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French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced today that he is calling for a reform of global nuclear standards by the end of this year

Since the 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck Japan causing troubles with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, there has been a certain amount of nuclear hysteria. For instance, some journalists have sensationalized Japan's nuclear situation, and despite the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's conclusion that nuclear plants in the U.S. were safe, two U.S. senators still pushed for an expensive study to determine if these plants are safe. 

Now, it looks like France is showing some concern regarding the use of nuclear power after visiting Japan recently. French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced today that he is calling for a reform of global nuclear standards by the end of this year.  

"Dear Japanese friends, know that in this appalling catastrophe, the world is watching and admiring you," said Sarkozy. 

In addition, Sarkozy said France would like to host a meeting this May consisting of the bloc's nuclear officials "to fix new norms in the wake of the crisis" in Japan. France is taking it upon itself to lead the assistance of Japan, since, according to Reuters, France is the most dependent on nuclear power.  

"We must address this anomaly that there are no international safety norms for nuclear matters," said Sarkozy.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a U.N. body, sets standards and recommendations, but they are not "legally binding" and member states are responsible for safety.

Japan is certainly having some issues with cooling the reactors' fuel rods, making sure crops grown near the plant are not contaminated, keeping an eye on the amount of radiation in the water, and the increased pressure to expand the 12-mile evacuation zone. But government officials have noted that the situation has become much more manageable as of late, and that levels of radiation outside of the plant's range are low-risk. 

In fact, a reading of downtown Tokyo's radiation levels today showed 0.18 microsieverts per hour, which is low in regards to global standards.  

"All the experts agree that living in Tokyo now does not represent a health risk," said Sarkozy.

But Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan agreed with Sarkozy regarding the call for global nuclear review.  

"In order to avid recurrence of such an accident, it is our duty to accurately share with the world our experience," said Kan.  

According to the report, a total of 28,000 people are either dead or missing due to the earthquakes and tsunamis, and the damage may exceed $300 billion. 

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i might be wrong - probably am
By mackx on 3/31/2011 11:11:15 AM , Rating: 5
but weren't those reactors built decades ago, and still fared pretty damn well against the biggest earthquake in recorded history (9.1?) in spite of being on 3 fault lines, as well as being hit by a huge ass tsunami?

if the reactors in france are like the ones in japan, then nothing that's happened in france would come even close to damaging the damn things and creating a problem.

RE: i might be wrong - probably am
By BSMonitor on 3/31/2011 11:23:31 AM , Rating: 2
Why aren't these things built inside mountains, instead of on tsunami prone coastlines?!!?

RE: i might be wrong - probably am
By bug77 on 3/31/2011 11:34:30 AM , Rating: 5
Might have something to do with cooling? For which you need lots of, I don't know, water?

RE: i might be wrong - probably am
By omnicronx on 3/31/2011 11:38:27 AM , Rating: 3
For the same reason we don't put reactors in the middle of the desert.. Water..

RE: i might be wrong - probably am
By kattanna on 3/31/2011 11:49:34 AM , Rating: 4
thats not entirely true

Located in the Arizona desert, Palo Verde is the only nuclear generating facility in the world that is not situated adjacent to a large body of above-ground water. The facility evaporates water from the treated sewage of several nearby municipalities to meet its cooling needs

i'd actually like to see more of this. nice way to work things.

By SublimeSimplicity on 3/31/2011 1:52:08 PM , Rating: 5
That's some hot sh** technology!

RE: i might be wrong - probably am
By Solandri on 3/31/2011 2:32:47 PM , Rating: 2
Evaporative air cooling is pretty common, and is used in many applications not just nuclear. The stereotypical image most Americans have of a nuclear plant is actually the cooling towers of the air-cooled plants.

You'll notice that the Fukushima plant doesn't have these since it's water-cooled.

But yeah, cooling is the reason you can't build them inside a mountain. You need access to something that can carry the waste heat away - water or air.

RE: i might be wrong - probably am
By SublimeSimplicity on 3/31/2011 11:29:14 AM , Rating: 2
He's not actually concerned about safety. France has pretty much all the nuclear power they need. He's trying slow other countries from adopting more nuclear power to try to help his economy relative to others when oil production plateaus.

RE: i might be wrong - probably am
By bug77 on 3/31/2011 11:40:45 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, he's trying to sell their tech (which is expensive) to other countries. If you were following the press, France was the only nation who systematically cried "disaster, meltdown, Chernobyl".

RE: i might be wrong - probably am
By Slyne on 3/31/2011 1:37:40 PM , Rating: 3
Sarkozy is in a similar situation to Merkel. Even though he is a nuclear power proponent, and was initially playing down the accident at Fukushima, he's facing a half-hysterical nation right now (as opposed to completely hysterical like on the other side of the Rhine river), and elections are coming next year. France's own nuclear plants are aging and there's been widespread opposition to replacing them with next-gen EPR reactors. So he has to convince his own nation that France's standards are high enough that sharing them with the world would make the world safe(r) from nuclear accidents.

That and as mentioned in the post above he's trying to prevent Areva from filing for bankruptcy due to lack of future customers. Areva lost a few contracts lately to competing bids that were cheaper, although arguably less efficient and less safe. So if France handles this PR well, it could actually help them.

RE: i might be wrong - probably am
By Slyne on 3/31/2011 1:54:41 PM , Rating: 2
And of course, if he could push worldwide regulation so that only Areva's bids meet all the safety criteria, that would be his dream scenario. But hopefully such regulation would address issues like regular testing of backup systems and overstorage of nuclear fuel and other safety practices that are more operator-specific than design-specific but can have a big impact during a crisis.

For instance, about 20 years ago a night watchman in a nuclear plant in France cut off the cable between a reactor and its emergency generator, because he needed it to wire up a nightclub he owned. Thankfully, a later inspection discovered the cable was missing.

RE: i might be wrong - probably am
By kattanna on 3/31/2011 11:35:05 AM , Rating: 5
but weren't those reactors built decades ago, and still fared pretty damn well against the biggest earthquake in recorded history (9.1?) in spite of being on 3 fault lines, as well as being hit by a huge ass tsunami

yes. they have been in operation for 40 years and where actually going to be shut down due to end of life. though there was also talk of extending their lifetime due to power needs.

whats really annoying is how this isnt being portrayed as the success story it really is. japan was hit with the 4th largest ever recorded earthquake. thank god it didnt happen on land else cities would be nothing but ruble. you simply cannot build to withstand such forces and the fact that these power plants have withstood as well as they have is a true feat of engineering. and thats not even counting the then additional damage done by a 30 foot tall wall of water.

By VahnTitrio on 3/31/2011 11:41:28 AM , Rating: 2
Correct, the way that particular plant was built is widely considered as the most likely to fail in an emergency. Most nuclear power plants with this design are nearing the end of their lifetime anyway. Newer plants have much better designs (though I'm not exactly sure what this entails, just that they are considered to be a huge improvement). Fukushima was not the closest nuclear power plant to this earthquake, as the Onagawa facility is roughly 50 miles closer to the epicenter. Onagawa being a much newer plant shut down correctly when the earthquake occurred. The caveat is due to geography the tsunami likely wasn't as bad there, but the event would still have produced extraordinary strain on the facility.

RE: i might be wrong - probably am
By MrTeal on 3/31/2011 12:00:52 PM , Rating: 2
That doesn't mean there shouldn't be a review and an update to safety standards. I agree that the reactors have actually fared really well, but this crisis does have some lessons to teach.

I'm sure that they already knew how important cooling is to a BWR, but I'd expect recommendations for more backup systems related to maintaining cooling.

The big thing that needs to come out of this is dealing with the waste problem. Governments have been dragging their feet on dealing with the issue of what to do with the waste that has been generated. If the fuel in the spent fuel pools at Fukushima had been moved at a reasonable pace out of the reactor building into dry cask storage and then to a permanent storage facility, the current crisis wouldn't have been nearly as severe. "Green" groups get locals whipped into a frenzy when a long term storage facility is proposed by calling it a nuclear waste dump in their back yard, but it has to go somewhere. We can't keep storing it in the reactor building.

By JKflipflop98 on 4/1/2011 3:04:19 AM , Rating: 3
It's called "reprocessing". The trouble is that the same method you use on your old, spent fuel rods to make new fuel is the same method one uses to make weapons-grade fuel.

Because of this, we can't build new reprocessing facilities in the number that we need. Nuclear facilities don't want to get rid of their spent fuel rods. They keep them on site so they can be later reprocessed into new fuel.

The answer here is pretty easy, guys. Build more nuclear fuel rod reprocessing plants. Not only will there be far less waste, but costs will go down and everyone will be that much safer.

RE: i might be wrong - probably am
By EBH on 3/31/2011 12:50:55 PM , Rating: 3
Ummm it was not the biggest queake in recorded history.

Alaska had a 9.6 back in the day.

By Omega215D on 3/31/2011 1:22:17 PM , Rating: 2
Depends on the scale being used.

By Tiffany Kaiser on 3/31/2011 10:44:11 AM , Rating: 3
"In order to avid recurrence of such an accident, it is our duty to accurately share with the world our experience," said Kan.

"Avid" should be "avoid." My apologies.

RE: Avoid
By BioHazardous on 3/31/2011 10:45:53 AM , Rating: 4
Is there no edit button for articles either?

RE: Avoid
By SublimeSimplicity on 3/31/2011 11:30:19 AM , Rating: 4
6! 6! 6!

Wait... that's not what I meant.

not completely accurate
By kattanna on 3/31/2011 11:26:52 AM , Rating: 4
France is taking it upon itself to lead the assistance of Japan, since, according to Reuters, France is the most dependent on nuclear power.

france isnt doing this out of sheer good will. they are wanting to help stabilize the growing nuclear market because they are hoping to be a key player in building new plants, which they have rightly earned IMO since they have lots of good tech and experience with the whole process. from making fuel to burning it and most importantly, in reprocessing it.

but a purely goodwill gesture.. LOL i think not.

RE: not completely accurate
By Sazabi19 on 3/31/2011 12:43:18 PM , Rating: 5
They also have good firearms, never fired, only dropped once :P

By Sazabi19 on 3/31/11, Rating: 0
No secrets
By Samus on 3/31/11, Rating: -1
RE: No secrets
By MrTeal on 3/31/2011 12:44:47 PM , Rating: 3
the fact there could have been a second explosion equivilent to a 5-megaton bomb rendering most of Europe inhabitable.

Got a source on that one?

RE: No secrets
By Gary Oak on 3/31/2011 1:00:34 PM , Rating: 2
A 5 megaton blast could destroy most of Europe... riiiight

RE: No secrets
By FaceMaster on 4/1/2011 8:19:58 AM , Rating: 2
I thought that it was something to do with a thermal explosion, as a result of the water underneath the plant turning into steam when the meltdown material reached it through the concrete floor. If that happened, there would have been an EPIC explosion and all of the stuff from chernobyl would have gone flying through the air, making vast areas of Europe uninhabitable. There was 10 times the amount of radioactive material in Chernobyl compared to a nuclear bomb (not sure which one), iirc.

Either that or he's just assuming that the Stalker game is real.

RE: No secrets
By cpeter38 on 3/31/2011 2:02:00 PM , Rating: 2
the fact there could have been a second explosion equivilent to a 5-megaton bomb rendering most of Europe inhabitable .

So you're saying that Europe needs at least 5 megatons of atomic reconstruction to be considered inhabitable?

You need to get around more - most of the European cities I've been to are inhabitable without atomic reconstruction

RE: No secrets
By Samus on 3/31/11, Rating: -1
RE: No secrets
By randomly on 3/31/2011 7:47:23 PM , Rating: 3
sorry, it's wrong. It's just not physically possible. Whom ever their 'experts' are they don't even have a rudimentary understanding of nuclear explosions and how difficult it is to get a high yield out of them.

Without getting into all the hoary details you have to assemble the core extremely fast to even get a 1 kiloton yield. If you don't as the core slowly goes critical it heats up and comes apart rapidly, stopping the reaction which limits the yield. The Chernobyl RBMK reactor was a stupid unstable design derived from a 1950's era plutonium production reactor. It suffered a huge run away reactor power spike and exploded with a yield of about 10 tons of TNT. You could never get a yield even approaching 1 kiloton, let alone 5 megaton.

The Chernobyl disaster is not possible with light water reactors such as used in the US, Japan, France, etc. because of the physics of the reactor.

RE: No secrets
By Solandri on 3/31/2011 9:09:35 PM , Rating: 4
Atomic blasts are limited to about 0.5 megatons. Above that, the power of the explosion blows apart the uranium/plutonium fuel so quickly that it can't fission anymore and no more energy is generated. So even if you somehow got the uranium fuel rods in a reactor to somehow collide with each other in the right amounts and right geometry at ~1000 mph, the maximum theoretical yield you'd see is about half a megaton. In practice, they're usually 1-15 kilotons. They had to work really, really hard to get the geometry and masses just right for the Hiroshima bomb (~16 kt).

To get larger explosions, you need a thermonuclear device. That's a fission bomb used to kick-start a fusion bomb. Fusion bombs need high concentrations of tritium and deuterium fuel (as heavy water) contained within a heavy metal casing (usually uranium or lead). The atomic explosion from the fission bomb compresses the casing and heavy water and heats it up. It adds neutrons, which convert more of the deuterium into tritium. That's important because the hydrogen in tritium and deuterium fuses more easily than just deuterium or plain water.

Aside from trace amounts of deuterium and tritium in the cooling water, non of these components nor their geometry are present in a nuclear reactor. So even if you somehow got the right mixture of fuel, geometry, and high-energy explosion to initiate an atomic blast in the reactor's fuel, it simply cannot generate a 1+ megaton explosion.

RE: No secrets
By randomly on 3/31/2011 11:07:53 PM , Rating: 3
ok, I watched the video. It's totally fabricated irresponsible tabloid journalism. Almost nothing of what they say about deaths, dangers, etc. is even remotely close to the reality.

It has nothing to do with the BBC. It's some translated french film of dubious origin. They say 600 helicopter pilots that flew over the reactor all died. Totally false. 1 died in a crash, and a few got cancer in the last 25 years. Even for the 500,000 most highly exposed people the incident rate for cancer is only 3% above the background level.

Even a simple fact like the half life of plutonium they quote as 10 times longer than the actual value. The translations from the russian are extremely suspect.

It's just junk propaganda.
I wouldn't believe anything said in that video without substantiation from a reputable source.

Acute radiation sickness was diagnosed and confirmed in 134 persons, of these 28 died in 1986, another 19 died from 1987-2004. These were all people working at the reactor site.
The incidence of cancer and the mortality rate of 61,000 emergency workers up to 1998 did not significantly differ from the whole Russian population.

If you want accurate information read the UN's World Health Organizations 2006 analysis and report on the incident.

also the IAEA report

and the Chernobyl Forum report

RE: No secrets
By randomly on 3/31/2011 7:06:32 PM , Rating: 5
The possible 5-megaton explosion conjecture is a ludicrous fantasy made up by somebody with no understanding of physics, nuclear power, or nuclear bombs.

It's about as likely as you being able to jump into orbit. You would have to rewrite the physics of the universe.

I used to be anti-nuclear before I started looking in depth into the engineering and economics of alternative energy sources like Wind, photovoltaics , thermal solar, geothermal, and biofuels. It became clear that to me that there is lot of overhyping and unwarranted optimism about these technologies. They all have serious economic and environmental drawbacks that advocates just gloss over or ignore. None of the real world implementations have lived up to the hype and expectations. If you look at the real world performance and costs of real systems the picture gets quite depressing.
Nuclear has its own set of unique problems but it has some incredible advantages as well. Even though fission products need to be sequestered for hundreds of years the amount produced is just tiny compared to something like coal. To satisfy a person's entire energy needs for their entire life only takes a chunk of uranium or thorium about the size of a tennis ball. The amount of waste products produced is also about the same in size. To do this with coal takes a cube 40 feet on a side (like a small 4 story office building). The power plants also take up very little land. Solar farms produce an average of 5 watts per square meter, a nuclear power plant including the total surrounding buffer lands etc. produces something like 10,000 watts per square meter. Biofuels produce around 0.5 watts per square meter of land.

Then there is the matter of water. Because nuclear has the capability of running at much higher temperatures than any alternative energy source not only can power production efficiency reach 50%, the temperatures are high enough to drive chemical reactions directly for synthesizing hydrogen and liquid fuels, and most importantly from an environmental point cooling can be done without using water. Almost all other non-carbon based energy sources need vast quantities of cooling water to obtain reasonable efficiency.

Reactor design has come a long way in the half century since the Three Mile Island, Fukushima reactors were designed. People are smart and they learn from their mistakes. Just like airplanes if you look at the history of nuclear accidents there are fewer and fewer as years go by. Mistakes are not repeated.

I'm guardedly pro-nuclear now. There are ways to make intrinsically safe reactors that can't blow up. There are ways to transmute and/or safely dispose of nuclear waste, even for millions of years if desired. There is an essentially unlimited supply of fuel available. If done properly all this can be done with by far the smallest environmental impact of any energy source known.

We need diligent responsible research, development, a world wide set of safety standards and accurate risk assessments.

We don't need paranoid fear mongering by ignorant fanatics who think atomic clocks are going to explode and poison the planet.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch

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