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NRC Emails Reveal Confusion In Aftermath of Fukushima 113

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the doe-suggests-nuking-it-from-orbit dept.
mdsolar writes "The Washington Post is reporting on the NRC response to the Fukushima disaster. Aspects include an abusive relationship with Steven Chu, a secret database on fuel pool fires that was not shared, and a Washington Two Step on Vermont Yankee. Pretty sordid." The NRC website has a bunch of documents relating to their response and attempts to consult the Japanese government (it might take a few months to work through). On a related note, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists ran a retrospect on the nuclear situation in 2011.
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NRC Emails Reveal Confusion In Aftermath of Fukushima

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Any excuse to bash the National Republican Committee, I guess.

    ~

  • by forkfail (228161) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:27PM (#38967927)

    ... every single possible scenario that they could imagine long ago, and then kept looking for more scenarios.

    But - just like they cut corners to reduce construction costs, they really didn't have all their contingency ducks lined up.

    You'd think that this would be one area where sanity at least had a place at the table with business and profit, but I guess not.

    • by JBMcB (73720)

      Fukushima was designed to withstand earthquakes of greater magnitude than had been recorded in that area, and tsunamis larger than had been recorded in that area. In what way do you believe they were under-engineered (using the best available data at the time of their construction, of course.)

      • They should have planned for everything to happen at once. Like a terrorist attack just the rapture occurs, during a hurricane, as multiple tornadoes approach, with an earthquake that splits the island in two, as a tsunami wave hits.

        • You'd think that if anyone would know the importance of planning for a Godzilla level event it would be the japanese.
      • by jd (1658)

        Because earthquakes and tsunamis in the area HAD been recorded as much larger than the ones used by the engineers of Fukushima -- just not within a 100 year timeframe. The best-available data actually agreed very well with the events that actually transpired. The best-available data within the selected timeframe did not.

        Your question is therefore the wrong question.

        The correct thing to do is ask a series of questions: What windowing parameters are the correct windowing parameters to use? What timeframe are

        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          by khallow (566160)

          I can tell you with a very high level of confidence that the Japanese engineers were fully-aware that an earthquake plus tsunami on this scale was exceedingly likely at some point in the lifetime of the reactor and have been for over 20 years. I can also tell you that they were fully-aware of the requirements for avoiding the disaster that happened. What I CANNOT tell you is that meeting those requirements prior to the earthquake met the requirement of being the lowest-cost solution across all possible events.

          It's just too bad that the rest of us cannot be as confident about the stuff you pull out of your ass.

          Personally, I think they were in the wrong. I think they could have, and should have, made the necessary adjustments according to the data they had. However, whilst I may think this, I cannot KNOW this from what information is public.

          In other words, you don't have much of a reason to believe they were in the wrong. It's just something you do.

          we can only make wild guesses in the dark.

          Which I see you did.

          I wonder why people keep trying to shoehorn every accident of nuclear power into the format of the plot from the China Syndrome movie? Fukushima got hit by a way out of spec disaster. And given that, the obsolete plant design, and the chaos after the earthquake and tsunami, it

          • by jd (1658) <imipak @ y a h o o .com> on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:05PM (#38971249) Homepage Journal

            It's just too bad that the rest of us cannot be as confident about the stuff you pull out of your ass.

            Too bad you're a troll who can't be assed to actually go do the research. These things were known, it's very well documented, anyone bothering to do the legwork would find as much.

            In other words, you don't have much of a reason to believe they were in the wrong. It's just something you do.

            Translation: You want me to be wrong, but can't be bothered to determine if I am. You just prefer anyone who is different to you to be somehow at fault - even if you don't know what the fault is.

            Which I see you did.

            No, I made no guesses. I stated a method of determining the right course of action, I made no determination as to what the outcome of the method would be. Again, your desire to make other people wrong if they happen to differ from you is transparent. You're a bigot of the highest order.

            I wonder why people keep trying to shoehorn every accident of nuclear power into the format of the plot from the China Syndrome movie?

            Well, as far as I can see, they aren't. So you can wonder all you like. You might as well wonder why people see pink ants climbing up the walls and talking to them. Your wonderings aren't real. Your observations are delusional. You're a paranoid SOB and need to get help.

            Nobody has been able to show in the meantime that TEPCO or the Japanese nuclear regulatory agency did anything wrong with respect to protecting the plant

            That is correct, but only because nobody has actually crunched the numbers. I made no claim that either had done anything wrong with respect to protecting the plant, my claim is that what they did wrong was fail in the design of their test. It did not handle historic events in the area and thus neither did the plant. Had they crunched the right numbers, it may have made ZERO difference to their decision, but we cannot know that until the numbers are crunched. Something nobody, YOU INCLUDED, has done.

            • by khallow (566160)

              These things were known, it's very well documented, anyone bothering to do the legwork would find as much.

              I can only quote you here. "We can only make wild guesses in the dark." That doesn't sound like "very well documented" to me.

              • by jd (1658)

                Again, more of your twisting and writhing to make "connections" that never existed in the post.

                The earthquakes and tsunamis are indeed well-documented.

                The cost/benefit calculation of doing something retroactively to the facility to bring it in line with this documentation has NEVER BEEN DONE and therefore we are indeed completely in the dark as to what that calculation would show.

                • by khallow (566160)

                  The earthquakes and tsunamis are indeed well-documented.

                  The cost/benefit calculation of doing something retroactively to the facility to bring it in line with this documentation has NEVER BEEN DONE and therefore we are indeed completely in the dark as to what that calculation would show.

                  Uh huh. The cost side of the calculation has probably been kicking around ever since the plant was built. You'll need to put in new inputs for various material and labor costs, but it probably hasn't significantly changed aside from that. And the benefit calculation depends on what the Japanese nuclear regulatory agency decides, including the expected life of the plant (keep in mind that they originally were planning to be in the process of decommissioning the plant.

                  My take is that this is old territory

            • by khallow (566160)

              That is correct, but only because nobody has actually crunched the numbers. I made no claim that either had done anything wrong with respect to protecting the plant, my claim is that what they did wrong was fail in the design of their test. It did not handle historic events in the area and thus neither did the plant. Had they crunched the right numbers, it may have made ZERO difference to their decision, but we cannot know that until the numbers are crunched. Something nobody, YOU INCLUDED, has done.

              Since you seem to be talking about evaluating risk, it is worth noting that Japanese nuclear plants (as well as other nuclear plants in the developed world) are required to evaluate risks much as you say. So the numbers have been crunched probably both by TEPCO and the Japanese nuclear regulatory agency.

              • by jd (1658)

                No they do not. They rely heavily on an earthquake probability map which is entirely based off a simple count of earthquakes in the past century. They do NOT use IAEA risk evaluation methods, NOR do they use standard geological earthquake risk calculations -- calculations every other nuclear reactor in the world DOES use.

                • by khallow (566160)

                  No they do not. They rely heavily on an earthquake probability map which is entirely based off a simple count of earthquakes in the past century. They do NOT use IAEA risk evaluation methods, NOR do they use standard geological earthquake risk calculations -- calculations every other nuclear reactor in the world DOES use.

                  Ok, this is moderately more helpful. But you just admit here that the Japanese nuclear industry does proper risk evaluation (and using a standard geological risk evaluation method too, as it turns out). They just aren't using a particular international standard or method you prefer and probably aren't looking over a long enough time frame.

                  And it's worth noting here that any risk evaluation of earthquakes that goes beyond simple counting of earthquakes over a sufficiently long time frame is untested.

                  • by khallow (566160)

                    And it's worth noting here that any risk evaluation of earthquakes that goes beyond simple counting of earthquakes over a sufficiently long time frame is untested.

                    I must admit that we're probably not that far from some degree of successful earthquake prediction with seismic networks like what California and Japan have. So there might be present day information that could give credible information on earthquake likelihood, strength, and location over the operating life of the nuclear plant. I just didn't buy your false certainty on the matter.

            • by khallow (566160)

              No, I made no guesses. I stated a method of determining the right course of action, I made no determination as to what the outcome of the method would be. Again, your desire to make other people wrong if they happen to differ from you is transparent. You're a bigot of the highest order.

              Incorrect, you made several conflicting statements about your certainty of that "right course of action". I know nothing of you, but the garbage I read in your post.

              Here's that paragraph once again that raised my hackles:

              I can tell you with a very high level of confidence that the Japanese engineers were fully-aware that an earthquake plus tsunami on this scale was exceedingly likely at some point in the lifetime of the reactor and have been for over 20 years. I can also tell you that they were fully-aware of the requirements for avoiding the disaster that happened. What I CANNOT tell you is that meeting those requirements prior to the earthquake met the requirement of being the lowest-cost solution across all possible events.

              "Was exceedingly likely"? The plant had a 40 year life expectancy. The "earthquake plus tsunami" event you refer to happens something like once per a fair number of centuries. That's like a 10% chance over the lifetime of the plant. Even if we assume the odds increase somewhat as time go

              • by jd (1658)

                You don't bother looking, which is very different from not buying it. You don't want to know and don't care to know, which is not the same thing as nobody else knowing.

                The earthquake+tsunami occur once every 500 years.

                I stated categorically that the probability of it occurring within any given interval of time is going to depend on whether you look at this being a one-in-five-hundred-year event or a one-in-fifty-year event on a 500 year cycle -- a point you quite casually ignored in your effort to "prove" m

                • by khallow (566160)

                  You don't bother looking, which is very different from not buying it. You don't want to know and don't care to know, which is not the same thing as nobody else knowing.

                  You have to give me something to work off of. That didn't happen.

                  The earthquake+tsunami occur once every 500 years.

                  No, you say that they happen every 500 years. That's the difference I recognize.

                  The data showed a cyclic event, which fits with more modern theories on earthquakes. Can't help it if you're ignorant of seismology.

                  What are the dates of the earthquakes? You can settle this right now. Just give me those dates. If I were feeling difficult, I'd also ask for magnitude of the quake and tsunami height at Fukushima. Even if this particular earthquake were remarkably regular in timing and strength (something I don't buy at all), how the earthquake manifests can differ to the point of

          • by AK Marc (707885)
            They designed the system so that if the generators failed and mains power was lost for 24 hours, there would be a meltdown. That's a fundamental design flaw. They could have had emergency turbines generate local power and not have that issue. But no, they chose to implement a system where a mains power loss and generator failure will always result in a meltdown.
            • by icebike (68054) *

              Wait, What!? Emergency Turbines?

              Powered by what? You are in a mandatory shutdown situation. Where do you get the heat to run a turbine?
              You just got smacked by a tidal wave! Everything got flooded.

              They had generators. Poorly located, inadequately fueled perhaps. But would it be any different if they had a separate set of generators fueled with JetA, or natural gas?

              As JD posted above, these things were well known ahead of time. But the Japanese tendency to "save face" as they "save money" prevented the

              • by AK Marc (707885)

                Powered by what? You are in a mandatory shutdown situation. Where do you get the heat to run a turbine?

                How long after a mandatory shutdown until the core is too cold to generate electricity? When you need to cool it (the problem they were running into), you have waste heat. Capture that and you'll have emergency power as long as you need it.

                Reactor design was the the first big problem. Location the second. Failure to heed the warnings that were documented years in advance was the third. Add them together, throw in a fairly secretive power company, and you have a perfect storm. That reactor on that site could not have been made safe for the twin disasters that hit it, and this was well known by the plant operators and the Japanese government.

                It would have been safe if they had sealed the diesel fuel tank against seawater and had at least one generator in the reactor room (which I'm told isn't allowed to reduce items irradiated for decommissioning) or elevated sufficiently. Yes, I'm asserting that for $10,0

                • by icebike (68054) *

                  Powered by what? You are in a mandatory shutdown situation. Where do you get the heat to run a turbine?

                  How long after a mandatory shutdown until the core is too cold to generate electricity? When you need to cool it (the problem they were running into), you have waste heat. Capture that and you'll have emergency power as long as you need it.

                  Apparently its not hot enough to generate any significant heat for very long, and boiling water to steam in enough volume to run even a small turbine takes a boat load of heat.

                  See this image [googleusercontent.com]. The vertical line shows temps dropping all over the reactor immediately after the scram.

                  This chart [google.com] shows that the core was at 4000 degrees at 14:46 at the time of the quake (and scram), and by 15:30 when the wave struck it was at around 250 degrees. You won't produce enough steam to run a turbine with that amount of

                  • by AK Marc (707885)

                    the original design used ONLY a 100 year window

                    The basic mistakes done are the reason we can't be trusted with nuclear power. A 20 year life on the 1 in a 100 year storm means there's somewhere in the neighborhood of 20% chance of a nuclear meltdown. Put it to the public that way and try to sell it.

                    I've worked for the guys that spilled the oil in the gulf. Even with their safety record, they generally build for the 1 in 1000 storm at sea (interestingly enough, the storms in the North Sea are worse than the hurricaines that rip through the Gulf of Me

            • by khallow (566160)

              They designed the system so that if the generators failed and mains power was lost for 24 hours, there would be a meltdown.

              It's considered a design failure now, but probably not back when the reactor was made. You have to keep in mind that the designers had good knowledge of several meltdowns (though I understand all were of significantly smaller scale) at the time that they designed those reactors. My take is that they probably figured that throwing a lot of concrete around and under the reactor would contain a molten core and figured that was a good enough backup mode in the event that cooling failed altogether.

              But what ha

          • by radtea (464814)

            The only truly questionable event was delaying the decommissioning of the plant

            If you include the seriously wrong decision to over-load the cooling pools and spent fuel storage on site then I agree, but consider that to be a separate issue from decommissioning the plant, and it isn't a "questionable" decision, it is a flat-out incorrect one.

            I can well imagine how such a decision could be made by increments: the storage facilities could be outside the containment because they couldn't ever go critical due to limits on what could be stored in them, then those limits were incrementally

            • by khallow (566160)

              If you include the seriously wrong decision to over-load the cooling pools and spent fuel storage on site then I agree, but consider that to be a separate issue from decommissioning the plant, and it isn't a "questionable" decision, it is a flat-out incorrect one.

              That is a good point. Still where else are they going to put fuel rods? I gather most nuclear plants store their waste on site because there's nowhere else they can put it.

              I can well imagine how such a decision could be made by increments: the storage facilities could be outside the containment because they couldn't ever go critical due to limits on what could be stored in them, then those limits were incrementally relaxed after the fact until there was a real risk of re-criticality.

              Eh, there supposedly was some chance of achieving criticality, according to TEPCO, if the ponds boiled dry. We'll have to see from the final reports, I guess. What did happen was that the zircon cladding caught fire at a time that was really bad for the disaster recovery effort.

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:21PM (#38969653) Homepage

        Fukushima was designed to withstand earthquakes of greater magnitude than had been recorded in that area, and tsunamis larger than had been recorded in that area. In what way do you believe they were under-engineered (using the best available data at the time of their construction, of course.)

        Sort of true. However, later study on the area's geology indicated that there were tsunami's much higher than originally planned for. TEPCO decided not to do anything about that because it would have involved a multi million dollar upgrade to the sea wall.

        Further, there was later damage to suggest that the reactor did suffer significant damage during the quake, thus damaging the assumption that the original design and engineering was adequate.

        Of course, this would have been a technical footnote in some brief stuffed in a disused lavatory had someone had the presence of mind not to put all the backup generators in the basement.

        • "Further, there was later damage to suggest that the reactor did suffer significant damage during the quake, thus damaging the assumption that the original design and engineering was adequate."

          You can't design to withstand 100% of earthquakes. Fukishima was designed so that, based on frequency and strength of quakes, it would have a 99.something% chance of not running into something worse than it could handle; like all nuclear plants are. That was what the engineers were told to do, and they did it; it w

          • by mdsolar (1045926)
            There are keyboards designed to withstand 100% of coffee spills. Reactors could be designed to withstand 100% of earthquakes. Likely, naval reactors could do so already. Don't be silly.
      • by stooo (2202012)

        >> Fukushima was designed to withstand earthquakes of greater magnitude than had been recorded in that area
        Every Engineer knows this is bullshit. data on such a short span as 100 years (max) does not give nearly enough statistic data.

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          Every Engineer knows this is bullshit. data on such a short span as 100 years (max) does not give nearly enough statistic data.

          You do realize that "100 year event" doesn't mean they've only got data for the last 100 years, right?

          Here in Oregon, we've got data from earthquakes that took place in 1700 or so. Are you saying that people in Japan haven't been keeping track at least that long?

      • by bryan1945 (301828)

        Maybe not under-engineered, but putting the backup generator below ground level wasn't a great idea.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They should have worked out every single possible scenario that they could imagine long ago, and then kept looking for more scenarios.

      Really? This seems like a ridiculously high bar to have for safety. Should every industry have thousands of engineers sitting around, dreaming up worst-case scenarios, working out the implications, and filing the result away? Car manufacturers should have working groups assessing the outcome of a car colliding with a running jet engine? Figuring out how much resistance the ca

      • by forkfail (228161)

        If a car (or a thousand) crash, you don't have consequences that span time measured in millenia.

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          If a car (or a thousand) crash, you don't have consequences that span time measured in millenia.

          AP - Linz, Austria, 1918. In a freak accident, Adolph Schicklgruber, 19, son of Alois Hitler, was killed while riding in the 1918 Packard automobile his father had imported and was demonstrating to his fellow customs agents. ...

          UPI - Berlin, 1948. Physicist Albert Einstein announced a breakthrough in the overall theory of matter and energy yesterday at the annual German Physicist Association conference in Berlin. He was assisted in his work by German mathematicians Robert Remak and Otto Blumenthal. "They

    • Unlimited time and funding would not fix the inherent flaws in statistical modelling. The fact remains, we do not know what we don't know and we can not predict the future - no matter how many variables your model accepts. Lets not forget that a Core melt, not to mention a melt-through, were perceived as a physical impossibility by just about every engineer in the Nuc Eng field. The undeniable lesson here is you don't build shit that can, if things go wrong, destroy the Earth.
    • by tp1024 (2409684)
      They did work out the scenarios, they knew exactly how a meltdown in a Mark I BWR containment would work out and they were proved right. Countermeasures were worked out - look up "common cause failure", "filtered containment vents" and "passive autocatalytic recombiners" (PAR).

      Alas, none of those were present in Fukushima Daiichi and consequently couldn't work. The emergency generators were neither enough nor laid out to avoid common cause failure. Containments could not be vented to the outside through a
  • ...and a Washington Two Step on Vermont Yankee.

    Wait, what?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Oh no, the United States NRC has only as much information as the rest of us and some smart people had a few arguments! Some people made some PR decisions! Schlumberger overcharged for water equipment!

    "Abusive" my ass.

    • Abusive (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mdsolar (1045926) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:40PM (#38968087) Homepage Journal
      The commissioners are abusive and dysfunctional with each other. Little wonder the whole organization can't get along with any other part of the government.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Well, let's be clear about that, mdsolar: Gregory Jaczko is alleged to be abusive and dysfunctional. The other commissioners have formally complained to the White House about his behavior -- Republican and Democrat appointees unanimously. The professional, career staff feel ignored and slighted by Mr. Jaczko. I hope the reason for my posting anonymously is obvious.

        • by mdsolar (1045926)
          Or, the republicans just want to stage a coup and are insubordinate to try to push that. Either way, they are not working well together.
      • Which is what happens when you have political appointees trying to be in charge of an engineering process that should have no politics involved what-so-ever in policy that is set. However, because of the politics, you have one group trying to let the energy companies do whatever they want cause it will cost money to enact regulations, another group calling for super strict measures against the industry because they don't like the fact that there is a nuclear plant near their multi-million $ homes, another g
  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:41PM (#38968093) Homepage

    Of course there was going to be confusion - you're looking at a scenario that nobody had actually handled before. There were smart people with some good guesses about what to do next, but there was no way to test things out ahead of time, because causing a nuclear meltdown for testing purposes is too expensive to even really consider it.

    I'm reasonably certain that if people either at the NRC or in Secretary Chu's group proposed an idea, they most likely had good reasons for thinking it was going to work. There were also good reasons to think that some of those good ideas would be wrong.

    • by mdsolar (1045926) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:52PM (#38968251) Homepage Journal
      We do expect the NRC to know what to do in case of a meltdown. Evidently they take the money but don't do the job.
      • by skyraker (1977528) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:05PM (#38968435)
        That's BS. The NRC's job is to ensure operators are operating plants safely. When you are at a meltdown situation, you are already beyond that point. The NRC will do its best to advise, but stations themselves have many contigency plans in place should they reach this point. Three Mile Island was the event that prompted that to happen, and we haven't had a meltdown here since. Chernobyl was a big ball of s**t that only proved the US had better procedures, precautions, and design than the Russians. Fukishima, while a problem, generated confusion primarily because TEPSCO didn't want to tarnish its reputation by revealing how bad it was.
        • So the NRC's job is to rubber stamp laughable risk estimates from industry? In the forty years or so of commercial nuclear power we get a major meltdown every eight years. The NRC talks about one per million years per reactor, complete claptrap....
        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          The NRC's job is to ensure operators are operating plants safely.

          Plants in the United States you mean. If you were trying to deal with a nuclear accident and kept getting emails and phone calls from some foreign agency who is pretty far down your list of people that have to be kept informed and who don't speak your language... Well, it isn't that surprising that the NRC was confused and lacked information.

          I don't want to defend TEPCO too much but reading some of the actual emails it really doesn't sound like the NRC was helping very much.

        • by toby (759)

          Chernobyl was a big ball of s**t that only proved the US had better procedures, precautions, and design than the Russians

          Wow. Go look up hubris in a dictionary.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        No you don't. Two points:

        One: The US NRC is responsible for US licensed reactors, not Japanses reactors. They have no authority over Japanese reactors, are not rsponsibility for them and most importantly they don't know ANYTHING about them. That's like saying your local police office is responsible for solving a crime in Zimbabwe because he's a police office. The US government offered to help the Japanese, amd the Japanese lied and stonewalled them. Yes, lets blame the Americans for this one. Jesus.

        T

        • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

          by rickb928 (945187)

          "The US NRC is a fee recovery agency, licensees not taxpayer pay"

          And licensees pay that from revenues.

          That they receive from ratepayers.

          That would be taxpayers who are their customers.

          Put another way, we pay for it all, dude.

          • by icebike (68054) *

            Put another way, we pay for it all, dude.

            And HOW is that germane to the GP's points?
            Does it somehow give the NRC access to or information about an event in Japan just because some customers in some areas of the US see a small "regulatory charge" on their bill?

            • by rickb928 (945187)

              The GP seemed to be making some point that being a fee funded agency left the NRC without the mandate to be involved in the Japanese incident at all.

              My point is that to-be immediate source of their funding isn't important because the true source is ratepayers.

              Besides, the NRC had some interest in the accident, if for no other reason than to analyze the causes and response . learning from the mistakes of others for instance. Offering to help doesn't seem like a bad thing either.

        • by mdsolar (1045926)
          I sure hope you are not saying they should only do what the licensees want (which is what they do). Congress established the fee. The fee could just as well be a tax that goes into general revenue. WE pay for the NRC by those missing revenues.
      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        I don't.

        I expect them to have some idea of what to do in the case of a reactor meltdown in theory, but given that nuclear meltdowns don't happen that often they won't know whether their plans actually work until they have to use them. And while in theory there's no difference between theory and practice, in practice there is.

        • So, what you're really saying is we should melt down a few more reactors in order to understand the process better.

          Your ideas intrigue me....

        • by jd (1658)

          I expect them to perform a reasonable range of simulations and drills to determine if their plans would definitely fail. They may not know what WILL work, but they can know what definitely won't. (If maximum traffic flow is X and there are Y cars, then you cannot evacuate faster than Y/X even if nothing fails, nothing breaks down and all drivers are intelligent and courteous. In reality, we know that some percentage of breakdowns is inevitable, that most drivers are stupid and that failures are inevitable.

        • by forkfail (228161)

          Given the potential consequences, they'd better have a pretty damn good theory on what to do when the fecal matter hits the fan.

      • by StikyPad (445176)

        What to do in the case of a meltdown is obvious: run as fast as you can and hope you're far away before it goes critical.

        How to prevent a meltdown in the face of catastrophic structural, infrastructural, and logistical failure is another question entirely.

      • by icebike (68054) *

        We do expect the NRC to know what to do in case of a meltdown. Evidently they take the money but don't do the job.

        In JAPAN?

        Please tell my you aren't serious!

    • I suspect if Engineers could think of everything we wouldn't build BWRs in the first place. Engineers do not know what they don't know - but most think they know everything. The problem arises when we base critical decisions on complex models and algorithms - which obviously do not and can not account for the unknown. Does it surprise anyone that information has and continues to be withheld? At the time of the accident essential data and information was extensively withheld from the organizations and ind
  • I do not blame the NRC, they are, like many/most agencies buried in legislation and policies. Very little of the resources actually go to enforcing or monitoring those polices. It's easy to collect thousands of datapoints, but if you have no way to analyze the data into something useful, what was the point? Step1: Make it illegal. Step2: Act suprised when someone breaks the law Step3: Make it illegal++ ! GOTO step2. Until there is actual accountability, all you need to do is pay off your PR department
  • Given an organization of any significant size, and given a complex situation, you'll always be able to pick and choose emails from people who are confused and not in the loop, and who describe problems and alternatives that seem disjointed.
  • I'm not sure where the idea came from that there was any sort of relationship at all with Dr. Chu himself described in this article.

    All he did was gather up some experts in the field and facilitate their advise to the Japanese. That's exactly what the Secretary of Energy should do.

    And yes, some of their suggestions were radical. That's what "brainstorming" means. Coming up with all sorts of ideas and determining as a group which are the good ones and which are the bad ones. Has no one ever seen an episode o

    • by mdsolar (1045926)
      Good point. They protected their turf against Chu and were abusive to his appointees. Towards Chu, they were merely, I don't know, turds?
      • by KainX (13349)

        If your point is that the NRC were abusive *toward* Dr. Chu and his appointees, then I'll agree with you. But that's not generally what the phrase "abusive relationship with" means. :-)

  • by mspohr (589790) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:14PM (#38969535)

    Interesting to see in the "Bulletin of Atomic Scientists" link from the summary that the "overnight" (without construction interest) cost of a nuclear plant has risen from $1,200 per KW to $5,000 per Kw in the past 10 years. This is more than the current costs for solar or wind power. This economic fact alone doesn't bode well for the nuclear industry.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      nuclear plant has risen from $1,200 per KW to $5,000 per Kw in the past 10 years. This is more than the current costs for solar or wind power.

      How about cost at night? Or when it is cloudy or calm for a week or two? Exactly.

      Of course people may only want lights and heat during the day.

    • by tp1024 (2409684)
      1KW of PV generates as much energy as 0.1-0.15 kW of coventional power plants. And that's not counting losses for necessary storage (at least 50% of energy) not to talk about the cost of that storage. Sorry to tell you, but you fell for the propaganda.
      • by mspohr (589790)

        Since you accused me of falling for the "propaganda", I don't have high hopes for a rational discussion but I'll give it a try.
        First, the "propaganda" I used was from the "Bulletin of Atomic Scientists" which appears to be a reliable scientific source. I have also used other widely published (Google it) estimates of the cost of wind and solar. You are right in stating that solar and wind don't provide continuous power but your estimate of 10-15% is too low. Also, it doesn't really matter that solar doesn

        • by tp1024 (2409684)
          10-15% is for PV in temperate climate zones, 10% specifically in Central Europe. Even prefect conditions (desert near equator) yield no more than 20%. Windpower depends upon local conditions. Germany currently averages just under 17%, it could be on the order of 25%, but for lack of power lines (and law suits filed by the green party against building more) and storage capacity (also blocked by law suits of the same) wind turbines must be shut down more and more often for lack of demand. In fact, wind power
    • by Bardwick (696376)
      "Without Construction interest". Would that include the purchase of land the size of nevada to place panels?
      • by mspohr (589790) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:08PM (#38971303)

        The "Bulletin" used the term "overnight cost" which I found interesting so I googled it. It refers to the cost of the project without adding in the cost of interest on the money borrowed during construction. It is as if the project was built "overnight".
        We know that nuclear plants have very long construction times (5-10 years) so the overnight cost drastically understates the cost of the project. Solar and wind, on the other hand have much shorter construction times (less than a year in most cases) so the overnight cost is close to the actual cost.
        As far as land costs go, land is cheap (especially in Nevada) and is a very small part of the cost of any power plant. Most solar is installed on existing roofs so no land cost there. Even large scale solar plants like those in the California and Nevada desert don't use much land and the land is a very small part of the cost of the plant.

        • by squizzar (1031726)

          There seem to be some lifetime earnings missing from that - running a Nuclear plant is quite cheap, building it is not. So having a plant that can produce, for 90% of it's lifetime, it's full power output vs. having a plant that may produce, for it's lifetime 10-15% of it's output. The lifetime of a solar panel is, iirc, 25 years? A nuclear plant is 40-60 (most seem to be going on to 60). For each kw of nuclear capacity you get 50*90% = 45 kw years of energy. For solar you get 25*15% = 3.75 kw years (a

    • by radtea (464814)

      Interesting to see in the "Bulletin of Atomic Scientists" link from the summary...

      As a matter of interest do you find what the Republicans say about the Democrats or vice versa interesting too? If so, why?

      I don't get why a political organization like BAS that has no interest in anything except their own monotonic political agenda is interesting to anyone. They have no facts and no arguments, only conclusions that they they then try to justify by various manipulations. This is epistemically vacuous at best. It's like listening to Greenpeace on the environment or the Pope on the existe

      • by mspohr (589790)

        Thanks for this information. I had no idea that the BAS was a political organization. They seem to try to present themselves as a "scientific" organization. Oh well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised at this revelation.
        So, if the BAS is promoting nuclear power then I should probably take their estimate of $5,000 / Kw nuclear power plant construction cost as an understatement of the real cost. This makes my argument stronger. Wind and solar are even cheaper than nuclear. It seems that the people who hav

  • by sjames (1099)

    We're supposed to be upset that the NRC didn't know exactly what to do about a nuclear plant they had no authority over, no insight into, and no responsibility for? Are we also angry with the Mayberry volunteer fire department?

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