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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.

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