The problem with this sort of thing is

That by the time you\’ve written something about a nuclear explosion in Japan, new information can come out entirely contradicting everything you\’ve said.

But it is going to be extraordinarily interesting, isn\’t it? Are we about to find out how safe nuclear reactors are, or are we about to find out how dangerous they are?

What is actually going to be the effect of the seventh largest earthquake ever, a 10 metre tsunami and a massive explosion? Chernobyl (which, recall, killed several hundred people) or levels of radiation lower than you get from a CT scan?

Buggered if I know yet but we\’re about to find out, aren\’t we?

31 thoughts on “The problem with this sort of thing is”

  1. In any case, the damage caused by the nuclear reactor leaking stuff out will be minimal compared to the destruction caused by the tsunami itself. Even if it’s in Chernobyl class, which I think is rather doubtful. It’s more likely that to detect the accident outside the site itself, you’ll need good measuring equipment. Though, with radiation, you’ll see it with the equipment, of course.

  2. We certainly won’t be learning a great deal of value from the MSM. Dominant topic at the moment is discussion of a core meltdown. Your accountant friend* is certainly promoting it & the front page of The (Tax Dodging) Guardian has “Authorities battle to prevent meltdown”.

    From a quick bit of net research it would seem that light water reactors can’t ‘meltdown’ in the sense they’re talking about. The nuclear reactions in a LWR are quite difficult to sustain. The coolant is also the moderator, so if the coolant goes the moderator goes, they’re aren’t enough neutrons interacting with the fuel & the reaction shuts down.

    *Not trying to promote the Norfolk Nutter to the ranks of the MSM with this. He’s ‘Mainly Stream of consciousness from the psychiatrist’s couch’ Media’.

  3. Chernobyl killed 56 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article563041.ece
    The eco-fascists made various predictions up to 500,000 from low level radiation (the LNT theory) but absolutely none of this has been detected, quite the opposite http://alfin2100.blogspot.com/2011/03/in-chernobyl-60-year-old-men-appear-not.html as fits the hormesis theory.

    The cause was the abysmal lack of concern for safety in the USSR. At around the same time a train accident killed 500. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ufa_train_disaster

    That was not nuclear and so not worth even a footnote in the media.

    Expect to see deaths from this, if any, less than in a car crash but for the media to treat it as more newsworthy than the actual earthquake.

  4. All the commenters here are right. Even if the reactor has a technical meltdown, there’s no way that can involve the containment mechanism being broken (whereas the Chernobyl design wasn’t failsafe in that way). Worst case, they’ll be stuck with something that doesn’t make any electricity and which you can’t send anyone inside for a hundred years. Yes, that’s quite a bad case, but once you’ve stuck some more concrete and lead over the top and posted armed guards round the perimeter, it’s not going to represent a serious health risk to anybody.

  5. “We certainly won’t be learning a great deal of value from the MSM.”

    Give them a break, they are probably trying to locate ‘The China Syndrome’ on DVD so they can brush up…

  6. No hotspots in the South Atlantic then?

    Shame. That could have made a good “Antarctic Ice Sheets in Peril” story for the BEEB.

  7. It’s not a reactor I know anything about, but I’d guess that all we’ve seen so far is a steam explosion. The “meltdown” worry isn’t the chain reaction – that’ll have been turned off sharpish – but the decay heat. How bad that is will depend how old the fuel is – I’ve no idea how often they change the fuel. I’ve never been impressed by designs that lack the ability to cool themselves by natural convection, but they’ve got what they’ve got. Does anyone have a decent link for any tech stuff on this particular reactor?

    (By the by, I played a tiny role in HMG’s reaction to Chernobyl. The first thing to impress me was the speed with which HMG got piles of info on that particular reactor onto my desk. The second thing to impress me was what a bloody abortion a Soviet reactor could be – and all the while their agents, fellow travellers and useful idiots campaigned against Western reactors. Pity we didn’t hang all the fuckers after the wall came down.)

  8. “We certainly won’t be learning a great deal of value from the MSM.”

    Yes we will – we will learn in great detail why this event proves that the left is right and the right is wrong and males are evil while females are good and why Western Civ must be deconstructed and how Stalin really was a good fellow, much maligned.

    Right now, this very moment, the MSM is strangely silent while they work out the fairy tale line of reasoning required to re-assert those plain (non)facts.

  9. Oh I forgot the MSM will also prove, again, that all blackfellahs are good and all whitefellahs are bad. Oh wait, these are Japfellahs. I think that because they are smart, technical and civilized they will be treated as dastardly whitefellahs.

    The bastards, building badly designed, poorly constructed nukes and risking the lives of Hollywood stars and screeching fembots.

  10. Whatever the ‘fallout’, nuclear still requires massive public subsidy – not least to cover the liability insurance that would make the industry commercially unviable otherwise.

    In the absence of a genuinely freed market, nuclear power – like the banks – continues to be underwritten by the taxpayer and, regrettably, remains ‘too big to fail’.

  11. I’ve always argued that the economics of nukes is essentially unknowable to me because they are so entwined with government and are bound to remain so. But technically they are fascinating objects.

  12. Long ago, in pre-PC times (in both senses of the expression) , before T’internet, I used to subscribe to the wonderful newsletter “Access to Energy” published by the late and much missed Dr Petr Beckmann. He was an escapee from communist Eastern Europe and he was a staunch supporter of technology and of nuclear power, the cleanest and safest form of energy ever devised. As he pointed out so long ago the major “cost” of nukes is the fatuous crap piled on by the state and marxist luddite cretins. Wish he was still here to join in the fight.

    “An elephant is a mouse built to government specifications”

  13. “An explosion at an earthquake-damaged nuclear plant was not caused by damage to the nuclear reactor but by a pumping system that failed as crews tried to bring the reactor’s temperature down, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Saturday.”

    So not a reactor explosion then. Now we know the truth we must wait to see how the ecofascists and media lie about it.

    The economics of nuclear are that France is not only selling their own people power at 1/4 the price we do but also selling it to the rest of Europe and doing well out of it. That simply cannot happenif it costs more to produce. The manifold increase in reactor costs in the 1970/80s because of a regulatory burden strongly suggests that itf it were not being siffocated by the politicians it would be producing power at 1/10th of our average cost (it is already 1/10th the cost of windmills. Andrew, in his fact free post, claiming nuclear is actually expensive adequately demonstrates how we may expect the BBC to report this event, with zero casualties, as more newsworthy and more disasterous than everything else relateded to the quake. – (as I finish writing this I hear BBC news leading with the reactor with a side mention of the actual quake deaths).

  14. The ‘news’ these days is often little more than presenters and correspondents speculating about what they expect the news to be some time in the future.

  15. Just found that “Access to Energy” still exists as a website with the first 25 years volumes availble free. See below on meltdowns:

    “As explained last time, a meltdown is not the ultimate disaster depicted by the Ruff Harts and all the Udall Kendalls. The dangerous components¾gases and volatile particles¾are contained by the containment building (that’s what it is for); the rest melts down to the point, which must be reached, when the heat generated by the fission products is less than that carried away by the soil, so that the molten goo is cooled sufficiently to solidify, and that is the end of the journey.

    According to Kendall, this may be deep enough to hit the ground water and spread death and pestilence by streams and rivers; other great scientists like Jane Fonda imply that the goo would melt all the way to China.

    In fact, in siting a plant, a very careful geological survey is made both with regard to earthquakes (try and site a hydroelectric dam away from a river!) and to a possible meltdown; the foundations alone go as deep as 40 feet below the ground, and the absence of ground water is checked to improbably large depths — 120 feet and more. But is the nuclear industry not covering up something here?

    Yes, by Jove, it is: There is not an engineer in the nuclear industry who seriously believes that the stuff could get as far as 120 feet below the ground; if he were given that as an assignment, he would howl and scream that he is being asked to do the impossible. Engineers are not groping in the dark here, for there are at least two fields where there is some experience by analogy. In the underground tests of nuclear weapons, the thermal conductivity of the ground has almost always been underestimated in the calculations preceding the test, often by 2 or 3 orders of magnitude.

    But even closer to the problem are the recorded cases of ladle failures in the steel industry, when a charge of 100 tons of molten steel spilled onto the concrete floor of the foundry. Yes, it cracked the concrete (by thermal stress¾concrete can take compression, but not much tension); and yes, the molten steel started traveling toward China before it solidified. Just how far toward China? About five inches. Five inches!

    Now we promise never to become a Prof. Kendall multiplied by minus one, and therefore we will not hide the fact that the analogy is not exact, because molten steel is hot, but beyond that it does not, like the fission products, actually generate heat. But it does give an idea of the order of what might be expected. Multiply by a factor of 10, and you are talking about four miserable feet into the ground.”

  16. 1) “The manifold increase in reactor costs in the 1970/80s because of a regulatory burden …”: yes, my instinct is that much of the cost is an artefact of government folly. But I doubt that the numbers to make that case watertight are ever available to me.
    2) The main lesson of “the China Syndrome” is that the American grasp of geography is so pathetic that they think China is their own Antipodes. Since China is also in the northern hemisphere, this is a triumph of stupidity.

  17. It has been a shocking disaster. But I reckon Japan has reason to be grateful for the calibre of her engineers. The sight of skyscrapers waving and flexing like belly dancers, while remaining intact, was salutary. I still can’t work out why we weren’t seeing showers of glass dropping from the windows.
    But there is no way to harden structures against the destructive power of that much seawater, travelling that fast. I suspect the relatively mild release from the power plant will prove to be the least of their problems.

  18. I still can’t work out why we weren’t seeing showers of glass dropping from the windows.

    Lots of small panes of glass which can move independently of one another on rubber gaskets.

  19. If the problem with the nukes is that the diesels that back up the electric drives for the coolant pumps were flooded by the tsunami, the answer is to stick the diesels on platforms fifty feet up in the air.

  20. Replying to dearieme’s last: have an arrangement to shut down the diesels and seal the air intake and exhaust. (Bit like a diesel sub would do.) Run on the onsite batteries until the water level has gone down far enough to restart the diesels.
    No charge for this idea.

  21. Na, Frank, you want a “passive” system. Stick ’em up in the air or build a fifty foot wall around them.

  22. “Stick ‘em up in the air or build a fifty foot wall around them.” –

    Oo, er, missus!

    Tim, in the UK, all of our nukes seems ot be built by the seaside; Dounreay, Hunterston, Seascale, Dungeness, etc. It’s noticeable that the two Fukushima reactors also seem to be built by the seaside. Could this not be because a bucketload of sea eater might be able to do more to cool down a recalcitrant reactor than 1,000 nuclear engineers?

    Tim adds: They’re by the sea so that they can get lots and lots of water in the normal course of things……not as an extra in emergencies.

  23. Obviously, the fact that a reactor was damaged by the seventh largest earthquake ever recorded, in a area prone to earthquakes, is an excellent reason not to build reactors in the UK, where earthquakes are unknown. Not.

  24. Dearieme, I see you on unusual blogs all over the internet, and often with a fascinating story to tell.
    Please start a blog! Or write your autobiography.

  25. well it looks like Andrew Gilligan is keen to talk total bollocks about something he knows fuck all about

    Similarly, water is wet.

  26. Ah, Hugo, even I can’t remember which of my comments are my own and which have been faked by naughty former students of mine. Alas, they’ve all heard my yarns more than once.

  27. Hey, guys,–

    “China Sydrome” may be technically ignorant in many respects but as an illustration of lack of geographical understanding, not so much. It’s nothing more than a metaphor from the idea of a child digging in a sandbox–“all the way to China.”

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