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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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RE: Too Soon To Say
By TomZ on 7/17/2007 11:03:12 AM , Rating: 0
Your assumption is that there is organizational incompetence, which I don't believe to be the case at a plant like this. At least I hope not!

And I'm not saying I think there is a "vast conspiracy" either. Don't put those words into my mouth. But Japan had a cover-up at another nuclear power plant after an accident in 1999. So "full disclosure" is apparently not an integral part of the culture and regulatory environment in Japan with respect to nuclear power.

After the earthquake, I'll bet that within a very short amount of time, the entire facility was assessed and the exact situation known. Then the company probably made a decision about what information to release and when. The tradeoff is to release enough information to ensure a "reasonable disclosure" without harming the plant's reputation and avoiding creating a public scare. It's basic PR, really.

RE: Too Soon To Say
By porkpie on 7/17/2007 11:11:43 AM , Rating: 2
Don't be silly. A major earthquake strikes, it takes more than a couple hours to fully check out a facility the size of five football fields, and you call that "organizational incompetence"? What sort of crazy standard is this? Especially when les than a day after their first statement, they VOLUNTARILY released a followup. Well guess what? In a few weeks when the formal inspection is complete, they're going to release another one. And it'll likely be just a little bit different too. That's not even close to a "coverup". Are you even sure what the word means?

You can try to breed fear all you want, but the fact is eating one banana would give you a larger radioactive dose than what happened at this plant.

RE: Too Soon To Say
By TomZ on 7/17/07, Rating: 0
RE: Too Soon To Say
By porkpie on 7/17/2007 12:05:32 PM , Rating: 2
when did I say I expected a cover-up in this case?
You said its "clear" the information was being "managed". That means things are being held back. Withholding damaging information is a coverup. You even used the word itself, in relation to a past incident in Japan, implying those sneaky Japanese were likely to do it all again, eh?

YOU wrote this stuff. Not me.

Having the ability to quickly assess the situation at a nuclear power plant after an earthquake is part of basic safety protocols
And they quickly did that, and (correctly) assessed there was no risk to the public. Nothing even close. Anything dangerous or critical was intact. That doesn't mean they can track every nut and bolt within 30 minutes time. They don't NEED to. Its not important from a safety perspective.

The "big picture" is the highly radioactive material itself, not a little waste water thats less radioactive than a shipment of bananas. Nor do they need to know within 30 minutes whether a storage drum fell over or not.

In fact, I'd be more concerned if they DID know all this so soon. It'd mean security was lax in the plant, if people could so freely run around checking every little nook and cranny. Some areas take hours just to get into, by the time you clear all the security checkpoint. You want to remove all that?

RE: Too Soon To Say
By TomZ on 7/17/07, Rating: 0
RE: Too Soon To Say
By porkpie on 7/17/2007 1:30:28 PM , Rating: 1
"it is clear that information was held back
Make up your mind. First you claim a coverup, then you claim there isn't one. Now you claim there is one again.

There was no coverup. There was just a few thousand idiot reporters all piling on, screaming, "Come on! Tell us what you know NOW!". Of COURSE they're not going to know every detail immediately. The fact that information is coming so fast- in sometimes contradictory amounts-- proves they're not managing it.

You think they just noticed on Tuesday that the drums fell over?
Most certainly. You think they have people standing around in rooms full of radioactive waste, day and night? You think they can even GET INSIDE those rooms in a couple hours? A guy has to clear a couple security checkpoints, put on special protective gear, then open a few locked doors to even look at those drums.

Now, put the shoe on the other foot. You think the big bosses in Tokyo knew immediately those drums fell over but refused to tell us...then, less than 24 hours later, changed their mind? What's their motivation? Just to feed the paranoid delusions of nuts like you?

A drum fell over during an earthquake. Big whup. Neither that or the little water spill broke the safety limits. They didn't even come CLOSE to risking public health. Thats the real point here. Everything else is just fear mongering.

Why do you think he would make statements like that?
Um, because he's a politician, and he's saying what the public wants to hear. He could give a rats ass about whats right or wrong. He's trying to build his reputation as someone whose not going to let those sneaky little industry guys pull the wool over his eyes! No way! He's going to demand information right away!

So a grateful public says whew! Thank god for Shinzo Abe! Things would really be in the shitter if it wasn't for him!

I'm surprised to find you buying into it though.

RE: Too Soon To Say
By TomZ on 7/17/2007 2:17:15 PM , Rating: 1
I'm not buying into anything, all I'm saying is there is some concern about the information coming out, and that is what the PM is expressing.

I'm also not saying there is a cover-up - they put out some bad information initially that adds to the concern about whether everything is really coming out.

Stop thinking only in black-and-white. It's not that crisp as you are trying to make it.

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer
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