48th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs

This week discontinuous events evolving from the impact of an  earthquake and tsunami at Fukushima continue to get focus of the nuclear energy blogsphere. TEPCO reported that post event inspections reveal that the wave breached the seawall at a height of 15 meters.

About the Carnival

The carnival features blog posts from the leading U.S. nuclear bloggers and is a roundup of featured content from them.  This is the 48th weekly publication in the series. It is a collaborative effort.

Past editions have been hosted at Brave New Future, NEI Nuclear Notes, Yes Vermont Yankee, Idaho Samizdat, and several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog, and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brian Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation. This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support.

Please post a Tweet, a Facebook entry, or a link on your Web site or blog to support the carnival.

If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.

Carnival time starts here

Atomic Insights – Rod Adams

As Fukushima gets moved from 5 to 7 remember that 0 (deaths) is still an applicable number.  A few prominent people with questioning attitudes have looked at the reality of the consequences and compared that reality to all of the horror stories they have heard over the years about meltdowns.

At Fukushima, there were three reactors whose cores have apparently melted and there is at least one used fuel pool that contains significantly damaged fuel. The reality is so different from the dire predictions that people like George Monbiot, Mark Lynas and Stewart Brand, have provided public commentary indicating that Fukushima has actually improved their view of the utility of nuclear energy.

NuclearGreen – Charles Barton

Two American reviews of graphite safety following the Chernobyl fire, raise unresolved questions about the claimed role of graphite in the Chernobyl fire.  An NRC study suggests that nuclear graphite will burn under a very limited set of core conditions.  It appears impossible for those conditions to ever be meet in the core of a malten salt reactor.  Thus core graphite would be inherently safe in the core of a Molten Salt Reactor.

Idaho Samizdat – Dan Yurman

Decommissioning plans at Fukushima must wait for stable reactor conditions, The world’s biggest nuclear energy firms are lining up with proposals to clean up a historically huge radioactive mess at the Fukushima, Japan, reactor site. There six reactors in various degrees of damaged condition are presenting new engineering challenges on a daily basis punctuated by earthquake aftershocks and the continuing threat of new tsunamis.

At the same time, the Japanese and U.S. news media are publishing stories about the early stages of the crisis which may partially explain why NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko issued a call for Americans to evacuate to a distance of 50 miles from the site.

Idaho Samizdat – guest blog post by Jacques Besnainou, CEO, Areva Inc.

I am writing this essay today as a frustrated and fed up reader of nuclear-related stories originated by anti-nuclear organizations. While most recent reporting on the Fukushima reactors has been fair, some quite admirable, the coverage of MOX (mixed oxide) nuclear fuel has been mostly inaccurate and filled with half-truths.

As you may know, one of the reactors at Fukushima used MOX fuel. So what? The situation in Japan was not related to MOX fuel nor has its presence worsened the situation.

Next Big Future – Brian Wang

No deaths from radiation at Fukushima

The Register UK – The total non-story of the Fukushima nuclear power plant “disaster” – which has seen and will see no deaths or measurable health consequences for anyone anywhere – has received a shot in the arm today with the news that Japanese authorities have upgraded the incident to a Level 7 on the nuclear accident scale.

Fukushima at Level 7 on INES scale

Fukushima was raised to level 7 the same category as Chernobyl but Chernobyl had10 to 100 times more radiation. Japan raised the severity rating at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to level 7, the most serious on the international scale and the same rating that was given 25 years ago to Chernobyl, as aftershocks close to the facility heighten safety concerns.

The level 7 designation was made “provisionally,” and a final level won’t be set until the disaster is over and a more detailed investigation has been conducted. The previous event level of 5, equal to the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, was also a provisional designation.

NEI Nuclear Notes

Nuclear Energy Workers in Japan and the U.S.

“First things first: nuclear workers in the United States, both employed by the plants and by contractors, are highly trained for their duties – no farmers plucked from their fields, no gangster-hires. Additionally, the safety culture implemented at plants applies to all workers, so any safety issue that arises can (really, must) be reported.”

Advances in nuclear safety – video from Idaho National Laboratory

Idaho National Laboratory’s Director John Grossenbacher explains how the U.S. nuclear industry has boosted its safety procedures as a result of the Three Mile Island (TMI) accident in 1979 and how the industry plans to use current events at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plants to further enhance safety.

Nuke Power Talk – Gail Marcus

If I can find anything positive coming out of the events in Japan in the last few weeks, it is the number of articles I have seen in a variety of media that continue to speak of nuclear power in a balanced way. Surely, we all believe there are lessons to be learned and we can’t be complacent, but increasing numbers of journalists and others appear to recognize that:

  1. The options for a reliable energy supply to meet current and future needs are limited,
  2. All forms of energy supply carry certain risks, and
  3. Nuclear power is better than a lot of other options.

Yes Vermont Yankee – Meredith Angwin

Fukushima Oversimplified and Simplified – This Yes Vermont Yankee post tracks the evolution of our understanding of radiation sources and levels/ The journey took us from chaos, to oversimplification, and finally, at this point, to some level of clarity.

ANS Nuclear Cafe

The use of social media in the Fukushima crisis – Margaret Harding

An ANS mailing list serves as a sounding board for ideas, information gathering as there are many technical experts in various areas of nuclear energy, and support for those who are out in the larger world communicating about nuclear. The Social Media list became the heart of a huge effort to get the facts out there with the media.

At the act of creation – Susie Hobbs

The nuclear crisis in Japan will undoubtedly change the nuclear industry forever. Due to the ongoing efforts of so many nuclear professionals and supporters, I am beginning to think that it will be a change for the better. Innovative technologies and creative outreach are already positively impacting the way we think about energy in America and around the world.

Michelle Kearney – via Cam Abernethy’s Nuclear Street

Photos of the tsumani water line at Fukushima

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2 Responses to 48th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs

  1. A long time nuclear industry practitioner involved in commercial nuclear power operations both in the US and in France, I have a few unconventional thoughts about the events at Fukushima that I wanted to share.

    I believe the NRC won’t be able to ask the right questions in this case to protect the US public and the environment. It is in the same situation than NASA after Challenger, when Dr. Friedman went back to Physics 101 in a complex system. We, as the nuclear community of a free country, should know that “Fukushima can happen here, and we work hard every day for it not to happen!”

    Beyond nuclear safety regulators reinforcing the operating designs, I believe the States and Federal governments should focus on planning and preparing the resources –humans and equipments- needed to cope with and limit the impact of uncontrolled radioactive products in the environment with 2 ultimate “beyond design” scenarios in mind:

    (1) Uncontrolled nuclear explosion of one source term

    (2) Prolonged Loss of Heat Sink at a nuclear site

    The first reason is that these situations already happened, and both situations are and will always be beyond the design basis of any nuclear plant in the world. The worst so far is man made –Chernobyl- and one –Fukushima- is nature made and man saved.

    What can go wrong? Uncontrolled nuclear explosion of a commercial reactor

    How likely is it? It happened on April, 26th 1986

    What are the consequences? MAJOR (INES scale 7)

    Chernobyl is a blind spot in the US nuclear industry. Refusing to acknowledge its existence won’t prevent a criticality event from happening in America nor mitigating the consequences.

    The second reason is because a “nuclear safety continuity and recovery” process/procedure is more appropriate than a “piecemeal” of “event based” procedures when disaster strikes. The continuous facts based assessment of the state of the defense in depth of each source term is the only response:

    1-The knowledge of the actual/potential radioactive source terms: each “reactor”, each “spent fuel pool” .
    2-The knowledge of the status of the barriers for each reactor AND each spent fuel pool: Fuel rods cladding, Reactor pressure vessel and/or pool, Containment vessel

    3-A strong understanding of Nuclear Safety principles: NO uncontrolled criticality, Cooling at all costs, Controlling as much as possible the radioactive releases

    4- A strong nuclear safety culture of the licensee employees to engage the correct critical actions needed to prevent or limit the release of radioactive products from each source term in the environment

    5. A strong coordination of the affected site/sites with the local and state authorities to protect the population and the environment without panic.

    What can go wrong? Prolonged Loss of Heat Sink on a 6 units nuclear site

    How likely is it? It happened on March, 11th 2011

    What are the consequences? SERIOUS (INES scale 6)

    Can we regulate the power of the next earthquake on America’s West Coast?

    The NRC will not regulate the size of the waves, the location and power of the next earthquake or tsunami, global warming, and nuclear safety culture.
    The Engineering blind arrogance, even when coming from the NRC after its ridiculous “50 miles” in Japan, will not make the cut this time.

    But we can be humble, acknowledge that “Engineering is human”. We can work to have robust designs and robust operating systems with a healthy nuclear safety culture in place, preparing relentlessly for the “beyond design events” with the governments and local authorities.

  2. Michael Mann

    Catherine,
    While it was a power excursion resulting in huge release of radioactive material, Chernobyl was not a nuclear explosion, there is a significant difference and accuracy is required in the terminology. I agree that there are many lessons to be learned from each event (most from Chernobyl are already in place) I believe a common response team with specialized equipment located in a remote, safe location for use any reactor may be a prudent additional precaution for beyond basis events. The nuclear industry needs to work together and ensure contingencies are in place such that another Fukushima is not possible.