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The world's largest nuclear power plant demonstrates inherent safety

Those opposed to nuclear power have long raised doubts over its safety.  Often raised is the question, "what would happen if major earthquake struck one?"  Would a radioactivity release endanger millions?  

This morning, we got a chance to find out. A 6.8 earthquake struck northern Japan, almost directly underneath the massive Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Plant, responsible for a third of the Japanese residential electricity supply. The quake leveled hundreds of homes, left fissures 3 feet wide in the ground, and swayed buildings in Tokyo, 300 km away.

What happened at the plant itself? An electrical transformer caught fire and was quickly extinguished. And a tiny amount of mildly radioactive water was released -- one billionth of the safe amount allowed under under Japanese law, or 1/1,000,000 of what is generated from a single dental x-ray. Not even the workers actually inside the reactor were exposed to a dangerous dose, much less the general public. All reactors were shut down for inspection purposes, and initial reports indicate no damage or safety issues. 

And that's it.  Nothing to see here folks, move along.

The western world's nuclear safety record remains unbroken. Over five decades and thousands of reactor-years later, not one person has ever been harmed by commercial power generation. Nuclear power generates no greenhouse gases, and operating costs continue to drop, reaching a level of 1.66 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2006 -- one twentieth the cost of solar power. Despite all this, the U.S. and most of Europe continue to shy away from nuclear power, and pursue pie-in-the-sky energy approaches that, even if they eventually become feasible, will remain forever more expensive to operate.

The West may be ignoring nuclear power, but others are not. Last year, China announced plans to build 30 new reactors, in a bid to reduce air pollution and provide cheap power for its burgeoning economy.


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This Proves?
By Ratwar on 7/16/2007 2:30:22 PM , Rating: 3
One earthquake (well actually this is the second one near Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Plant) at one nuclear power plant does not prove that all nuclear power plants are safe from such thing any more than one day of above average temperatures proves global warming.

With any power plant, there is a risk of problems. A nuclear power plant has the potential to cause massive destruction if there is a problem. Nuclear Power generation is very safe under the right conditions, but if those conditions deteriorate, the problems can be massive. As time goes on, there will be more nuclear accidents. The more nuclear plants you have, the greater the risk of accidents.

Personally, I think that nuclear power is safe enough to be used more, but it isn't totally safe (kinda like driving cars).




RE: This Proves?
By omnicronx on 7/16/2007 3:01:50 PM , Rating: 2
IT does not necessarily prove anything, but it is nothing but good news as although the Japanese plant was probably made with quakes in mind, it shows with the right safety precautions even the most disastrous accidents can be prevented.

People do not realize how safe and secure nuclear plants are. Here in canada the security is just crazy, our nuclear plants are more secure than our military bases. My friend was a security officer at a big plant in toronto (pickering) and people had to go through some 12(or so) sets of doors just to get inside, and everything going in and out gets checked for radiation more than once.


RE: This Proves?
By Ringold on 7/16/2007 6:38:04 PM , Rating: 2
How many more decades of evidence do you really need? :)

I think as long as standards remain high there will be virtually no accidents. I specifically use "accident" instead of, say, "incident", because clearly if you strike a containment building with powerful enough missiles then you're going to break something. That wouldn't really be an "accident", though, as perhaps much greater damage could be done with much less effort by taking out any of the numerous large dams built around the world.

As the blog indicates as well, and if you'd read up just a bit on the subject, the designs are inherently safe. Inherently. In other words, one almost has to try to screw up. This is the same thing with most aircraft; a modern Cessna will not stall or spin unless you make it do so. Many modern reactors will not have a "massive" Chernobyl-style release of radiation unless somebody really, really wanted it to happen.


RE: This Proves?
By Ratwar on 7/17/2007 1:18:17 PM , Rating: 2
I'd settle for a signed statement from God. :)

I agree, as long as the safety standards remain high, the chances of a problem a very small (almost non-existent). Still, there is no fool proof way to make sure standards won't drop. I am not saying that nuclear power shouldn't be used, only that there will be accidents or incidents in the future.


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