Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is Obama Right On Nuclear Plant Locations?

I don’t often agree with Obama, but it does happen. And right now, I agree with something he’s done. On Sunday, Obama’s Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that, in response to the nuclear crisis in Japan, the US would start giving “population” much more weight when deciding where to build nuclear power plants. In other words, they’re going to start putting these plants away from large population centers. It’s about time.

I am not opposed to nuclear energy. I do not fall for leftist arguments, which are based on emotion rather than science and which mistake possibility for probability and demand perfection when no such thing is possible. But I also don’t fall for industry propaganda, which tries to pretend that a nuclear plant is no more dangerous than an old tractor sitting in some field.

The truth is that nuclear power plants are fairly safe, but they are not entirely safe. Indeed, there have been 33 serious accidents at nuclear plants since 1952 (with another 39 military accidents) and there are any number of things that can go wrong. And more importantly, when these accidents do happen, they have the potential to do serious, serious harm. Not only can they kill large amounts of people and make many more significantly ill, but they can make large chunks of land uninhabitable. Chernobyl, for example, resulted in an 1,100 square mile exclusion zone.

Thus, when thinking about building a nuclear plant, the first question we should be asking is: where can we put it that it doesn’t cause a major catastrophe if something goes wrong? This is simple common sense. When you store a can of gasoline, you don’t store it under your bed or next to your fireplace. You put it somewhere safe. You don’t build a house underneath a hanging boulder and you don’t put a school next to a toxic dump. It’s just common sense to account for potential dangers when building something.

Yet, for whatever reason (read: heavy lobbying), we have never thought about this when building nuclear plants. Indian Point power plant, for example, is only 40 miles from New York City, and 21 million people live within 50 miles of the plant. Imagine the cost if something went wrong! Not only could you be dealing with millions of sick people, but even if they all got out, you still could be looking at abandoning New York City in its entirety! And I’m not talking about evacuating until the danger passes, I’m talking about abandoning the city. What kind of criminally negligent fool thought this was a good place to put that plant?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t build plants. To the extent these plants make economic sense, without subsidies, I’m all for them. But that doesn’t mean we have to be stupid about where we place them. Here’s why.

Have you ever wondered how cities, states and countries are able to sell each other electricity? It’s because the transmission of electricity is highly efficient -- even given our outdated and poorly constructed electric infrastructure. According to electrical industry groups, the power loss resulting from transporting electricity 1,000 miles is only 8.71%. To transport electricity 2,000 miles results in a loss of around 17%. (Apparently, 2-3% is normal even for local transport.)

So how far is 1,000 miles? Well, St. Louis to Washington, D.C. is only 878 miles. New York City to Miami is only 1090 miles. Even New York City to Los Angeles is only 2,462. That means you can put reactors almost anywhere in the country and service most of the country with less than 10% loss in energy.

So why haven’t we done this? Well, it would increase the costs of electricity! True, but doesn’t it make more sense to pay 10% more for electricity than it does to run the risk that some disaster could eliminate a major metropolitan center?

Building any of these plants in or near a large population center is shortsightedness at its worst. Put them in the middle of deserts or on the far reaches of the coast. Don’t be stupid.

Thus, I have to congratulate President Obama for making the right decision here. I’m glad someone finally decided to use a little common sense.

43 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

Of course it makes perfect sense to consider population in determining where to place nuclear power facilities. It would take an extremely short sided view of things not to consider the consequences of an accident. Invariably, they occur because of things we haven't even considered.

I think it was Rumsfeld who says "there are things we know, and things we know we don't know. The ones that really worry me are the things we don't know that we don't know." Prudence dictates that if the consequence of being wrong is unthinkable, one needs to be very careful in taking such actions.

T_Rav said...

If I'm not mistaken, the Indian Point facility was cited a few days ago as being the most at-risk plant in the country for a nuclear disaster, with odds at 1:10,000. (I'm not really sure how you can calculate something like that, but whatever.) And there's speculation that the 9/11 hijackers originally planned on targeting that plant before choosing WTC instead.

So...why aren't we drilling for oil again?

CrispyRice said...

I think the bigger problem with nuclear power is that we haven't been allowed to build anything new in 30 years! The technology has come a long way. They are quite a bit safer, and I read recently that China has developed a way to take the nuclear waste and re-use it in their new plants again and again.

We should be building new, state-of-the art plants and mothballing the ancient ones.

And, I agree - we should be thinking very carefully about where we put them. San Fran, on the coast? Probably not. Hurricane alley? Mmm, maybe not. In the middle of nowhere? Love it.

And finally, I also agree with T-Rav - a well-thought out energy plan would most definitely include drilling our resources - oil and natural gas.

Between all that, we could be energy independent. Wouldn't that be great?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I agree. It is the things we don't know that are the problem. For example, I'm betting until Japan, no one thought much about what happens if a nuclear power plant runs out of electricity?

I agree entirely that it's entirely short-sighted to not consider population. So my question is, why the heck did it take until Obama before this became a serious consideration? How many energy secretaries have there been since the 1950s? And none of them thought this was a big deal?

That's troubling.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, We're not drilling because drilling is dangerous to baby seals. ** rolls eyes **

I had heard that the Indian Point facility was considered the most at-risk, and there were people who asked whether it wouldn't be a good idea to shut it down in light of Japan. But they decided "naw, it's cool."

I didn't know the odds you site, but if you think in terms of human events, a 1:10,000 odds are hardly unlikely. Odds like that happen all the time.

AND, knowing what the jet fuel did to the 9/11 towers (the truthers notwithstanding), it's pretty clear that a jet crash into a nuclear plant would eat right through the containment material. Which means a jet crash would have been well worse than Chernobyl or Japan.

Nice huh?

So where is the common sense?

LL said...

The newer reactor designs are much safer - while not being ENTIRELY SAFE, but most of the civilian reactors in the US are of the older design. I am a proponent of nuclear power to fortify the grid because you can turn the power up or back it down at will (something not available from wind and solar). Having said that, I think that siting plants in more remote areas makes perfect sense.

We have vast reserves of coal and oil shale that have yet to be properly exploited. Coal gassification plants are clean but when people hear COAL, they run for the sulfur dioxide hills. The US needs to exploit its own natural resources and blend that with new nuclear plants.

Obama is pro-nuclear, and that surprises me because usually he and I are on the polar opposites of any issue.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, This whole issue frustrates me to no one.

1. We have more than enough oil and natural gas (particularly natural gas) to be completely energy independent without anything else. In fact, they just found another huge natural gas field with more in it than all the rest of our oil reserves combined. So why should we be buying a single drop from over seas?

2. I think nuclear fits into that picture as well. But we need to be smart about it. Build newer plant and put them in safe places -- just as you point out, not near big cities, not on fault lines, not in hurricane alley.

3. In terms of reusing and waste, this really ticks me off. In my many wanderings, I've dealt with companies who convert spent fuel rods into harmless rocks. The process is easy, cheap, and without danger. But our government has decided "we can't be 100% sure that these pebbles will be 100% free of radiation." Thus, they have BANNED the process. Instead, they'd rather store all this dangerous garbage all around the country until they can bury it in Nevada -- when they could be turning it into radiation-free pebbles. How smart is that?

The whole energy debate is dominated by stupidity, emotion and special interests, and that needs to stop. Our country could be cleaner, safer and richer if we stop listening to unreasonable demands and people looking to profit from keeping the system dysfunctional.

It's very frustrating.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, I agree entirely. Nuclear can be a very valuable energy source. For one thing, as you mention, it's highly flexible. For another, it's quite clean. And when it's done right, it's dangers are almost zero.

It just stuns me that this seems to be some revelation to put the plants in safer locations? Seriously, why wasn't that the first thought? I just don't get it.

It's the same thing with the spent fuel. There are companies who turn this stuff into safe material, but we don't allow that because it might still contain trace radiation. Uh, so instead we leave it as pure radioactive rods and we bury it? How does that make sense?

And you're right about coal. Clean coal is getting so much cleaner, yet people get so worked up about it because they think of some plant from the 1920s spitting out thick black clouds.

What really bothers me in the whole energy debate is that the lunatics on both sides are getting in the way of us making a safer, stronger, cheaper, cleaner system. It's time to marginalize these people, to look at these issues with a honest eye, and then start making good choices.

DUQ said...

Now you tell me that I agree with Obama on something? Actually, I look at it this way, Obama agrees with me! :)

LawHawkRFD said...

I've always been nervous about the plant in San Onofre. But I hope they don't decide that where I live now is remote enough. It's on the other side of the Tehachapi Mountains from Los Angeles and there's a smaller range between here and Bakersfield. But we're also on one of California's major earthquake faults, and it's overdue for the next big one. The upside is, in case of a meltdown the prevailing winds would carry the fallout straight to the old Nevada nuclear testing grounds. Now there's irony for ya.

Crispy Rice has it right on the money. We're stalling on new nuclear plants based on 1960s-1970s technology. Elimination of the EPA would go a long way toward resolving the problem.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, Good way to look at it! :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Putting a plant on a fault line sounds none-to-smart to me, especially when GE is saying about the plant in Japan: "we didn't built it to survive a 9.0 earthquake." Hopefully, they will get a little more careful in the future placement.

In terms of the EPA, they aren't responsible for nuclear plants, so I don't think they are the problem here. The problem is the NRC.

Ed said...

I have no problems at all with nuclear power, but this makes sense and I'm truly amazed this wasn't already part of the consideration? But the proof is there when you see where they've put these things. Our government at work ladies and gentlemen.

Tehachapi Tom said...

Andrew
Most of the larger coal fired power plants are located away from population centers now.
The grid infrastructure is already in place so why not site new nuclear facilities adjacent to existing coal fired plants?

Water in sufficient quantities to cool them is probably the main draw back. Siting on ocean shores has an inherent danger in
that a major failure could wreak havoc over an even larger area than Chernobyl did and have an even greater impact on the environment and people.

The heated water is cited by the environmentalists as a problem but it could be used to advantage. Aqua farming comes to mind because fish, shrimp bivalves and such grow faster in warmer water. If the heat could be distributed and used to warm the ground and green houses. We could have a major farming enterprise in areas that could not be used in that manner any other way. The aqua farms would provide a source of nutrients which would make the farming efforts even more productive.
The water after giving up it's heat could be cycled back through the nuclear plant and heated again over and over.
With reasonable care loss of water could be minimized so every one would win.

The key here is synergism something seldom exploited in our society.

T_Rav said...

Andrew, I had to dig around a bit to find where I got that from, but that was from CBS News, which in turn got it from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Specifically, they said Indian Point has a 1 in 10,000 chance of core breach, which they say is actually just below the threshhold for "immediate concern regarding adequate protection." Like you, though, I'm not sure what that means. Power plants run continuously, so it's not like the thing's going to explode if they turn it on for the 10,000th time--that's not the way it works. So I don't know how they have this figured.

Incidentally, while trying to unearth this, I noticed that the containment vessels used in Japan, the ones everyone was worried might fail, were GE's Mark I containment vessels, which are also used by...90 percent of U.S. nuclear power plants. So there's that.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I've said before that our government tries to do too many things and it does none of them well. It should focus on the few things it really should be doing and do those well. Sadly, that's not going to happen any time soon.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Yep, and GE's been on a major PR tour over this. They were on CNBC, wrote some articles, and did some other interviews, all with the idea of explaining that they weren't to blame for this and that no one should worry about it. But nothing they've said is particularly convincing, because they're the ones running around with the "we just didn't plan for this" argument -- as if that makes this all go away.

But to be clear, I don't see this as a blame issue (at least not yet). I see this as an "ok, so now you know what can happen, how do you retrofit the old ones or build new ones to makes sure this doesn't happen again?" I am somewhat troubled that this doesn't seem to be their focus.

In terms of 9/11 by the way, from everything I've seen on the science of the collapse, the intense heat generated by that much burning jet fuel would easily eat right through these containment chambers. That's something they should be thinking about too.

Thanks for verifying the 1 in 10,000 figure. I don't know how they determine that either. But from a statistics standpoint, I can tell you that doesn't mean that 1 in every 10,000 times you push the button something will go wrong. What it means is every time you hit the button, there's a 1 in 10,000 chance of something going wrong. That is a significant difference, which means it is less risky than it sounds. Still, that risk is not low enough that I think it justifies putting one of these plants in a heavily populated area -- especially when you don't need to.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. T_Rav, As an aside, one of the issues that comes up in law sometimes is this idea of the statistical likelihood that DNA matches someone. Usually you come up with a number that is something like a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of finding a match. This is where the distinction I mention above matters.

Some people will believe that a 1 in 1,000,000 chance means there is one person in every million who will match that DNA. But that's not accurate. What it really means is that anyone you test has a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of matching. That's a very different proposition and shows that DNA evidence is much more reliable than people understand it to be (although you then have to factor in things like genetic clustering that reduce make it less reliable).

AndrewPrice said...

Tom, You ended up in the spam filter for some reason, sorry about that. That's been happening a lot lately.

On your points, those are all excellent ideas. There are always synergies and I'm sure that there are many that could be had here. Fish farms might work very nicely?

And you're right about coal plants, they are moving those away from population centers as well. This is one of those issues that just strikes me as so simple and such common sense, and it shocks me that the people in charge don't seem to get it?

Actually, I take that back -- it doesn't shock me. It depresses me. This is the kind of static, narrow minded, small box thinking that you get with government. They do what they've always done, and they fear change. So they squelch good ideas and innovation all in the name of protecting the public, but everything they are doing is in actually making the public less safe.

To me the choice is simple. On the one hand you get new plants in safe locations with safer technology or you stick with technology from the 1960s and plants in unsafe locations. It seems kind of obvious to me.

T_Rav said...

Andrew, thanks for clarifying on the statistics. I knew some of that already, I'm just not sure how it applies to a power plant.

You just know that every terrorist in the Middle East has been watching this mess the past couple of weeks and getting ideas. And to confirm my earlier thoughts, KSM did tell his interrogators that nuclear plants have long been a potential target for Al-Qaeda. But I don't think we have anything to worry about, honestly: Rosie O'Donnell's already pointed out that "fire doesn't melt steel," so surely if that happened, the containment vessels would hold up just fine.

Also, I got my numbers wrong: the 90 percent figure was for something else. I don't know how many of our plants use that type of containment from GE, but being GE, I suspect it's a lot.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, You're welcome. I had these statistical points beaten into me in a series of statistics classes... sadly only half of what I learned took root. :-(

On jet fuel.... well, if Rosie says it, then we're ok! ;-) Putting Rosie aside, one of the interesting things about jet fuel is that it burns so hot that you literally cannot put water on it to douse the fire. The heat will split the water molecule back into H's and O's and will actually fuel the fire. That's why they use a special foam.

If I were a terrorist, nuclear plants would be a huge target of mine (plus chemical plants and LNG ships). Not only do I suspect they are quite vulnerable and that they can cause a huge disaster if you can blow one up, but even beyond that, it would be a great way to spread terror. When people hear "they just dropped a plane on the nuclear plant," people will run for their lives -- something they don't do it you blow up a coal plant or a mall.

I hope that incidents like Japan get people thinking about how to add layers of protection, because there are enough bad people out there that we can suspect there will be attempts made on these plants.

In terms of GE, they are one of the big 3-4 makers of nuclear reactors. So it would not surprise me if they made 90% of the ones in the US. But I haven't looked into it.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: An EIR is required for building a nuclear plant. The NRC could approve a plant today, and the EPA could continue to stall it for the next twenty years. Once again we have the Gordian knot of competing agencies, each with the public purpose of protecting Americans but actually having a private purpose of advancing a left wing agenda and perpetuating its own power. The public be damned.

Joel Farnham said...

The biggest problems of Nuclear Plants are the hype and news. Like plane accidents, they don't happen that often, so they are in the news.

Ask yourself a some of questions.

When the power plants, like coal, oil, and hydro were first used, were the dangers emphasized? Or were the benefits?

Second question, if hydro plants are used, why aren't we worried about flooding because a possible crack in a dam caused by terrorists, bomb from a plane, and earthquakes?

Third question, why are we using coal when it has been known for centuries that coal dust can explode? Or burn with out any one knowing?

Fourth question, why are we using oil as a fuel? It is known to pollute streams should it seep into the ground.

When ever I read an article on Nuclear Energy use some version of these questions are put up about how dangerous a nuclear plant is.

Oh, and it is estimated, not recorded... estimated, that 600 to 1000 deaths per year per a million people due to nuclear accidents. To put that in perspective, in 2003, there were 42,643 recorded deaths due to car accidents. Apples to oranges? There are more cars on the road than nuclear plants in operation. Okay. I understand that.

http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html

This link shows the deaths per terra-watt-hour produced for each source of energy. It is the most accurate statistic I can see that actually compares oranges to oranges.

Bottom line, nuclear energy is safe. It is the safest energy that is produced in the United States. Regardless of location. Regardless of earthquakes. Regardless of groundless fears.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=110997398

This map shows all the known nuclear plants currently operating in the United States. As you can see, already there are a few around New York City. If Obama really was worried about nuclear contamination, he would also shutdown most of Pennsylvania as well as New Jersey.

This decision of Obama is more form than substance. He is operating from the liberal notion, a person might die from it, so I ban it.

Never mind that it is the safest form of energy. Never mind that the reason Japan had such a bad problem is because of their dated coolant tanks.

Sorry Andrew. I know you want him to be right about something, but Obama is wrong again.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, That's true about the EIP. But the biggest problem with nuclear plants has been getting them through the NRC and the local planning. The EPA hasn't been that big of a deal on this issue.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, The problem with that argument is that you are comparing apples and oranges. Coal plants and oil plants lack the potential to do massive damage -- nuclear plants don't. And while yes, nuclear accidents are rare, that does not change the fact that the consequences of one can be horrific. Thus, special precautions are called for.

In fact, special precautions are always called for to account for the unique hazards of whatever you are looking at. That why they worry about bumper height on cars, but not on microwave ovens, and why they worry more about how they transport jet fuel than they worry about transporting milk. It just makes sense to account for the potential hazards of a particular product or service.

With coal and oil plants, they've tried to minimize pollutants and take steps to prevent a fuel fire or fuel explosion, as those are your big risks. They've also tended to move them away from population centers precisely because they do emit toxic gases.

The risk with nuclear plants is a massive plume of radiation that can be toxic within a certain radius. Thus, to minimize that, we should (1) advance technology to lower the chance of an accident and (2) put the plants in locations where the harm of an accident is minimal. To conclude that they are pretty safe and thus these precautions are unnecessary is simply wrong and seeks to apply a lower standard than we do to even safer technologies. There are two components of any risk, probability and consequence -- and both need to be considered.

In terms of Obama's motives, the fact that he hasn't closed the existing plants tends to downplay the idea that he wants to ban anything -- though I do suspect that he is actually opposed to nuclear power. And while yes, it would have been more consistent for him to close the existing plants, that doesn't take away from the fact that this new policy is a good one.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, Don't get me wrong. There are a lot of scare tactics in the nuclear debate and the media fans those. But there are real risks and the industry is just as guilty of trying to pretend there aren't any risks as the anti-nuclear crowd is guilty of overstating them. The truth is in the middle, nuclear can be safe, but it requires precautions.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: You're absolutely right about the NRC being the prime culprit. I only brought the issue up since most of the alphabet agencies are populated by like thinkers. But, when one leftist agency goes off the reservation, there's always another lying in wait.

As recently as December of 2009, in New York v. NRC (EPA intervenor), the agencies went at each other requiring the court to hold: "Under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), each federal agency must prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) before taking a major action that significantly affects the quality of the “human environment.”  42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C).  The renewal of a license for a nuclear power plant is a major action requiring an EIS under NRC and EPA regulations.   See 10 C.F.R. § 51.20." The NRC won that one.

StanH said...

I’m not in a position to argue one way or another, however there is no question that whenever dealing with nuclear, an abundance of caution is required, and a little common sense. However this conversation is academic, our nuclear power development has been sidelined, by the “China Syndrome, Silkwood, and Three Mile Island.” Hysterics have long since overcome logic and reasoned debate when talking about nuclear power, and now Japan. Charles Krauthammer said it best, too paraphrase, “the debate is now settled in America, there will be no more nuclear power plants built in America.”

Take a moment and read: Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors – From MIT’s Dr. Josef Oehmen. Perhaps a different point of view from an expert.

I guess I land somewhere between you and Joel.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, That's true and I certainly don't mean to downplay the problems with the EPA on this or any other issue. My point was just that it seems they can't even get these things moving out of the NRC -- which is only the first hurdle. That's what I meant. More hurdle away after that and the EPA is definitely a huge hurdle in that too.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, I don't oppose nuclear reactors, I just think we need to be more careful about where we put them. There's no reason to put them next to big cities. Put them where the damage will be minimal if something goes wrong.

In fact, I think that would have gone a long way toward eliminating many of the objections to nuclear power. Most of the protests I've seen since the 1980s have been because they wanted to put these plants right next to large population centers. Why court that kind of trouble when you don't have to?


That said, I think Krauthammer is correct, I think the nuclear industry is dead in this country. This Japanese thing looks horrible for them and they don't have an easy excuse this time like they did when they could say "well, that was Russian junk."

Joel Farnham said...

Andrew,

I understand your fears. How many deaths, I am not talking about estimates, are directly attributed to nuclear disasters?

At Chernobyl, 30. Two the night it happened, 28 shortly after. These are the power guys. The guys in the plant.

How many deaths at the Japanese plant? I haven't been able to find out if one person has died. Just people spouting off about potential deaths, and areas that might be evacuated.

"The truth is that nuclear power plants are fairly safe, but they are not entirely safe." It is a true statement. The problem is it is HYPING the dangers. If you said that about a car, you would be laughed at. It is true though.

On deaths per TeraWattHour, can you give me a better statistic than what I gave you?

Since 1952, 33 serious accidents. It is now 2011. That is fifty nine years. Less than one accident per year.

How many areas been destroyed because of a nuclear accident? One, Chernobyl.

Did you know that the residents, less than a mile away from Three Mile Island, experienced radiation? Yep. They got irradiated. They get more when they get x-rays.

Did you know that there is a Nuclear Pill? Potassium Iodide. It helps protect against radiation.

Yes, I do understand that there is potential of a huge swath being destroyed by radiation from a Nuclear Meltdown. The key word is potential.

In fact most of your article is not what has happened, but what could happen.

The notion that nuclear power is dead in this country is a liberal pipe-dream. With the current and on-going repudiation of all things liberal, and the internet, the fears of Nuclear Power can and will be removed.

Here is one more thing, and then I will leave this subject. Do you feel that bananas are a danger to humans? If you don't, then consider this, they are irradiated enough to set off geiger counters at ports. These counters are used to see if nuclear bombs are coming through.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I will be very surprised if this doesn't kill the US nuclear industry, but we'll see.

In terms of potential versus reality, that's always the case. You don't judge a product based on what has happened, you judge it based on what can happen and how likely it is to happen. And trying to dismiss those risks by saying "it hasn't happened yet" simply will not work. The Titanic didn't sink until it did. The Hindenburg didn't blow up until it did. The Twin Towers didn't fall down until they did.

The job of engineers, policy makers and rational businessmen is to try to minimize the risk of damage and injury at a reasonable cost. That's why they are constantly innovating to make things safer and better rather than just responding to things that have happened. That requires a determination of potential, not just a look at history to see what has happened so far.

Patti said...

when he's right, he's right. but then again a clock strikes 12 noon, once a day too. odds are always gonna let a stooge get *something* right.

sorry. cranky from my trip.

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, That thought occurred to me too, that he might have just gotten this right by accident. ;-)

I'm glad your back!

Joel Farnham said...

Andrew,

I went through a lot of reading after this column and I found out just what happened in Japan. The ECCS failed because it was damaged by the Tsunami. The Tsunami was caused by an unprecedented earthquake.

While people see twenty-twenty after the fact, foreseeing an earthquake induced tsunami destroying the ECCS is a little bit above engineer's capabilities. Engineering for every calamity is impossible. What engineers do is use HISTORY of the area to engineer against the probable disasters likely to appear.

Also I read about how Nuclear Plants are designed. And there is triple redundancy including procedures developed from the Chernobyl disaster which precludes meltdowns. The possibility of a Chernobyl level disaster is now very remote.

With the Japanese meltdown averted and the crisis winding down, this will be forgotten by the general public in three months. Nuclear power will still be here. If Nuclear power is dead, there would be calls for removal and shutdown for existing plants. There isn't. The usual suspects are still calling for dismantling of nuclear plants. No new ones have been added. I stand by my statement. Nuclear Power isn't dead.

Now about the location of this particular plant. It is forty miles away from New York City. It also was built in 1962. Don't you think it is a little bit late for complaining about it's placement?

It's license reissue is up in 2013 for reactor 2. Reactor three is up in 2015. If Obama has his way, it will be shut down in two and four years respectively. What is it's replacement? Unicorns and Pixie dust? The increase in power costs will not be 10%. It will triple. I know. I lived in Sacramento after Rancho Seco was shut down.

What is your proposal to counter the tripling costs of power to New York City? What are you going to say to people who have successfully and safely ran a nuclear plant for 50 years that their power costs are going to triple because you have fears of a nuclear meltdown that could happen because you think an earthquake will destroy the triple redundancy built into the reactors?

Remember, you don't live in New York. You don't own anything in New York. All you have is fears of a possible earthquake which might destroy the ECCS which then might meltdown the nuclear cores and the containment buildings fail which then might drift into New York City.

Now, tell me what you are going to tell them. Also, you haven't answered my question about the bananas. It is legitimate. People eat bananas regularly. Bananas are irradiated prior to arriving in the US. They set off the alarms at ports. I have yet to hear of an outbreak of radiation poisoning from it.

I have heard something that is more likely. A nuclear bomb hidden on a banana freighter. Exploded at the right time, a port could be rendered useless.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, You are putting words in my mouth. First, I am not opposed to nuclear power, I just don't think it's worth the risk to put it in population centers. And for the record, I have always thought it was stupid to put them in population centers.

Secondly, I have not said to shut down these existing reactors. I think the thing to do is to build new plants in safer locations and then retire these plants as they either become less safe or they reach the end of their lifespans.

In terms of me not living in New York, that is true. But I will be expected to pay to rebuild when something happens.

Also, the fact that it is unlikely still does not change the fact that (1) the level of damage will be incredible if it does go wrong, and (2) there is simply no economic justification for taking that risk. You are talking about wiping out hundreds of trillions of dollars in assets, of having to build homes for 21 million refuges, and paying for the medical treatment of millions of cases of radiation related diseases if something goes wrong.

Comparing that to switching to oil or coal, which is cheaper than nuclear, or putting a new nuclear power plan somewhere else at an increased cost of something less than 8%, it just doesn't make sense to take the risk.

That's like saying it's ok scratch your head with a loaded gun because the odds are small that it will go off.

On the tsunami/earthquake, that's hardly unprecedented. Japan periodically gets hit with large tsunamis and by large earthquakes, and earthquakes at sea cause tsunamis. Nor was the size of the earthquake beyond what should have been considered. Again, the fact that this combination had not previously hit a nuclear power plant does not mean they shouldn't have taken into account the dangers of being in that location.

The banana argument is not relevant because you're talking about a different level of radiation.

In terms of nuclear power being dead, I stand by that as well. While doubt you will see plants closed right away, I think it will become impossible to get the clearance to build new ones.

Joel Farnham said...

Andrew,

Nuclear Power is here to stay. The next President won't be an Enviro-weenie and won't be susceptible to fears of possible accidents that aren't likely to happen.
Conservatives, as a whole, fear God. Everything else is negotiable.

Caution is prudent and a conservative trait. Future Nuclear sites will be located as far as possible from large populations.

It will be interesting to re-visit this subject in 2013. If only to find out if Indian Point gets it's license renewed. I think it will, for two reasons. We will still be in a recession and money will be dear. Increased power costs will be a political football. Second, Indian Point's safety record. It hasn't been a disaster waiting to happen, nor has it failed an inspection. It shut down one of the three plants after it was determined #1's ECCS was not up to new Federal Standards. Not because of an accident.

One other thing, since Obama has vowed to not allow new coal plants or oil plants to be placed how can you even mention that new plants would replace the power from Indian Point? They won't be there because Obama won't allow it.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, "everything else is negotiable" LOL! Nice!

I agree it will be interesting to see what happens. The recession will certainly make it hard to disrupt our energy supply. I guess we'll see.

When it comes to Obama, I get the feeling he's planning on opening Pixie Dust plants, because I'm not sure what else he could be planning? If he won't drill, won't allow coal or oil plants, isn't interested in nuclear, and the other just stuff isn't practical.... maybe he's expecting us to stop using electricity? Let's hope he's going in 2012 and we get someone sane! :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, Maybe he's planning on going back to whale blubber candles? ;-)

Joel Farnham said...

Hmmm. I don't think so. Maybe if they used liposuction?.....

Nah, that won't work. Michelle would be jealous of all those skinny whales.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, Whale liposuction! Now that sounds like a great alternative to drilling! LOL!

Joe said...

Perhaps someone here can answer this, but what was the efficiency of electricity transmission 30-40 years ago when many of these nuclear plants were built and was he electric grid as large and as interconnected as it is now. Back then, putting them closer to population centers may have been only effective way.

What we need to be doing is replacing all of this old tech with current designs. I'm not as charitable about Obama on nuclear plants as you are. He may be right, but I doubt his motives are as clear or pure - more short term thinking.

AndrewPrice said...

Joe, I doubt his motives too, but I do agree with this policy. So I give him credit for that.

In terms of efficiency, I don't have any numbers I can give you, but I do know that the grid has been getting more efficient as technology improves. I also know that our grid is nowhere near as efficient as it could be because it's very old and has been poorly maintained.

Post a Comment