What Fresh Hell Is This?

March 13, 2011

Do you feel lucky?

Perhaps, in a perfect world -- one without earthquakes and tsunamis -- nuclear power plants make sense. But, this world is not perfect -- it's not just full of natural disasters -- it's full of people who make disastrous decisions.

We now know that the regulators and plant operators made wrong assumptions about just how much seismic activity the plants needed to be able to withstand (they were only designed to withstand a 7.9 quake and the one in Japan has now been upgraded to a 9.0).

We also know that Japanese ministers ignored warnings about plant vulnerabilities.

I know what you're thinking. "Do I trust governments and businesses to always do the right thing?" You've got to ask yourself one question:

Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?



EdHeath said...

Where do you put the waste? Cheney's home in Wyoming?

Maria said...

Yeah, I know. There's waaaay more to the issue than what I blogged about. But arguing inherent safety issues with some folk is like arguing climate change -- they have their fingers in their ears and are shouting "I can't hear you!" I decided to concentrate on the here and now.

EdHeath said...

Well, I'd hate to think we shouldn't debate difficult issues just because conservatives don't want to (although that seems to be the definition of the legislative process in Congress). Granted, given that Japan is an earthquake prone country (and the surrounding ocean area is earthquake prone), so it is hard to see where they should have located any nuclear power plant. But in the US, smug conservatives might suggest locating nuclear power plants in the desert of Arizona to provide California with power (government subsidized but privately owned to they could set whatever price they want, of course). Preferably the power plants would be located where people want to put solar panel farms, because we know solar power doesn't work.

Conceding the difficult arguments because they are just too tough to find agreement on means kicking those issues down the road. That means that issues like climate change, where making policy relatively early would be both effective and less painful, get away from us. We have probably waited too long, and planetary temperatures will rise rapidly and damagingly no matter what we do at this point. Similarly, building nuclear power plants in lieu of investing in and installing solar power and wind power (as Conservative Mountaineer apparently suggests) means that we would have the waste to deal with and not have money to switch to more sustainable power sources.

Blue Number 2 said...

We haven't had a conversation about this for 30 years. Yes safety and disposal are issues. So let's find ways to deal with them. Let's talk about them. And let's develop solar, wind, geothermal, wave power, etc. too. I'd like to see every home with personal solar panels and windmills. I'd like to see an expansion of nuclear power done safely. I'd like to see buoy farms in the ocean capturing the energy of waves and tides. I want it all.

Yes this multiple-pronged disaster in Japan is showing some of the risks of nuclear power. But let's discuss it instead if merely demagoguing the issue while it's still in flux.

Ol' Froth said...

It all depends on where the nuclear plant is located. On the ring of fire? Probably a bad idea. On the Carolina Slate Belt? Pretty safe. As for where do you put the waste? Compare the waste spewed from coal fired stack emissions, which deposit heavy metals all over the place, to the highly concentrated, easily tracked (and admittedly dangerous) nuclear waste. Personally, I'd rather have the concentrated, pelletized nuke waste to the gaseous, dispersed in the air coal waste (and never mind the problems with fly ash emissions).

Blue Number 2 said...

For anyone who is interested, here is a good explanation of how a nuclear plant works and the likely problems with this one. Note that the particular reactors having the problems are very old and so might not have the safeguards newer facilities have.


Ol' Froth said...

I found this article in Scientific American interesting: