant to control reactivity?

This needs to be read very carefully.

If they claim protection is by way of thermal expansion, then the reactor must be extremely HOT for that to occur.

Note they only mentioned power output, NOT core temperature!!
If the power needs pumps to transfer the energy, then it is no surprise power falls with the pumps off.

If we imagine core can somehow self-cool, then that merely shrinks, produces more power, and so repeats.

I also find claims of thermal expansion as a real regulation mechanism hard to believe, as thermal expansion is measured in parts per million/'C.

Thermal expansion of zirconium:

Thermal expansion (25 °C) 5.7 µm·m−1·K−1

After 400K, you get a change of 5.7 µm * 400 = 2.28 cm every meter. That is not little in the nuclear reactor technology. I don't know details but the uranium rods are about 1 cm thick. A little difference can do the change.

I mean, they did the experiment, why it wouldn't thermal expansion be enought?

After 400K, you get a change of 5.7 µm * 400 = 2.28 cm every meter.
5.7e-6*400 = 0.00228, which I make 2.28mm ?

Wikipedia: Molten salt reactor (forgive me, no time to look for better respected sources)

"Even given an accident, dispersion into a biome is unlikely. The salts do not burn in air or water, and the fluoride salts of the actinides and radioactive fission products are generally not soluble in water."

"There is no high pressure steam in the core, just low-pressure molten salt. This means that the MSR's core cannot have a steam explosion, and does not need the most expensive item in a light water reactor, a high-pressure steam vessel for the core."

"Molten-fuel reactors can be made to have passive nuclear safety: Tested fuel-salt mixtures have negative reactivity coefficients, so that they decrease power generation as they get too hot. Most fuel-salt reactor vessels also have a freeze plug at the bottom that has to be actively cooled. If the cooling fails, the fuel drains to a subcritical storage facility."

You might also mention that the staff at the MSRE, Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, done at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the late 1960s would just shut off the power to the reactor, and go home each weekend. It would passively shut its self down. Another note: None of the accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, or this one in Japan would have happened with a LFTR, (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor), plant.

I've only been here a little while. Ive only thought a bit.
But, in "all" my thinking about solutions to this energy precipice,
"climate change" or -global warming- is the... what's the word?...
is the capper, the final blow, the major complication, the game changer,
the final straw, the thing that makes any solution very unsure, fragile.

I was told to comment about machine translations of Japanese in this thread, so here goes.

Please do not trust bing or google or any other machine translation of Japanese articles. They are almost always wrong. I'm sure a linguist could explain why, but these machine translations really fall apart when given Japanese. They do not work anything close to as well as when translating, say, German or Spanish to English. It must have something to do with language roots and similarities. Not to mention the obscure vocabulary in these articles such as "re-criticality".

If you want up to the minutes English updates of the crisis try the NKH world link above in the blue box or Kyodo news here

I humbly request people do not post machine translations of articles. It is very very misleading to people who do not speak Japanese and doesn't help those of us who can. Trust me, you are not going to find any secrets in the Japanese articles then you'll find in the English ones. In fact Western media tends to be much more aggressive than Japanese media anyway.

Thank You.

Automatic translation system used statistical correlation between bilingual document. This is why bing or google work relatively well for European languages since there is a large corpus of bilingual document from European Union and many multilingual countries (Canada, Netherlands, Switzerland, etc). In addition, automatic translation have hard time when sentence structure is difference. french to english is often messy, while french to spanish work much better. Japanese is almost a worst case for automatic translation.

Your post, translated to Japanese and back to English with Babel Fish:

Bad these things how in case of a certain, whether it is, concerning you yourself when you think that we would like to see, other language (in this case of Japanese although) it translates, use English clause and, translation it is translated take next for the second time. With theory it ends with English, something which finishes - with really with will the text and in many cases, it is depended on that, you cannot understand, but change.

What was that again??


If you want to see for yourself how bad these things can be, take some block of text in English, use the translation to translate to the other language (Japanese in this case), and then translate back again. In theory you will end up with English - in practice what you end up with will vary depending on the text, but in many cases it would be incomprehensible.

You can take these things a few blocks of the English text itself please see how bad you can, other languages ​​(Japanese in this example) into again Translation please use the translation. In theory, I get in English - in fact you, and depends on the text, in many cases, it becomes something you'll never understand.

That wasn't so bad.

I think the biggest problem is the obscure vocabulary. Your block of text was pretty simple.

This one.

The fuel rods might melt and pool at the bottom of the reactor containment vessel. If this situation occurs the possibility of re-criticality is not zero.

Turns into

The fuel rod containment pools at the bottom of the reactor might melt. If you encounter this situation, the possibility of re-criticality is not zero.

It got re-criticality right. That's surprising. But the first sentence is completely wrong.

Test :Bounce the text back and forth between the two languages.
Feedback: Correct the text until it is the same in each language.
Makes one VERY aware of idioms: "Like a bat out of hell" for example.

This sounds like a reasonable request to me.

The point is to preserve the signal to noise ratio, and machine translations are too much noise, not enough signal.

Request: Throttle the tin foil hat guy to three posts a day.

For the same reason you mentioned.

WRT the radiation map of Japan

What does nGy/h (nano- Grays per hour) mean and how does that relate to the sieverts unit the Japanese media is reporting?

And what does 'direct value' mean. The table below the map puts radiation at 0 at the Fukushima plants. What's up with that?

The box to the left of the map says this

Not surprisingly, Miyagi and Fukushima are completely N/A, as every single reading is Under Survey, also known as censored.

Thanks. I thought it must be something like this.

Aren't there good long-distance means of detecting things like this?

Masters is always worth reading.

He oversteps slightly in saying there is absolutely no increased health threat to the US from the plume.

I certainly agree that it is not something to get worked up about here at this point, but there is no increase in radioactivity that is 'safe.' The increased risk may be trivial, but it is not zero, as I understand it.

I understand the desire not to cause concern where no concern is warranted, but I'm not sure we should sacrifice accuracy for this end.

I figure this has the possibility to help some fisheries. If even a few fish come in radioactive, nobody will want them. Also will put pressure on other sources of food. The Japanese I believe are big consumers of seafood. This could really put a dent in that consumption...depending on how these radioactive particles move through the food chain. I'm talking mostly of Cs137/Sr90.

This is why soybeans are up on recent trading.

Interesting that we don't have to make the distinction between dispersants and dispersions like in the Macondo incident. All of the behavior is governed by spatial dispersion and this drops significantly with distance from the source.

Well, what in life is 'safe'? Nothing that I am aware of.

As far as low levels of radiation goes, there isn't a consensus as to whether a no-effect threshold exists. And given the high rates of cancer from all causes it's going to take a really hefty dose of radiation to get difference that is statistically significant. Even with Chernobyl there is only thyroid cancer that can be pointed to.

In this case Masters is talking about something that is well under 1% of background.

Thus it is quite clear however that the exposure increments on the west coast are less than you would get many activities people undertake with considering them as risky from a radiation exposure point of view. For example a cross country airline flight.

Fears of some folks of the West coast, -or even with what has drifted over Tokyo, are simply fear induced innumeracy. I hope in the case of Tokyo, it stays that way, but it looks like it will be a couple of weeks before this thing can possibly be reduced to only a local hazard (say 5-10KM exclusion zone). And we still could have a substantial release, until these things get reliably cooled. Then they will presumably have to be entombed. I suspect you can't just bury them, you probably gotta build some sort of active cooling into the mounds. That will almost certainly take months. Hopefully then the exclusion zone can then be shrunk to the immediate environs of the site.

Good points, but of course the only reason Tokyo stayed out of major trouble was because of the wind direction.

This is what we are reduced to--wishing for the wind to blow in just the right direction at just the right time in order to avert a major radioactive contamination of tens of millions of people.

Exactly how utterly pathetic are we?

Every increase in radiation increases risk.

But yes, the increase posed by the plume over the US is probably below many things most Americans would not see as particularly risky.

But really, we shouldn't be taking cross country air flights for any number of other reasons.


We use that generally to mean Not Applicable. Not available.

Maybe it means: Not accountable.

When we are talking about nuclear power.

From The Health Physics Society - Grays and Sieverts


Some still prefer Rads and Rems -and even R - as these units are often more familiar to the general public and to radiologists, especially the older ones. It is sort of like using feet instead of meters.

Dr Mettler using Rem


When it gets to be comparable to this one, it might be a real tragedy...but these were for the most part, very, very poor people. Do wealthy Japanese, by most of the worlds standards, count for more as a human? If the Nuke issue was not "hot", would it even be in the news today?

""The western coastal areas of Aceh, including the cities of Banda Aceh, Calang, and Meulaboh, were among the areas hardest-hit by the tsunami resulting from the Indian Ocean earthquake on 26 December 2004. While estimates vary, approximately 230,000 people were killed by the earthquake and tsunami in Aceh, and about 500,000 were left homeless. The tragedy of the tsunami was further compounded on March 26 when a second off-shore earthquake measuring 9.1 on the Richter scale struck the sea bed between the islands of Simeulue Island in Aceh and Nias in North Sumatra. This second quake killed a further 905 people on Nias and Simeulue, displaced tens of thousands more and caused the tsunami response to be expanded to include Nias.""

Choose Wisely.
The Martian.

How is morale among the Japanese population? If I'm not mistaken, I have the idea that they are generally very cooperative and helpful in the face of great disaster. Have there been signs of looting/crime or protests?

Where should I begin?

First of all, what does morale have to do with looting and/or protests? I submit to you that morale has very little to do with those things.

Second, looting and protests are not the same thing - are you honestly trying to compare public unions in Wisconsin to the looters in New Orleans following Katrina? If you are, shame on you.

The Japanese are not like Haitians, and they will not loot. I guarantee it. You say you "have the idea" that this is so, without being actually able to admit it. Is it so hard to admit?

The Japanese ARE cooperative and helpful in the face of disaster. That's a fact. You don't have to tiptoe your way around it by saying you "have the idea" that they are.

+ 10

The Japanese ARE cooperative and helpful in the face of disaster. That's a fact.

Unless you want information, then you might as well ask the government of China.

Your are correct, I didn't use the right term. I was also not trying to compare public union demonstrations to looting. Again poor choice of words, I am sorry for the misunderstanding.

I was just trying to gain some insight into how they would react to the situation. That is, if the general and primary focus of those hit hardest by the disaster, would be to help out and try to stabilize the situation, or try and find someone to blame and express outrage. I know of people, who when faced with a big problem, will usually start looking for someone to blame than trying to solve it.

I admit I am poorly informed, on events regarding the Katrina hurricane and the events occurring in Japan. I was aware of instances of looting occurring (I don't know to what degree) in New Orleans and was wondering if this was happening and, if so, to what extent in Japan.

I believe that looting will occur on a combination of lack of faith in the government and/or aid attempts.

Any ways, thanks for the input. The Japanese people need support and selfless neighbors.

One note about looting in New Orleans.

My home was looted. A gallon of distilled water I kept for my car, several bottles of wine, canned food, my umbrella, my flashlight and I think, some but not all of my socks and underwear were taken.

Left was a digital camera, an LCD TV & monitor and a pile of change.

The rule among "looters" I later found was whoever scored it got a double share and the rest was shared equally.

Potable water was found by draining hot water tanks.


After Ivan, the Gulf Shores PD said they would arrest me if I left my house to go buy some beer and get food. We all have our thugs.

Had the "looters" been able to contact me, I would GLADLY have given my permission to take all the items they took gratis, as a gift, for they were all necessities at the time.

Best Hopes for Humanity,


I waited until nightfall and put on my BDU's on from Desert Storm. Obviously not current issue. First National Guard patrol I ran into took me to the Command Post and the CO let me have what I wanted, he even had a bottle of JD and some cigarettes. They even dropped me off. I split my 'haul' with my neighbors and we all appreciated the fact I had stayed slim over the years. Leadership, that is all.

Oilman Sachs-
The Japanese are not like Haitians, and they will not loot. I guarantee it.
There already has been isolated reports of such. Please get out more. Granted, maybe 10,000 to 1 but your statement was an absolute. I have a better absolute statement, people are people, culture, character and cooperation are learned to some degree, perhaps a large one. Bless you.


A "Chernobyl solution" may be the last resort for dealing with Japan's stricken nuclear plant, but burying it in sand and concrete is a messy fix that might leave part of the country as an off-limits radioactive sore for decades.

Japanese authorities say it is still too early to talk about long-term measures while cooling the plant's six reactors and associated fuel-storage pools, comes first.

"It's just not that easy," Murray Jennex, a professor at San Diego State University in California, said when asked about the so-called Chernobyl option for dealing with damaged reactors, named after the Ukrainian nuclear plant that exploded in 1986.

"They (reactors) are kind of like a coffee maker. If you leave it on the heat, they boil dry and then they crack," he said.
At Chernobyl, an army of workers conscripted by the then Soviet government buried the reactor in tonnes of sand, then threw together a concrete container known as the "sarcophagus" within months of the fire and explosion there.

It failed to set properly and it cracked, leaking radiation into the atmosphere and water. Partly supported by the damaged walls of the reactor building, it has had to be reinforced.

Under a new plan for Chernobyl, a massive structure will be assembled away from the reactor at a cost of billions of dollars, then slid into place over the existing sarcophagus.

Chernobyl-style methods would be even more difficult at Fukushima Daiichi, given the number of reactors involved.

As Japanese officials have said, cooling is still the top priority. Pouring sand onto hot fuel could theoretically produce glass, and that same heat would prevent working on a durable concrete shell.

That means the stricken complex is likely to become an open sore, leaking radioactive particles into the atmosphere, for weeks and possibly months before the Chernobyl solution could even be implemented.

Fukushima one week on: Situation 'stable', says IAEA

Shameful media panic very slowly begins to subside

It is all a matter of posturing. I am not going to redefine "panic"; however, 67% of their reactors at the site have blown up. Radiation prevents slip-shod cooling by firetrucks. Helicopters are required to dribble a diffuse shower of sea water into the site haphazardly. The US and other European Nations say get out "Now!"

Well that does not seem like it adds up to Full Control of the situation. I suppose it is now safe at all.

I do think the Japanese should try a different rhetorical device rather than attempting to bully public opinion by calling them names.

You should really go read that, esp. the "analysis". Lol. From the "Guardian" UK. Hahaha.

That's from The Register, a million miles from the Guardian. For starters it's primarily an IT news site. Secondly they enjoy their unusual, almost tabloid-esque disrespect for guff and BS of all sorts (it started with corporate press release guff but it's their default approach to everything.) Thirdly, Lewis Page (author of that piece) and another of their hacks, Andrew Orlowski, have been running an increasingly eccentric global warming denialist campaign for the last few years. That's the main reason I've stopped reading it.

The Register is a techie plaything. They are cornucopian petrol heads. They are having fun with their toys and will scream if anybody tries to take them away.

Take no notice.

Sorry HAHAHAha! I am having to many news websites on my computer! Correct: REGISTER. LOL.

Yet, BOFH is unbetable ;)

No, I don't read anything else there.

From the article:

"Radiation readings at the site boundary remained low through Friday morning in Japan, dropping to 0.26 millisievert/hour. Personnel at the site are normally permitted to sustain 20 millisievert in a year: this has been raised to 250 millisievert owing to the emergency.

Normal dosage from background radiation is 2-3 millisievert annually"

So even from their own figures for this 'low level', workers would exceed year-long exposures in ten hours; ten ten-hour days will put them above the old limit. And 100 days would put them above the new, very high limit.

"Stable" here seems to mean "predictably dangerous."

There are probably going to be spikes of radiation, and probably enough neutrons released to irradiate surrounding material.

Edit: probably enough neutrons released to induce radiation in nearby material.

Here's a really cool, nerdy chart from the IAEA.
You can filter alpha emitters(generally heavy atoms)and see the half-lifes, energies interactively.


"There are probably going to be spikes of radiation, and probably enough neutrons released to irradiate surrounding material."

???? I don't see how that's notable.

Neutron dosen't leak like gases.

They are released either from spent fuel or the current fuel rods. In the first case they will be absorbed, as usual, by the reactor vessel, in the second they are released like they always did in the spent fuel pool (always in small quantity and producing deuterium).

That's peanuts, isn't it?

In my view, the principal sources of radiation are and will always be Xenon-133 and Iodine-131.
For contamination it's ceasium-137.

But the the rest of this, for plutonium and all that stuff, I wonder why people bother and don't speak of theses...

We shouldn't have to put these people in this situation, but "predictably dangerous," AKA calculated risk, is the basis of modern society.

Good reason to steadily step away from a number of particularly toxic elements of modernity.

is the basis of modern society

heck lions calculate risk when they decide to pursue or not pursue quarry (likely chance of success before they are likely to get worn out or some such lion generated metric)--calculated risk is the basis of much of life on earth. It's on what metrics we base the calculating that is the issue.

"What does nGy/h (nano- Grays per hour) mean and how does that relate to the sieverts unit the Japanese media is reporting?"
The reporting of radiation doses is very confusing. They use varying units and change the "numbers" by factors of 1000, ie milli, micro, nano, etc.

1 Gray(Gy) is approx. equal to 0.7 Sieverts.

I am also try to get a frame of reference to what these numbers mean. A change from 20 micro-sievert to 200 micro-sievert sound bad but is it important other than the trend? As a frame reference I looked at Medical radiation exposure for people involved in Medical X-Ray technology. One reference that I saw said that yearly exposure to 5000 milli-sievert per year for 30 years would increase the cancer risk by 0.6% over the general population risk of 20% chance of developing cancer over the same 30 year period.


Care to cite that reference?

For contrast check out the chart here:


Note that the chance of death (without medical attention) is 5-100% with 2-6 sieverts (2000-6000 millisieverts); with 6-8 Svs, it goes up to 95-100% chance of death.

How you get the radiation can make a lot of difference.

BBC had some figures and comparisons that put things in perspective

The perception of the extreme risk of radiation exposure is also somewhat contradicted by the experience of 87,000 survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who have been followed up for their whole lives.

By 1992, over 40,000 had died, but it has been estimated that only 690 of those deaths were due to the radiation. Again, the psychological effects were major.

Radiation does, however, feel acceptable when used in benign circumstances such as medical imaging. You can pay £100 ($160) and get a whole-body CT scan as part of a medical check-up, but it can deliver you a dose equivalent to being 1.5 miles from the centre of the Hiroshima explosion.

Because more than 70m CT scans are carried out each year, the US National Cancer Institute has estimated that 29,000 Americans will get cancer as a result of the CT scans they received in 2007 alone


Ummmm, my uncle was in charge of this research at Hiroshima.

The reality is not that pretty.

The mortality rate beyond the first year of the bomb is relatively low because everybody was already dead and the force of the bomb blew most of the radioactive material away from the site.

Using this to minimize the harm of radiation is like claiming, because few people who were in concentration camps died prematurely if they made it ten years past the experience, that Zyklon-B is a perfectly harmless substance.

You have a valid point

I have seen statements to the effect that the results of at least some of the original studies of the longer term effects on the population in the blast area were (unintentionally) biased towards an optimistic assessment because the control groups were selected from populations that were close enough to be adversely affected.

Certainly, in the early days of nuclear technology, the understanding of the hazards was quite poor. There were a lot of things that were done in the 1950s that nobody in their right mind would seriously consider today; among other things there was even a portable tactical nuclear weapon designed to be deployed by a three man crew and which actually went into service on a large scale (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Crockett_%28nuclear_device%29).


"There were a lot of things that were done in the 1950s that nobody in their right mind would seriously consider today"

I would say that nuclear power was one of those, but there are still a lot of people not in their right mind.

Catastrophes such as we are seeing now are very different from bombs. Bombs kill (really evaporate) most of their victims immediately, but later, people seem to be able to move back into the area fairly quickly.

Nuclear power plant accidents generally don't have high death tolls immediately (a fact much bruited about by pro-nukers), but they can leave large areas uninhabitable for decades, at least.

Lest we forget, there was also nuclear artillery...

E. Swanson

...and depleted uranium (DU) used in armor & armor piercing ammo.

Oh pooh. Depleted uranium is not a radiological hazard. The stuff is so inactive that it has a half-life of 4.5 billion years.

It is a chemical hazard (toxic metal) though.

One of the weird non-intuitive aspects of radioactive materials. People get freaked out when they hear about a long half-life, but this means that the radiation is that much weaker. In general, a short half-life suggests intense radioactivity for a short period, and a long half-life suggests weak radioactivity for a long period. I think of this as a kind of mass-action law for emissions.

I know pretty much nothing about this, but others disagree with you.

With a half life of about 4.5 billion years DU is a very low level radio-toxin. The radiation hazard from a spent DU round is many orders of magnitude lower than the hazard in the one or two second from the time it is fired.

There is also psychological damage.

One of the saddest people I ever saw was an elderly Japanese lady in a TV special on Hiroshima. She had been caught in the blast as a young girl and survived. Her dearest wish was to get married and start a family. The trouble was, Japanese men didn't want to marry girls from Hiroshima because they were afraid they'd have deformed babies, so she had remained single.



"How you get the radiation can make a lot of difference."

Exactly. I think acute dosing and degrees of acute "poisoning" are pretty well defined. Long term esp. cancer risks are a lot more speculative. I have no expertise other than being exposed to a fair amount of radiation in Hospitals over about 40 years when neck/thyroid protection was not routine. I get my thyroid checked every few years.


1 Gray(Gy) is approx. equal to 0.7 Sieverts.

Thanks, that helps a lot.


To me you are understating the risks (or you reference a quite optimistic study). The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority estimates 5% increase in cancer risk, later in life, per Sievert in dose received.
Acute radiation illness starts at approximately a Sievert too.

The radiation at site border of was 17th approx 0.5 to 1 mS per hour, so in 1000 hours or so you'd receive 1 Sievert. Bingo, 5% cancer risk.

Please take care, workers!

1 Gy = 1 Sv

Basically Grays are any collision with atoms, where as Sieverts are adjusted to weight alpha particles heavier as they cause DNA damage. So they are the same unless there is more alpha particles.

Also your example is wrong. 5 Sv in one year would kill you. I'm not sure what unit or order of magnitude you screwed up, but "Lowest clearly carcinogenic level: 100 mSv/year" and radiation workers are allowed 20 mSv/year. Maybe you meant micro instead. 5 mSv/yr would be slightly less than flight crew on airline, so that's probably about right for an X-ray tech.

A couple more links to information on nuclear radiation and it health effects.

The first link is about background radiation in the environment. In deciding if a measured quantity of radiation is ignorable in a practical sense these numbers should be used in constructing your argument. There is a fair amount of evidence that any amount of radiation in excess of background results in increased incidence of biological effects such as are described in the second link. And the amount of increase of a biological effect is linearly related to the amount of excess radiation. There is no 'threshold' below which there is no harmful effect, only an experimental design issue that as you look for effects at lower and lower dose rates, the experiment becomes more and more difficult to do correctly.

So any excess is bad, but is it bad enough to worry about?

There is a lot of evidence that I am not the first person to ask this question. And there is also a lot of evidence that I am not the first person to point out that the answer to the question depends on how you value human life.

There is a type of argument that can be made comparing nuclear power to some other way of generating electricity --- coal powered plants, for instance. I think a technically sound argument can be constructed that nuclear power exposes the population to less radiation and toxic materials than coal fired electric plants. But maybe they are both unacceptable.

1. http://web.princeton.edu/sites/ehs/osradtraining/backgroundradiation/bac...

2. http://web.princeton.edu/sites/ehs/osradtraining/biologicaleffects/page.htm

These pages use the radiation unit, rem, which is a derived from Roentgen Equivalent Man. The science justification for the details of rem and sievert are the same, so the conversion is easy, 1 sievert = 100 rem, exactly.

I haven't followed the field for a long time. At one point there seemed to be some evidence that at low levels it is not linear, and that the minimum value (healthiest) level may actually be actually above the background level. But, this was a couple of decades back. Such a curve is not enturely implausible, at first the body responds to increasing dose, and is either able to keep the initial slope of the damage curve down, but as the level increases the defense mechanism gets overwhelmed. But, perhaps better more modern studies have clarified the issue. There may also be a diference between recieving the same dose as an impulse, or gradually over a period of time.

I have noticed a reduction in information flow the last 1-2 days. My thought is that certain high-level organisations have noticed the public interest in the accident, and that the public is turning critical to nuclear power. Thus the lid is on information, and the pro-nuclear lobby hopes that "no news stops the critical debate". Otherwise I do not see why now, when things might be getting better and more stable, there should not be MORE readings available (temperature and radiation for instance).

"I do not see why now, when things might be getting better and more stable, there should not be MORE readings available"

Well, my guess is that it is because things are getting better and more stable.

The media is getting more information and they do not have to hype it up. there rally is some big concerns.

Yes, "Nuclear Accident" news seems removed away from common viewing.
Noticed this sharply.
They need a good distraction, like what Michael Jackson was used for.

MIT appears to be on the beat at http://mitnse.com/

Great source.

Here's a noteworthy quote from the 'worst case scenario' article :

"The experiments have shown that without water quenching, corium under conditions similar to those present at Fukushima Dai-ichi will ablate the meters-thick concrete pad at a rate of just millimeters per minute. Gases would build up within the containment at a rate which would require filtered ventilation of the containment in order to prevent rupture." (my emphasis)

So if the fuel melts through to the concrete, and if water cannot be effectively applied (as we have seen), and if the gasses cannot be vented (may be hard to get that close once things get really hot), a "rupture" may occur. Presumably this means an explosion, one that would blow radioactive material into the air (again).

"Gases would build up within the containment at a rate which would require filtered ventilation of the containment in order to prevent rupture." "

I would hope there is a relief valve on the containment somewhere. ALL pressure vessels in the US must have overpressure protection, and the Japanese are not lax on that issue either.

Better unfiltered release out a stack than a blow-out.

Japan's Nuclear Crisis: the Risk of Risk Assessments

The nuclear crisis unfolding in Japan started decades ago on a piece of paper. Before a nuclear project that size is approved, a risk assessment is carried out. Hazards are identified and a cost/benefit analysis is made about how to approach the risks.

...In the case of the energy sector, getting it right is crucial not only for the ability to generate power, but also for site integrity. However, there are increasingly problems, both physical and economic, with the way risk assessments are done

First, due to changing environmental conditions (sea level rises, subsidence, changing storm activity) historical records may no longer be reliable predictors for future risks.

Good article.

This part really struck home, as I "was in Paris in that deadly hot summer of '03:

"In 2003, for example, unusually high temperatures in France caused the powering down or shutting off of 17 nuclear reactors, many of which were cooled by river water. This 'anomaly' happened again in the summers of 2006 and 2009, again causing powering downs. According to the Hadley Center for Climate Change, by 2040, it will be 'commonplace' for European summer temperatures to reach 2003 levels."

That these shut downs happened three times in seven years suggests that we will not have to wait till 2040 for this to be 'commonplace.'

Your impression is corroborated by the graph from this article


LOL. It is just 3 standard deviations this decade. Rush Limbaugh told me scientists lie.

Very impressive graph!

All the points way outside the bell curve on the hot side in the last decade.

Again, the point is that this power source--nuclear--depends on things remaining pretty much as they have been.

Cooling doesn't work if the water you are trying to cool things with has already been super-heated by heat waves--heatwaves that will become ever more powerful and ever more frequent as gw really kicks in.

Time to move steadily away from this deadly way to boil water in order to power commercials.

The idea that the ambient temperature in the environment could ever get hot enough to cause severe problems serving as a heat sink is completely absurd. Power plants cause ecological problems with waste heat far, far before they run into mechanical issues with dissipating heat. Those are serious problems but they are not dangerous and they apply to all types of power plants.

Thats true. We have had instances where a severe drought (usually associated with heat), caused water levels to drop below intakes. This isn't an accident risk, as it can be predicted well ahead of time. But, it does mean that water hungry power generation may have to be curtailed during certain weather/climate conditions.

Could you provide sited evidence to support claim?

Where is the source? I don't see it.

I think you are referring to France when they had to shut down their power plants to prevent damage to the ecosystem via waste heat in 2003. You presented it as a safety issue with nuclear power plants. It is not, the power plant is perfectly capable of transferring its waste heat even in an exceptionally hot environment (the change in ambient temperature is insignificant compared to the heat exchange taking place). It is an ecology issue with adding waste heat to abnormally hot environments, and any thermal power plant is going to have the same problem.

Cooling towers can mitigate this issue significantly. I'm not sure if France uses cooling towers on their power plants. Power plants using the ocean as a heat sink are also much less susceptible to this problem.


A good article, but the fact is that rigorous risk assessment wasn't done for nuclear plants until the late 1970s / early 1980s. Not in the US anyways. These Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors were proposed, designed and built before formal risk assessment methods came into widespread use. Quantitative risk assessment was scoffed at and opposed by industry and government alike when it first started being applied to nuclear power plants. Since being adopted in earnest by the NRC, it has been criticized by many in the industry as another facet of "over-burdensome regulation" that leads to excessive costs.

Chatham House has a good link page on this subject at:


Tokyo (CNN) -- Japan's nuclear and industrial safety agency on Friday raised the level for the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant from a 4 to 5 -- putting it on par with the 1979 incident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island.

You gotta be kidding me! Three reactor buildings smoldering wrecks, two fuel ponds breached, and too dangerous for helicopters to hover. This has got to be somewhere between 3 mile and Chernobyl, much closer to the latter.

And officially the current status is a level 3 emergency at reactors 1,2 and 4 at the Fukushima Daini plant (confirmed by the IAEA in press conference an hour or so ago). Reactor status is currently listed as cold shutdown but these three reactors all lost cooling for a time after the quake and certainly were not shut down normally.

Edit: Level 3 is the same rating the Japanese have now assessed for reactor 4 building (a smoldering wreck as you point out). This seems very strange to me. Either it indicates the situation at reactor 4 pool is much less worrying than they previously thought or the situation at Daini is much worse than they are telling us.

A spokesman for the Hiroshima Survivors group was on CNN International earlier. He said his contacts have told him that the radiation levels the government are putting out for near the plant are fake as they know the real levels would cause panic. No way to verify this of course but CNN did broadcast his claim. Edit: Might just possibly have been on BBC but I think it was CNN.

That's the image posted yesterday. New image for today just posted at http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalglobe-imagery

Click image for hi-res version

Earthquake and Tsunami damage, Japan-March 18, 2011

Not seeing a lot of steam/smoke...is that good or bad?

Also does anyone know where, relative to the 4 reactors in this photo, the main gate is?

I'm not seeing firetrucks hosing the reactor down either. Hmmm.

Looks great. Trying to figure out how much sand and concrete are going to be needed to entombed all of them.........seems like it could take a while.

Is there an area on site that is "somewhat" safe? Maybe something with foot thick lead walls? Or do they just high tail it out of there when they receive a good dosage?

The control room should be shielded pretty well. You do not need lead you need water. water is a great gamma and neutron shield. Lead does not shield as well for neutrons. If I were working there I would first build a shielded with water filled traffic barriers.

I think they are both from the morning of the 18th in Japan. It is 3 AM there now, so the pictures are 15 hours old. Which is still the 17th here in the US when they take the images, so the Digital Globe website (which I have been watching for several days) identifies the image based on the day here in the US when it was taken.

Looks like foot traffic into the shared fuel pool building.

The image I just linked was taken at 10:20am Japanese time 18th March according to Digital Globe. The image you posted was posted by me in yesterday's thread over 24 hours ago and is dated 17th March by Digital Globe but they do not give a time for that one.

You are correct. Time zone confusion. I had to draw it out. I think it is 9:42 AM 3/19 there.

And thank for the flicker site, they are putting up images sooner there than at their website.

Here is a good time map perspective. With the sun always shown at zenith.


There are some very unusual hotspots in the Digital Globe jpg. Little Hotspots with rosy glow around them. It 'could' be reflections of glass, puddles, or whatever smacking the lens, but I wonder if anyone else thought they looked odd?

They could be artifacts, or maybe welding equipment.

Note also there are flares on east side of of each turbine hall. What are they flaring....hydrogen?

I think you are thinking to much about oil, if I remember it correct it is for venting steam to release pressure in case of an emergency. Right now the steam seems to be venting directly from the buildings and I should be more afraid then they stop venting steam especially if radiation rises.

Frustrated with TEPCO, Kan turns to SDF in nuclear crisis

"In the worst case scenario, we have to assume that all of eastern Japan would be wrecked. The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has almost no sense of urgency whatsoever."

So said Prime Minister Naoto Kan at a meeting with special advisor to the Cabinet Kiyoshi Sasamori on the night of March 16. Handling of the crisis had been entrusted to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and plant operator TEPCO. However, with the reactors' immediate surroundings now being bombarded with high radiation levels and the "worst case scenario" just on the horizon, the prime minister has turned the dangerous mission over to the Self-Defense Forces (SDF).

I'm not sure if this how absolute this is, but from [Channel News Asia]

TEPCO sounded out the plan on Monday after explosions and fire hit the nuclear reactors crippled by a massive earthquake and tsunami. But Prime Minister Naoto Kan turned down the request, telling TEPCO: "Withdrawal is impossible. It's not a matter of whether TEPCO collapses. It's a matter of whether Japan goes wrong," according to Mainichi. An unnamed official related to TEPCO, however, was quoted by Mainichi as saying: "If withdrawal is unacceptable, it's as if (Kan) said 'Do it until you are exposed to radiation and die."

I could see TEPCO walking away. But why wasn't SDF brought in sooner? Why wasn't pumper trucks airlifted in? Why didn't US pull in a Navy ship and run a line to their generators? It's almost like everyone abandoned the plant on Monday and decided Wednesday to try to do anything.

Yair...like deepwater drilling, it seems nuclear power generation is at the outer limits of our ability to control the situation if things go wrong.

The current nuclear crisis has much in common with the Macondo fiasco...there has been no equipment developed to cope with a worse case situation...a couple of remotely operated Cats (say sixes or eights) with the tooling and attachments of those deepwater ROV's I would imagine would be quite handy about now.

Scrub: Yeah! I was thinking a D-9 or 10 would be good too. Also a couple of big excavators with The Claw attached, so they could clear away structural steel and cut risers...uh..pipe out off the way!

Say? I wonder what the feasibility is of erecting one of those traveling cable-way cranes up there? Like they used on the dam at Gatun Lake on the Panama Canal and the Hoover Dam, and the recent bridge they built there? It might be able to lift a big discharge line, like they use for dredges,and place a pretty good amount of water with some degree of precision.I dont know.

Posted this elsewhere - put this sucker together nearby, drive it over closer, and haul hoses or whatever to your heart's content.

High Reach Telescopic Hydraulic Cranes. We launched a new crane concept in 2007 for heavy lifts that require a high reach, but with minimal ground space and greatly reduced erection time. The GTK 1100 is a high reach telescopic hydraulic crane that can lift a 77 ton load up to 394 feet, only requires about six hours to erect and is based on a combination of mobile crane and tower crane technology.


In a pinch, I'm sure many other portable cranes could haul up a hose, with the operator staying a goodly distance back on the ground.

Paleo: NICE!! And it's A Manitowoc to boot! Best cranes on earth! That would work much better than a cable-way, for sure. That is a real short erection time, too, which is imperative here.

Oddly, people get tunnel vision when tired or stressed. Though there are obviously many efforts going in parallel, I'm not convinced that all possible options with value are being pressed. It would be easy for Japan or the US to write a big check to say "find a crane, fly it nearby, and drive it to the site".

Others could be working on clearing roads or rail, while others could be test-landing dozers using hovercraft or such.

I can pretty much guarantee that no heavy equipment would go to waste NE of Tokyo......

Paleo: True enough. I am completely ignorant of the physics and chemistry involved in this catastrophe, but I know a big crane is going to be needed there to place and lift material- water, sand, 20 Mule Team stuff??,concrete- because I just dont see how any pre-existing infrastructure can be operable.Heck, a big crane there beats helicopters. They are in a bad spot. I wonder what Caterpiller, Manitowoc, and Terex are doing to help, if any thing? I think Lampson has a lot of resource in China right now, which is fairly close.


Look at this construction project for Chernobyl. They use a sophisticate crane system to build the New Safe Confinement system to keep in the nasties.

The deconstruction equipment

The NSC design includes two bridge cranes suspended from the arches. These cranes travel East to West on common runways and each has a span of 84 meters (275.6 ft).
Each crane can carry a variety of interchangeable carriages. Three types of carriages have been designed for the NSC:
One typical lifting carriage with a 50 tonne (55 US Tons) carrying capacity.
One secure lifting carriage for shielded transportation of personnel, with a 50 tonne (55 US Tons) carrying capacity.
One carriage suspends a mobile tool platform, extending up to 75 meters (246.1 ft), that can be fitted with a variety of end actuators useful for deconstruction.
The cranes' carriage interchangeability allows the rotation of the largest members to be deconstructed, reducing the overall size of the NSC by approximately one arch bay.

What would happen to one of these cranes if it was erected during a 6th magnitude aftershock?

Blue: I dont know for sure, but if the tower was extended fully- 250ft- it may very well topple over. If the mast was not extended, and closer to the ground, it might just sway quite alot. In this latter case you would have to take the operator to the hospital where they could pry open his rectum with a pry bar!

I have read in a couple of places that the RVs they sent in to help with Chernobyl didn't last long as the radiation fried the electronics.I don't have the links nor do I know the qualifications of the people making the statements. Anyone know anything about that? Because I think having remote control devices standing by would be absolutely imperative otherwise.

The chips are sensitive to the radiation coming out of the solder that holds them! We are a the 46nm level, I think: the features sizes are 46 nanometers... the light you're using to read this is 500nm, TEN TIMES LARGER! All metal melted since WWII is radioactive. Radiation hardened electronics is an art. Use it to make just the communication part of an otherwise fluidic telechir.

Newer electronics are probably more sensitive. DC-motors and a cable with switches would probably do the trick if anybody built them. It is not nice and easy to use but it works. Hydraulics with electric controlled valves and a cable would probably also work great but the same problem no one build them.

The Israelis already have a robot bulldozer, which they used to clear roads of mines in Gaza. It is based on a Caterpillar design. It's an impressive looking beast!


Good picture inside of reactor #4 building:
The moment nuclear plant chief WEPT as Japanese finally admit that radiation leak is serious enough to kill people

commentary on above and TEPCO:
TEPCO Director Weeps After Disclosing Truth About Fukushima Disaster

N.B. the caption in this picture from the dailymail is WRONG!
The spent fuel storage is at the (far) REAR of this shot.

This is NOT the spent fuel pool, this is looking down inside the containment (reactor not visible) during a refueling operation. Note the narrow channel in the green plastic wrapped walls, aligned with the U-shaped passage to it. This leads to the spent fuel pool from the reactor. When they're done refueling, they'll close that off (and a larger passage behind the viewer that leads to the other storage pool for the steam separator and other reactor internals), and drain the water from this area and put the containment head back on.
The fuel rods are kept totally underwater when being transferred, both to keep them cool and to shield the intense gamma radiation they're emitting.

For more details see:
Look for Possible Cause of Reactor Building Explosions
for more pics, explanations.

has pics of some things in "Refueling Operations" (but not as much or as clear as desireable),
this Rachael Maddow video has some better shots: (3:30 or so) of a spent fuel pool

Source: minuscule fallout reaches US

Radioactive fallout from Japan's crippled nuclear plant has reached Southern California but the first readings are far below levels that could pose a health hazard, a diplomat said Friday.

The diplomat, who has access to radiation tracking by the U.N.'s Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, cited readings from a California-based measuring station of the group.

Initial readings are "about a billion times beneath levels that would be health threatening," the diplomat told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the CTBTO does not make its findings public.

Well we have to start the new baseline somewhere. Hope we get transparent readings from So. CA and Hawaii. Japan so far is hiding reality. The US Gov't is not releasing its U2 data either.

A lot to hide with nuclear power.


They don't want to scare the sheep. People were already buying potassium iodide a few days ago.

California looking like they are going to get a good rain event the next few days. That should clear out some of the radioactive particles, so the rest of us downstream can breath easy... for now.

Obama sure timed his trip to South America perfectly :)

"about a billion times beneath levels that would be health threatening,"

Straightforward 2D spatial dispersion goes like 1/R^2 where R is the distance downwind from the source. If 1000 meters from the source was health threatening, then (x/1000)^2 = 10^9 gives 3*10^7 meters or 30,000 km away would drop the level by a factor of a billion.

Dispersion in 3D is even greater (1/R^3), but I figured 2D is a worst case. This number passes a first-order sanity check.

2D is 1/r 3D 1/r^2

Not with disorder thrown in. Spatial dispersion of this kind has a significant varying time lag component as well. It is not as if the plume all follows a constant velocity jet stream. The particles closer to the surface move slower and can also filter out. So the expanding radius in 2D gives a 1/r and the velocity dispersion gives another 1/r factor so you get 1/r^2 for 2D.

Think of the plume as an expanding disc with distance and you can visualize this. If you think only in terms of an expanding perimeter, sure, you will get the 1/r effect for 2D, yet we all know that the disordered earth doesn't match the perfect laboratory conditions.

Study up on the topic of "breakthrough curves" and you will see this effect. I have a section in my book on this kind of dispersion.
The Oil ConunDrum

Aren't we really more or less living closer to 2D than 3D? There is more space to spread in 2D. The elements in question are heavier and would like to settle over a narrower vertical distance.

In the limit of 3D it approaches volume dilution. If you take the case of food coloring in a liquid, maximum entropy says that the dye will spread uniformly through the volume. If it separates out then it will lay uniformly across a 2D surface.

Look at what happened in Macondo; people were predicting it would go up the gulf stream but everything dispersed so much that nothing came out of it, just as one could predict.

This is really meant to get a feel for what is going on.

The sheep are stirring for sure.
All that KI is being purchased in the US.

Yes. Some unscrupulous types are making some big bucks selling radiation pills.

More Fallout reports coming in

Radiation from Fukushima plant detected in Sacramento, EPA says

"The basic physics and basic science really tells us that there can't be any risk or harm to anyone here in the United States, or Hawaii, or any of the other [U.S.] territories," Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said Thursday.


JOINT EPA/DOE STATEMENT: Radiation Monitors Confirm That No Radiation Levels of Concern Have Reached the United States

Units 5 & 6 are getting hot in the spent fuel pools

MARCH 18, 3:00 AM
Temperature in the spent fuel pool is 150 degrees Fahrenheit (normal is 77 degrees).

Unit 6 is 144 degrees F

Hope the get water circulation back with electric power, i.e., there is no damage to the pumping infrastructure post-quake and tsunami flooding.

Oct: Oh heck. Thats not good. Not good. Here's hoping infrastructure is more usable. Geez. They are in a tight spot.

Homeland Security, dude! The most recent studies in the US regarding Spent Fuel Pools are classified because of the threat of terrorism. Yep.... we'll have all everything we need in the coming months and years to make informed decisions. Yes indeed.

Japan sends robots into Fukushima nuclear plant

The team working to contain the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant now includes a robot. The machine, known as Monirobo ("Monitoring Robot"), was on the scene today, according to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun (in Japanese).

Monirobo is designed to operate at radiation levels too high for humans. The 1.5-metre robot runs on a pair of caterpillar tracks and has a manipulator arm for removing obstacles and collecting samples. Sensors include a radiation detector, 3D camera system and temperature and humidity sensors. It can be operated remotely from a distance of about a kilometre.

Monirobo weighs some 600 kilos and is limited to a speed of 2.4 kilometres per hour. It has to carry heavy shielding because many electronics, especially cameras, are highly vulnerable to the effects of radiation.

Hope it comes with a flashlight too...

And the ability to levitate.

Don't forget ...climb 5 flights of stairs.

Take whatever we can get. Should have an army of these things in there. Wonder if a robot could pick up a control rod?


I can't find this in any Japanese articles or from TEPCO press releases, but from a somewhat legit source, I'm not sure if this is a translation issue?


-- Reactor No. 4 - ... pool water level feared receding, renewed nuclear chain reaction feared, only frame remains of reactor building roof.

Is TEPCO saying they think Unit 4 went re-critical? This would be huge news.

NOT that it "went re-critical"
BUT that there is a very small probability that it might if the rods completely disintegrated and all the uranium pellets from the rods ended up in the bottom together in a heap.

Read it yourself, you don't says "spinal injury feared" unless it's what you think has happened. Unit 4 fuel was only removed for 8-10 weeks or something? It's going to be a lot of fission products still many of those neutron emitters and it is also going to be at something like 0.1% of the assembly power output.

I already know after like 30 mins without water, all the fuel rods will just be a pile of spent fuel. Also, I don't believe they will be "pellets". You realize they get very hot and expand and turn into lots of fission products. It is likely they would not be in pellet form, but I'm glad you watch the video showing them making a fuel rod.

The Unit 4 assembly would have melted and caught fire, and not be a pile of pellets. You realize the assembly was probably generating something like 800kW if it was removed from the reactor in December.

Currently TECPO are directed by the Japanese government to prevent re-criticality at pool 4. That says that they are worried it could happen in future. It is also possible that criticality was briefly reached earlier I guess (maybe when radiation levels spiked and they evacuated the plant for a time?). I wonder if they are worried that adding water could be the trigger for it again.

In any case it is astonishing to me that the Japanese government rates building 4 as only a level 3 emergency. The same rating they have given for Fukushima Daini plant.

Four was already shutdown. The only issue at four is the cooling pool, right?

Yes. The reactor itself is not an issue as its non-spent fuel is currently outside of containment in the remains of building 4.

Welcome to the fray, joe. "Read it yourself, you don't says "spinal injury feared" unless it's what you think has happened." Very nicely put. Hope to see more of your observations and commentary here.

Well we know for a fact that the fuel in pool 4 has previously been critical as it was removed from the reactor. I don't think re-criticality implies that they have had an unplanned event although it doesn't rule it out either

As to "Feared". That doesn't imply that it has already happened to me. It could be taken that way though.

That status update is only about 1 hour old.

No idea how reliable Kyodonews is, but a couple data points I hadn't seen from link:

1) "temperature in spent-fuel storage pool reached 84 C on Monday"

Would it be safe to assume the temperature was ~30C in pool when the quake hit? Then ~4 days to go up 54C? and now it is 4 more days.

2) "fire Tuesday possibly caused by hydrogen explosion at pool holding spent fuel rods,"

Can you get hydrogen buildup before fuel is exposed?

3) "fire observed Wednesday at building housing reactor, pool water level feared receding, renewed nuclear chain reaction feared"


Sorry so many questions, but how many people are working there now? It was ~50 a few days ago, then I remember them saying more people onsite.

1) "temperature in spent-fuel storage pool reached 84 C on Monday"

If the fuel rods become partially exposed to air at the top then I imagine the temp at the top of the pool is higher than at the bottom where the sensors may be.

"Can you get hydrogen buildup before fuel is exposed?"

I guess (remembering that I'm no expert) if the fuel gets loose (during the quake?) and fall in a configuration where rods are surrounded by other rods with little water between them, there coud be hydrogen buildup.

I different question, but I do have it... Can there be hydrogen buildup after the fuel is exposed? I can't see how it can happen at the pool.

As the temperature of the water climbs, its vapor pressure increases exponentially. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vapour_pressure_of_water

At 50 C it is 12.3 kPa, at 80 C it is 47.3, so there is more evaporation of water off the surface which provides additional cooling. (You sweat when you get hot for exactly this reason.) The trick is to make up the evaporation by adding feedwater. That's why "follow the water" is such a key measure of how things are really going. If they can maintain the level with the increased evaporation, they have additional cooling.

The temperature rise is probably an artifact of a lack of circulation of the normal cooling water flow in the pond and once the flow of cooling water was re-established the concern was mitigated the temperature of the pool would have started dropping. On Monday, they had no flow of cooling water.

once the flow of cooling water was re-established the concern was mitigated the temperature of the pool would have started dropping.

Thats the issue going forward. Do they have cooling circulation restored? Even if the answer is yes, but it is salt water, what does that imply about the sustainability of the process? The lack of proper information is deafening.

I don't feel why the priority should be on theses spent fuel pools.

Knowing that heat of vaporisation is 2257J/g and that it take 250.98J/g to get water from 40C to 100C, you can tell that the time it took to bring the water to 100C is 10 times less then the time before it all evaporate. This started since 3-5 days, so we got 30-50 days.

Isn't 30-50 days for a pool is that critical?

"Is TEPCO saying they think Unit 4 went re-critical?"

You don't seem to know a lot about criticility, do you?

I mean no offense, but criticality needs moderator, either water or graphite. There is no graphite and the good thing is that you wont have water if the rods are hot. Of course if the rods melted (or are just simply hot) there is no more water here.

Beside, spent fuel cannot goes overcritical (fission chain reaction) because the mean neutron consumption of the fuel is below 1 (i.e. the spent fuel eats neutrons to produce chain reaction)

I think there are a lot of assumptions about the structure of the pool and the integrity of the fuel.
There are many configurations; the system can go in a number of directions.
Not all of the fuel is spent. Likely not all of the fuel is intact.

Best of luck guessing what the results of the mess will be.

Under any case, unless the fuel is changing shape, it won't goes critical.

So you need to melt it, add water, (which most likely evaporated), and put it inside the molten fuel, which has previously cooled. Assuming the resulting shape is cubic and has pockets of water, its might event not goes critical because the enrichment is too low.

This is by far completely ludicrous and there are far worses thing you might want to consider: i.e. cladding damage and radioactive gases going out.

Radioactive gases are 99% of the radiation, the rest is just rubbish.

UPDATED and latest - Before and After Sliders
Fukushima 6th Image from Top - As you can see they have repaired the damage from the blasts.

Thanks for the link Longtimer - those sliders are super-neat use of web technology, really give an easy-to-digest perspective on the effects of the event.

I was pretty amazed - from the recent pics of Fukushima - that the power plant stod up so well to the devastating impact of the tsunami. Obeservation of the sliders show it wasn' actually that slight - a lot of stuff has gone missing. I'm kinda thankful that the core structures of the plant were built so robustly, and those explosions must have been pretty serious to destroy structures that withstood the tsunami apparently intact. The level of devastation aroud the plant is not at all trivial.

And generally speaking, looks like the practice of building wooden buildings in a tsunami-vulnerable zone in Japan won't be coming back any time soon - they just ain't up to the job.

Thanks and regards, Chris

I would not be entirely surprised if a portion of reactor 3 core was ejected.


Great URL.

I notice that many places in the 'after' pix show land now submerged that was previously above sea level.

Are such things due to washout of soil by the tsunami, or that the ground has subsided, or both?

I would think subsidence, though some washout is possible in cases.
Note in many pictures you'll see foundations still there.

The geological process that produced this quake is subduction,
one crustal slab (the Pacific plate) being forced beneath the other (the Japan Islands)
Pressure builds, and the plate on top is forced "back" and "up".
When the fault slips, the plate on top relaxes "forward" and "down".
In this case, that part of Japan slipped back East about 8 feet (2.4 meters)
I have not seen any data yet on how much tectonic (as opposed to local soils related) subsidence has happened.

That would account for some of the subsidence.
One can also have general ground settling due to the shaking,
as well as "sand blows" or liquefaction
whereby the soil can settle or flow downhill, again leading to subsidence.

I notice that many places in the 'after' pix show land now submerged that was previously above sea level.

Are such things due to washout of soil by the tsunami, or that the ground has subsided, or both?

Probably both. Remember this was a subduction megathrust event, where crust is being pushed under, or over other crust (depending on ones frame of reference). There were almost certainly some regional vertical movements.

For comparison, during the 1964 Alaska Earthquake, some areas of coastal Alaska were downdropped as much as 3 meters (around Portage on Turnagain Arm), creating "ghost forests" where encroaching salt water killed trees. Other areas (Montague Island) were uplifed 4-9 meters, and barnacles and other tidal zone life was killed because it was uplifed above the tidal zone. See The Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964 for a summary. See Plafker's classic paper Tectonics of the March 27, 1964, Alaska earthquake for more detailed information.

Interestingly, perhaps half of the 1964 subsidence along Turnagain Arm has rebounded. See "KENAI PENINSULA/COOK INLET CRUSTAL DEFORMATION: A BRIEF SUMMARY" in 2006 AGU Chapman Field Guide for more information and detailed references to current work.

Edit to add that this uplift and subsidence was regional. There was also a good deal of subsidence in many areas due to local slumping, and landslides.

Interestingly, perhaps half of the 1964 subsidence along Turnagain Arm has rebounded.

I imagine a lot of this is cyclic. It moves one way while stress is accumulating, then the EQ snaps it back to roughly where it was before. Then the stress accumulates again. Of course EQs are at beat only loosely periodic, the size and timing between events can vary significantly.

Yes, in general I think that is probably true. The subsidence and uplift are no doubt related to release of accumulated stress. As you also note "...EQs are at beat only loosely periodic, the size and timing between events can vary significantly." If I recall correctly, I think the current thinking is that the area of the '64 quake has a great earthquake about every 350 years or so on the average. But there is huge scatter in the data, and one must put a very big +/- error bar on that 350 year periodicity. The time data is based partly on locating evidence of previous quakes in bogs and soil cross sections, and then C14 dating those features.

The '64 quake is still a very active area of research. Partly because of the large amount of detailed data collected at the time, and partly because the almost half century since then has allowed some of these relaxation effects to become apparent. And finally because of some of the really precise measurments of current movements possible with GPS and other modern methods. Way far from what I do in my day job, but I know a few of the local folks involved in some of this research, and I try to follow it to some extent. Living in earthquake country also gives one some added incentive to stay aware of the issues!

Are such things due to washout of soil by the tsunami, or that the ground has subsided, or both?

One effect that must be significant, is that of sheer weight - these valleys are likely to be silty run off type soils, and so the huge mass of water, has to push the soil down.

U.S. preps 450-member crisis team

The U.S. military may send to Japan a 450-member-strong unit trained in radiation management to help the country deal with its cascading nuclear crisis, Adm. Robert Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said Thursday.

A nine-member advance team has already been dispatched to Japan to consult with the Japanese authorities over what measures to take, including whether reinforcement is necessary.

Willard said the military is also considering using new technology to enable work inside the troubled six-reactor Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, where high-level radiation leaks have hampered efforts to cool reactors.

and - U.S. Pacific Command Operation Tomodachi -U.S. ready to evacuate 87,300 Americans in worst-case scenario in Japan




Watching all these soo slow reacting bureaucratic mammoths tossing their balls around, that's very upsetting. In the beginning the Japanese govt. had enough trouble to take care of, ok, but I have concerns; TEPCO is a separate (and quite big) entity, their engineers must have recognized the seriousness of the situation as they received the very first reports, so - besides that the company had to begin repair works in many other locations - there must have been someone yelling loud upwards at whoever they could to provide as much help as possible. I think we'll never know, probably they did and got ignored.

Many days after that, the plant in ruins, the govt. finally manages to decide to call for foreign help, already way too late. Still I don't have an idea about what happened related to this move (obviously many acts behind the scenes that, if possible, will be more heavily classified than the TEPCO-govt. communication), except that 9 (?) experts sent to the site to have discussion about Life, the Universe and Everything.

And now this, the US "may send" people in the near future. To "manage radiation"? What the heck that supposed to mean? They're con-si-de-ring use of "new technology" that could make this situation even slightly better? Why consider, if you have technology that can help, damn use it! What the hell is wrong with these folks?

For heaven's sake, an emergency is called emergency because it is urgent, there is need for quick and straight reactions, there's need for immediate release of resources, whatever is needed to gain control! No crap philosophy sessions, which - I'm afraid - are going mostly around the question "how to tell the people?", instead asking the right men "what can we do?"

It reminds me so badly to last year's favorite DWH - except that then, there was time to think (nevertheless it didn't help), as it did not threaten the health of millions (at least not so directly), and it did not threaten with the loss of a considerable amount of a country's habitable land. Comparatively there was time for cool-minded decisions (which were mostly not made, "god please help they don't blame any consequences on me" - doing nothing at all is likely accepted as a way of response), instead chaos ruled, and it turned out only after about 3 months that all they had to do is some unbolting and on-bolting a new piece of pipe that did not have holes on it.
They had TIME, now time is what's in excess in the Daiichi from the moment the ECCS went off following the tsunami. And still, the handling of this nightmare is painfully similar...

Willard said the military is also considering using new technology to enable work inside the troubled six-reactor Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, where high-level radiation leaks have hampered efforts to cool reactors.

I wonder what that 'new technology' means ?

I know they have proven remote controlled helicopters, that would seem a logical item to use, but 'work inside' sounds more like robots perhaps ?

How different would these be from the bomb-squad type robots. generally, they aren't very smart, mostly they are controlled by a nearby human operator. Of course some components may be vulnerable to radiation.

Don't know that much about electronic susceptiblity to radiation. Generally what seemed to be of concern was charge deposited by a radiative particle (in the high energy physics sense of particle), deposits charge, and changes the value of a bit. Corrupted data means computer malfunctions. Far worse is if the actual components are damaged. In the former error type, reloading software and data ought to restore function. But, in the later the actual hardware is degraded or broken.

Congressional Committee With Oversight on Nuke Safety Takes in Big Dollars From Nuclear Power Industry

Lawmakers currently serving on the House Energy and Commerce Committee received on average $9,024 from contributions connected to nuclear energy while their non-committee counterparts received an average of just $3,314, a difference of about 63%.

Based on contributions from Jan. 1, 2001 to Dec. 31, 2010, the industry has given over $4.6 million to lawmakers that have served since the 109th Congress. Current lawmakers have taken in more than $2.7 million in contributions in that same time frame.

We can count on them to do the right thing ;-)

Tokaimura Criticality Accident

A little history of what can go wrong.

Here is a paper with that one (and most of the others as well), just for a little light reading: "A Review of Criticality Accidents", http://www.orau.org/ptp/Library/accidents/la-13638.pdf .

It is extremely interesting how important the geometry of the vessel is in determining whether or not an excursion occurs....

Apologies if this information was posted already in one of the threads:

In addition, one of the emergency diesel units can now be operated and will be used to supply unit 5 and 6 alternately to inject water to their used fuel pools. Later, the power will be used to top up water in the reactor vessels.

I had heard that diesel generators were being used for 5 and 6, but it now appears that some of the big on-site diesels are being repaired. This should provide some practical experience with how well the pumps and controls have survived, with the opportunity to work with similar systems but without the heavy radiation hazards of 1-4.

Amid Japan crisis, Greece urges Turkey to halt plans to build a nuclear plant near border

Greece has urged its earthquake-prone neighbour Turkey to halt plans to build a nuclear power station amid the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan.

Turkey is planning to building its first nuclear power station at Akkuyu, in the south of the country, under a deal signed last year with the Russian state nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom

and from here

The proposed site of Turkey's first nuclear power plant, Akkuyu Bay, is situated next to the Ecemis fault line.

Adding to the concern about the Ecemis fault is the evidence of seismic activity in the Akkuyu region. In 1993 a report, "Seismic Hazard in Turkey", concluded that earthquakes with an intensity of greater than 8 are possible in the Akkuyu region. A 1997 report by a Canadian seismological consultant came to a similar conclusion, warning:

"There is a probability of 50% that an earthquake of magnitude 7 Richter or more will occur within 100 kms of Akkuyu Bay within the next 40 years".

The report also noted that such an earthquake had already happened near Akkuyu. In 1872 an earthquake of magnitude 7.5 hit the region.

Let's see

Large body of water - check
Reactor within 25 km of Active fault line - check
History of significant earthquakes - check

Wonder which way the wind blows from Turkey

Don't forget re Turkey: unstable society, check. Kurdish issues not resolved, check. Almost third world, second, not sure currently, check. Ability to maintain and run complex technologies in the future, highly questionable.

I'm starting to really understand how precariously we are perched over the edge of a much deeper precipice, and nuclear just might prove to be one of the final straws over the coming decades in some regions.

That plus ongoing CO2, of course, constant, increasing, despite every effort to keep pushing that mystical non existent actual cut. The world doesn't make enough coal to feed current nuke energy production, that's a fallacy, it's false, and it's being put up as a smokescreen here almost daily, and everyone who says it refuses to admit that fact even though global coal prices and production levels clearly prove that to be true.

Max complexity indeed, diminishing returns, indeed, check check and checkmate.

Entrenched ideas and biases aren't going to solve this problem, thank god regular humans recoil from this technology when faced with the true costs, which are constantly and consistently whitewashed and disguised, as are the accidents people here have been digging up daily that disprove the its safe mantra.

I can't spend that much time dealing with the thought processes of obstructive pylons that are simply trying to stop actual improvements, it's not constructive though it is revealing since they all say exactly the same idea in the same way and ignore the data in the same way. Pylons aren't generally noted for being much more than obstacles to be avoided, so I guess that's that, have to live with them. I can't think of these types in any other way without getting annoyed, so pylons is how I'll view them.

h2 -

I'm afraid I don't quite understand what you're driving at with regard to your comments on nuclear power and coal production.

Are you saying that if we were to shut down all the nuclear power plants and replace them with coal-fired plants, that the world would be able to increase coal production by an amount sufficient to generate the same amount of power that the shut-down plants produced? If so, do you know what percent increase in coal production that would amount to?

We all know that there is still a LOT of coal out there, but as we go through the more economically exploitable reserves, we will be increasingly turning to less attractive and more expensive reserves. China and India appear to be having a hard time keeping up with their growing coal demand.

I also think that increasing the use of natural gas for electrical power generation is not a good idea. At least in the US, natural gas is the most prevalent means of home heating, with few substitutes capable of practical widespread implementation should it become unaffordable. (Can you picture converting tens of millions of homes back to coal furnaces? Forget about increases in greenhouse gases for the moment; the air pollution problems from particulates and SO2 would be horrendous, not to mention the issues related to ash disposal.)

Regardless of the wisdom of keeping existing nuclear power electrical generating capacity in operation, I don't see how an abandonment of nuclear power can do anything but hasten and further aggravate a growing fossil fuel supply problem.

What we appear to have here is a choice among several different evils, and the argument is largely about which is the least bad in terms of both the short- and long-term dangers.

No, I must be getting tired, I am in fact. I am saying the exact precise opposite. I am saying that were we to shut down the nuclear power plants, we would NOT be able to replace that power with coal. Sure, maybe we could massively increase coal extraction rates very short term, probably ten years, then use it up faster, I guess in theory that could happen.

I am saying that nuclear power plants added to the pool of energy we could addict ourselves to as a culture, just as upping the daily amount of cigarettes you smoke increases your addiction level, and makes it that much harder to quit.

Your point is the point I am raising all week here, but I am getting tired and can't keep up this rate much longer so sorry if I'm not being as clear as I'd like to be.

I am saying that pro nuke apologists deny this fact and refuse to admit it, and further, ignore and deny the real world market price levels of coal, which prove exactly what you are stating. France is using nukes because it has nothing else, and decided to go with that. That was an addition to the existing coal fired base load, not a reduction. This is the case for all nuke plants everywhere, they are increasing our electrical consumption levels, not reducing coal consumption.

Pay attention to reality. Germany used up almost all of its coal, and recently massively downgraded its reserve counts. Britain has also done this. The countries that could use coal have done so, and continue to do so. Those that can't are now ADDING nuclear, they are not removing coal. There is not enough coal to replace what nukes produce. There is no repeat no repeat no choice of evils here, all the evils are being chosen and executed, which really should be cause for concern.

I am saying the choice is false because in the real world it shows clearly we are NOT repeat NOT choosing this, we are using all them as fast as we can get away with. Sanity has prevailed, amazingly, and the populations in general distrust and dislike nuclear, which has helped the process, not hindered it.

I think we see the same thing, no? Roughly?

Gas is another short term. Norway is going to be unable to export possibly as early as 2020. These are NOT repeat NOT future solutions, they are desperate stopgap measures.

You failed to note the real solution, reduction in consumption levels, aka conservation. That is what the world is trying to avoid. For good reason, capital requires growth, it can't deal with decline. I can't really keep repeating myself on this, it's tiring, sorry.

Again, no coal is taken off line by expanding over coal baselines. No coal or natural gas has been saved in Spain from wind, wind simply covered their increase in total demand over 20 years. This is why the failure to address conservation as the first and primary requirement always shows that the person is not serious about trying to improve the world, or even keep it at this level. Not saying that about you, just in general as a tendency.

I am also saying that we are engaging in a perverse set of rule making that states that as soon as we bring energy consumption to level x, the next year it must be about x + 1. It cannot be x -1. We have massively boosted the baseline since 1935. This is a VERY short time period as human cultures go. There is no repeat no reason to maintain the non sustainable except to enable the non sustainable system to use even more resources. I am frustrated by our incredibly short sighted views in our culture, 70 years is not a long time, and the failure to see that we can easily and safely and reasonably drop our consumption is almost surreal to me. Is this what tv does, or is it something else? I don't know, i really don't get it. Are you saying we must maintain every non maintainable level we reach even it if it kills our planet?

h2 -

Sorry if I misunderstood your comment re coal. I think that we are fundamentally on the same page on several issues but have a totally different way of expressing things.

As I alluded to in my last comment, if we were to shut down all of the existing nukes, and if we wanted to still maintain the current level of power generation, then something would have to be substituted for the idle nuclear capacity, and that something would largely have to be fossil fuels, mainly coal.

But if it is highly doubtful that sufficient additional coal can be produced to offset the idle nuclear capacity, then we would have little choice but to reduce current power consumption. If done gradually, this can be called conservation; if done suddenly, it can be called energy crisis. So, it would seem to me that a massive idling of nuclear capacity would precipitate a crisis in electrical power supply. Which leaves us with the question: would more harm result in continuing with nukes or suddenly and massively removing a major chunk of electrical power generating capacity?

A related question: would serious energy conservation be sufficient to offset the naturally increasing demand simply caused by population growth? I suppose that sooner or later we will have to do with a lot less. But will be have the wisdom and discipline to plan for this in an orderly manner or will we keep putting coins into the vending machine till the last candy bar is gone? It's a rhetorical question, as the answer should be obvious. It's gonna get real ugly, and I'm glad I probably won't be still alive to see the worst of it.

populations grow until they hit natural limits. We have long since left natural limits behind and are using vast amounts of non-renewable materials to maintain our unnatural limits, and are devastating the ecosystem in the process. This is our home, and we are destroying it. There is no excuse for continuing, except for excuses, not now, not this late in the game. Species are getting wiped out, these will never return, it takes too long for them to evolve. All we can do is stop, failure to stop makes it worse.

Have you ever seen a graph of human populations? The hockey stick thing?

The baseline was natural, the spike is the non natural and non sustainable part. Natural populations reach the limits of their natural ecosystems, then stop. Ideally, since we are alleged to be as smart as yeast, we would stay well below those limits since when the ecosystem changes or a bad year happens, we could avoid starvation and famine. If we used our brains like that, we'd do great.

We have had at least 40 years to deal with this problem and we chose instead to drive SUVs and increase consumption of gadgets and appliances and everything else. That doesn't form a defensible consumption rate, it forms an artificial spike ontop of an already existing artificial spike, neither spike can be maintained because it's unnatural and depends on finite and non renewable resources. I agree to some levels with the poster Nick that we should seriously look at wind, accept its non-renewable features, like steel concrete etc, but that is in my opinion an example of an actual lesser of evils, but if and only if it's directly attached to serious wind downs of consumption.

We aren't negotiating with our pet dog here, we are negotiating with the entire planet, and it's getting tired of our attempts to weasel out of our responsibilities.

The notion that by putting off, voting for those who agree to put off, here in US especially, that somehow entitles us to not put off until convenient, odd no? We could have started this in 1970, we actually did, then Reagan and his pro industry anti conservation methods and non-ideas were brought in so we could avoid reality, and we've been at it ever since. We lost that time, it's like playing in a football game, frittering the first 57 minutes messing around with the cheerleaders and partying and whatnot, then when we see the two minute warning approaching, and noting the score of 217 to 3 on the scoreboard, complaining to the refs that we should be given more time.

We frittered away our time, we didn't prepare, other countries are preparing, and have been preparing, but none enough or seriously enough, even though guys like Campbell, Lahere, Simpson, Hubert, etc tried to warn us decades ago now. And so did the Club of Rome.

Just study the present: Japan has reduced its current consumption level by 25% overnight. Now they are adjusting to that.

If we continue to elect the wrong party and the wrong representatives, of course the clock will keep ticking, and they will complain about oil prices, etc, without having done a single thing to help improve the situation. Not to idealize the democrats either, they are bad too, but they are not as bad re energy policies. Not good, not even mediocre, but not as bad.

We can slow down, and we can stop demanding 10x more than we need, at least, on an individual basis, it's easy, all you do is stop buying the garbage, stop excesses, etc. Americans are on their own plane when it comes to waste, nobody is remotely close, so to say we can't cut to euro levels quickly is just not right. We can't keep every convenience and luxury, but of course we cut. We can have jitney buses that go all over and don't charge much, we can do lots of things now, with this infrastructure, but what we cannot maintain is the uniquely American exceptionalism that refuses to admit limits or other grownup notions like not being able to eat candy at every meal, which is what processed foods basically are.

We can throw out our TVs, which just fill our minds with dreams of things to buy, we can do so much so easily, so yes, we can easily change, we just have to do it. One day I'd personally love to be able to toss out this computer, I'd consider that one of the best days in my life, still need it for work though.

Hear, hear!

How do we spread these poignant and deep truths so broadly and effectively that none can deny them and all start to live within their logic and compassion?

We thought this was a good way to do it:


but not enough are coming, so we'll be canceling in the next couple of days unless there is a late surge of interest.

I'm not sure we need to know much more about ourselves to see where we are headed.

I think we have issues of social economic political stability if we try to impose a major pullback. Someone will claim all this pain is allm the result of some scapecoat group. So we risk serious political conflict, if we try to impose major cutbacks on a population who hasn't bought into the need.

I also think it is not quite a one to one thing, i.e. that the total amount of fossil fuel we will burn until we quit is fixed. How far down the quality curve we go, does depend upon the alternatives. I think we will gradually settle on the so called renewables, mostly flow based energy. But this is going to take a long time, and people will resist the inconviences imposed by the need for strongcase demand management. It isn't going to be easy to get people to go for, only making hay when the sun shines. But, eventually they will come around, because there won't be a choice. But, surviving the decades of transition, that is the question.

Now back to low grade fossil fuels. They will be the devil's temptation. We could dig up dirty brown coals, and burnable oil shales, and peat (there is quite a lot of this in the arctic/subarctic) [i.e. we burn anything flamable that we can dig up for EROEI greater than one], and if we do that, climate change is gonna get far worse than any current projections. So I think that maybe just maybe, if we don't shut down all the nukes, we might have a chance to put that off, until the flow based renewables are built out to the extent that we could in fact choose to go with them.

Some here think I'm a Nuclear shill. I once had a temporary programming job, that involved a nuclear safety study (lasted less than two months). My first employment out of grad school back in 78. In fact I think they were testing the now infamous GE mark-1's. I earned something like $4.50 an hour (but it got me off unemployment). But, thats it as far as that industry is concerned. I'm concerned about the world my kids will grow up into (they are all in college now), and the future looks very interesting doesn't it?)

"we risk serious political conflict"

Serious political conflict is already with us, if you hadn't noticed.

If the (possibly permanent) end to complex life on earth is not worth 'risk'-ing a bit of political conflict over, I'm not sure what is. The question is, which side will you be on when the lines are drawn--

But you are surely right that low-grade ff are the devil's temptation--and so far we have jumped right in (see tar sands...).

Problem is, everyone expects someone else to lower their usage first, and those in developing nations, claim the right to increase theirs.

Most of the growth in usage, is coming now from developing nations.

A side question, that it may be too early to answer, is will the fallout (in all senses of the word) from this, have a positive, or negative, impact on Fusion research ?

And yet you can't do it all by conservation unless you plan to abandon everything north of latitude 40. There isn't enough wood to heat the houses currently built there. And there won't be the power or oil to make the insulation either.

I also agree that the coal isn't there to turn off nuclear and walk away, at least not over longer than a couple of decades. Wind and solar can't do baseload power.

So the question becomes is one meltdown every 5000 reactor years of operation acceptable, provided it's not a Chernoble-sized event? And how does that risk compare with Global warming?

If the reactors are less dangerous than global warming, then we go ahead with the generation 4 designs, including thorium and fast breeders and every other trick we can pull out of the hat so we can shut down the coal plants.

If global warming is less dangerous than the reactors, then we give up on fission, and get on with mountain-top removal and drill & frack, and hope that fusion works out better, or that we get a huge break through in batteries to deal with the intermittentcy of solar/wind. In the US we can make it 20 years at least, and likely 50. BAU, including the kick the can down the road part.

If neither reactors nor global warming is acceptable, then yo have a problem, because you can't run enough industry to feed the current population with intermittent power. You can't build solar cells on intermittent power. Maybe windmills, but I would not be surprised if someone who knew about building them told me you need continuous power for more than a couple days during some part of the manufacturing chain.

Insulation at Passivhaus standards obviates the need for ff or nuclear/electric heat in northern climes.

Your other claims are just that--suppositions and prejudices unsupported by any data.

OK, let's follow that scenario - after those couple of decades what will happen to the fuel lying in nuclear plants all over the world, mostly in populated areas? Will the infrastructure of those plants be maintained? Will the pumps run until it is cooled off? What about a few more decades after that - were will that fuel be then?

I maintain that it will still be sitting there in the remains of the pools or other containers until the buildings crumble, spreading out from the wreckage of decaying old plants by wind and water and creatures that stumble into it.

Nuclear plants are mostly located in populated areas, which are populated because that was the good land. Where I live in eastern Pennsylvania is some of the best agricultural land anywhere, but there are nuke plants all around. If that fuel does not move from those plants, the region will eventually become uninhabitable. There is no escaping that reality.


Reactors 1, 2 and 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are in stable condition, with workers continuing to provide seawater cooling into the reactors. Containment integrity is believed to be intact on reactors 1, 2 and 3, and containment building pressures are elevated but are within design limits.

Site radiation doses have been decreasing since March 16. Radiation dose rates are fluctuating based on some of the relief operations, such as adding cooling water to the used fuel pools. Recent readings at the plant boundary are about 2 millirem per hour. Radiation dose rates at reactor 3 range between 2,500 and 5,000 millirem per hour.

The Japanese Self-Defense Force restarted cooling water spray into the Unit 3 reactor building and spent fuel pool at around 1 a.m. EDT on March 18. Plans are to spray 50 tons of water on the reactor 3 reactor building/spent fuel pool using seven fire-fighting trucks.

A diesel generator is supplying power to reactors 5 and 6. TEPCO is installing high voltage cables from a nearby transmission line to reactors 1 and 2. Once electricity supply is re-established, priority will be given to restoring power to reactor heat removal systems and cooling water pumps. Workers are seeking to install electrical cables to reactors 3 and 4 components in about two days.

Fukushima Daini

All four reactors at Fukushima Daini remain shut down with normal cooling being maintained using residual heat removal systems.

Daiichi Accident Rated 5 on International Event Scale

New International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) ratings have been issued for the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

Reactor core damage at the Daiichi reactors 2 and 3 caused by a loss of cooling function has resulted in a rating of 5 on the seven-point scale.

The loss of cooling and water supply functions in the spent fuel pool of reactor 4 was rated a 3, or "serious" incident. The loss of cooling functions in the reactors 1, 2 and 4 of the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant has led to a rating of 3.

The rating for the Chernobyl accident was 7, or a "major accident" on the INES scale. The Three Mile Island accident was 5, or an "accident with wider consequences." For more information on INES, see the IAEA's website and this IAEA leaflet.

From the Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870460850457620791264262990...

Bid to 'Protect Assets' Slowed Reactor Fight

TOKYO—Crucial efforts to tame Japan's crippled nuclear plant were delayed by concerns over damaging valuable power assets and by initial passivity on the part of the government, people familiar with the situation said, offering new insight into the management of the crisis.

Meanwhile, a regulator who was inspecting the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power complex when the quake hit offered The Wall Street Journal one of the first eyewitness accounts of the havoc at the site, describing how the temblor took down all communications in the area, greatly complicating the response.

The plant's operator—Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco—considered using seawater from the nearby coast to cool one of its six reactors at least as early as last Saturday morning, the day after the quake struck. But it didn't do so until that evening, after the prime minister ordered it following an explosion at the facility. Tepco didn't begin using seawater at other reactors until Sunday.

It seems the water cannons are working! http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/amid-further-challenges-at-nuclear-p...

Japanese emergency workers ramped up efforts to stabilize the rapidly deteriorating Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant Saturday, racing to reestablish electrical power to portions of the facility and establishing an automated water canon to drench two reactors for up to seven consecutive hours.

Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the renewed attempts to regain control had shown signs of success at the No. 3 nuclear reactor, the highest priority for officials aiming to cool spent fuel rods that have begun spewing radioactive material in the atmosphere. But he acknowledged that the gains could be temporary.

“As of now we cannot say anything definite, but we think we have succeeded in putting a certain level of water in Unit 3 and we think that it is in a certain stable situation,” Edano said. “We have been able to prevent the situation from worsening ... but I believe we are reaching a big turning point.”

With Japan in Crisis, Cuomo Renews Calls to Close Indian Point


Twenty million people live within 50 miles of the Westchester County plant, and local politicians and environmentalists oppose extending its license, which expires in 2013. Critics say the plant would never be built today, and its risks have been ignored for too long.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued an information notice to all nuclear plants.

I don't think there is much new in the NRC's description of events at Fukushima Diichi, but I include it here for your convenience. The document goes on to remind plant operators of the regulatory history and requirements regarding "beyond design basis" events and mitigation. I wonder if this is a shot across the bow to the industry for stronger regulation in this area? Let's hope so.

Quoting from the document:

"On March 11, 2011, the Tohoku-Taiheiyou-Oki Earthquake occurred near the east coast of Honshu, Japan. This magnitude 9.0 earthquake and the subsequent tsunami caused significant damage to at least four of the six units of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station as the result of a sustained loss of both the offsite and on-site power systems. Efforts to restore power to emergency equipment have been hampered or impeded by damage to the surrounding areas due to the tsunami and earthquake.

Units 1 through 3, which had been operating at the time of the earthquake, scrammed
automatically, inserting their neutron absorbing control rods to ensure immediate shutdown of the fission process. Following the loss of electric power to normal and emergency core cooling systems and the subsequent failure of back-up decay heat removal systems, water injection into the cores of all three reactors was compromised, and reactor water levels could not be maintained. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the plant, resorted to injecting sea water and boric acid into the reactor vessels of these three units, in an effort to cool the fuel and ensure the reactors remained shutdown. However, the fuel in the reactor cores became partially uncovered. Hydrogen gas built up in Units 1 and 3 as a result of
exposed, overheated fuel reacting with water. Following gas venting from the primary
containment to relieve pressure, hydrogen explosions occurred in both units and damaged the secondary containments. It appears that primary containments for Units 1 and 3 remain functional, but the primary containment for Unit 2 may be damaged. TEPCO cut a hole in the side of the Unit 2 secondary containment to prevent hydrogen buildup following a sustained period when there was no water injection into the core.
In addition, Units 3 and 4 have low spent fuel pool (SFP) water levels. Efforts continue to supply seawater to the SFPs for Units 1 through 4 using various methods. At this time, the integrity of the SFPs for Units 3 and 4 is unknown.
Fukushima Daiichi Units 4 through 6 were shutdown for refueling outages at the time of the earthquake. The fuel assemblies for Unit 4 had been offloaded from the reactor core to the SFP.
The SFPs for Units 5 and 6 appear to be intact, but the temperature of the pool water appears to be increasing. Emergency power is available to provide cooling water flow through the SFPs for Units 5 and 6.
The Japanese Government ordered an evacuation out to 20 km for the area surrounding
Fukushima Daiichi. Residents out to 30 km were ordered to shelter in place.
The damage to Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station appears to have been caused by
initiating events outside of the design basis for the facilities."

My 2 cents worth...The big problem here is from storage of old fuel until it cools enough to go into a container and be stored off-site and storage of fuel during maintenance. This fuel was stored in the secondary containment building, not the reactor pressure vessel so it has only one layer of defense before it is exposed and on some reactors that layer is already gone. Hindsite is 20/20 but the problem here is that the water pools were not large enough to passively cool the fuel in case of an emergency. Only active pumping of water could keep them cool. In a large enough pool convection could provide enough circulation to keep the fuel cool. A very big pool indeed, but look at what we are putting at risk. Anyone who builds a machine that cannot be safely turned off and walked away from is an idiot. Black swan event? How many ways could fuel be mis-handled and lead to a toxic enviroment that would make it difficult for humans to work and maintain the pumps? About 1 million ways because nothing is idiot-proof as idiots are so damn clever.

It is all about money. Bigger pools, offsite locations, more concrete, more plumbing, more money. The designers know the risks. The bean counters know the costs. Doing things cheap and slipshod results in very bad systems under stress. Hence the cascading failures we are witness to.

In a large enough pool convection could provide enough circulation to keep the fuel cool. A very big pool indeed, but look at what we are putting at risk.

Even that is insufficient, as you forgot to include 'keep the fuel cool, even in the presence of leaks'
- the bigger problem is that spent fuel, really isn't.

Meltdowns and Misinformation

To state the obvious, the nuclear crisis in Japan is bad and will get worse. Despite the heroic efforts of the remaining workers at the nuclear complex, it seems likely that two reactor cores will melt down and two spent fuel ponds will ignite, spewing radioactivity into the ground, air, and water.

...The best worst-case scenario is that only two spent fuel ponds -- at reactors 3 and 4 -- catch fire and that the meltdowns at reactors 1, 2, and 3 are largely contained by the concrete walls surrounding the reactors. Toxic smoke would still spread massive amounts of radioactive contamination over the surrounding environment.

The worst worst-case scenario is that all three reactors with fuel in their core and all four fuel pools overheat and two or more reactors breach the concrete containment structures, burning through into the broader environment.

In either case, severe amounts of radioactive contamination will spread over tens, hundreds, or even thousands of square miles. In either case, radioactive contamination will spread over land and water, posing serious health hazards to life within 50 miles of the complex.

I wonder about the author, Joseph Cirincione. He seems to have a lot of credentials in nuclear policy, but he is not a scientist. He uses phrases such as "radioactive smoke" and talks about molten fuel "dripping" to the floor.

At this point, I will just say that I hope he is not right.

Joseph Cirincione is president of the Ploughshares Fund:




Seems like his forte is in nuclear weapons proliferation...

The Ploughshares Fund could issue a report tomorrow saying the sky is blue and grass is green, and conservatives in the US would begin attacking it immediately as biased and part of a George Soros plot to destroy America.

As for the topic at hand, I can imagine a scenario that is worse than his "worst worst-case". I don't think it will come to pass, but for some reason he does seem to have limited the range of possible outcomes.

I hope so too. I don't see the spent fuel pools as having to have that sort of failure -assuming they can get them rewatered in time. At least then we still get releases, from the damaged cladding, but mostly it should end up in the water, where maybe it can be piped off somewhere (or the releases can be timed to coincide with offshore winds). I think it is very much up in the air,just how damaging this is gonna be. There is probably still time to mitigate the severity.

Japan should move to CCS coal.

There is identified 120 billion tons of identified bituminous and subbituminous coal on Alaska's North Slope as well as 1000 Tcf of coal bed methane. The total unidentified coal resource is estimated at 5.5 trillion tons of coal.
The cleanest solution would be produce hydrogen by water shifting and bury the CO2 in Prudhoe bay's exhausted oil and gas fields.
The Japanese have the most advanced fuel cell program and fuel cells run on hydrogen.
Second choice would be producing methanol from coal.


CCS coal is, of course, a sham.

Besides, Japan has no coal to speak of.

Conservation is their and our best hope.

Japan doesn't have any uranium ore either.
Besides Japan's largest source of electricity is coal at 27%.
There is a secure source of supply in nearby Alaska.

What makes you think conservation is a hope?
It's like saying you can become financially secure by not buying food. You'll be dead before you save even a tiny fraction of what you need.

Does anyone know what the mean elasticity of demand for electricity is in the United Sates?

How much would electric rates have to rise in the United States in order to induce a 20% decrease in electricity demand?

It is estimated that a 5% lowering of demand would result in a 50% price reduction during the peak hours of the California electricity crisis in 2000/2001. The market also becomes more resilient to intentional withdrawal of offers from the supply side.1

A 20% reduction in supply would likely be on the same scale.

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demand_response http://www.iea.org/textbase/speech/2003/phbilling.pdf


So, would a 5-fold increase (say from 10 cents per kwh to 50 cents per kwh) in electricity prices induce a 20% decrease in electrical demand, if the demand curve is straight?



The supply of electricity is shaped much like a "hockey stick" shape. Prices
increase only slightly with increased demand along much of the supply curve. However,
as demand approaches the supply capacity, prices to supply such quantities increase
dramatically. It is in this region of the supply curve that demand responsiveness can
provide the most benefits to the market's consumers.

From the Wikipedia article you cited:

Electrical generation and transmission systems may not always meet peak demand requirements— the greatest amount of electricity required by all utility customers within a given region. In the effort to reduce the electric demand on power grids at critical periods, researchers developed a ballast prototype that quickly and reliably sheds the electric load within a building’s lighting system.[11][12] A load-shedding ballast is an instant-start ballast with bi-level dimming and a built-in power line carrier (PLC) signal receiver for automated dimming response.

By dimming lighting via an electronic signal, the ballast reduces the current supplied to the lamps. A signal injector on the building’s lighting circuits controls the ballasts, eliminating the need for extra wiring.[13] The ballasts respond to a signal sent by the utility or the customer’s energy management system, reducing power to the lighting by one third. Field studies showed that building owners could dim the lights by as much as 40% for brief periods of time without upsetting 70% of the building’s occupants or hindering productivity. Ninety percent of building occupants accepted the reduction in light levels when they were told that it was being done to conserve energy.

This is mostly theorical but my view is that, in speedy shutdowns:

The price will go up until they reach a price which only 80% of the power will be used.

So you can't just buy the same amount of power for an extra fee, if you can, price are again likely to go up, until everybody restrain their consumption by 20%.

Let's say my bill is $500-$1000 year, doubling it might force me to reconsider consumption, but I doubt 20% price increase will.

I was thinking 5-fold, as in 5-times the current price, as in your hypothetical $1000/year electric bill becoming $5,000/year.

However, if the demand curve is hockey-stick shaped, then such a large price increase would likely be overkill, especially if large-scale remote demand management/load shedding can be implemented.

More complexity...yes...but not with the failure mode/risks of radiation contamination.

I suspect the increase would have to be a large fraction of what you are paying, my guess is that it would take a 50% increase to cut ~20% of demand. You could even phase it in over time, but people need to know its coming. [I bet if you tell people that you will raise their rates 5% every 6 months until they reduce demand 20% and then you'd stop raising it, you'd probably hit your target in ~2.5 yrs.]

I've found this "experiment" on taxing bags fascinating:

"Washington DC's 5 cent tax on plastic bags, instated just this past January, has already proven to have a phenomenal impact: the number of plastic bags handed out by supermarkets and other establishments dropped from the 2009 monthly average of 22.5 million to just 3 million in January."


Sometimes the actual cost is less important than realizing its costing you.

The recent fuel price spike, shows just how Lousy Price is, as a means to control consumption, especially of a essential product.

The plastic bag example shows us why this is: With a plastic bag, you have immediate discretion NOT to buy, and the saving is also immediate.

With fuel, or power, that is not true - many people have very little discretion in what they buy, and any cost adder, simply removes discretionary spending somewhere else.

Agreed, short term price spikes are nasty, evil, wicked things. Even mid to long term price is a lousy method, lousy but effective. Charge more and people will use less.

"With fuel, or power, that is not true - many people have very little discretion in what they buy"

True at the individual level, utter nonsense at the societal level.

"simply removes discretionary spending somewhere else."

Isn't that the point? We need to find/create/enjoy discrecionary things that use less energy. Especially in the US.

Ok, last one, have to call it a night...

I am going with my assumption that all positive ideas we have in our heads about nuclear energy are implants, false, the result of decades of lies and spin, and hiding accidents, minimizing risks, disguising near meltdowns, etc.

Also of continuously hiding uranium tailing issues, ignoring the toxins they spread, ignoring primary and secondary waste disposal issues totally, plus basics like just plain old running out of cheap easy to extract uranium ore, which makes the whole notion a farce anyway.

Remember the doubling law, it's arithmetic: yearly growth, at some period results in a doubling of the sum historical total every produced. 2% growth is 35 years to double, and so on. 7% is 10 years. That means if say nuke rollouts expanded, say, 5% a year, in 14 years we would have consumed all the uranium ever produce before those 14 years. Bartlett, resource arithmetic. Unescapable. Except by those who flee to untruth as the final refuge of scoundrels.

this one isn't negotiable either, if you can't understand it's probably wise to stop trying to even speak about numbers or anything else really.

So I said to myself, ok, google, ok, wikipedia, show your stuff about some recent claims here. I really wish this information was hard to find so I could say to myself, you know, I can see how someone might have missed this, but sadly, that's not the case:

Sodium cooled reactors:

USS Seawolf (SSN-575) was the second nuclear submarine, and the only U.S. submarine to have a sodium-cooled nuclear power plant. It was commissioned in 1957, but it had leaks in its superheaters, which were bypassed. In order to standardize the reactors in the fleet, the submarine's sodium-cooled reactor was removed starting in 1958 and replaced with a pressurized water reactor.
... oops
The Sodium Reactor Experiment was an experimental sodium-cooled nuclear reactor sited in a section of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory then operated by the Atomics International division of North American Aviation. In July, 1959, the Sodium Reactor Experiment suffered a serious incident involving the partial melting of 13 of 43 fuel elements and a significant release of radioactive gases.[5] The reactor was repaired and returned to service in September, 1960 and ended operation in 1964. The reactor produced a total of 37 GW-h of electricity.

Fermi 1 in Monroe County, Michigan was an experimental, liquid sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor that operated from 1963 to 1972. It suffered a partial nuclear meltdown in 1963 and was decommissioned in 1975.

Ok, must not be that liquid sodium the generation 4 people are talking to, apparently it's highly explosive and has many other dangers.

Must be the new generation four stuff:

(Gen IV) are a set of theoretical nuclear reactor designs currently being researched. Most of these designs are generally not expected to be available for commercial construction before 2030, with the exception of a version of the Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR) called the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP). The NGNP is to be completed by 2021. Current reactors in operation around the world are generally considered second- or third-generation systems
One disadvantage of any new reactor technology is that safety risks may be greater initially as reactor operators have little experience with the new design. Nuclear engineer David Lochbaum has explained that almost all serious nuclear accidents have occurred with what was at the time the most recent technology. He argues that "the problem with new reactors and accidents is twofold: scenarios arise that are impossible to plan for in simulations; and humans make mistakes".[4] As one director of a U.S. research laboratory put it, "fabrication, construction, operation, and maintenance of new reactors will face a steep learning curve: advanced technologies will have a heightened risk of accidents and mistakes. The technology may be proven, but people are not".[4]

Gosh darn it, they don't exist, won't exist until maybe 2030, and may prove to not even be practical for reasons such as meltdowns etc. Grrr... I tried, really, just really is hard to find anything real, honest, and positive. Glad to see David agrees with the problems about human nature and highly complex systems.

Was talking to a friend who is a big time infrastructure engineer, about the engineering realities of these large systems. He said they always make a compromise between cost and profit, that is, if the choice is to knock down the earthquake rating to 7.5 and making no profit, they always compromise, he knows of no exceptions to this. So this thing of increasing safety margins to some theoretical but impossible to profit from level is not looking so good.

He's freaked out by this by the way, scared, but that's probably because he's not an apologist and he's actually watching the radiation cloud approach us. Plus he's smart, which I guess helps.

So real world gen 4 I guess is about 10 or 20 years closer to delivery than fusion....

I'm stepping off the science fiction path, I'm too old and it's just not good literature, the present is way too interesting.

Sometimes the blanket anti-nuke bias here runs almost as hot as those exposed fuel rods at Fukushima's #4. The MSR partial meltdowns you cited above all date from ~50 years ago, and occurred within the FIRST years of the experimental plants' operational lives. Key points being ~50 years ago and experimental.

Q1: What do we manufacture today that is strictly based on 50-year-old experimental designs?
Q2: When things go wrong (as they always do in experimental designs), do scientists and engineers ever learn anything?

No arguments from me on the population overshoot/exponential growth hockey stick. Nothing short of sci-fi tech made real (cheap warp drive to get us to other planets) could possibly allow us to sustain our current path. Yes, humanity *should* be conserving like mad, rebuilding society around sustainability, and actively reducing our population. Too bad that's about as likely as the aformentioned Star Trek technology.

Because the great ignorant, irrational mass of humanity is not likely to (voluntarily) accept anything remotely close to what's needed to reduce our macro energy demand and spare the environment, we are left with few options that can scale to sustain BAU for as long as possible: mainly nuclear & coal.

Since we quite literally are being forced to "pick our poison", I'll go with the hazards of nukes over mountaintop removal, acid rain, colossal levels of air and water pollution, etc. While nothing is guranteed, it's at least worth trying to build a few Gen-IV reactors that can consume nuclear waste from older reactors vs. producing more of it. (And while we're at it, also promoting population reduction, sustainable energy, etc. to the few people who will listen.)

Just to be clear, as I'm short on time. Up-thread you may have noted people discussing liquid sodium cooled reactors as a real option. My point in posting those 50 year units is that those are the only ones that exist, and they had melt downs. Thus, the liquid sodium is non-viable and non-existent, today, technology which should not be mentioned to demonstrate a safety or practicality in relation to nuclear power generation. In other words, we need to agree on some rules: technologies that do not exist and which have not been proven viable cannot be used to excuse current technologies.

As I have noted, while I am glad you personally are willing to take care of future nuclear waste disposal issues, and to clean up the mountains of uranium ore tailings that ruin the landscapes, and I truly appreciate your promise to maintain and preserve nuclear waste depositories for the required centuries, I am not so certain that future generations will be able to appreciate your brave words today, which sadly have zero bearing on the realworld future issues created by nuclear waste.

Just as no apologist who explains to us here that the radiation levels are safe will move to the Chernobyl or present Japanese areas contaminated by radiation but are more than happy to explain to us, from a safe distance, why they are safe, and will point to raw death counts rather than lingering and painful biological damage that may not cause death outright, so too do I feel assured about your ease of accepting this responsibility.

We will be cursed by future generations, for everything we do now. Picking CO2, chemical long lasting toxins, species extinction, radioactive waste, and then saying one is better or preferable is kind of perverse, but as I've noted here, in the desperate attempt at damage control to the clearly non-controllable nuclear issues, too complex for ongoing humans to handle, the pro-nuke people and industries are being forced to point to all other negatives of our current industrial culture, and this is a fantastic improvement in the dialogue.

In the old days nukes were magic faerie dust that would provide too cheap to meter electricity. Failing in this, they now have grown to a lesser evil, which as I have repeatedly noted, is totally false, since the planet as a whole is increasing coal consumption yearly, it is consuming oil at maximum rates, and the premise of choice is false in any absolute sense.

It is this that has made me realize that all information we have been indoctrinated with about nuclear energy, every shift in methods pro nuke PR uses, has all been based on a consistent pattern of lies and misrepresentation, and a constant attempt to minimize every component factor of risk, and it is this method that makes me understand that all views we hold on this technology are fundamentally generated by the industry, over a decades long campaign to get an unwilling population to accept the risk.

TOD has been fantastic in exposing these on every level, and we have still yet not discussed the tailings issue, which are not dissimilar from the mountain top removal in terms of local ecosystem damage, long term.

I may note this in future threads with some research.

Americans are spoiled children who consume 2x more than anyone else on the planet per capita, and who refuse to even consider that this level is unacceptable, then post as you do that the baseline is non-negotiable. Cheney was right, to americans, their way of life is non negotiable, no matter how lethally toxic it is.

Isn't it time to grow up here? I think it is, we can't keep being infantile forever, the planet won't support it, and the sooner we grow up, as many here already are doing by the way, the sooner we can move towards a more positive future.

Remember, we consume about 2x more per capita. We can cut that, and we will, because we can't afford the prices anyway.

Nuclear energy is a total free market failure, and always has been, and further exposes the profound hypocracy of pro nuke pro free market advocates.

In fact, the entire pro nuke position exposes how industrial propaganda works, better than almost anything I have ever seen in my life.

Again, I cannot believe the stubborness in insisting on the fallacious claim of picking our poison, no such choice is being made, that is categorically false, totally untrue, and so easily and demonstrably so that I am now convinced nobody has ever come up with this idea spontaneously, it's either a deliberate PR spin, or it's absorbing this message and internalizing it.

Mountain tops are being removed, please don't insult our intelligence, lower and lower coal grades are being used, here and everywhere else, and lower and lower uranium grades are being used as the higher grades vanish.

This is an endgame, and we are in denial as a people, this denial is visible in postings like yours, which fundamentally ignore and misstate reality that can be readily determined with only a brief piece of reading. I suggest you start with the book Big Coal, which, if you are serious and honest, will show you that coal is not being reduced, and the way it also dictates and molds the public mind is very active.

If you aren't interested in reality, then please at least add a [-fiction-] tag to your statements, or admit you aren't interested in talking about the real world

Cheers, happy St. Paddy day now passed.

Wow... so much sarcasm and so many straw men, where to start?

First off, I don't recall stating that viable Gen-IV MSR reactors already exist. Yes, I know they are only designs on paper at present --like any new technology, whether it proves to be viable or not. Even assuming it does prove viable (a very big "if" I concede), I don't assume the risks to be nonexistent, or that it will produce too-cheap to-meter "magic faerie dust". However, it *might* --just might-- prove very useful as a bridging technology, allowing us to make the transition to renewables + conservation, while the public is dragged along kicking and screaming. Personally, I'd prefer a bumpy-but-gradual transition to one of catabolic collapse, but I guess that's just me and my obviously cornucopian bias.

Secondly, I don't recall stating that coal mining and energy production is not already very destructive to the environment. I'm well aware that mountaintops are being destroyed and rivers are being poisoned all over WV, TN & KY, not to mention the acid rain and tailings "ponds". I'm also aware that the nat. gas "renaissance" has poisoned the water table all over the Midwest --fracking is awful, as most nonrenewable energy sources are today.

I'm not in denial as you sarcastically paint me. I'm just not quite so ready to lay down and embrace the Die-Off just yet, as you appear to be.

Yes, Americans are very wasteful and should collectively "grow up" as you say. However, getting the majority who are skeptical of Peak Oil "theory" (and science in general) there is quite a tall order. You can't just wave your hand and bring everyone to TOD. Since you appear to hold The Secret as to how we can make that happen, perhaps you could enlighten us? Maybe you can convince Fox News and the 700 Club to hire you as an energy consultant so you can start educating the great unwashed masses?

Until then, I live in a country where the great majority do *not* make rational decisions, based on long-view thinking or empirical evidence, and generally elect those who are just as irrational, anti-intellectual and short-sighted as they are. The choices we are being given today, based on Realpolitik, is not between gradual power-down or BAU --it's an ugly contest between "bad" forms of energy to sustain BAU for as long as possible, which, as you pointed out, is "non-negotiable" for most Americans. That's the current debate, and ther's little you or I can do to change it over the short run.

The best hope to me is that, over the long run, people's understanding and decision making can be changed, even over the din of corporate propaganda. But that's still a very long way off even under the most ideal scenarios. Hence my preference for developing bridging technologies right now.

I don't hate your freedom to disagreee, just your condescending, snarling tone.

I am referring to the various points up thread, as I noted, I am short on time.

We aren't going to get americans to do anything via reason, we will get them to do something via real changes carried out by people who are looking ahead, not behind. The youth are already diving into this project full speed, I have no worries long term at all, every year I see huge new developments in young people who don't care what people think, they just know organic is cooler than agribusiness, they know bikes are better than cars, and they are changing the world already, here.

I agree re bridging technologies that do not create larger problems, such as wind or solar, my views on this have changed.

However, Americans have a very misguided belief that in an era of resource constraints, they will have the choice of BAU.

Thus, it's largely irrelevant what we think about their ability to change, when the time comes where they have to change, they will change.

Those who are better prepared mentally and are already changing, which many especially young people in this country are doing, will do much better. Those who resist change and try to return to something that cannot be returned to will find themselves very confused and very bitter and angry, and they will join the tea party and similar corporate funded reactionary groups. As they are doing now.

I'm sorry if my tone is off, I'm just getting sick of reading the same objections over and over from people who should know better but just can't kick the mental habits of living here and believing this stuff has to last just because it exists now.

If you step outside of this single box, and look upthread and read it, you'll find I'm addressing the points raised in the thread as much as yours, and I'm addressing the readers more than you. Many comment posters on the internet who aren't used to this form of discussion forget that they are primarily addressing a silent set of eyes that is about 1000 times larger than you or I. I tend to have internalized this understanding, so I almost never respond to a single person, I respond to the thread, and the way a single poster fits into that is always seen in the larger context.

I know we're raised to think of communication happening between two people on a phone or whatever, but online stuff just does not work that way.

We can change, it's that exactly that I have realized, but we cannot change while also negotiating non-negotiable things constantly, which is a constant theme on TOD poster world views. Its far easier to change than you think, and we can do it far more quickly, all that is required is necessity, and conveniently, necessity is right around the corner.

I have zero fantasies about bringing the majority anywhere, they will follow as they always do, when society told them to buy tvs and sit in their living rooms, they did so. When society told them to live in suburbs they did so. Change is not the question at all, I've seen lots of levels, and I know there will be ways found to do rapid when that change is required.

What I'm currently interested in is where those positives are now being developed. I don't care at all about people who think they can not change, they will change when they have to, and they will change rapidly. Look at Egypt. Look at Tunisia. Etc. Don't worry about people who can't look ahead, they are the norm in all societies. We do have a problem in that people are trusting corporations more than governments, and that is a serious error, and is going to make progress in this country extremely problematic short term, but long term it won't matter, gas will cost more.

I generally do not post much on these pages because I don't agree with the core assumptions of the vast majority of posters, but I do respect them as being knowledgeable in their niches, and often, incredibly much so.

Actually, a good path could come not from science fiction, but from what PWR were originally made for, I.e submarines !

60 to 100 meter deep, 20 km from coast, earthquake and tsunami effect considerably dampened, inextinguishable source of cooling water for the reactor( whether stopped or not), can't throw a plane at it, water acts as a radiation shield, in case of accident, lots of fission gases get dissolved and can't even reach the top (bubbling fission gasses is actually one of the way uses in classic power plants to reduce radioactive releases) : Sounds like a resilient concept, no ?

If things go really wrong, tow and sink into deep seas (already a few US and Russian nuclear reactor littering the sea in the Atlantic, some of them smothered into pieces, and no adverse health development observable so far).

My MIL loves to say "Stop cursing the darkness and light a candle."

Given: Nuclear power plants are too complex and dangerous for us to use.

Task: Design a plan to phase out nuclear power plants in the U.S. and reduce electricity demand by 20%.

I propose that some smart TOD reader/guest gonk up a keypost with concepts/approaches/ideas to implement the above task to spark discussion.


H, I may seem angry and against nuclear. I am just angry about careless nuclear. I hope for rational plans to emerge, but I refuse to hear how perfect nuclear is. Hard times ahead to convince folks what the issues are. You'd need to convince many that the new nukes are better designed to shut down and there are plans for extreme conditions like grid failure and such.

I'd like to see shortfall made up with well engineered nuclear, renewables and conservation myself.

Shut down the old nuclear dogs. They are relics and need to power down for safety's sake.
But without compromises on building out lots of renewables, I am worried about the health and safety of our planet. Two much coal and nuclear means lots of hazards down the road.

God help us.


I did not aim any criticism towards you.

In fact, I agree with every word in your post!

Interestingly, I have detected very few, if any, posters on TOD recently (or eally, at all), who have said that 'nuclear power is perfect.'

Conversely, it does seem that anyone who says anything that isn't a full-blown screed against any and all possibility of nuclear power, ever, is increasingly labeled a 'nuclear shill' and castigated on TOD.

My position is malleable/adaptable/flexible:

Clearly current nuclear power plants do not have satisfactory designs to adequately lower risk of operation. Storage of the spent fuel is also a problem requiring a solution (For the love of reason. pleas no mas Eric Sevaride quotes!).

Rather than continuing the unproductive tit0fortatting about nuclear power, I proposed my question>

Given: Nuclear power is unacceptable

Task: Design a plan to phase out nuclear power and reduce our electricity demand by 20% to compensate.

Further excursion: Design a plan to replace as much coal-fired power production as possible with solar and PV, while maintaining a smaller contribution from NG, hydro, geothermal, biomass, etc.

These types of propositions lead to discussions, which may prompt people with the right experience, background, skills, and access to resources to start making plans/courses of action, which then could be further debated to reach preferred course of action (COA).

One thing I know: Saying 'Well, we will just have to turn off the nukes and coal plants ASAP and do without 70% of our current electricity supply' doesn't cut the mustard for rational discourse. (this reference was NOT referencing your posts).

I know it. Nuclear should not be maligned too much. Coal is nasty too -- more nasty perhaps -- although many still deny that. I cannot even compare them really.

The nuclear waste issue if it was solved with either reprocessing or storage in a military secured facility would satisfy a segment of the population.

If the safer designs were implemented asap then people would feel assured but I imagine all these items are either political or too expensive.

So we are indeed left with renewables for no other reason. And the do have environmental benefits as well.

I know you are not targeting me at all, and I know I have been contrary here -- the mess makes me upset -- especially the Japanese dishonesty. This is another issue nuclear needs to deal with honest reporting.

In any case a significant reduction in electric power is not a big deal I think considering all the waste we currently have.

"The nuclear waste issue if it was solved with either reprocessing or storage in a military secured facility would satisfy a segment of the population."

The issue is NOT satisfying a segment of OUR population, please don't speak like that. The issue is satisfying future generations, no matter what happens to the state and infrastructure over the coming centuries.

The refusal to take responsibility for the long term consequences of our actions is what is in question, not making anyone today happy or sad.

Nobody can assume stable infrastructures of highly complex societies even 50 years into the future. You think London or Berlin had planned on being bombed in 1890? Apparently Americans simply have not learned any history, or have not understood that to understand who we are all we have to do is look at what we do over time, and ignore the temporary periods of time we grow up in favor of longer times that actually reflect how cultures change, destabilize, etc.

You think the Romans were expecting Italy to be empty and depopulated after the Barbarian, so called, invasions?

We are at a peak level of technological complexity, if one looks at any history at all, the rational conclusion is to assume it cannot last, because it consumes too many resources to last, and it's too complex. Thus, all decisions made about long term waste products should assume a non-viable system, that cannot care for them. There may be methods that work, deep burial in copper containers covered in cement surrounded by mineral compounds that seal it, but these methods must be considered as fiction until the wastes are being actively stored in that way in real time, as they are generated. If this happens, then and only then can one discuss proper disposal of wastes as an achieved real world reality.

I understand the unwillingness to change ones worldviews as the world changes, but it's really a much better way to go forward than resisting change and struggling to not deal with problems so we can have a bit more power for a few more years.

h2, (please see my latest reply above)

As to your latest post...

There may be methods that work, deep burial in copper containers covered in cement surrounded by mineral compounds that seal it, but these methods must be considered as fiction until the wastes are being actively stored in that way in real time, as they are generated. If this happens, then and only then can one discuss proper disposal of wastes as an achieved real world reality.

I'm no fan of any proposed solution that --as many have pointed out-- would have to outlast us by tens of thousands of years. Engineering anything that has to survive geologically long periods of time (and possibly civilization itself) would be all but impossible. Which is why I'd prefer to see us at least to *try* to develop Gen-IV reactors that can burn off existing waste. Greatly reducing the current stockpile of spent fuel by a couple orders of magnitude, and reducing half-lives from tens-of-thousands of years to decades isn't too bad of a short-term goal, no?

Harm, again, I apologize for my tone, I am tired, and I have been, as one very astute poster noted in this thread or yesterday's, restraining myself very very much, primarily out of a very deep respect for the work the tod does, and for how Leanan wants discussions restricted to a certain area here. She runs the show, she gets to make the rules, so I abide by them.

But it is difficult skipping a large, and far more fundamental part, of the discussion, on basically every post I make, it's stressful.

As to the fantastic wave of reasonable posts and positive discussions that are coming out now, Heisenberg is on a great roll now for example, it's great.

To your point re gen 4, they will do it, and if it works as predicted, then that's a good thing I assume, presuming that the new design does not, as the prominent nuclear safety expert, who is by the way posting and doing news conferences now, at the union of concerned scientists, fail in new and spectacularly unexpected ways.

I do not believe these systems will work because I understand the entity making them. Imperfect, flawed, corrupt when exposed to greed and arrogance. Cutting corners to create profit and to make cronies richer, all the real world parts we try to ignore when discussing all engineering safety issues.

However, when I see: expected to be prototyped / operational as a BETA production system, that means first of category, bugs to be determined once it goes full live generation, in 2030, I am reminded of an Italian friend of mine whose brother there works on the Euro fusion project, which he said, is expected, cough, to be online in 50 years.

that's a receding horizon.

It doesn't matter at all what I think re this stuff, what matters is what people and governments think.

In the presence, what we are generating is reality, and no plan should be made based on unproven technologies which do not exist today. In other words, if you say, we can go ahead with gen 3 plant construction and not handle the wastes because non-existing unproven gen 4 will handle it, that's a very very dangerous gamble, and it's a bad gamble because project like this fail constantly, due to some reality seeping in that wasn't expected. It almost to me sounds like the promise of perpetual motion, and the distant due date makes me even more skeptical.

We will do all we can to ruin our planet however, and no matter what we do with nuclear energy, the planet as a whole will burn the oil and gas and coal and release the CO2, in all cases, which is why I honestly don't really see a huge difference long term, except for having more toxic waste we can't handle in our environments.

Also remember, only a small fraction of nuclear waste is spent fuel rods, that's another thing the industry always and I mean always successfully sweeps under the rug. Also, I really strongly object to our tax money being spent to subsidize these nuclear power plant construction efforts, I think it's waste of our money, which has no future.

I am more sold on wind/solar today than I was 3 days ago however, after listening to some very coherent discussions here. Reading, rather.

First off, thanks for the change in tone --civility and respect go a long way in my book.

Believe me when I say I'm not 100% sold on Gen-IV/MSR living up to its potential. And, yes, nuclear will always be a complex and dangerous energy source even with the best designs, good maintenance and passive safety features. Even so, I think it might offer an attractive bridging technology if it only works half as well as it's purported to. To me that alone is reason enough to do more R&D and build a prototype or two.

Will it really work? Maybe, and even if it does, the technology fairy still cannot solve the exponential problem. Even so, it's not like society doesn't routinely gamble on all sorts of things (of varying usefulness). If there's one constant in the universe, it's uncertainty and risk. As long as there's a large enough benefit to trying something new, I'm less concerned about the costs of R&D and experimentation than the consequences of not doing enough. No plan should be made based on unproven technologies, but... you don't get new technologies without testing unproven concepts --even when it comes to renewables.

All this aside, yes, I agree that lower-complexity renewables (based upon local geography and resources) + conservation + reduced population offer humanity a much better long term solution. Minds and habits can eventually be changed (though IMO more slowly and incrementally than you might think). Getting us there will take a non-trivial amount of time.

Heis, your posting today in the new thread about solar is great, and is an example, with Nick's wind information, of how we go about this.

Speaking for myself, I have called only one person a shill, and he was a shill, it was clearly obvious.

I believe some are shills, but when I am not sure, I tend to believe they have merely non-critically internalized a lifetime of pro nuke paid PR campaigns, which seep into our systems without us realizing it.

I have been amazed at the vast amount of false and misleading information I have myself held re accident rates, toxicity, etc.

Shills however should be exposed because they are dishonest professionals who are lying with clear knowledge of this fact, and are not ethical humans, and their words should not be permitted to be considered as part of the discourse, just as a mcdonald's PR campaign should not be permitted into a discussion of nutrition.

Your solar thing was great, this is how we need to move, it's the only possible path forward, despite the fact that solar itself is really a lesser of evils (toxic manufactoring), but a true one, not a false one as in the coal/nuke fallacy. A true lesser evil is a lesser evil, which is an improvement.

It is not a coal/nuke fallacy.

More nuclear power has definitely reduced coal burning in France, Ontario and TVA, among others.


Alan, wrong. Coal consumption and power generation globally. The earth doesn't care who burns it. Baseloads increase, nuclear covers the increase. This is not complicated and I know you are smart enough to understand this, unless for some reason you drank the coolaid re non-sustainable sources, I know a lot of activists lately were negotiating publicly to more pro nuke positions, but it's my opinion that was merely a desperate effort to offer people a solution that doesn't require current cuts in consumption, not because it's smart or wise or responsible.

My point is that it is a fallacy precisely because no coal is not being burned. Nuclear is an addon, not a reduction.

Britain, Germany, etc, already burned theirs. Most of it. We have burned most of our anthracite.

I'm surprised I have to repeat this to you, of all people. Coal prices are rising, not falling, that's because global production is not meeting demand. India can't find enough coal today.

Baselines of coal burning in the US I doubt have seen any drop at all, just more added on top via nuclear.

Pointing to local reductions and ignoring global increases doesn't really help the planet's CO2 levels, does it?

I am amazed at how much we have internalized such falsehoods, PR really does work I guess. Had we started conserving massively in 1970, and had we maintained those levels of effort, we would not be having this discussion today.

You cannot discuss regional cuts, you have to look at global levels only, that's the only ones that matter to the planet's atmosphere and oceans.

If any reduction in demand had occurred, coal prices would be globally low and coal would be in ready supply. Neither is the case, thus no demand has been removed. What has been added is NEW demand caused by NEW electrical consumption, and much of that is being covered by nuclear now. The problem is much longer term than most people are seeing, this increase in demand was the warning sign decades ago, and we aren't going to be maintaining these demand levels at all in the future. The longer we wait to adjust, the harder it is. USA has waited too long, we just lost 40 years, we don't get that back.

I can see that we are going to have a very difficult time adjusting to the future when such simply concepts prove difficult for even someone as smart as you to get.

If france switched, lets say, what would happen is that global coal prices would immediately skyrocket. And supply shortages would hit all over. And we'd move to even lower grade coals. That's because we're in a non-renewable game over situation, and we falsely fell for I believe heavily industry sponsored lies about nuclear safety and practicality.

I don't expect rational action from the US however, nor do I expect our current generations to give any real care or thought to future ones, maybe in regions, but not really, we still think we can consume without money, and that is the key to happiness I guess, something like that.

What I see as the huge benefit here is that renewables and the systems required to make that type of source really work are going to get a huge boost.

Were there fewer nukes today, more coal would be burned today.

Were there more nukes today, there would be less coal burned today.

The trade-off is not 1:1 but it is there, and I believe substantial.

We are capable of digging out more, substantially more coal/day than we do today (unlike oil).

More nukes = Less coal

Given the overall growth in demand for electricity, yes more coal is burned. But very few new nukes are being built, certainly not enough to replace coal. Quintuple the current nuke build rate and coal use could drop.

My position towards nukes has been nuanced for quite some time. And I develop my positions from an engineering evaluation, not propaganda.

That was the source of my strong support for electrified rail. Virtually no one else has been pushing that position.

BTW, China is clearly trying to reduce the amount of coal they burn.

1) Conservation & efficiency are being enforced with an "iron fist".
2) Massive hydroelectric development (about 80 GW)
3) Plans for 100 new nuke
4) Installing more wind than anyone else
5) More solar hot water systems than the rest of the world put together + 1 GW solar PV plant
6) Building one extremely efficient coal plant (42% from memory) and turning off a 28%-31% efficient one. Same power, less coal (a good strategy I support for the next few decades)
7) A commitment to significantly reduce the carbon/$ of GDP
8) Most aggressive population control program in the world

Not enough for you, but I wish the USA would do half as much.


Solution is massive renewables and megabatteries.

Wind alone could supply 2.5 TW of power. 2.5 TW of power is 6250 Twh per year. Converting ac to dc for storage is 80% efficient turning it back to ac is 80% efficient so overall thats 64% of 6250 Twh = 4000 Twh the current national consumption of electricity. At $10 per watt, this would cost $25 trillion dollars, installed over 25 years is $1 trillion dollars per year, less than the current budget deficit.

There's really no excuse not to wholeheartedly invest in renewable energy.

"There's really no excuse not to wholeheartedly invest in renewable energy" - Spot ON

Not sure any battery technology will ever cost less than .15 cents per kWh. Battery's are consumable (like fuel) unless they are NiFe Edison cells. Heavy Metals are bad and Lithium may not be abundant enough to scale, Pumped Storage is much more economical and SAFE. I'll installing a system between 2 ponds to minimize batteries. Proven technologies like Super efficient SQFlex solar pumps and PM Hydro Stream Engines did not exist few years ago. PV is now way cheaper than batteries, Oversize the array and move loads to daytime. I minimize battery "consumption" by design by focusing on efficiency. You can spend a lot on efficiency if you can reduced battery costs.

Battery's are consumable (like fuel) unless they are NiFe Edison cells.

The reports I have seen suggest that their lives are not much better than lead acid and need chemical top ups rather then just distilled water. Do you have any further information on this?


Besides the fact that interconnected wind farms provide some baseload, you can just reinforce the grid and use hydro (Canada, USA, Mexico) to balance wind varations:

Another option is to interconnect widely dispersed geographic areas with an HVDC "Super grid". In the USA it is estimated that to upgrade the transmission system to take in planned or potential renewables would cost at least $60 billion[32]. Total annual US power consumption in 2006 was 4 thousand billion kWh.[33] Over an asset life of 40 years and low cost utility investment grade funding, the cost of $60 billion investment would be about 5% p.a. (i.e. $3 billion p.a.) Dividing by total power used gives an increased unit cost of around $3,000,000,000 × 100 / 4,000 × 1 exp9 = 0.075 cent/kWh.


If Brazil can do it, so can the US:

Funny how complex and coupled system are viewed as the fundamental evil that affects Nuclear Power Plants, and that the solution to replace it is a transcontinentally, sometimes transnationally integrated "Super Grid" of intermittent power sources. Nothing could go wrong, right ?

Zaire has managed to keep their HV DC line up (longest in world) for decades.

None-the-less, redundancy, including multiple transmission paths and local FF generation on stand-by should keep the time between blackouts tolerable.


Well, nothing that would spread radioactive gases and particulates.

If the renewable 'super-grid' fails in parts, then some people go without electricity for some period of time.

Funny how complex and coupled system are viewed as the fundamental evil that affects Nuclear Power Plants, and that the solution to replace it is a transcontinentally, sometimes transnationally integrated "Super Grid" of intermittent power sources. Nothing could go wrong, right ?

Amen and well said!

If Brazil can do it, so can the US:

So why do you expect it could be be done profitable by US companies?

Except the important issue is to turn off the 50% of electricity we get from coal. And one day we will need to reduce the natural gas we use for generation.

Conserving and renewables for 70% of our power is doable except for places like Florida.

Florida has a good solar PV, almost no hydro, poor wind (and hurricanes), no geothermal and limited biomass. They cannot import 100% of their power at night (except in extreme theory).

Turning off coal is logically a higher priority than turning off old nukes.



Thank you for your ideas!

After a while, writing large, impassioned (and largely logical, for the most part) posts about the dangers and perils of the current population of nuclear power plants, and the ideas that any possible nuclear power plant would pose unacceptable risks, seems to become repetitive. I am not saying wrong, just repetitive.

Funny, at one time the TOD editors asked for feedback about future articles to run, and I asked for tech talks on nuclear power (I also asked for tech talks on other energy options) as well). I wasn't asking for articles that were cheerleading, nor anti-nuke, just some rationale explanations of the history, current status, future possibilities, benefits, and risks. Nothing was posted (if there were nuclear tech talks and things of that nature, I'll apologize right here up front, I missed them). It seems that even talking about the issue from taboo. I thought the deafening silence was a void in the TOD spectrum of discussion; after all, we had articles about the use of ponies in coal mining in England many moons ago (interesting, BTW), so I figured for completeness would have been swell to have some nuclear tech talks as well. Not to cheerlead or disdain, but to educate and present the pros and cons in a reasoned manner.

Now with this crisis, it is apparent that there are at least several knowledgeable people who could have (and still could) post such nuclear tech talks.

At some point, one thinks we might wish to throttle back the 'nuclear shills' machine guns, and get down to business discussing how to do without the ~20% of electric power provided to the U.S. from electricity. For our readers from countries other than the U.S., I will apologize for my U.S.-centric thinking, but it is my frame of reference and home and I need to segment the problem space into chunks that seem manageable to mentally process.

You say that turning off coal-based power generation is a higher priority then turning off nuke power. I think that decision is well worthy of robust discussion.

My WAG is that the U.S. could reduce electricity demand by 20%, at least, through higher pricing, better pricing schemes, remote demand modulation, more efficient lighting, appliances, electric motors, etc.

So, our remaining electricity demand load would be, by definition, 100% of our then-year demand (which would be 20% less than our current demand).

From what I have read , many folks who seem knowledgeable say that a contribution of up to 20% each from solar and wind is do-able to feed the grid, with grid upgrades (including pumped storage and other load-smoothing/shifting technologies such as large-scale flywheel arrays, flow batteries, etc.

Solar + wind: 40%

One could imagine 10% of electability being generated by NG (largely for peak power/load leveling).
solar +wind+ NG: 50%

Perhaps we could eke another 10% of our electricity from hydro, biomass, and geothermal:
Solar +wind + NG +HYdro/Biomass/Geothermal: 60%

That seems to leave about 40% of our U.S. electrical production (already reduced by 20% from our previous '100% baseline) coming from coal-fired plants. Perhaps the remaining coal-fired plants could be recapitalized with the latest, most highly-efficient systems with the most advanced feasible pollution mitigation technology, perhaps even being located closer to urban centers for co-generation/district heating.

One could perhaps envision tweaking the numbers...if solar and wind could each contribute 25% to the electric production pool, and NG could contribute 20%, then perhaps a little as 20% of electricity generation could come from coal-fired plants. SO, it seems to me that in the medium term, we would likely get 20-40% of our re-baselined (lower) electricity demand from coal.

Alternatively, one could imagine having some advanced technology nuclear (somewhat safer than the older technology plants we currently employ)) in the mix, providing from 10-40% of the power supply, thereby displacing coal plants commensurately.

I have heard geothermal power mentioned on TOD briefly by posters, but I do not know of any scheme or plans whereby significant amounts of electricity could be generated beyond what we already produce at a very few sites.

One of the key assumptions to this kind of discussion is that we not only reduce our current electricity demand by 20%, but we keep the total demand 'frozen' from then on. No more bigger TVs, bigger fridges, and if we persist in population growth (through indigenous fertility and through immigration), then each person would need to conserve even more to not increase our total electricity use.

Also key would be to conduct a true/total cost accounting of each power source. Many have correctly said that our current nuclear industry benefits from large subsidies. Yes. Also, the coal industry (and NG as well) should be held to account for greenhouse gasses, and in coals' case, all the litany of other pollutants (heavy metals, SO2, NO2) etc. The only way I know of to capture those externality costs is through taxes, which should logically lead to commensurately higher electric costs for consumers.

Unfortunately, I don't see the U.S. engaging in any kind of serious, rational discussion about these issues in the future. 'The free market will provide' is not an answer. The free market us not, and never was, free of 'rigging', and even if it was truly 'free', a free market (without regulation) does a poor job at accounting for externalizes (pollution). I think discussion such as this would not get any traction at all, as the vested intersts' media outlets would drown attempts at reasoned, logical debate in a withering fusillade of rhetoric.

Your post deserves a long, thoughtful reply.

Unfortunately, I am heavily involved with my now three speeches in Madison.

On geothermal, a breakthrough was made over a decade ago in using working fluids other than water, which allow extraction of lower temperature resources, typically on a smaller scale.

Hypothetical example, a 12 MW plant brings up 93 C water from several wells, which are used to boil one of the alcohols (or a mixture to optimize). Alcohol steam drives a turbine and is condensed from a surface water source.

Other set-ups exist as well.

99+% of the US geothermal resource is west of the Mississippi River.

I will answer more fully if I find time.


Great post heis

There is one assumption re baselines however that will totally fix the coal requirement: the US consumes I believe roughly 2x per capita more energy than any other country in the world.

I do not understand why even intelligent americans seem unable to grasp that we waste roughly 2x more resources than anyone else on the planet per capita, and this is NOT a baseline to start from, we need to drop that, just as the Japanese have just dropped 25% of their baseline overnight now. Just because it might not be easy or fully convenient doesn't mean that it's not possible. I've lived in Europe, the quality of their lives, north to south, is superior in almost every way, with half the energy. So can we at least drop this excess requirement? We don't need it, we want it. Need and want must be distinguished.

This excess of per capita raw material consumption is not viable, we cannot afford it, look at current debt levels, both yearly and total, and look at trade deficit levels. It's also starting seriously upset the rest of the world, who correctly notes our ongoing hypocracies, while we stand holding our hands out for the next bond avalanche to be purchased to fuel our next year of excess and failed policies.

This is not negotiable, and this level of consumption is unreal, we are living over above our means.

I was skeptical about solar/wind/hydro, but I now see that to be realistic this is how we have to proceed, and then we can deal with the evils they embody at a later date.

I finally realized that it is correct we must pick from the lesser of evils, but those lesser of evils localize in time and space the negatives, such as toxics from high tech PV, industrial production of wind machinery, and river system degradation due to damming. In other words, we bear most of the cost of these evils. True evils, like CO2 emisssions, heavy metal poisonings, ocean acidification, uranium wastes and radioactive wastes of all types, long lasting organic toxins, etc, externalize the costs to the future, and leaves the evils in the hands of innocent future generations, who have to bear the burdens. Since nuclear no way slows coal burning at the present, its evils should be considered on their own, and not in relation to anything else. If we pay our costs now, we can talk about lesser of evils, and I am convinced that while not perfect, both wind and solar, especially concentrated solar, meet this requirement. We cannot ignore the future when talking about the present, that is non acceptable, our legacy is now hatred and loathing and dismay among our future generations who have to clean up and live in the mess we are leaving them, many components of which cannot be handled by lower technology cultures.

These more localized evils, wind, solar, are relatively short term in effect however, and do not generate long term toxicity issues in the same way that CO2/ hydrocarbon burning and uranium wastes do. Nor do they involve futuristic sci fi fantasies, they are here now and they are being expanded.

So my point is, we need to look beyond the close energy thinking and see the wider picture of the here and now, and that wider picture includes large scale economic failure and stress. I am very glad also to see that you understand that free markets, which are fictions and mythological in the first place, based on flawed premises and assumptions about human nature, cannot handle this process. This why the countries doing the best now, in the present, used state/market collaborations, and subsidize where needed so that future failures can be helped.

Understanding the trade/budget/deficit situation removes about 50% of the consumption from your US baseload requirement, ie, the current baseload is being paid for with borrowed money, that's not viable when our credit is running out. With this 50% removed, your numbers work.

I am vastly encouraged by this type of thinking, and it demonstrates to me that while not all will succeed in climbing out the pit, those that chose to do so will be able to do so, and those that chose to leave it to fate will be scrabbling around on the pits floor scrounging for leftovers. I see those who are aiming high all over, here, now, in the present. This is why I reject the global doomer view, not because I believe unsustainable populations will or can be sustained, but because I can see ways out, such as the ones you post, that can handle adaption and adjustment at lower levels.

Re repetition etc, keep this in mind, every day on these threads, they are home page clickable for 24 hours, roughly. After that they are gone. As I learned from our esteemed colleague Westtexas, repeating a point endlessly that must be understood before the numbers can be correctly analyzed, elm in this case, works.

The proof that it works was shown to me as I began, over the last years, to see none other than Jeffrey Brown being interviewed in national news sources as the leading ELM expert in the world.

Given that humans do not make decisions rationally but rather on the basis of core underlying unquestioned social biases, the critical factor is not clear logical argument, though it helps, but getting the message through using whatever methods work. But following rules that are more honest and sourceable than those used by apologists and pylons, those that will not change until society forces them to by creating new truths they then follow. All PR and most of the current US far right understand these points perfectly well, I think it's time for future/forward looking people to start understanding them too. Fear trumps reason every time.