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Lesson of Fukushima: No-Nukes or Pro-Nukes?


Along with all the generic viagra super active other news surrounding the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the nuclear power industry is also in the spotlight due to problems that have arisen at some Japanese reactor facilities in the aftermath of the disaster. It is still a developing situation, and there is far too much that is not known about the results to make any definitive, final statement about the matter. But this is going to trigger an awful lot of generic cialis effective debate, and I expect both sides will use this as a case to bolster their arguments.

Let me lay out perspectives from both sides of the issue in the context of the current (and still ongoing) events in Japan and suggest that neither side is going to be able to make an ironclad argument for their side based on this evidence.

On the no-nukes side, the fact that problems have arisen, and that a completely earthquake-proof reactor cannot be built will be used as evidence to support the need to avoid nuclear reactors. Two containment buildings have had hydrogen explosions which have torn those buildings apart (although the containment vessels inside them holding the viagra for cheap radioactive materials appear to remain intact), and the buy viagra professional online surrounding area has had to be evacuated as a precaution.

The pro-nukes side can point to this and say that these plants withstood a magnitude 8.9 earthquake, and the ensuing tsunami, and the containment vessels and other safety systems have performed without rupture. There have been no containment breaches so far, and any release of radioactive material has been fairly low.

Safety is the biggest issue with nuclear power, but if safety is the criterion by which we are measuring our power sources, other sources are far more dangerous. From a safety standpoint, the Fukushima plant shows why multiple backup systems are necessary for nuclear power installations. It took an unprecedented event to push things to the point of failure that they have reached, but even at this point, there has not been a serious release of radioactive material, and the area around the plants has been able to be evacuated safely.

Ultimately, it comes down to cost. As with many other things, there are tradeoffs between design and expense, between money and security. Certainly engineers could design more and more safeguards. Should all nuclear reactors be designed to withstand a magnitude 9.0 earthquake? It certainly makes sense for any reactor in Japan, but maybe less so for France.

To evaluate the nuclear power industry soley on the performance of the Japanese reactors would, in some ways, be akin to evaluating the i use it levitra ed airline industry as a result of a crash of a 1960s-era plane. Newer, and arguably safer designs exist, though some are untested.

There are new designs for nuclear reactors that have additional safety features and better robustness. There are smaller-scale, enclosed designs which don't have the same criticality, designs that use different materials, such as thorium instead of uranium, and designs that fail into a safe state, rather than needing to have active pump cooling to control the reactor after shutdown.

Nuclear power (as currently practiced) uses a centralized system for power generation. This allows the production of great amounts of power, but also concentrates the risk. Two of the reactors at Fukushima have been flooded with seawater, which will effectively kill them from further use. That represents billions of dollars of investment lost (but in the greater interest of try it order levitra from canada public safety).

Centralized power generation also allows the risk mitigation to be concentrated. Security, regulation, administration, and expertise can all be focused on a relatively small number of locations, which magnifies the leverage. On the other hand, more widely and decentralized power generation can be less susceptible to natural disasters, as well as to systemic failures.

Is it more cost-effective to have the money spent on safety systems for a nuclear power plant, or would that money be better spent on producing other equipment? Is a ton of steel better used as reinforcement for a nuclear containment vessel or as a tower for a wind turbine?

Nuclear power can seem like a "silver bullet" solution, since it provides large amounts of power without direct carbon emissions. It may be a stopgap to help in the transition away from unsustainable carbon emitting systems like coal and oil. But the long-term effects need to be considered and need to be addressed to make a fair comparison with other technologies.

Editor's Note: Speculating about an issue before all the facts are known is always a dicey proposition. This was a different article when I started writing it yesterday than it is today. Nuclear power is a divisive issue for many people, so we ask that you be reasonable and respectful in the comments. Other people have different ideas than you do, but that doesn't make them evil. If you want to join in, let's have a civil discussion, and talk about the topic rationally. If you can't see the reasons why someone might have a different point of view, maybe you should reconsider jumping in.

image: CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported by KEI at ja.wikipedia

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Comments (35)Add Comment
Finally, a reasonable discussion
written by Jonathan, March 14, 2011
I for one do not see the events in Japan as reason to shy away from nuclear power. I do however see the fact that the cities are still standing through an 8.9 (or is it 9.0 now) magnitude earthquake as huge support for strict building codes and think that we should have similarly strict energy efficiency in our building codes to help survive the oncoming climate change catastrophe. I say more in my own article on the topic - Learning Wrong Lessons from Nuclear Disaster in Japan.
written by PCB2X, March 14, 2011
An excellent article! We all need to calm down and look at the facts. The nuclear industries overall safety record is outstanding compared to other power producing facilities, even when Chernobyl is included. Coal, oil and viagra next day delivery low price gas exploration and extraction have killed far more people.
nuclear energy versus unlimited immigration, Low-rated comment [Show]
written by Renewable Guy, March 15, 2011
What bothers me is that nuclear steals all the attention when the Japanese have had an enormous earth quake, a tsunami and now several reactors that can't be cooled due to failed safety systems. our power should be in the background and not the focus of a disaster. when there is a disaster, the power system should hurt no one or the fewest people possible. All power systems should fail in a safe mode.

I am for 100% renewable energy. Its just the tramadol order fossil fuel lobbyists in the way of moving in the right direction.
written by Pres, March 15, 2011
Jonathan & PCB2X write some rare, but factual, information. Thank you!
Those reactors have been running most of nearly 40 years - 24/7.
It's finally time they must be replaced.
However, investors and shareholders don't want much preventative expense
because it would reduce their investment profits.
Investors/owners usually don't voluntarily offer to replace something that is
still working and continuing to make a profit for them.
Fortunately, this catastrophe provides the need to replace them with
much improved new designs.. e.g. Pebble Bed, Thorium powered, etc.
Still to soon to tell
written by Matt, March 15, 2011
While it is still to soon to tell final lessons. We can say that designs that do not fail to safe mode, need more backup on power to their cooling systems. And that requirement needs to be on existing power plants not just new ones.
written by Doc Rings, March 15, 2011
Pro-nuke, still, with stringent engineering based upon prevailing area disaster risks (tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, tsunami, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, storm surge, etc.)

Just not near tsunami prone low-lying lands.

Couldn't this have all the pumps, etc., been built up 40 feet and avoided this whole mess? Or a forty-foot wall around the whole place?
written by Jack, March 15, 2011
From a pro-nuclear viewpoint this is a great article. However, that is not my viewpoint. Nuclear plants are dangerous in many ways. They are at risk from terrorist attacks, they are at risk from disgruntled or crazed employee attacks,they are at risk from plane crashes, they are at risk from earthquakes, floods and buy cialis fedex shipping other natural disasters, they are at risk from design errors, they are at risk from human maintenance mistakes etc. Transportation of radioactive materials through cities also put citizens at risk for all of generic viagra overnight the above reasons. Additionally, the use of nuclear power justifies countries that want to make nuclear bombs a way to be involved in their creation. No one is making solar bombs or wind bombs. No one is in danger of radiation poisoning from renewable sources. It is time we quit pretending that nuclear power is a safe option. Contrary to what many would like you to believe, it is not even a good financial option.
Eco-friendly power sources also prone to earthquake disaster, Low-rated comment [Show]
thorium reactor
written by Josh, March 15, 2011
I'm a huge fan of the thorium reactor. There much safer then current reactors and dont have any of the bomb making byproducts.

Ding ding ding!
written by Joe, March 15, 2011
Just think, the US among others have had a nuclear run navy since the 1950s and we've had hundreds of running nuclear power plants. There have been only a few accidents and the technology/safety measures have been improving constantly. I agree that we should watch and learn from what's happening. The Japanese are doing a great job at slowing down the nuclear process- even destroying the reactors through borax and salt water, which is the right thing to do if there is a major problem. I think responsible use is reasonable.
Failing to a Safe State
written by Kenmore, March 15, 2011
In the article mention is made of designs for Nuclear reactors which would fail into a safe state. Can I get more information on that? My Google-fu has failed me, and I don't travel in the right circles to know much about these things.

There is a much safer base load alternative to nuclear
written by Mike, March 16, 2011
Hot rock geothermal is the no brainer alternative to coal and nuclear base load generation. Large underground granite bodies generate massive heat from the process of radioactive decay. The US and other countries have huge deposits perfect for exploitation.
We need a comprehensive plan
written by Jon, March 17, 2011
While RE power sources do not need you to evacuate the town if something goes wrong, we still need to look at Nuclear as a non carbon source of power that actually has a fairly good safety record.

As with new advances in RE power there are continuing advances in Nuclear power, such as the use of thorium. Thorium may prove to be a the transition element in nuclear power that brings us closer to safe and resonably clean power without the need for 10,000 years of storage. It may prove that a thorium reactor can burn up old radioactive material and leave us with much less waste that is only dangerous for 500 years, while still a problem it is a big step in the right direction.

For the near future we still need(non carbon)power sources that compliment RE sources and a Thorium reactor might be a good solution.
good points.
written by sarah, March 17, 2011
2 Mike, yes I agree. if iceland can do it, Japan certainly can. It's basically sitting on the steam vent of a pressure cooker, it should be able to harness more geothermal.
@Joe, If we can have nuclear on air craft carriers would it be safer to have the power plant floating on a ship so it could be moved if such a problem did occur again? and, potentially power could be rerouted to places needing it more in times of emergency? why not have a barge city for a power plant? that may still not stand up well against huricanes and tsunamis but they could be relocated with forewarning and if made big enough, ride the waves or be taken out away from populations if melt down or contamination type trouble occurs... not that we wan t our oceans contaminated but, it may be a novel way around giant loss of power in disaster situations,a nd reducing contamination. It could be coal burning or some other source. it doesn't have to be nuclear I'm talking about.. contributor Joe just made me think of it.
written by Mike, March 17, 2011
I wasn't referring to volcanic geothermal plants. Hot rock geothermal has no relation at all to volcanic energy extraction.
written by Piers Headley, March 17, 2011
The promblem is that reactors are such concentrated centers of online pharmacy canada viagra power and as such subject to major risks. The future is in networking small local sources of power. Unfortunatly this isn't so interesting for big capital.
Ever read the "exit interview" with the man who stated the Nuke Navy?
written by Matt, March 17, 2011
His said that will it was "save" for the Navy. After all, he could have you shoot if you started f%^king it up. And the Navy would spent what was need to make it. He was against commercial nuke. He felt that the lowest bidder and loose management would make them unsafe. Try to lower the cost each year would force you to make unsafe picks.

Plus there is the issue of even getting a good design built. Most people don't know the the most expensive coal power plant build in this country is "Zimmer". Close to Cincinnati it was to be a nuke, but after a inspector went "missing" and then a lot of the weld x-ray validate test were faked, they had to switch to coal. It was that of not be able to charge power user for the money already spent on the plant.

Yes you can build safer Nukes than are out there, yes you can improve existing plant. But that all cost money, and if not forced it doesn't happen. Come on, the plant in Japan was right on the coast, in a very quake'y area. It was only a matter of time before a large wave came in. But in 40 years did they build a dike around it? No, because it cost money.
written by Lance, March 20, 2011
It seems to me that the real risk is developing nations turning nuclear. How would Indonesia or Venezuela (both are planning on building nukes) cope with a similar disaster? If the nuke companies in Venezuela follow the safety record of their oil companies I wouldn't be too optimistic.
written by CrappyCartoons, March 21, 2011
You write "even at this point, there has not been a serious release of radioactive material, and the area around the plants has been able to be evacuated safely." I live in Tokyo and have been very upset at all the folks back in the United States who have been insisting that we here are in great danger from the radioactive particles being released. Even if this ends with a Chernobyl type conclusion we here in Tokyo are in little immediate danger. However, this is not true for many others including my in-laws dairy farm which already is being told by the government that it will not be able to sell its milk. Events may have changed between when you wrote and when you published. This event will have a huge impact on agriculture well beyond the 50 mile radios surrounding the power plant.

While this blog looks at the costs of making the reactor safe, there is also the cost of safely disposing of the waste. This is another matter which concerns me because a very large waste facility is being made in close proximity to my summer house in Nagano. While we have been given assurances the facility will be earthquake proof. The same was said of Fukushima until ten days ago. Nearly every inch of land in Japan is subject to the possibility of a massive magnitude 9 quake. Add to the seismic activity population density and the best choice buy branded cialis topography make me wonder whether of not safe nuclear power is cost effective here in Japan.

My hunch is that Fukushima will not be Japan's 3 Mile Island because the Japanese feel that their lack of natural resources give them no other alternatives than to continue creating new reactors. For Japan this should be the chance to consider new alternatives. This is after all a country which seems to be an endless source ingenuity.
written by Rico, March 22, 2011
"even at this point, there has not been a serious release of radioactive material"??

Go take a few deep breaths of the radioactive vapor that has been released and then tell us how "not serious" it is.
written by Another Comment, March 22, 2011
You say "earthquake-proof reactor cannot be built". What evidence do we have that indicates the problems were due to the quake itself? Did the tsunami cause most of the damage here, including destruction of critical infrastructure that powers the plant in order to keep the the best place canadian generic cialis online cores cool?
written by Rex K. Thomas, March 22, 2011
Even though I am a high-tech person, I see nuclear reactors as dangerous, costly (most people don't realize that billions are subsidized from our tax money to support them), and totally unnecessary, since there are so MANY clean, renewable, safe, and inexpensive alternatives, which we already have the technology to put into practice. There are several forms of solar extraction, geothermal, heat-differential, tides, and the state of Nevada alone would have enough potential WIND power to provde electricity for the entire world! New solar breakthroughs are occurring constantly, and our only problems with free, clean and renewable energy systems, lie with the greedy powers that be, who want to extract every cent they can from us energy users.
written by Sandy, March 22, 2011
There is STILL NO SAFE PLACE to store burnt out elements!
NO country has a solution yet, but we continue to create this radioactive trash...
In the US< the GOVERNMENT is - by contract - responsible for this chore - good move on the part of the powerplants and whoever makes the money!
And the question/problem remains - wher to put the trash SECURELY!!!
Unless there is an answer, ABANDON all ideas of this NOT RENEWABLE energy concept!!!
NOW would be a good time, even though it should have happened after Three Mile Island OR Chernobyl..
nuclear or sustainable/renewable ?
written by mark spencer, March 22, 2011
Safety is only one concern relating to the nuclear industry, economical efficiency and the fact that Uranium is a very rare element and is a non renewable resource are also very important considerations. Although I am sure that nuclear still has a future,as a stop-gap energy source and for research, we must develop renewable energy resources rapidly if we are to have a reasonable, safe and technological future. Concentrated solar power ( C.S.P.) has by far the greatest potential for worldwide energy supplies in the future, with Wind, Wave, Tidal and the best choice levitra for sale Photovoltaic Solar for more local (i,e; U.K. usage)
Is nuclear power worth it
written by Dan Steele, March 22, 2011
Nuclear power plants as previously developed and newly designed appear to be prohibitively expensive to construct, maintain and operate. I believe that we need to take a closer look at construction costs on a lifetime energy generated per dollar spent basis, given the very high volume of concrete, steel and other expensive materials required. A closer look at the lifetime costs of continuous safety related maintenance and the cradle to grave cost of plant and fuel management is also warranted. Furthermore, a comprehensive look at the embedded energy (fossil fuel supplied) within associated fuel mining, processing, shipping, storage as well as the embedded energy within construction and materials (especially concrete) may reveal a hidden weakness in our assumed low carbon footprint for nuclear power. When nuclear power plants are decommissioned can we recycle or otherwise reuse construction materials? Do we need to seal off decommissioned nuclear power plants well into the future, denying future generations of potentially valuable uses for such real estate? Finally, I believe that nuclear power plant efficiencies are well below what can be achieved with more conventional thermal plants and buy cialis next day delivery may very well, in combination with above considerations, especially construction and maintenance costs, make this power source a very poor competitor. The risks associated with failures just add another layer of non-competitiveness to the equation, that only the government (we taxpayers) can begin to cover. However, I believe that all of our current power sources need to be looked at and carefully analyzed (on a level playing field) to be able to begin to chart our future energy supply options.
Nuclear should Stop, not Stop-Gap
written by Joel, March 25, 2011
Safety is only one concern (although a major one that is clearly not resolved). But to suggest that Nuclear can be used as a stop gap is totally backwards. Nuclear power is one of the most expensive sources of energy available, way more expensive than wind and second generation solar (not to mention biomass, CSP, tidal, geothermal and EFFICIENCY!!). And this price will only increase, because Nuclear power is NOT renewable and as supplies of uranium dwindle (with some analysts saying production has already peaked) the outrageous costs will only increase. So why would we waste our money on an energy source that is won't last and is already more expensive than renewable alternatives.
Furthermore we haven't accounted for the costs and safety risks associated with the waste, which is still a glaring and enormous unresolved problem. Despite huge research investment we still have no viable long-term storage solution, because there's nothing we can build that will last hundreds of thousands of years. And let's be frank, nuclear waste is a huge liability because it is one of the most poisonous forces this world has ever known and it lasts for 100's of generations. There's no way we can account for that cost and it seems horribly short sighted as it non-renwable nature would only make it a stop gap. Renewables and EFFICIENCY!! are cheaper, quicker to implement, safer, recyclable and are inevitable for the future energy production. It makes no sense to use stop gaps that cost more, have a greater environmental cost and will become obsolete in our lifetimes. .
written by David Wood, March 28, 2011
It's quite simple really. Governments are not doing anywhere near enough currently to move from fossil fuels to renewable sources. If they have to pass on nuclear power, which is cheaper than pure renewables, then they will end up doing even less. This isn't acceptable, so we'll just have to deal with the problems of nuclear power, because the risks from climate change are more potentially catastrophic than a nuclear meltdown. They will impact far more people.
Nuclear Power.
written by Alyssa, April 02, 2011
I think what happened to Japan was horrible. And I think they need as much help as they can get. I talked to me history teacher about this. We talked for a while about Japan. Then I asked him if Nuclear Power was good for the environment or not he said it is, But the thing that came to his mind that could be bad is that when pipes and stuff need to be replace they just bury them in the ground in a medal box hoping nothing leaks or goes bad. I have to agree that concernes me. I think they need to find a better way to dispose of the stuff. That is not only good for the environment but keeps us safe as well.
who pays for 1million year disposal?
written by Matt, April 05, 2011
The real "hidden" cost of Nuke. Is that no power company has to cover the generic versus genuine cialis tadalafil cost of either long term storage. The US government has agreed to handle all the waste of US built reactors, including those in other countries during the Atoms for piece. Anyone know what it cost to store something for 1millions years? Oh and if a big "mistake" happen, the company goes under and leave the cost of the whole mess to the government. It is just another corp welfare program, the corp gets all the benefit and natural cialis the government (tax payers) take all the risk. It is a sweet deal when you can get it.
Science Teacher
written by Todd, April 10, 2011
Matt is correct. It astounds to observe that in so many discussions on Nuclear Energy, the hundreds of thousands of year storage issue is very seldom present. When you factor in these costs it is simple off the scale ridiculous to consider Nuke as an option. Bill McDonough of "Cradle to Cradle" design philosophy calls this "intergenerational remote tyranny". Putting of the cost and dangers associated with the byproducts of fission is a design failure and should be cast of hand as an option. Our nuclear reactor is safely 93million miles away radiating all the energy we need. 10 Biilion plus to build a 30-40 year lasting reactor with poisonous waste lasting a million years??? Those supporting this only goes to prove that just because you have book knowledge and are college educated does not mean you have wisdom and common sense.
Safety - what's an acceptable magnitude of risk?!
written by Mitch, May 23, 2011

I'm really shocked by the discussion of safety without any mention of the magnitude of the risks. What is the size of the area around Chernobyl that is uninhabitable?

Is it wise to be drastically increasing the small chances of technical or intentional (terrorist or sabatage) failure making one or more large cities or large areas of valuable land uninhabitable by continuing to increase the number of these monstrosities?

What would be the impact of a Katrina scale disaster if a city the size of New Orleans (or Tokyo or NYC) was made permanently uninhabitable? If we keep building these things its inevitably going to happen. The chances of winning the buy cheap viagra lottery are minuscule but if you purchase enough tickets it will eventually happen.

Regardless of your opinion on this issue problems like windmill blades coming off or towers falling down are clearly not relevant to this discussion.
Descent into rhetoric
written by Jacob Platfoot, July 02, 2011
I wanted to make a tangential comment on the difficulty of speaking in favor of nuclear power these eco-style sites.
I will lead by saying that as a nuclear trained officer aboard a nuclear powered submarine, I don't live under any illusions that this technology is bullet proof. The Navy works hard to ensure I understand the risks and how I would protect you in the worst-case-scenario situation you have heard about on the news. Also, as a result, I have a relatively low level of knowledge about the details of commercial plants' operation since they are rather different from the plants that I am trained on.
However, I think that as a group of "thinking" environmentalists, you have showed up to the argument with rather little knowledge and an awful lot of smear campaign propaganda.
If you think that people aren't talking about the waste disposal problem, you aren't reading the right stuff. It has been a central topic in the nuclear community for years, as indicated by the attempt at a facility at Yucca mountain, which actually passed in 2002, but got canceled by the Obama administration.
The amount of fear mongering here really bugs me.
"one of the most poisonous forces this world has ever known" -Joel
This is a broad brush statement with no significant meaning. It's like when a used car salesman tells you you're getting a "great deal". No frame of reference, no qualification, just good ole fashioned fear of things you don't understand.
"Go take a few deep breaths of the radioactive vapor that has been released and then tell us how "not serious" it is." -Rico
What is the purpose of this statement except to incite irrational fear? Does Rico know the risks of inhaling radioiodine? I think it is more likely that he heard, like most of us, radiation was bad for you and uses that single fact in a vacuum to call out what he perceives as huge risks to the population while not even realizing that he likely has consumed far more radioactive nuclides in the organically grown bananas he has for breakfast than the reactors in Japan ever released.
If you want to be a successful "thinking" eco-site, you should look for real information, not just the rhetoric the narrow-minded "environmentalists" are using to fight the narrow-minded "big businesses". There are people with ulterior motives on both sides of this issue, so don't just accept what you are told.
I can't really invest my time in trying to counter these point by point, I just hope to add some perspective to a pretty one-sided argument.
So I think you should look at how costly wind turbines, hydroelectric plants, and biofuel facilities are to construct and maintain relative to their energy output before you try to indict nuclear plants for their "prohibitive" costs.
Because it is important. I like hiking and levitra woman animals and trees just like the next guy, and I want to keep them and us around both, but scare tactics and generalizations won't accomplish that no matter how good the science is.
Or alternatively, you could consider changing the name of the site to ecosheep. That could work too, and would take less time.
such a good discussion topic! i wish we had talked about this in our discussion unit in alpha.
written by Charlotte, August 18, 2011
I think nuclear power is ok, but not a permanent solution.
A few years ago, we had a train crash in the town where i live. Right in the downtown area. luckily no one was hurt and everything was cleaned up within a few days.
But I shudder to think what would have happened, had that train been carrying nuclear waste. All of the radio-active material has to be transported, especially in such a large country such as the usa, before it gets buried in some mountain somewhere. that's what i'm worried about. There is no 'safe' way to get rid of it.
There are better ways to get energy.
Nuclear Waste Train Crash
written by Thomas, February 18, 2012
If you're concerned about an train carrying nuclear waste having an accident I suggest you watch the youtube video "Nuclear Flask Endurance Testing in USA." These things are designed to survive the worst accidents and then some.

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