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NRC Emails Reveal Confusion In Aftermath of Fukushima 113

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 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.

  • 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 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:10PM (#38968511)

    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.

    Two: The US NRC is a fee recovery agency, licensees not taxpayer pay for 90% of the US NRCs budget and thats per the law congress passed. The US NRC must get 90% of their budget from licensees, not from the taxpayer. So no dear taxpayer, you don't pay for the US NRC to regulate and you definitely shouldnt expect the US NRC to respond to nuclear emergencies in JAPAN. The US NRC regulates reactors in the US period. The US can not tell Japan what to do with its reactors, nor is the US responsile for solving Japans problems. Nor is the US in any position to know what's going with a Japense reactor, it has no authority to even ask! The US NRC can't even talk directly to the Japenese, only the State department can do that. If you'd bother to read the reports you would know that, the State department was and is in charge of these things. They can ask for other agencies to help, but it's their show and not the US NRC's. Take a civics class kids.

    Three: how would you expect the US NRC to know anything about a reactor they don't regulate and know nothing about? You don't, it's common sense. They got asked to figure out something based on no information, lies and finally bad information from the Japense. Yes, I can see why they might be confused!

    So, to recap, you don't pay for that, the companies that own the reactors do. And the US NRC has nothing to do with Japanese reactors. And it's has no authority to do anything about a disaster in Japan nor is it responsible for this, nor does it know anything about another countries Reactors,. End of story, move on.

  • by Petersko ( 564140 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:33PM (#38968803)
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:35PM (#38968831)

    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 car provides against anthrax? Should architects be worrying about how buildings will withstand collisions with the moon? Should cellphone manufacturers worry about whether the phones will become toxic when exposed to plasma?

    Obviously not. Safety is about resource allocation. It makes sense only to plan for, and build contingencies for, events that have a decent probability of occurring. It also only makes sense to worry about things for which one can reasonably plan a response. And most importantly, you have to pick some cutoff level: some mixture of likelihood and danger below which you say 'that's an acceptable risk'.

    I'm not saying mistakes were not made in the Fukushima case. By all means let's optimize our procedures and planning to minimize mistakes in the future. But I dislike this notion that projects must be 100% safe in order to be undertaken. That's absolutely ridiculous: the only sensible way to handle safety is to decide how much risk/damage is tolerable, and then allocate one's finite resources in an attempt to bring the risk down to that level. (It in particular bothers me that the nuclear industry is expected to have absolutely zero mistakes; whereas other industries are not held to the same standard. I'm not saying we should make the nuclear industry less safe, I'm saying one has to be fair in comparing the scale and scope of mistakes in different sectors.)

  • by openfrog ( 897716 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:58PM (#38969229)

    Hiroshima was hit with an atomic explosion. Fukishima did not have this. Completely different event. Chernobyl didn't even kill nearly this many, and they actually had their reactor explode. There have been ZERO deaths so far. The only certainty is that the CHANCE of cancer in many of the workers will increase. CHANCE is a big word. This isn't a guarantee that they will all get it.

    Epidemiology 101: Hiroshima and Nagasaki data can be used to calculate how much radiation cause how many deaths in a population and this data is used by everyone, industry, regulators and who you call activists, to do just that. You write "CHANCE" as if what is meant is that there is a chance than mortality increases. No, we use probability because we cannot prove that a given death is caused by the added exposure or the natural occurring one, but over large numbers, we can OBSERVE a definite number of death, that we can definitely ATTRIBUTE to the increased exposure, in a linear relation (there is no safe exposure). There is no CHANCE of increased cancer mortality caused by Fukushima: this is a certainty and it is measurable, thanks in part to the data collected from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Why has my post above been modded Flamebait? I merely stated facts, that are recognized by anyone knowledgeable in this field.

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"