Reactors must be terror-proof as well as quake-proof: regulator

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

  • 8

    Farmboy

    Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said plants would have to be able to survive a direct hit from a hijacked airliner or ship, as well as withstand tsunamis like the one that crippled Fukushima.

    This is certainly the standard people will be hoping for. Now, on to the next nuclear regulator. This guy won't last, saying things like this.

  • 4

    Ewan Huzarmy

    So what he means is make them indestructible ...... that sounds like unsinkable, now where have I heard that before ?

  • 12

    nostromo

    How about TEPCO proof??

  • 3

    semperfi

    It is a very high standard the NRA has set. . . . .However KUDOS to the NRA for defining the necessary parameters of safety. . . . Perhaps other countries -like Canada and USA - that use Nuclear energy will follow suit.

  • 9

    BertieWooster

    Even if they are quake proof, terrorist proof, they won't be idiot proof and there will still be the problem of what to do with the waste.

    There are many clean and safe ways to produce energy.

    We don't need nuclear power.

  • 3

    JeffLee

    Perhaps other countries -like Canada and USA - that use Nuclear energy will follow suit.

    Canada, USA, France, etc. don't have the groundswell of anti-nuclear sentiment that Japan does right now. Japanese anti-nuke demonstrators getting increasingly angry...and perhaps even desperate. Japan also has a rich postwar history of domestic terrorism.

  • 0

    papigiulio

    @nostromo: LOL! qoty ^^

  • 8

    marcelito

    Terror proof N plants - in this day and age a no brainer and absolutely necessary. They could even go one better and ensure the highest levels of safety for those plants - by keeping them them shut down...but unfortunately money talks.

  • 3

    Elbuda Mexicano

    Terror proof?? It is already terrorizing having greedy fools at Tepco, the LDP keeping old nuke reactors running over earthquake fault lines, trying to tell us that everything is fine, when the Daichi nuke plant is still spewing nuke crap into the ocean, etc...so yes IDIOT proof should also be required, IMHO.

  • 3

    ogtob

    Don't forget about the right wing nut job who tried to drive his van into Fukushima Daichi during the height of the meltdown crisis and was turned away but somehow got his van inside of Fukushima Daini and drove around playing patriotic music.. They'll probably make a checklist and say it's safe because they checked the box.

  • 0

    semperfi

    Jeff Lee :

    Canada, USA, France, etc. don't have the groundswell of anti-nuclear sentiment that Japan does right now

    That is true !.........................However 'some' of the above-mentioned countries have a higher risk of attack. ...

  • 1

    Yubaru

    Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said plants would have to be able to survive a direct hit from a hijacked airliner or ship, as well as withstand tsunamis like the one that crippled Fukushima.

    In other words this guy is in effect saying it's time to shut down the reactors for good because there is no way in hell that we can possibly protect them from any or every possible risk. I mean heck he's Japanese right? He can't say things straight and has to beat around the bush and leave himself an out if anyone questions his motivation....I didnt say they had to be shut, I just said you hat to prepare for any and all contingencies, real or imagined.

    Heck I'm surprised he didn't say they had to be nuke proof too!

    Oh and if the US couldn't protect the Pentagon from an airline strike how do the Japanese think they could?

  • 8

    zichi

    This should have all been in place prior to the 3/11 nuclear disaster. We will have to wait and see how much real power the new NRA will have when it says a reactor or plant can't be started.

  • 0

    BertieWooster

  • 2

    rickyvee

    unless your're talking about placing anti-aircraft artillery with military personnel or constructing a building with 5-meter thick walls, then these reactors won't be able to withstand a terrorist flying a plane into the reactors.

    and i agree with zichi. they can "recommend" all they want but the final decision rests with the gov't.

  • 0

    cloa513

    There is no way any terrorist with the slightest brain would ever break into a standard commercial nuclear reactor- they are full of pressurized hot radioactive water so in the slight chance they breached the reactor (very difficult from the outside) - there are much easier ways to get uranium and much easier ways to cause radioactive hazards to people that terrorists want to hurt most. The US is mad on terrorist safety with whole group of anti-terrorist groups on standby at reactors but its ludicrous.

  • 3

    Amidalism

    While they're at it, why not make them meteor, black hole and dinosaur proof?

  • 0

    Andreas Zachcial

    I am sure the Nuclear Regulation Authority will soon have another chairman. Somebody LDP approved.

  • 2

    Disillusioned

    The toughest standards for earthquakes and tsunamis? Um, didn't they know Japan was an earthquake and tsunami prone country sitting on the cusp of two tectonic plates prior to deciding to build nuclear power plants? Why is it that, only after an 'unprecedented' event they decide to change their engineering standards? It's all BS! The Japanese government and the power companies (TEPCO, KEPCO, etc) have proven they are not capable of safely managing nuclear power and have been caught out many times with their lies and deceipt. This article is just another politically motivated load of BS sponsored by the LDP with the aim of convincing Japanese people that nuclear power is safe.

  • 0

    tapi0ca

    "Terror proof"? To its own people, I would hope. Thus, don't start it and/or don't build it.

  • -3

    cabadaje

    Unfortunately, Japan absolutely needs nuclear power if it wishes to advance.

  • 1

    herefornow

    Perhaps other countries -like Canada and USA - that use Nuclear energy will follow suit.

    Semperfi -- do you ever read past the headline before you post? If you did you would have undoubtedly read the following:

    Once adopted, Japanese regulations will match standards in the United States, which tightened its nuclear rules after the terror attacks on Sept 11, 2001

    So, all Japan is doing is matching what the U.S. has already done.

  • 3

    FightingViking

    @cloa513

    There is no way any terrorist with the slightest brain would ever break into a standard commercial nuclear reactor

    Who ever said terrorists have brains ???

  • 0

    Nessie

    There's no such thing as "terror-proof". Can you terror-proof a nuke plant against the strike of a highjacked plane?

    Terror-resistant should be the standard.

  • -5

    basroil

    cloa513Jan. 24, 2013 - 10:34AM JST

    There is no way any terrorist with the slightest brain would ever break into a standard commercial nuclear reactor- they are full of pressurized hot radioactive water so in the slight chance they breached the reactor (very difficult from the outside) - there are much easier ways to get uranium and much easier ways to cause radioactive hazards to people that terrorists want to hurt most.

    Hell, if fear and death was their aim they could pump poison gas into a packed stadium, blow up a hospital, or take down any large office building. Even an exposed core with all gasses released would end up killing less than any of the above, but then again people don't think in the right units and say stupid things.

  • -4

    timeon

    move them to the Moon. problem solved

  • -6

    basroil

    NessieJan. 24, 2013 - 11:45AM JST

    Can you terror-proof a nuke plant against the strike of a highjacked plane?

    The reinforced concrete hulls of all new plants in the USA (and many PWR types elsewhere) are built to survive a 737 plane crash, which can't be said of most other targets. The best way to prevent damage from terrorist attacks is to not let them happen in the first place, not to design it to survive one.

  • 2

    slumdog

    The reinforced concrete hulls of all new plants in the USA (and many PWR types elsewhere) are built to survive a 737 plane crash, which can't be said of most other targets.

    Yes, and the World Trade Center towers were said to be able to withstand being hit with a plane roughly the size of a 707. Yet, they fell after being hit with planes that were roughly the same size and weight. Unforeseen circumstances can change things very quickly. Nothing is 100% --- proof.

  • 0

    Ranger_Miffy2

    In the end, the npp must go into a long cycle of expensive decommissioning, performed by legions of over-rotated, over-exposed temp types. All the money and graft that would have gone into more nuks will go into renewable, sustainable, decentralized (no TEPCO) energy. Otherwise, it's the end for Japan as there will be more destruction ahead.

  • -1

    ka_chan

    Using a 737 is a low standard. When the Twin Towers were created they didn't have the 757 that crashed into them. Today you have the Airbus 380 about 3 or 4 times the size of a 737. Then there are the N. Korean missles that are seemly for the sail. Anyway, anything that faces the sea is very vulnerable or anything built below or above a cliff. And unfortunately shutting them down does get rid of the danger, they do have those old hot rods just sitting there.

    But in Japan you don't have to worry about the terrorist or nature as much as upper managers of those running the plants. Now that's terrorism.

  • -5

    basroil

    slumdogJan. 24, 2013 - 12:42PM JST

    Yes, and the World Trade Center towers were said to be able to withstand being hit with a plane roughly the size of a 707.

    They survived the plane crash just fine, it's burning jet fuel and the tension design that brought them down. In the case of a reactor , all it needs to do is survive the impact, since the fuel is easy to deal with after that. If you want a nice read on how the reactors are better, http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19720008869_1972008869.pdf

  • 0

    T-Mack

    Just a bunch of bull, I don't believe anybody feel's about you the way I feel about you now...!!!...by now you should of learned of what not to do by now....!>!>!>???... your the one who save's me?????? I'm still Lambasted!!!!!

  • 0

    sillygirl

    From what I have read - quake-proof and terror-proof are almost the same.

  • 0

    Farmboy

    I think the more reasonable approach is to make people "injury and death proof".

    Yes. That's a good idea, but that would be the Ministry of Health.

  • 0

    Dennis Bauer

    And maybe also tsunami proof?

  • 0

    BertieWooster

    slumdog-san,

    Yes, and the World Trade Center towers were said to be able to withstand being hit with a plane roughly the size of a 707. Yet, they fell after being hit with planes that were roughly the same size and weight

    Yes.

    I've always thought that was odd.

    Very odd.

  • 0

    Ranger_Miffy2

    good luck with that. we are so screwed.

  • 0

    warnerbro

    Organised crime syndicates are even now recruiting labourers to deal with the monstrous mess that Japan's bureaucracy and nuclear power industry gave us in Fukushima. They could easily infiltrate and sabotage equipment or extract protection money for not doing so. Religious cults would have absolutely no difficulty gaining employment for several members at a nuclear power facility, none whatsoever.

  • 0

    slumdog

    I've always thought that was odd.

    I don't. They were wrong. So were the people that thought the Titanic was unsinkable.

  • 0

    slumdog

    They survived the plane crash just fine, it's burning jet fuel and the tension design that brought them down.

    That's like saying someone survived a car crash, they just died from all their injuries.

    There is no such thing as terror proof or quake-proof. Not 100%.

  • 2

    Rick Kisa

    Reactors must be terror-proof as well as quake-proof: regulator

    This is the type of modern thinking that has been missing in the nuke plant security discourse.

  • -3

    basroil

    Rick KisaJan. 25, 2013 - 06:03AM JST

    This is the type of modern thinking that has been missing in the nuke plant security discourse.

    It's always been there, and most came to the same conclusion: it's pointless to bother beyond a reasonable level of safety because the number of casualties will be too low.

    http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter13.html

    You can find the scenarios there. For reference, Stanford University conducted independent research and found that the absolute maximum number of casualties from fukushima is 800 including evacuations and death by something other than radiation induced cancer (cancer deaths are in the range of 250 over 70 years, or about a millionth of the normal rate).

    slumdogJan. 24, 2013 - 10:33PM JST

    That's like saying someone survived a car crash, they just died from all their injuries.

    No, it's like saying someone survived a car crash but died of heatstroke because they were too far away for anyone to help. If the fire suppression systems had been more robust, or the planes had been filled with less fuel, it likely wouldn't have collapsed. It wasn't the airplane impact that was the issue, rather the fire, which you don't have to worry about in reactors because they aren't 400 meters tall.

  • 1

    cabadaje

    That's like saying someone survived a car crash, they just died from all their injuries. There is no such thing as terror proof or quake-proof. Not 100%.

    That's rather the point. The engineers calculated that the towers would survive the impact, and they did. Whether or not they could have been repaired is another questions, but they did survive the impact. The problem isn't that the engineers were wrong, but rather that the engineers didn't predict a different sort of catastrophe; that of a full-floor fire on unprotected infrastructure.

    They certainly predicted regular fires, and they even predicted major fires with are statistically incredibly unlikely, and planned for those as well. However, it never occurred to them than multiple floors, simultaneously, would have their isolation walls ripped away, their girder's fire insulation stripped away, a significant numbers of the support beams either heavily damaged or broken away entirely, and that the entire 3/4 football field size area would all go up in catastrophic flames all at once. Any one of these scenarios would require a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions. To be perfectly frank, we could not, not even with today's technology, construct a skyscraper that would withstand that sort of damage.

    But engineers have to work within limits, the most important one being the budget. And to figure out the safety margins needed for any construction, one has to determine the harshest probable threat. In other words, you can't plan around every contingency. You can, however, plan around the most likely dangers you encounter.

    However, we are still left with the main problem: Imagining unimaginable disasters. Engineers knew there was a tsunami danger. There was even a rather large tsunami wall at Fukushima, built to withstand the then-largest tsunami danger known. The problem was that the disaster was unprecedented (indeed, the earthquake that caused it is one of the strongest quakes in the history of mankind).

    And yet, still, even as unprecedented as the disaster was, it was still a testament to the power of engineering. Just as the WTC towers remained standing for so long even after the unimaginable occured, in a country that was just miles from the epicenter of an unimaginable earthquake, of the 50+ nuclear reactors that had to take emergency measures because of the quake, only one center had to declare an emergency, and it had to do that only after a second unimaginable disaster struck them face-on. And even after that, we still see the strength of engineering: When the system shutdown failed, the cooling system came on-line. When the cooling-system failed, the rods came on-line. When the rods failed, the system went into meltdown (which is also a security feature). The entire time, the containment building, despite all the damage (including an unexpected variable, that of internal pressure from hydrogen gas) maintained enough integrity to contain the vast majority of the radioactive debris.

    As I previously stated (and several people obviously didn't like) Japan absolutely needs nuclear power if it is to continue growing. There is literally nothing else that provides the energy density, or which has as good a safety record, as nuclear power. Is it the best solution? It is the best one we have. more to the point, it is all but guaranteed that we will not find a better one if research into nuclear power is halted because people are afraid of it.

  • -3

    basroil

    There has never been a terrorist attack on hard targets (buildings, etc) on Japanese soil in the last 50 years, either internal or external. All terrorist activities were against soft targets (people) using things that cannot harm reinforced structures.

  • 1

    BertieWooster

    basroil-san,

    There has never been a terrorist attack on hard targets (buildings, etc) on Japanese soil in the last 50 years, either internal or external. All terrorist activities were against soft targets (people) using things that cannot harm reinforced structures.

    True.

    But that is the past.

    It doesn't necessarily follow that it's going to hold true for the future.

    Especially with the U.S.A. setting its sights on China, and puppy dog Abe yapping away, obeying his masters.

    Apart from this, nuclear power and Japan's earthquake/tsunami prone geology are a disaster waiting to happen.

    Time to develop renewable, safe and non-polluting energy sources.

  • -4

    basroil

    BertieWoosterJan. 25, 2013 - 03:33PM JST

    But that is the past.

    It doesn't necessarily follow that it's going to hold true for the future.

    It's actually the other way around, what holds in the past holds in the future unless major events occur that completely change the fundamental equation. Common bomb making materials are far more difficult to find in Japan because so few people use them for legitimate purposes, and foreign terrorists smuggling it into the country is likely to raise a million red flags simply because they aren't Japanese looking. Simple terrorism just isn't a real threat for Japan's nuclear plants, and hijacking style events are likely to be met with such quick force that it won't affect plant stability.

    The only real issue would be China using strategic military strikes on nuclear targets, but that simply can't be designed for nor is it even a big deal because they would probably use nuclear weapons at the same time anyway.

  • -1

    cabadaje

    Simple terrorism just isn't a real threat for Japan's nuclear plants,

    Additionally, even large scale terrorism isn't a major danger. Consider that the most disproportionate terrorism attack to date involved crashing a passenger plane into a building, whereas nuclear reactors have been built specifically to withstand aircraft impact (and since 9/11, many modifications made in regards to fire control).

    In terms of engineering, nuclear reactors are terror-proof, and have been since long before 9/11.

  • -4

    basroil

    cabadajeJan. 25, 2013 - 05:09PM JST

    Additionally, even large scale terrorism isn't a major danger

    Simple terrorism just meant any attack by individuals using typical terrorist actions, as opposed to tactical strikes and highly trained teams taking over facilities (basically military grade action). But yes, even crashing a 747 into a reactor (which is really freaking hard because they are so small, even with the size of the Pentagon in 9/11 they nearly missed) won't destroy it, especially if it's a PWR type with a reinforced concrete dome like most are.

  • 1

    BertieWooster

    cabadaje-san,

    Since you mention it:

    Consider that the most disproportionate terrorism attack to date involved crashing a passenger plane into a building

    It wasn't just ONE building, was it? It was THREE. And all came down neatly in their own footprint.

    Are you completely sure that the same thing couldn't happen at a nuclear power plant?

  • 1

    BertieWooster

    basroil-san,

    even with the size of the Pentagon in 9/11

    Yes.

    Now that was another very odd incident.

    With the debris picked up and disposed of within minutes!

    As you say, I'm sure the chances of that happening with a nuclear power reactor are almost non-existent.

    Or are they?

  • 0

    slumdog

    The problem isn't that the engineers were wrong, but rather that the engineers didn't predict a different sort of catastrophe; that of a full-floor fire on unprotected infrastructure.

    Not predicting this was a mistake. Not predicting this made their claim wrong.

    The towers collapsed as a direct result of being hit by airplanes.

    However, it never occurred to them than multiple floors, simultaneously, would have their isolation walls ripped away, their girder's fire insulation stripped away, a significant numbers of the support beams either heavily damaged or broken away entirely, and that the entire 3/4 football field size area would all go up in catastrophic flames all at once. Any one of these scenarios would require a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions. To be perfectly frank, we could not, not even with today's technology, construct a skyscraper that would withstand that sort of damage.

    Exactly my point, it is impossible to predict that something is 100% terror or quack proof.

  • 0

    slumdog

    "Quake proof", but the above probably fits in pretty much most cases as well.

  • -1

    cabadaje

    @BertieWooster

    It wasn't just ONE building, was it? It was THREE. And all came down neatly in their own footprint.

    No, actually it was two buildings, each one hit by a plane. The third building was hit by a building.

    Are you completely sure that the same thing couldn't happen at a nuclear power plant?

    Absolutely. The two types of constructs are fundamentally different. A skyscraper is essentially empty space, like a building made up of playing cards. When it collapses, it falls through the point of least resistance, i.e., generally straight down. A nuclear reactor, on the other hand, doesn't have the height to weight issues of a skyscraper, and its support infrastructure is independent of its working area. Basically, it is a monolithic block, and when collapsing would topple over as it falls through the point of least resistance (which is not straight down through itself).

    With the debris picked up and disposed of within minutes!

    C'mon now, be serious.

    As you say, I'm sure the chances of that happening with a nuclear power reactor are almost non-existent. Or are they?

    Or...are they...non-existent?

    No, it's generally not a good habit to refer to any possibility as non-existent. It is, however, almost non-existent in the statistical sense. Even the Pentagon attack missed the first time and had to circle back around, and that was a target about three times wider (I think?) than a standard cooling tower.

    And that's just the physical side of it. Politically, Japan just isn't much of a priority target. Terrorism in Japan is quite simply way too much risk, way too much effort, and even if successful, of limited use (and that's bearing in mind the general uselessness of terrorism as anything other than attention-seeking to begin with).

  • -1

    cabadaje

    @Slumdog

    Not predicting this was a mistake.

    Yes, albeit a completely understandable one.

    Not predicting this made their claim wrong.

    Their claim wasn't wrong. They wanted to know if the buildings would survive the impact of an aircraft, they crunched the numbers, the math showed that it would. And it did.

    The towers collapsed as a direct result of being hit by airplanes.

    Nope. Being struck by aircraft was a significant factor in their eventual collapse. If there had been a massive fire, but no aircraft impact, it is conceivable that the towers would not have collapsed. If there had been a major fire, but the isolation walls and the fire insulation was stripped away...well, there would definitely have been a collapse of those floors, possibly of some above them, but whether there would have been enough damage to cause the entire structure to collapse...that would need some number crunching.

    The towers failed because of multiple disasters. Fukushima failed because of multiple disasters. Both times, the disasters where unprecedented. Both times, it is unlikely that even having foreseen the disasters, any measures would have been taken to prevent them. The failure of the Fukushima reactor is only partially an engineering failure.

    Exactly my point, it is impossible to predict that something is 100% terror or quack proof.

    Being unable to achieve 100% rate of success is a poor excuse to abandon something with a rate of success in the upper 90's.

  • 1

    BertieWooster

    cabadaje,

    The third building was hit by a building.

    Was it really?

    And it came down in its own footprint, just like the twin towers.

    Coincidence, no doubt.

    But, as you say, this is not likely to happen with a nuclear reactor hit by a "terrorist."

    I still don't feel that nuclear power stations in a country with such intense seismic activity as Japan is a good idea.

  • 0

    cabadaje

    BertieWooster

    cabadaje, The third building was hit by a building.

    Part if one, anyway.

    Was it really?

    Yep.

    And it came down in its own footprint, just like the twin towers.

    Yep. Just like any other skyscraper. Already explained that before.

    Coincidence, no doubt.

    Nope. Just physics.

    But, as you say, this is not likely to happen with a nuclear reactor hit by a "terrorist."

    It can't happen to a nuclear reactor. Again, I already explained how the two constructs are fundamentally different. It is not physically possible, because the elements of skyscrapers don't exist in reactors.

    I still don't feel that nuclear power stations in a country with such intense seismic activity as Japan is a good idea.

    In the same way that the towers survived the impact, so did the Fukushima reactor survive the earthquake. Had there not been a tsunami, there would have been no issues at all. Earthquake engineering is really no excuse not to build in Japan. The engineers here are pretty darn good at it.

  • 0

    BertieWooster

    cabadaje-san,

    Thank you.

    Your detailed explanation has put my mind at rest with regard possible terrorist attacks. As you point out, nuclear power stations are not built like skyscrapers, so the same physics wouldn't enter into it.

    And, if as you say, there is no danger from earthquakes that only leaves two things to worry about.

    Another tsunami and, what to do with the nuclear waste.

  • 0

    cabadaje

    And, if as you say, there is no danger from earthquakes that only leaves two things to worry about.

    Ehh...let's just say that one can reasonably prepare for earthquakes...

    Another tsunami and, what to do with the nuclear waste.

    In all honesty, both of those are fairly straightforward in how to deal with them. The real problem, as it usually tends to boil down to, is not the physical aspect, but rather the administrative one. The weak link is, once again, the humans involved.

  • 0

    BertieWooster

    cabadaje,

    The real problem, as it usually tends to boil down to, is not the physical aspect, but rather the administrative one. The weak link is, once again, the humans involved.

    Yes. I see that. That's what I wrote about earlier on.

    I can see that making nuclear reactors terror-proof is possible. But there is the near impossibility of making them idiot-proof.

    And I know you don't seem to think that earthquakes present much of a problem, however, Japan is at the joining point of some rather active tectonic plates and you can't really separate earthquakes from tsunamis, can you?

    Also, considering that since Japan is a chain of islands with a very narrow main island, almost everywhere is close to the sea. In fact, a little reading around shows that it wasn't entirely the tsunami that caused the problem.

    Which all leads me to the conclusion that it would be far better to explore other, safer sources of energy production and move away from nuclear power.

    These technologies include advanced biomass gasification, biorefinery technologies, solar thermal power stations, hot dry rock geothermal energy, ocean energy and, of course, solar energy and wind energy for the production of electricity.

    None of which need to be terror-proofed or earthquake-proofed and in operating them, human error doesn't present anything like the problem that it does with nuclear energy.

  • 1

    cabadaje

    But there is the near impossibility of making them idiot-proof.

    I blame administration, not the reactors (or the people working within them). You can't be a nuclear engineer and be an idiot.

    You can, however, be a director that knows more about the right people to shmooze with than about running a nuclear plant safely.

    Japan is at the joining point of some rather active tectonic plates and you can't really separate earthquakes from tsunamis, can you?

    Sure you can. It's done all the time. Japan has about 1500 earthquakes a year. About 20% of all 6.0 earthquakes in the world are in Japan (these are numbers from 2011, so my memory may be fuzzy). Earthquakes that result in dangerous tsunamis (anything over 6 feet) are relatively rare. Events in general that cause major tsunamis, the ones into the double-digits, are unbelievably rare.

    Also, considering that since Japan is a chain of islands with a very narrow main island, almost everywhere is close to the sea. In fact, a little reading around shows that it wasn't entirely the tsunami that caused the problem.

    Mmm...no. For starters, being close to the sea means very little, considering the mountain ranges and convoluted geography of Japan. Physical distance is easily trumped by physical obstacles. A simple enclosing wall around the emergency generators would have prevented the disaster from occurring (as would someone pointing out that emergency electrical equipment to prevent nuclear disaster shouldn't be retrofitted into a basement).

    But you are correct, it wasn't any one disaster that caused the problems. It was all of them together, on top of each other.

    Which all leads me to the conclusion that it would be far better to explore other, safer sources of energy production and move away from nuclear power.

    Well, I find the safety question arguable, but I'm certainly not going to discourage anyone from looking into alternative sources of energy. That said, I'm not going to encourage anyone moving away from nuclear either.

    These technologies include advanced biomass gasification, biorefinery technologies, solar thermal power stations, hot dry rock geothermal energy, ocean energy and, of course, solar energy and wind energy for the production of electricity.

    The problem there is not so much the technology, but rather the location. And the energy density.

    In order to use alternative energy, there has to be...well, an alternative to the current energy. Pretty much everything in that list, with the exception of the last two, require there to be already in existence an environment suitable for harvesting their particular energy. You have to have huge fields to grow the biomass (and dispose of the remains afterwards), before your biorefinery is of any use, and unless you intend to close up shop after the harvest comes in, you need to have the right weather for full-round year growth.

    Solar thermal energy works fine on a small scale to warm up your shower (I installed my own system in my cabin once), but the moment you try to do anything more with it, you quickly run into diminishing returns. It takes an enormous amount of land to have enough mirrors to gather enough light to create enough heat. Most of that land, people want to live on. And it cannibalizes its own electricity to keep the mirrors positioned correctly, including moving them back to starting position after sunset, when no more heat is being gathered. Also, no base load.

    Geothermal energy requires you to live in a geologically active zone for starters (so get used to earthquakes), and requires a usable geothermal hot spot close enough to the surface to be worthwhile. And that's not even taking into consideration some of the possible dangers that have recently been discovered (in hindsight, perhaps it was a little obvious that pumping loads of cool water into superheated hot rock might actually have some geological effect. Ever thrown hot water on a frozen window pane? Same principle, in reverse).

    Ocean energy is perhaps the most straight-forward and least-ecologically threatening of the alternative energies. The problem, again, is location. There has to be enough water moving in a regular enough fashion, with harvestable motion. That, and getting the energy from the generator in the ocean back to land. Extremely hostile environment to machine and metal. And also, no base load.

    As for solar and wind energy, I think everyone is familiar with their pros and cons at this point. I'll just add that they do not provide a base load either.

    None of which need to be terror-proofed or earthquake-proofed and in operating them, human error doesn't present anything like the problem that it does with nuclear energy.

    Well, there's a reason for that.

    They don't produce enough energy to be destructive. They barely produce enough energy to make themselves worth the time and effort spent to built and maintain them.

    It all comes down to energy density. There is simply not a lot of energy enclosed in biomass, in sunlight, in wind. Even if we could suck all that energy out (and we are barely scraping along at 33%, which is the maximum limit of solar conversion efficiency), it still wouldn't even come close to the energy density found in a single drum of oil. Oil has been refined over millenia into an incredibly dense energy source. You cannot even begin to compare the return on investment with that of alternative energy sources. And nuclear power is even scales above that.

    Which is important to an industrial nation like Japan. Alternative energy may save you a few bucks warming up the furo every evening, but no number of solar panels is going to supply the energy used by the Komatsu heavy machinery manufactory plant in a single day, let alone continuously and reliably (again, no base load), and that's with their promise to half their energy consumption by 2015 (No AC. Ever again.) Simply put, there is no alternative energy that even holds the promise to be able to supply heavy industry with the amount of reliable, constant energy, of oil and nuclear.

  • -5

    basroil

    (in hindsight, perhaps it was a little obvious that pumping loads of cool water into superheated hot rock might actually have some geological effect. Ever thrown hot water on a frozen window pane? Same principle, in reverse).

    It's more like pouring cold water on a heated stone. You know, the same method used by Egyptians to cut the rocks they needed for all those massive buildings.

    Even if we could suck all that energy out (and we are barely scraping along at 33%, which is the maximum limit of solar conversion efficiency), it still wouldn't even come close to the energy density found in a single drum of oil.

    And even a ton of each of those together still doesn't hold a candle to 1kg reactor fuel. http://xkcd.com/1162/ the values for sugar and fat based biofuels are there, as with coal and oil.

  • 1

    cabadaje

    It's more like pouring cold water on a heated stone. You know, the same method used by Egyptians to cut the rocks they needed for all those massive buildings.

    Ah...yeah. Kind of what I meant by my last comment. Also, much like that Egyptian stone, there has been evidence that the rock being used for hot dry rock geothermal energy has been cracking a bit too eagerly, and the micro-earthquakes the process was known for are in danger of becoming less micro. Additionally, there are problems with formely impervious bedrock suddenly becoming pervious (Is that a word? Is that Greek for something dirty?)

    And even a ton of each of those together still doesn't hold a candle to 1kg reactor fuel. http://xkcd.com/1162/ the values for sugar and fat based biofuels are there, as with coal and oil.

    Indeed, and that is an incredibly significant and immensely relevant factor in any discussion regarding energy production (which is why people really need to be a little less eager to click on the "BAD" button and a little more willing to actually acknowledge that sometimes things you do not like are, nonetheless, still CORRECT).

    I like alternative energy as much as the next outdoorsman, and I am fairly certain Basroil would not turn down solar panels for his home if they were economically productive, but like it or not, reality dictates that everything has performance limits, everything performs either better or worse than something else, and sometimes, the performance of something just completely and utterly blows the competition out of the water. It happened with penicillin, it happened with binary programming, and it happened with nuclear power. The facts are incontrovertible: In terms of cost/watt, nuclear has consistently been about the same as wind (even with continuous safety upgrades). In terms of energy density, nuclear power has the best record. In terms of safety, nuclear power has the best record. In terms of ecological impact, nuclear power has the best record. In terms of reliability of both production and fuel, nuclear power has the best record.

    No one is demanding that anyone like nuclear power. That it is a superior form of energy production, however, isn't a question of liking it or not. It simply is. And Japan needs it, like it or not, or it will no longer be able to operate as an industrial country.

  • -4

    basroil

    I like alternative energy as much as the next outdoorsman, and I am fairly certain Basroil would not turn down solar panels for his home if they were economically productive

    Well, first I would have to live in a home rather than an apartment like most of the Japanese population, but yes, if it made economic (and somewhat ecological, which it does not at this time) sense. Though in a place like hokkaido I think snow and ice cutting off my electricity are far more dangerous than terrorism, and solar panels can't produce enough electricity to keep themselves clean and my apartment warm at the same time.

Login to leave a comment

OR
  • 海外営業事務

    海外営業事務
    株式会社セドナエンタープライズ、Tokyo
    Salary: ¥220,000 ~ ¥400,000 / Month Negotiable
  • Sales & Marketing Staff

    Sales & Marketing Staff
    Nicolai Bergmann (ニコライバーグマン株式会社)、Tokyo
    Salary: ¥230,000 / Month Negotiable
  • Social Media Manager

    Social Media Manager
    Nicolai Bergmann (ニコライバーグマン株式会社)、Tokyo
    Salary: ¥230,000 / Month Negotiable
  • Cafe Kitchen Staff

    Cafe Kitchen Staff
    Nicolai Bergmann (ニコライバーグマン株式会社)、Tokyo
    Salary: ¥200,000 / Month Negotiable
  • Cafe Manager

    Cafe Manager
    Nicolai Bergmann (ニコライバーグマン株式会社)、Tokyo
    Salary: ¥250,000 / Month Negotiable

More in National

View all

View all