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fukushima was not a nuclear reactor system fai

  1. 9,236 Posts.
    Fukushima Was Not a Nuclear Reactor System Failure
    October 29, 2012 by Canon Bryan

    On March 11, 2011, an earthquake of 9.0 on the Richter Scale knocked out power to many Japanese reactor stations. Power is required in a nuclear power station in order to keep the coolant cool. The coolant’s job is to stop the nuclear fuel rods from overheating and possibly melting through the cladding, and then the core vessel. The power input in a reactor naturally is orders of magnitude less than the power output. However, if that power goes out, there must a redundant power source, in order to keep that coolant cool. The emergency diesel generators were automatically triggered when the main power, from the grid, was knocked out due to the earthquake. Then, about 40 minutes later, the 15-meter tsunami arrived, and flooded the basements of the Fukushima complex, where those emergency generators were kept.

    Does this seem like a smart place to keep emergency generators, in a tsunami-prone zone, the failure of which is likely to cause a catastrophic nuclear meltdown?

    The answer is of course: no. Just last week, after 20 months of ardent denials, TEPCO has finally acknowledged that they were negligent in allowing ineffective redundancies to remain in place – that they ignored international safety standards. Despite frequent warnings over the years predicting tsunamis much higher than the 5.7-meter breakwater, and the imminent failure of the redundant systems in such an event, TEPCO did nothing.

    What is the outcome of this criminal negligence?

    It is still unfolding, but some of the effects so far are the following:

    Germany has emotionally and capriciously come to the conclusion that nuclear power is unsafe, and has mandated to decommission their entire fleet and instead rely instead on… nuclear energy. But this other nuclear energy will be purchased from their neighbours at much higher prices. Germany will also increase their dependence on renewable energy. The net result is that German utility customers will face skyrocketing electricity bills over the next couple of decades. In October, German utilities announced that a 47% increase in the renewables surcharge to customers will take place next year.

    France has followed suit, with their mandate to reduce their use of nuclear from 75% to 50% of their grid.

    And then there’s Japan. The Japanese government, in a bizarre bureaucratic episode of the Keystone Cops, are tripping over each other to avoid the ire of industry on one side and the ignorant public on the other, by mandating the reduction of nuclear to 0% one day, and then denying that mandate the very next day – and vacillating back and forth since then.

    Some good that has come of this situation is that TEPCO and others are now forced to make their reactors safe. They are required to build higher breakwaters, and they are required to move those emergency power generators out of the basements.

    One could assert that nuclear energy has not been proven to be any less safe due to the events at Fukushima than before. An incompetent bureaucracy, not nuclear reactor systems, was responsible for the meltdown. In fact, one could now make the opposite claim. Safety deficiencies are being seriously scrutinized and compulsorily addressed throughout the entire industry, to comply with international best practices. New reactors are being built with safety technology that is a far cry from the antiquated BWRs at Fukushima. Last week, China announced that all new reactors being built in China must be Generation III.

    So, despite TEPCO’s best efforts to send nuclear energy back to the dark ages, logic dictates that nuclear would have its renaissance after all.

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