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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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By Ringold on 7/16/2007 6:22:59 PM , Rating: 3
To start, I'd just say that if a massive quake struck directly beneath or near a massive nuclear plant that, assuming the containment building wasn't breached (I'm not sure why it would be as strong as they're built, even if the reactors within them were shaken to pieces), the local area would be so devastated a mild radiation leak would be the least of their (immediate) problems.

quote:
Not further than I can throw their CEO.


I dont care to make it a huge argument, but that's the wrong attitude to have -- at least, the blame is being directed at the wrong place. While government shouldn't manipulate markets it's perfectly reasonable for them to be powerful advocates of public safety and to therefore have rigorous inspection in places deemed important to said safety. If regulatory capture took place of one kind or another it's not the CEO's fault, whose purpose in life is profit maximization, but the governments who should have eternal vigilance for corruption. Perhaps there was none and inspection standards were too weak,I'm not familiar with the case, but in any event, that sounds very much like it was a government failure and less a corporate one. Not to entirely shift the blame, but if a food inspector see's suspicious sudden activity (supposedly to hide violations) and doesn't investigate and prosecute any safety issues then the inspector is to blame every bit as much as the resteraunt itself.


"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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