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Government Technology

Under Revised Quake Estimates, Dozens of Nuclear Reactors Face Problems 152

mdsolar (1045926) writes "Owners of at least two dozen nuclear reactors across the United States, including the operator of Indian Point 2, in Buchanan, N.Y., have told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that they cannot show that their reactors would withstand the most severe earthquake that revised estimates say they might face, according to industry experts. As a result, the reactors' owners will be required to undertake extensive analyses of their structures and components. Those are generally sturdier than assumed in licensing documents, but owners of some plants may be forced to make physical changes, and are likely to spend about $5 million each just for the analysis."
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Under Revised Quake Estimates, Dozens of Nuclear Reactors Face Problems

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  • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <> on Saturday April 05, 2014 @06:29PM (#46672625) Homepage Journal

    Arguably no estimate is adequate. Unexpected things happen, and our understanding and knowledge of the tectonic plate system is incomplete anyway. Given the risk we should be designing for safety in the most extreme event possible. Look at it this way: the fact that the estimates were revised up tells us that the original estimates were too optimistic, there is at least some chance that the new ones are too.

    The cost is always going to be proportional to the risk. That's why no commercial insurance company will offer any nuclear facility insurance.

  • by mmell ( 832646 ) on Saturday April 05, 2014 @06:35PM (#46672659)
    The architect says this (bridge/power plant/building) will stand for (20/30/40) years with proper maintenance. Then, we should outright replace it. We know it'll cost x dollars now, plus y dollars of the life of the item. Sounds good, so we buy in.

    At the end of the lifespan, somebody who is not that architect says we can't afford to replace a (still perfectly good) piece of infrastructure. Let's agree that if we (inspect more often/inspect in greater detail/upgrade this piece here), we can get (10/20/30) more years of life out of it. Y'know, I can already hear the original architect screaming "That isn't what I said!".

    So now it's forty years later, and something the original architect may not even have seen coming turns Fukushima into a radioactive hotspot - or the bridge in Skagit County collapses - or an 8.5 magnitude earthquake levels the building, killing hundreds. The problem is that it's one thing to spend millions of dollars to have the object in question. Once people are used to it "just being there", nobody wants to spend even more just to keep it. They'd rather spend just a few dollars more and convince themselves that it's better than ever. Good on us for being so clever!

  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Saturday April 05, 2014 @06:46PM (#46672715)

    > Given the risk we should be designing for safety in the most extreme event possible.

    Applying this logic to the innovation of fire would have resulted in its rejection as too dangerous, and we would still be living in unheated caves eating raw food in the dark.

  • That's not how engineering works, or why Fukushima went into meltdown.

    Engineers specify the lifetime for the various parts of their design. They specify under what conditions they are considered worn out and cannot be used any more. Clearly if any worn out part can be replaced then there is no limit to the lifetime of the design. In practice this has proven to be true with things like aircraft and ships, and indeed nuclear plants. What kills them is when the cost of maintenance gets too high and building a new one is cheaper.

    In the case of Fukushima age had nothing to do with it. The problem was damage from the earthquake, damage from the tsunami (and the lack of upgrades that TEPCO were told they needed to do to the sea defence wall), and confusion in the following days. The plant itself was actually better than new, in that it had been upgraded over the years and all parts were properly maintained and functioning as designed. It was just an old design, although it is debatable how much better newer designs would have fared in the same situation.

    Age isn't the problem, bad design is. Fukushima was broken from day one, in fact it was even more vulnerable to major earthquakes than it was the day one hit it all those years later.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Saturday April 05, 2014 @07:22PM (#46672891)

    If, going forward all the plants were of an identical design...wouldn't that make things a bit simpler?

    No. Some plants sit near fault lines, others are far away. Some sit next to deep ocean with plenty of cooling capacity. Others sit in arid regions with water shortages. Also, technology advances. It doesn't make much sense to keep using a decades old design when we have learned how to do better.

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Saturday April 05, 2014 @11:05PM (#46673779) Homepage Journal

    But fire does not make areas permanently uninhabitable

    Tell that to the people of Centralia, PA

    Maybe on a scale of "eternity", fire doesn't render places "permanently" uninhabitable.

    But, then, neither does radiation.

    Even in the Pripyat area (around Chernobyl), unless you're right up near the reactor, the ambient radiation is on par with many places around the world.

    And even just outside the reactor, PLACES THAT HAVE NEVER SEEN A NUCLEAR REACTION where the radiation is 10-15 times as high (see Brazil, Guarapari beaches).

    Most of the reactors that have had safety issues are reactors that were built decades ago, based on even older designs.

    We have the knowledge, NOW, to build completely contained devices that safely generate power over the lifetime of the device.
    We have the knowledge, NOW, to build reactors that quite simply are INCAPABLE of replicating the accidents that led to contamination at TMI and Chernobyl.

    As for Fukushima. Fukushima is the story of a freak Tsunami that was mutated by the anti-nuke community into a "nuclear failure".

    Basically, if you consider yourself environmentally conscious, you cannot be anti-nuke.
    Because the only other viable options for baseline power are natural gas, coal and oil.

    Natural gas, coal and oil are the things we need to be moving AWAY from.
    And anyone telling you that we can rely, solely, on wind, wave, solar and geothermal is LYING TO YOU. The people telling you these lies? Shills for the NG, coal and oil industry!

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @07:30AM (#46675105) Homepage Journal

    There have been a number of studies that show hundreds to thousands of additional deaths, hower none of them can be 100% watertight in either direction (things could just as easily be worse as better) because you can't control for all other factors that might be involved.

    Exactly. It's easy to simply label every cancer death since the event as "caused by Chernobyl". Unfortunately, nobody takes you seriously, because the claim isn't sane or provable.

    As to why choosing coal to discuss?

    Because it's a baseline power source, like nuclear, like oil. YOU CANNOT USE WIND POWER AS A BASELINE POWER SOURCE. Even if you blanket the entire planet in windmills, you simply don't have enough constant capacity to qualify. So, all the people talking about solar and wind and wave power? The people telling you that they can be used, unsupplemented, and as baseline power? THEY ARE LYING TO YOU!

    And nuclear being "the most expensive" is based on the prediction that, as climate change becomes a primary issue, that oil, gas and coal will not incur heavy tariffs. Nuclear has the largest UP FRONT cost. But is the most economical in the long run. And run properly and safely, produces cheap, clean power stably over the lifespan of a reactor with no CO2 emissions.

    The big problem is, China's requirements for power are going to keep going up, as are all the various nations not currently benefiting from large power surpluses. You can talk about eking out efficiency and using less wastefully. But that only gets you so far. Keeping up with coal, gas or oil will devastate the planet far worse than all the nuclear accidents that have happened ever will.

  • by macpacheco ( 1764378 ) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:34AM (#46675463)

    I'm no FAN of water cooled, solid fuel reactors, for they are wasting 99,3% of Uranium mined.
    But still, they are way, way safer than even the cleanest coal power plant, because for each ton of spent nuclear fuel, coal produces tens of thousands of coal ash, filled with mercury, cadmium, arsenic, all neurologic agents, that will remain poisonous FOREVER, because they don't decay.
    At least Sr90 and Cs137 decay into stable forms after releasing their radioactivity, loosing any harmful radioactive effects after that.

    I don't agree with the opinion that Fukushima is worse than Chernobyl. I don't believe it will be even 5% of Chernobyl effects.
    The reasons Chernobyl were so bad were all due to USSR incompetence:
    1 - The reactor was astonishingly unsafe. It has no secondary containment building. It had fundamental safety flaws that caused the explosion during a shutdown. It didn't have advanced computer monitoring systems that can predict problems, analyze all reactor safety parameters hundreds of times per second and show anything of concern.
    2 - The explosion blew a 2000 ton reactor top off meters away, the reactor graphite moderator caught fire, exacerbating the radioactive release. This is impossible with a modern reactor
    3 - Iodine tablets were no distributed to the affected population. Most cancers from nuclear accidents come from radioactive iodine, but it decays fairly quickly, 7 day half life, so in 70 days it's essentially all gone (rule of thumb = 10 half lives it's 99% gone)
    This won't ever happen again. The main reason isn't the lessons learned, all 3 lessons were already ingrained in nuclear safety people outside the USSR. Only the USSR would be crazy to do that even back then.

    Fukushima might even slowly release the same levels of raw radioactivity, but since it's going into the Pacific, and being released in small doses, it gets diluted very quickly, so people aren't breathing radioactive iodine, Sr, Cs.

    No, the pacific isn't lost. Even 50Km away, the Pacific is perfectly safe and fine.

    If any of those concerns were a real issue, USA and France would be having serious nuclear incidents all the time.
    Why is it that France produces 75% of its electricity from nuclear and we don't hear of clusters of cancer cases around nuclear plants ?
    Why is it that the USA produces more total electricity from nuclear than France, without incident ?
    Where are the radiation sickness deaths from Fukushima ? Where are the real cancer cases from Fukushima ?
    The reality still is that the anti nuclear community is still doing it's usual overreaction act around Fukushima.
    The German greens forced nuclear reactors to be shutdown in a hurry, causing German's CO2 emissions to go up from burning more coal. The net effect of all solar and wind installed completely washed by shutting down just 5 nuclear reactors.

    I'm sorry, but I can't agree with any of the actions you propose, because your side get attention to your issues by fearmongering the population. I'm not a nuclear industry representative, I'm not even a nuclear physicist or a nuclear engineer. My pro nuclear feelings are a result of the anti nuclear people selling lies to the general public. My interest on studying nuclear power and fully understanding it comes 99% from correcting your side's fearmongering. I'm against lies and in favor of credible information. Until the anti nuclear shills stop fearmongering, I'm against them.

    Spreading lies is never a good thing. It makes your movement a fundamentalist one.
    Nuclear power IS safe. You concerns are not significant, because as it is, nuclear technology is already extremely safe.
    Everything has risks. Chernobyl killed far less people than one weeks worth of car accidents in the USA. Chernobyl killed less people than coal kills every month worldwide.

    We need to fund new nuclear alternatives that are efficient in using thorium and uranium, if we do that, we can reduce nuclear fission products by 99%. With just the currently available spent nuclear fu

Someone is unenthusiastic about your work.