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Mar 14, 2011

Nuclear myths erupt in Japan

It has taken less than three days for Japan's notoriously dishonest and evasive nuclear industry to concede the seriousness of the crisis affecting its nuclear power plants, including the "fail safe" cooling process which was a risk analysis bet gone wrong.


It has taken less than three days for Japan’s notoriously dishonest and evasive nuclear industry to concede the seriousness of the crisis affecting the Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini plants NE of Tokyo with six and four reactors respectively. But the ferocious debate over nuclear power that has erupted in the media outside Japan is completely missing several key points.

The first is the failures of “fail safe” cooling processes at each plant is a risk analysis bet gone wrong by Japan’s nuclear power regulators and the Fukushima plant owner Tokyo Electric. And secondly, the calamities unfolding at the nuclear plants will not kill anything like the 10,000 or perhaps far more people now officially believed to have died in the massive tsunami that ravaged low lying areas of Honshu’s northern Pacific coast on Friday afternoon after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred near Sendai at 2.46pm local time.

This is likely to be true even if several completely uncontained meltdowns of reactor cores were to occur, despite the extreme seriousness of such events.

When the tsunami overwhelmed the separate coastal locations of the Fukushima Daini and Fukushima Daiichi plants, they had already begun shutting down in an automated response to the earthquake, the most powerful ever directly recorded in Japan.

It was the fail-safe back-up cooling processes that failed, because they had deliberately been designed and built to withstand severe yet less extremely severe natural disasters.

This was a money saving risk analysis bet by Japan’s nuclear regulators and the owners that a combination of such an extremely violent earthquake and following tsunami would not occur in its lifetime.

That bet nearly came off. The older Daiichi plant has only weeks to run on its 40-year operating licence and half of its reactors were already offline and are reported to be undamaged in their shut down state.

Until about 9am local time on Saturday, Tokyo Electric, the Japanese government, and nuclear apologistas worldwide were insisting that there had been no meltdowns in the reactors, that there was no risk to public safety and that mass media comparisons to the Chernobyl melt down in 1986 were flawed, which in terms of design is certainly true.

It was even claimed that only if such desperate measures as flooding the reactor cores with sea water took place would the situation be serious.

Shortly afterwards it became apparent that nuclear fuel rods exposed by falling levels of coolant in the Daiichi No 1 reactor were initiating partial meltdown with the release of “slightly” radioactive steam from the reactor bloc and admissions that caesium contamination had been found outside the plant, indicating that the outer layer or cladding of the uranium rods had crumbled and been ejected into the environment during the “harmless” steam releases.

Then the outer retaining walls and roof of the Daiichi No 1 reactor were violently blown to smithereens, a process the Chief Secretary for the Cabinet, Yukio Edano, described as a “roof collapse”.

While the Japan government continued to evade the seriousness of the situation, it was flying in emergency consignments of unspecified coolants, possibly additional supplies of boric acid, which absorbs neutrons and thus acts as a liquid alternative to control rods in a reactor core in which fuel rods and control rods have been partially melted or otherwise damaged to the point where they cannot be used.

The language of officialdom began to shift rapidly from benign soothing evasions to urgency throughout Saturday and yesterday until this morning when Prime Minister Naoto Kan specifically referred to the nuclear plant situations as “grave.”

It appears that up to seven reactor cores, the total that were active in the Fukushima complexes, have been or are about to be flooded with seawater and injected with boric acid, both previously described by nuclear apologistas as “desperate measures” not justified in the post-tsunami crisis. Yet these measures will, according to nuclear scientists, irreparably damage the reactors in the course of shutting them down when all else has failed.

As of this morning the smallest figure given for the number of people in hospital for radiation exposure is 90 and the population at large is being given potassium iodine tablets which will pre-empt the absorbing by the thyroid gland of radioactive iodine particles. The confirmation that radioactive iodine particles had escaped from the Daiichi complex came yesterday afternoon, some 24 hours after the authorities grudgingly conceded the presence of caesium fallout.

In the drip feed of disclosure coming from Tokyo Electric and the government, it is now publicly confirmed that the fuel rods in the Daiichi No 3 unit, which is of most immediate concern and at risk of an explosion, use a combination of plutonium oxide and uranium oxide, not just the uranium that was being used in Daiichi No 1.

The fission process using only uranium fuel does produce plutonium, however the addition of plutonium oxide at the start of the process lifts the output of a reactor while substantially adding to the lethality of the sort of failure that the nuclear industry regulator and Tokyo Electric knew was possible but gambled would not occur.

This morning there was an elevated radiation level emergency declared at the Onagawa nuclear plant, which comprises three reactors, and is 120 kilometres from the NE outskirts of Sendai, compared to about 240km for the nearest Fukushima plant.

These fluctuations at Onagawa are now attributed to fallout from the Fukushima “releases” which is not comforting to those in Tokyo or elsewhere in Japan but is an inevitably that adds to the far more visible and immediate aftermaths of the tsunami.


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121 thoughts on “Nuclear myths erupt in Japan

  1. Tom McLoughlin

    Even so, Ben, the extensive wikipedia entry on the hard fought analysis of the Chernobyl legacy is very revealing how political this area is. Apparently in 2009 the UK govt were still testing for radiocativity in some very isolated farms 23 years after. That in itself is scary and a warning to primary producers here.

    This might sound lame, but I like eating Aldi chocolates but since I heard rumours – right or wrong – about bushfire release of contamination around Chernobyl in the northern summer, I’ve been a bit more careful of my diary products.

    Also there is hot debate over how many thousands were hurt afterwards including the “liquidators” in their thousands, who cleaned up.

    And to hear Andrew Bolt’s emotionalism on Sunday in the face of obvious trauma of Chernobyl appalling. Obviously his editors thought differently leading with the issue today.

    There was a study of childhood cancers before and after closure of the reactors in New York State and the results were not very encouraging. The rates dropped after the closures. Mmm. One can expect similar studies to follow in Japan before and after Fukishima.

  2. Sir Lunchalot

    It could put clean nuclear power back a bit.

  3. shepherdmarilyn

    Look closer to home. Maralinga will never be safe.

  4. Captain Planet

    Awful as the Fukushima incident is rapidly becoming, hopefully it will act as a timely deterrent to all those who have been duped over the last decade or so, by nuclear industry propoganda.

    In direct contrast to those who parrot the official nuclear industry line about countries in Europe “reverting to nuclear” or constructing new nuclear plants, tens of thousands of protesters in Germany on Saturday formed a human chain 45 kilometres in length, protesting about their governments recent ill – advised decision to prolong the lives of their 40+ year of nuclear reactors for a few more years.

    The 17 nuclear power plants in Germany are scheduled for decommissioning, and it would appear that the German people, wisely, want to see this happen sooner rather than later.

    The real problem is that Nuclear power plants have only been in commercial existence for a bit over 50 years, and in most cases, after a spate of construction activity in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the rate of installation of nuclear power facilities has been virtually nil for decades. Consequently the world has a large and very old fleet of nuclear power plants due for retirement, and precious little by way of expertise, planning or long term funding, for the very expensive, hazardous and very little understood process of shutting the aging beasts down.

  5. Steven McKiernan

    Monte Bello Islands will never be safe.

    Ask yourself this, would you live next door to a nuclear power plant? Would you live next door to a coal fired power station? Would you install solar panels and also make changes in how you consume electricity?

  6. zut alors

    ‘…Japan’s notoriously dishonest and evasive nuclear industry…’

    My guess is that Japan is not unique.

  7. Sir Lunchalot

    @ Steven McKiernan

    I have solar panels, lots of them, and I am ruthless on saving power and cutting waste.

    But solar power is a drop in the ocean. It provide power on certain days at certain times, but during the peak load times of 6pm – 8pm and 4pm – 8pm in winter it does not.

    The answer is only nuclear. We have a big country with a vast desert, we have lot of space for these plans, in areas safe from earthquate and tsunami’s.

  8. shepherdmarilyn

    Lunch, what is the point of nuclear plants in the desert when they need millions of litres a day of water?

    Hionestly people like you talk the most insane crap.

  9. Sir Lunchalot

    @ Marilyn

    We have pipes carrying water, they are not new, the Romans invented them.

    There are vast expanses of area in Australia, that are not inhabited, that are close to water and a long way from population centres and close enough to RAAF bases for security.

  10. twobob

    Sir out to lunch


    You can go and eat your lunch in one – please

    I head this nonsense on the radio this morning
    “… one of the most geologically stable places on earth … ”

    And I thought year sure, go tell that to the patrons of the Newcastle workers club, oh thats right you can’t because they are dead, oddly enough because of an earthquake, on one of the most geologically stable places on earth no less. Yet we get this rigtard nonsense from the usual rightard apologists, blot, out to luch jamesk who’s next (g)asatro johnfromnosenseplanet thomas fullofit …

  11. zut alors


    Good on you, you’ve beaten me to the punch. One could be forgiven for thinking we’d simply imagined the Newcastle earthquake based on the stony silence on the subject today.

  12. Sir Lunchalot

    @Two Bob

    Newcastle is nowhere near the remote desert I was suggesting? In fact its over 4,000 thousand km away. As far as I can see, we have not had a quake there that would do damage since records were kept. Distinction is quake that would do damage versus tremor.

  13. michael r james


    You beat me to it. And not just the water they consume at normal times. These failures show that you really want to site your reactors next to the sea, not only so that there is a vast uninterruptable supply of water (corrosive or not) but also which can act as a last resort dumping place to massively dilute what you are trying to get rid of. (As shocking as that may be, the alternative of air release is unthinkable.)

    Talking about lots of liquid, Lunchalot has too much in the way of Liquid Lunches to think straight. There are only two power generation methods that do not rely on lots of water: solar-PV and the much reviled wind turbines. Geo-thermal can feasibly run on a closed loop but just like all systems (coal, oil, gas, solar-thermal, nuclear) which employ steam turbines abundant water is used to increase the efficiency–without which it feeds into the bottom line, more expensive power.

    Lunchalot is also out to lunch (I am sure we can come up with a lot more lame puns before this day is out). Those pipelines would cost a fortune and there would have to be two of them-in and out, because you cannot use evaporation of seawater for very long. So you would then have the extra expense of running them way out to sea to avoid coastal pollution (and political uproar regardless). Maybe you would need three pipelines because only the outer cooling circuits can use seawater–and in Australia using our precious freshwater in those quantities is not on, especially since it has to be a once-use system, no downstream uses acceptable. Then there is the massive power required to pump all that water. And of course what does all this reliance on pipelines, piped and pumped water do for reliability and safety? Maybe you would need even more pipelines as backup? Not to mention the massive cost of the grid.

    Also note that having these plants in the hot desolate spaces of Australia will further erode their efficiency. In several recent extra hot summers in France, they have had to close or run at much reduced rate, all of their inland nuclear plants because of water issues (drought and their discharges into rivers being way beyond mandated environmental limits). At those times France had to purchase power from their neighbours–and this was at premium rates during daytime peaks. Lucky that despite their 85% reliance on nuclear power they have obliging neighbours.

  14. twobob

    Nuclear power represents an unjustified faith in the power of human societies to control extremely complex technologies over the very long term. Any activity requiring a great deal of complex and cooperative control will do badly in difficult economic times.

    No human society has ever lasted for as long as nuclear waste must be looked after. It needs to be held in pools on site for perhaps a hundred years in order to cool down enough for permanent disposal, assuming a form of permanent disposal could be conceived of, approved and developed.

    Humanity needs to grow up a lot more before we should even contemplate using this stuff for fear of the legacy we would bequeath our children, but your not much worried about any of that are you out to lunch?

  15. Sexual Lobster

    Another option is mini nuclear reactors:

    Sure to be regarded with suspicion, but nonetheless something to consider.

  16. Sir Lunchalot

    & Two Bob and others

    Nuclear is the only option. You greenies want to stop coal powered generation, gas generation has a lifespan, solar is useless in peak demand, wind wont generate enough power and is unreliable, what else did you have in mind?

    Candles, rubbing sticks to make fire, hunters and gatherers.

  17. Geoff Russell

    Ben, you didn’t give a body count of the people who died from
    these catastrophic reactor problems. As far as is known the
    number is zero.

    How many might contract cancer from radiation leaks or releases? It’s too early to know, but that number might also be a big fat zero … like it was from Three Mile Island. In any event we can probably safely guess that cancers caused by cigarettes, alcohol and red meat will all be individually much more numerous. ie., more than a couple of orders of magnitude.

    How many died in the oil refinery fire? I’ve seen a figure of 100. Is anybody calling to shut down oil refineries?

    Based on recent experiences in Australia, having insulation put in your roof is far more risky than living next to a nuclear power station during one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded.

  18. michael r james

    [nuclear is the only option]

    Why are you and your ilk (like Bravenewclimate) so willing to grasp on next-gen nuclear power as the saviour of mankind’s insatiable appetite for power, yet dismissive of any other technology? Wind and solar-thermal are already cheap enough (unless you wish to pollute endlessly with dirty coal) and solar-PV is on an ever-decreasing cost trajectory, even if it is still way too expensive for widespread deployment now. Geothermal might be a game changer (if only the true Luddites, you and Ziggy Switkowski, and most politicians would properly fund these things even half what they subsidize fossil fuels not to mention the dreams of subsidizing nuclear).

    Energy storage is the other missing factor that would transform these non-dispatchable sources. Are you willing to state your ignorance and pessimism and Ludditism, that this too is somehow insoluble?

    I’d even grant you nuclear fusion as a potential future clean technology (it produces radioactive waste but a lot less than fission and in more manageable form); however every informed scientist says it is at least another 50 years away. These other technologies are much, much closer.

  19. Dermot Balson

    Ben, thank you for the clearest explanation I’ve read yet on what is going on over there.

  20. Sir Lunchalot

    @ Michael James

    You are thinking inside the box, not out of it.

    There are lots of safe places to store the nuclear material, so its safe. In a stable atmosphere, no earthquakes, no humans.

    Do you need anymore clues.

    Your solar, wind, thermal options, while admirable, dont provide the power we need and the World needs when you turn off the dirty power producing options.

  21. Lovard

    @ sir lunchalot, get out a map and tell me where “4000km” from Newcastle, close enough to pipe water and close enough to energy consumers, would be a suitable place for your “clean” reactors. Australia is big but not that BIG. If it was the transmission losses over the 4000km would be great, probably >20% of the energy produced depending on the transmission method.

    At that point, it is clearly more feasible to store energy from renewable sources, wind, solar thermal, geo thermal etc..

    Denmark is well on it’s way to it’s 100% renewable energy target by 2050 (set by the centre/right government!). It does so without nuclear power and without the vast energy from the sun and potential for Geo thermal that we have. What is it about Australia that somehow excludes us from such targets?

    @ Tom McLoughlin, you’ll be pleased to know Aldi’s European sourced chocolate is dairy free.

  22. Sir Lunchalot


    sorry its 3435 km I rounded up. The loss of 20% in transmission lines, if that is indeed correct and I dont doubt it, is bearable, if it gives us cleaner energy.

  23. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Sir Lunchalot, put your head back inside that place where you can see nuclear material safely stored, there’s a boy.

  24. Lovard

    @ lunchalot
    I’d still like to know where it is you plan to put it. Mainland Australia is under 4000km wide so even 3435km from Newcastle puts it somewhere…????? near the West coast? Unless you think New Zealand will harbour an Australian Nuclear Power Station?

  25. Ben Sandilands

    My first encounter with the nuclear industry was either in late 1978 or 1979 when the SMH had me interview a ‘crazy nuclear scientist’ at the ANU, Professor Ted Ringwood, who had led a team that invented SYNROC.

    This process was predicated on rendering nuclear power plant waste into an impervious synthetic rock and putting it back down the mineshaft from which it came once the energy had been extracted.

    The ferocious condemnation from the nuclear ‘establishment’ that followed was totally unexpected, just as the concept was somewhat elegant yet ahead of its time. Ringwood had offended the orthodoxy of vitrification of high grade nuclear waste (which is a failure), and was left somewhat isolated and hurt by becoming public charlatan No 1 in the US, UK and French nuclear industries, although following his death from tumors which he said might have been induced by radioactivity, but also perhaps because ‘I like red wine, smoking and sun’, his concept has been rehabilitated and is under serious development and consideration abroad.

    IN part that episode has made me more inclined to examine the public administration of science in general, and the various policy settings that are applied to it, than get my head kicked in over the science itself.

    The worst enemy of nuclear power is arrogance, greed, flawed risk analysis and political expediency, whether with good intentions or base intentions.

    That leaves unanswered the question as to whether we can ever make it ‘work.’ I suspect not in its current form, but some time, some where, the necessary combination of bright invention and a fertile environment may prevail.

  26. Jim Reiher

    You have gotta laugh at the pro-nuclear lobby. They know how to spin a story. As the tragic disaster in Japan continues to unfold, and we get more accurate info, even then the pro-nuclear lobby will say “it would be safe for US to have it!”

    The desert hey… yes… that is so 1950’s!…. forget the indigenous… lets just use the desert for all our dirty projects!

    And the myth that solar and wind cant creat a base load needs to be put to rest once and for all. Melbourne uni scientists have put out a 10 year plan that would do just that.

    [If people had to use their real names, instead of hiding behind pen-names…. I wonder if people would still say the nonesense they write in blogs like this?]

  27. Sir Lunchalot

    @ Lovard

    NW Australia, well away from population centres.

  28. baal

    There are ten reactors in Fukushima – in two complexes. The oldest are in Fukushima Dai-ichi (six) the other four in Fukushima Daini (south of Dai-ichi). Quite amazingly it has taken our media four days to wake up to the fact that there were more than three. First reports said a nuclear power plant and many later reports (still) confused a plant with a reactor and a complex. There are several others on that coast south at Tokai (two) and two more much further north at at Onagawa and then just south of Tokyo at Hamaoka there are another four. Most of the rest are on the Japan Sea (west) coast often in cvlusters of six or more. 55 in all. Nearly all of them very near the shoreline

  29. Rena Zurawel

    I think some people get into a hysterical mode. The Japanese reactor in question was bulit by General Electric some 40 years ago and was just about to be shut down. Pity, Japs did not manage.
    I am not particularly sure about the Japanese government lying to the people. No one predicted the extent of damage. And it will take some time to get the full picture.
    Nuclear power stations are very useful and have been doing very well in the US, France or Germany.
    With the disaster like this one, any traditional power stations would be also dangerous.
    There is not much sense to compare the tsunami do the Ukrainian disaster. The Chernobyl tragedy was the result of total neglect and poor management due to change of the political status of the country. Ukraine became independent and had to cope with the industry. The Soviet Russia withdrew their experts and the Ukrainians had problems with running the reactor. Some people suggested it was a sabotage, but I am not sure.

    And it is obviously different to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which was not a peaceful deed and purpose.
    But I strongly believe that International Atomic Agency should rather keep themselves busy with checking safety and security of the existing nuclear power stations all around the world than chasing up mythical storage of nuclear weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or Iran.

    And as for Australia, there is no chance to ever dream of a nuclear power station for the next 20 years, at least.
    We have no energy, no technical cadre, no know-how, we haven’t even started preparing professionals for the task.
    And it takes about 20 years to do so. We have not enough water for the process.
    Notwithstanding is the fact that the personnel at any nuclear station have to be fully prepared to work without any delays, strikes, stops, and have to be fully trained for any unexpected events. Japanese are doing extremely well under the circumstances.
    In that respect, for an Australian ‘expert’ to criticize Japanese nuclear professionals is a bit far fetched.

  30. Ian Rogers

    The Chernobyl accident had nothing to do with Ukrainian independence – it happened five years before the USSR split up.

  31. baal

    Might be more pertinent to say that the cover ups and cop outs abt Chernobyl of the authorities were a major factor in the USSR’s demise.

  32. Gederts Skerstens

    No-one died in a Nuclear explosion. No-one is going to die from radiation. No-one died from any horror-movie melt-down.
    If ever there was an advertisment for clean, safe, plentiful Energy this is it.
    The most powerfull earthquake in recorded history couldn’t knock out this energy source to damage anyone.
    A headline saying “Nuclear Disaster” isn’t the same as a Nuclear Disaster. Let’s get an increasing distance between the journalists who put that on a front page and the guys that struggle to pay for electricity.

  33. John Bennetts

    Hi, Rena.

    What’s up? Medication wearing off again? We have learned to expect you to forget to check your “facts” before pushing the “Post Comment” button.

    Poor Ukrania, they never had a hope of stuffing up their reactors at Chernobyl. As someone else pointed out, they were firmly in the grip of the Ruskies for five more years after Chernobyl’s events.

    Never let the facts get in the way of a good extremist scaremonger opinion, eh?

    Now, take this nice cup mug of hot cocoa and off to bed, then. That’s a good girl.

  34. no_party_preferred

    Wouldn’t be like the media (independent or otherwise) to sensationalise a story to get readers and viewers. It just goes to show what scale of earthquake it takes to not even cause a Chernobyl style incident. Unfortunately the sensationalists have the loudest voices, so with this seems a low carbon nuclear stop gap in Australia has just died.

  35. AR

    Ben – thanks for such a detailed technical explanation with so few adjectives. In one short article you told me more than all newspaper & radio reports since the event began.
    Like DERMOT said, well done!

  36. MLF

    Reasons not to go nuclear, number 1:

    “…This was a money saving risk analysis bet by Japan’s nuclear regulators and the owners that a combination of such an extremely violent earthquake and following tsunami would not occur in its lifetime….”

    Where money comes first, humanity comes last.

  37. MLF

    Pro-nuclear party don’t forget that renewable energy alternatives must go hand in hand with reduced energy demands. It’s not increased population that has caused increased energy consumption – it’s inefficient energy use and “energy greed”.

  38. zut alors

    As for the limp argument that renewable energy will never cope with energy demands why not use a little lateral thinking here and reduce the amount used/required by consumers. We all witness flagrant waste of energy every day and night.

  39. Flower

    Geoscience Australia advises that “no part of the Earth’s surface is free from earthquakes, but some regions experience them more frequently. Although Australia is not on the edge of a plate, the continent experiences earthquakes because the Indo-Australian plate is being pushed north and is colliding with the Eurasian, Philippine and Pacific plates. This causes the build up of stress in the interior of the Indo-Australian plate which is released during earthquakes.

    “There are on average 200 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or more in Australia each year. Earthquakes with magnitude 5.5, such as that in Newcastle in 1989, occur on average every two years. About every five years there is a potentially disastrous earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or more.

    “Adelaide has the highest earthquake hazard of any Australian capital. It has experienced more medium-sized earthquakes in the past 50 years than any capital because South Australia is being slowly squeezed sideways by about 0.1 mm/yr.”

    I again reiterate the concerns of geophysicist and seismologist. Edward Cranswick who investigated earthquakes for the US Geological Survey for 22 years. He claims that the connection between mining and seismicity (earthquakes) is obscured in Australia, particularly the seismic hazard of the Olympic Dam mine and the Mashers Fault which passes through the middle of the ore body with a fault length which implies an earthquake of about maximum 7.

    Japan’s nuclear industry is rife with controversy. In 2002 the president of the country’s largest power utility was forced to resign after he and other senior officials were suspected of falsifying plant safety records. The Kushiwazaki reactor in northwestern Japan suffered a 6.8-scale earthquake on 16 July 2007 which set off a fire that blazed for two hours and allowed radioactive water to leak from the plant. No action was taken nor in the wake of any of several incidents occurring despite Japanese seismologist Ishibashi Katsuhiko’s warning that the nation’s reactors had “fatal flaws” in their design.

    A discerning public are well aware of about 430 aged nuclear reactors around the world where many have been granted extended licences. Several, merrily chugging away, despite an ignominious history, have a belching tailpipe and their doors have fallen off. A discerning public is also aware of a planet seemingly in chaos.

    The media reported on tens of thousands of people who took part in an anti-nuclear demonstration in southern Germany on Saturday. The demonstration had been planned for some time, but after the news of Japan’s nuclear emergency, organisers were overwhelmed by crowds of around 50,000 people who turned up:

    “The demonstrators, who stretched in a 45km chain from Neckarwestheim power plant to the city of Stuttgart, were demanding that the German government move away from nuclear power.”

    Perhaps they have read the grim revelations on Chernobyl, published last year, the details originally written in Slavic and suppressed by the West and the IAEA who gagged the WHO from speaking on nuclear incidents, 50 years ago:


    Meanwhile the German government is compensating hunters for an alarming increase in the number of radioactive wild boars that cannot be sold for human consumption – an ongoing legacy of Chernobyl – 25 years hence.

  40. geomac

    No-one died in a Nuclear explosion. No-one is going to die from radiation. No-one died from any horror-movie melt-down.
    Does this comment refer to the article or to the nuclear industry as a whole ? If its about the article then that story has yet to unfold. There are about 90 people that have been hospitalised so far in relation to the nuclear plant. I don,t know there condition is or what the medical complaints are but even a doctor wouldn,t say everything is ok , calm down. A ludicrous comment if about the article and an absurd one if about the industry.

  41. baal

    It seems to me that the reason why pro-nukers are so keen to downplay danger elements and say the meltdowns prove their fail safeguards are really successful is because they are the ones really terrified of nuclear power. It’s called whistling in the dark.

  42. Flower

    @ Zut Alors: “why not use a little lateral thinking here and reduce the amount used/required by consumers. We all witness flagrant waste of energy every day and night.”

    Exactly. How very odd is the fact that Australia’s regulators have imposed water restrictions on its citizens for decades but none on energy use?

  43. Mark Duffett

    @MRJ, “Why are you and your ilk (like Bravenewclimate) so willing to grasp on next-gen nuclear power as the saviour of mankind’s insatiable appetite for power, yet dismissive of any other technology?”

    If you were truly familiar with BNC, you’d know the answer to that. And technosolar actually does require a fair bit of water to stay optimally dust-free in desert environments, by the way.

    Energy storage is the other missing factor that would transform these non-dispatchable sources. Are you willing to state your ignorance and pessimism and Ludditism, that this too is somehow insoluble?

    Are you willing to bet civilization that it isn’t?

    Oooh, you know how to provoke a man. “Ignorance and pessimism and Ludditism” are of course the defining characteristics of anti-nukes.

    Otherwise, what Geoff Russell said.

  44. Flower

    @Geoff Russell: “Based on recent experiences in Australia, having insulation put in your roof is far more risky than living next to a nuclear power station during one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded.”

    Give it a rest Geoff Russell. The risk was a result of crooks in the insulation industry. There are heaps of rotting carcasses of morality in the nuclear industry too – the myriad of details lodged in my archives and available on request.

    The following information, I can assure you, will not be found on Brave New Climate. Funny that. “And why not?” asks the Australian public. “Look at our collective face,” says the Australian public. “Do you see silly?”:

    “The state Department of Environmental Conservation denied Indian Point’s request for a water quality certificate because it said the plant was killing a billion aquatic organisms each year and violating state laws that call for minimizing impacts on the Hudson River.”:


  45. Climate Change

    It was interesting hearing Julia Gillard on Q&A last night. She said that nuclear was not ALP policy, which we know, but its on agenda at ALP conference.

    Whats more interesting is that she floated that Australia could harness all the power it needs and will need from renewables. Tide, Wind, Solar, Thermal. I may have missed one.

    Is this true?

  46. jeebus

    I’m seeing a lot of personal attacks from both sides in here, along with selective use of facts drawn from who knows where. I’m personally skeptical about whether nuclear power is right for Australia, but it’s mainly because I have more questions than answers.

    Perhaps Ben could gather some questions from commenters then find some qualified people to answer them?

    Here’s my list –

    How much will it cost to set up the industry here? Licensing the technology from foreign companies, procuring the equipment, setting up supply lines, and training/hiring the scientists & technicians to run it all?

    What are the hidden costs to taxpayers in terms of subsidies and industry support? Compare how much other nuclear countries pay in grants, tax breaks, debt guarantees, military contracts, supporting infrastructure, decommissioning and waste storage.

    How long will it take to recoup the investment, and would the sums still work if we factor in likely continued price drops and increases in efficiency from renewables each year?

    What will be the competitive implications in the electricity market of centralizing generation into fewer, larger sources, and would the government have a vested interest in helping a nascent nuclear industry over its competitors?

    What are the safety risks and costs involved in war scenarios, terrorism, natural disasters, and rising ocean levels?

  47. LizzieA01

    @climatechange you did miss one: geothermal.

    Like nuclear it is baseload, and cheap (free) to run once it is going. All the cost is in the setup.

    Unlike nuclear it has minimal clean-up costs and a much lower risk of massive human and environmental damage.

    We should be SERIOUSLY looking at the various hot rock technologies that are currently being investigated along the East Coast… but to do any of this will take a carbon price, and possible assistance with the extremely high cost of drilling.


  48. Climate Change

    Hi @ Lizzie,

    Yes mentioned thermal.

    But will these power sources, power Australia now and in the future if you turn coal generation off?

  49. LizzieA01


    I work in the electricity industry, and I can tell you that the cost of establishing a nuclear industry here in Australia will be prohibitive.

    Recent studies done on Gen 4 Nuke Power (currently under construction in Canada and France) suggest that the LRMC (long run marginal cost) of a nuclear power plant in a country with the infrastructure already established is similar to that of large scale solar (with batteries) and certainly more expensive than wind. The LRMC is a standard industry measure used to calculate the cost of operations over the life of a power station, including the amortisation of capital cost and capacity factor (the % of time the plant will run in a year – so baseload is 95-100%, wind in Australia 35 – 40%, solar 45-60% etc). The lives of power stations are technology specific and will vary, but the standard for nuclear is 40 years.

    The recouping of investment is essentially done over the life of the plant: in this case 40 years, hence the need for regulatory certainty. Current wholesale power prices in Australia are in the region of $40/MWh/pa (flat all hours average), hence a nuke would need a carbon price north of $100/tonne to get the power price high enough to justify a build. Nuke is not eligible for RECs at the moment so is reliant on a pass-through % into the power price. This means that it would be best built in Victoria where the average tonne of Co2-e per MWh is higher than any other state (very close to 1 tonne / MWh here compared to 0.8 in NSW). This would move over time and reduce as very green generation comes on ands changes that balance, so a nuke would need a guarantee or “top-up” from government in order to be viable over 40 years.

    Re your question on centralising generation: generation in Australia is already fairly centralised on a state by state basis, usually clumped around coal resources. The issue of centralisation is probably worth another post in its own right, but suffice to say that the transmission infrastructure required for any nuke is HUGE. As 50% of current household bills is for transmission and distribution, the add-on cost of transmission for nuke would be prohibitive.

  50. freecountry

    Did anybody actually read the URL posted at comment#1 by @NoPartyPreferred?
    Those who lack the patience to listen before they speak, are in turn not worth hearing. Challenge the facts presented there if you please, but you can hardly challenge them if you haven’t even read them.

    The ill-informed hysteria in the media about this–people being led to believe they are inches away from a Hiroshima explosion or something–goes a long way to explaining the mixed messages coming out of Tokyo. Give people a little bit of information, and they may fly into a panic before you can even finish the sentence. If every able bodied person were to suddenly flee the zones around the power stations, where would that leave the injured and trapped tsunami victims and essential services in those areas?

  51. negativegearmiddleclasswelfarenow.com

    Those who say that inland Australia is geologically stable should should have their heads read. Please tell me how anyone can say that after the Marryat Creek Earthquake of March 30 1986.

  52. justinnt

    so, the out of control nuclear plants haven’t immediately killed 10,000 people.
    gee that’s a high bar to set…

    Freec: yeah I read NPP’s reference yesterday.
    of course, BNC is an extremely biased source, as are the references offered by the author of the article that Barry’s promoting.
    That author is not an expert, and there are numerous errors; most significantly, the reactors are not ‘in control’ – they’re out of control, and that’s why we’re all watching so closely.
    he doesn’t seem to know the reactor designs: the first problem was with a reactor built before the standard for a 3rd containment was introduced
    he doesn’t even know what the reactors are using as fuel: The reactor 3 at the first Fukushima plant is not just using Uranium – It uses MOX fuel.
    and he understates the radiological hazards so far : Cs-137 has a half life of 30 years : It certainly does not disappear quickly. Xenon-135 is a fission product, not produced by neutron activation, and neutron activation of coolant is nothing to sneer at (the half-life of tritium is 12.3 years).
    psst: remember the closer the halflife to yours, the worse the hazard.

    We export uranium from olympic dam and ranger to TEPCO : This is the nuclear accident we’ve been told will never happen again, and Australia is culpable.

  53. Bill Parker

    As far as I know, the Australian geo “safe” area is on the eastern side of WA, north of the border with SA and the NT. That area was chosen by BNF ( masquerading as Pangea) to build a high level nuclear waste dump, not power stations. Even so, water might be an issue because of the potentially corrosive nature of groundwater in that area.

    And Mark D: I do agree that CSP does require water for mirror cleaning etc. You cannot just plonk large solar plants anywhere.

  54. freecountry


    The difference between MOX and UO fuel is discussed further down in the BNC thread, where comments from a variety of opinions argue over details.

    As I read it, the very short-half-life radionuclides Barry Brook referred to were Nitrogen-16 and noble gas isotopes like Xenon-135, produced outside the fuel rods. Some readers seem to think he was extending this description to the longer-lived Cesium and Iodine isotopes produced in the fuel rods, but he clearly put these in a different category of hazard. Here’s what he actually said:
    [So the first “type” of radioactive material is the uranium in the fuel rods, plus the intermediate radioactive elements that the uranium splits into, also inside the fuel rod (Cesium and Iodine).
    There is a second type of radioactive material created, outside the fuel rods. The big main difference up front: Those radioactive materials have a very short half-life, that means that they decay very fast and split into non-radioactive materials. By fast I mean seconds. So if these radioactive materials are released into the environment, yes, radioactivity was released, but no, it is not dangerous, at all. Why? By the time you spelled “R-A-D-I-O-N-U-C-L-I-D-E”, they will be harmless, because they will have split up into non radioactive elements. Those radioactive elements are N-16, the radioactive isotope (or version) of nitrogen (air). The others are noble gases such as Xenon.]
    A perfect illustration of my point. People hear what they want to hear, and then go running around enjoying their 15 minutes of fame by shrieking, “Lies, it’s all lies, run for your life!”

  55. Mark Duffett

    @Jeebus, a reasonable question, and @LizzieA01, a reasonable albeit arguable attempt to answer it (The capacity factors quoted for wind and especially solar appear wildly optimistic, and a one-for-one replacement with nuclear on existing coal-fired generation sites should mean minimal extra transmission costs). And as alluded to in Crikey’s editorial yesterday, Bernard Keane has said similar (though even more contestable) things about nuclear costs in the past.

    But what makes me grind my teeth is that people mounting the ‘cost’ and/or ‘time’ argument against nuclear never put up the comparison with equivalent generation capacity alternatives. If the debate is to advance, the same questions need to be asked of renewables.

    Taking the Beyond Zero Emission plan (@Jim Reiher) for instance; you won’t get any change out of a trillion dollars.

  56. Meski

    A lot of Australia’s desert is within easy reach of the ocean, so there’s plenty of water, a lot of Australia’s coastline is completely unoccupied, so no NIMBY. A lot of Australia’s coastline is in zones never likely to experience an earthquake anywhere near the severity of the one that just hit Japan.

  57. mook schanker

    I find the “4000km” argument fascinating. Is this the remoteness distance that any “spillage” is acceptable? Therefore, the assumption is that spills will possibly happen and that 4000km is the “safe distance”, otherwise 4km would be quite acceptable….And, do we remove habitation within a 4000km radius to maintain this safety cordon….Seems a spurious argument to me….

  58. ronin8317

    All the talk about radiation isotopes misses the big picture. No matter how you spin it, the engineers at the Fukushima plant have lost operation control over the nuclear reactors. That resulted in two explosions and the threat of a nuclear meltdown. All the ‘fail-safe’ backup failed.

    If you believe that the Japanese Nuclear Agency is giving out the entire story, I have this bridge I want to sell you…

  59. freecountry

    Ronin8317, your clever little rhetorical device compares the people in charge of power supply in the most technologically sophisticated country on earth, to an imaginary con man selling tourists a landmark without (one would presume) being able to answer a single technical question about said landmark. It’s a specious comparison, especially coming from someone who admits to being bored by technical details–in other words, coming from someone who has more in common with the con man selling the bridge than the experts advising on nuclear risks.

  60. Meski

    @Ronin: I’m not really surprised that it failed. You can’t engineer for everything, even if you say you are. A lvl 9 earthquake and tsunami? Yeah, right.

    I’m pro-nuclear. THat doesn’t mean I don’t keep potassium iodine tablets around.

  61. twobob

    Boy I hope that they do get the whole thing under control and can effect a cool shutdown.
    I find it amazing that there are any advocates of nuclear energy in Aus.
    Even if we had the water and the location and we never had one single natural disaster that affected it it would still be an unacceptable idea.
    No human society has ever lasted for as long as nuclear waste must be looked after.
    No human society has ever lasted for as long as nuclear waste must be looked after.
    No human society has ever lasted for as long as nuclear waste must be looked after.
    No human society has ever lasted for as long as nuclear waste must be looked after.
    No advocate has touch that one with a stick. Ignore it and the nuclear waste will not just go away.
    Spain has developed solar power that provides for base load requirements and that will not provide a legacy that our grandchildren’s grandchildren must look after.
    The solution is solar and for emergency or other special requirements use a coal fired back up.
    Nuclear is madness, sheer bloodyminded, myopic, uncaring, foolish, stupidity, to put it mildly.

  62. Ben Sandilands

    On developments this hour, I doubt there are enough potassium iodine tablets in the country. Matters seem to gone totally out of control. Serious radiation reported from Ibaraki, half way to Tokyo too.

  63. LizzieA01

    @Mark Duffett. Thanks, it is of course difficult to put the financial & economic arguments for and against various types of technology into a blog comment, so for the sake of brevity assumptions cannot be expounded.

    Re the capacity factor assumptions I outlined for wind and solar it is all about location, location, location…. For example, a “good” windfarm in coastal SA or Vic will get 40% annual capacity factor (in fact I understand from AEMO data that a couple of existing windfarms in SA are achieving a consistent 45%, as is one in WA). There are proposed windfarms in NSW and QLD that would be lucky to achieve 35%.

    I agree that the 1:1 replacement of coal for nuclear would be better from a transmission point of view as nuke needs 500kV transmission lines. That means that the existing locations would need to be La Trobe valley (Loy Yang specifically) and the Hunter Valley. The issue with these locations would ultimately be the distance from fuel source, and the associated shipping requirements for uranium. This would require a raft of policy and regulatory changes which would need to be driven by a huge amount of political goodwill at both a state and federal level… if we can’t even get our act together on a carbon price this seems very unlikely.

    As I mentioned in a previous post, the closest green equivalent to nuke is geothermal. Money should be spent on understanding the barriers to entry for this technology into the Australian electricity market so that we are able to do a direct comparison to nuclear. Having done some consulting work for a potential geothermal generator I understand many of the costs and can say that sans transmission the costs of geothermal are projected to be on par with a CCGT, however that assumes that the right “seams” are struck with only 3 goes at drilling – as that is the most expensive and risky part of the “build”.

    As for the cost to the industry, we are getting close to the point of needing to renew a huge amount of electricity industry infrastructure anyway… Victoria in particular has amongst the oldest energy infrastructure in the country, and much of it can’t keep going for more than a decade. So we are faced with a need to replace just to maintain existing capacity, let alone meeting growth. I think once that is taken into account the trillion dollars from beyondzero plans (which I do not necessarily believe are economically feasible anyway) should reduce significantly.

  64. freecountry

    Twobob, that may not be true for much longer. See http://www.ge-energy.com/prod_serv/products/nuclear_energy/en/downloads/FINAL_GEA17816_PRISM%20Facts_Ad_%282%29.pdf

    If we don’t start making revenue out of storing nuclear waste soon, we’ll miss the opportunity, as the stuff goes from being a liability to being the next big commodity.

    To illustrate the hysteria around all things to do with “radiation”, I even remember public health scares against microwave ovens when they first came out, because they “irradiated” your food. The same thing today limits take-up of induction cooking hotplates for homes without gas–a method of electric cooking that is more energy efficient, more useable, and safer than gas, but people won’t go near it because it uses “electromagnetic waves”. At times like this you learn more about people than you do about technology.

  65. ronin8317

    In the event of an accident, the authorities almost always lies. It happened with the BP Deep Horizon, the Qantas A380 engine explosion, and now the Fuskushima nuclear plant. The facts of the event will only come out months later after some pain staking investigation work. Right now, I doubt even the engineers working at the site knows what is going on.

    Whether nuclear power is a viable power alternative is another matter. Personally I believe that the Thorium reactors holds a lot of promise : there are more Thorium than Uranium in the world, it can’t produce weapon-graded plutonium, the waste remains radioactive for 500 years instead of 10,000, and it has an ‘off’ switch which makes nuclear meltdown VERY unlikely. Indian is building a Thorium based nuclear plant right now, however the technology still needs a bit more developing to match Uranium.

  66. Captain Planet

    The whole world’s energy needs at the present time are in the order of 15- 20 TeraWatts.

    For this to be met entirely by nuclear power, allowing for projected expansion of energy needs, the world would have to build a full sized nuclear power station every two days, for the next forty years, non stop. With a lifespan of 40 years per plant, in 2050 we could then breathe a huge sigh of relief, and start replacing all the aging plants…… at the rate of one every day.

    in 2008, not one single new nuclear power plant was commissioned.
    in 2009, there were two.

    That’s a long way short of one every two days.

    Nuclear power plants cost around $6 million per MegaWatt of generation capacity, making it one of the most expensive forms of power generating plant you could build.

    On Levelised Cost of Energy terms, Nuclear power comes in at around 12 cents per kWh, almost exactly the same cost as hydroelectric, biomass and geothermal power, and fractionally less than wind. Solar thermal still has a way to go but all projections are that within 5 years it will be cheaper than nuclear.

    Getting back to that 15 – 20 Terawatts of energy demand …. The Sun pours 120,0000 TeraWatts of energy on the earth 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and is likely to continue to do so for the next 10 billion years. Yep, that’s 10,000 times the entire world’s energy needs.

    Economically recoverable Uranium, on the other hand, is likely to run out entirely within 30 years, and certainly within the next 200 years even by the most wildly optimisitic estimates, at CURRENT rates of usage. If we could somehow miraculously speed up the 20 year lead time to build a new nuclear power station, snap our collective fingers and hey presto! the whole world is nuclear…… We would run out of uranium in less than 3 years.

    Some solution that turned ou tot be.

  67. freecountry

    Captain Planet, some of the myths you repeat have been busted so many times I won’t even bother. (But you’ve got to love the way Greens make a close study of anti-AGW mythmaking as a way of brushing up on their own anti-nuclear mythmaking.) However, your main argument is an all-or-nothing straw man anyway. Only a fool would propose that the entire world use one and only one way of generating electricity.

  68. twobob

    Actually only a fool would be advocating the storage of nuclear waste in their own country, or are you a yank fc?

    I notice that you fc are just the same as all others and refuse to address the fact that ;

    No human society has ever lasted for as long as nuclear waste must be looked after.

    Did you miss that point in your blind advocacy, myopic, uncaring, greedy, foolish, exuberance for accepting ultra toxic pollution?

  69. freecountry

    Twobob, I posted a link which directly challenges your refrain. Did you read it?

  70. twobob

    Fc, your link is excessively light on detail, short lived it says and then goes on to explain nothing at all. ie is 10 00 years short or only 500, note though, that under financially oppressive conditions as suffered in the USSR when Chernobyl went off, 5 years was not achievable!
    I am glad that works for you but it simply doesn’t cut the carrot for me.
    And why would you want it?
    Don’t you like solar, geothermal, wind ect?
    A lot safer and most likely less expensive too.

  71. Sir Lunchalot

    @ TwoBob,

    Your rants and attacks do you no service.

    I posed a though yesterday and no one disagreed. Store nuclear waste on the moon. No earthquakes, no wind (I believe) and no chance of habitation anytime soon

  72. twobob

    no one disagreed?

    No one gave it credence

    And what happens when the inevitable launch fails and spreads toxic pollutant across the globe?

    FCS what is wrong with renewables?

    I suspect it has more to do with your investment portfolio than it has with egalitarianism just as your solar cells have much more to do with suckling off the public purse than a desire to save our atmosphere.

  73. freecountry

    Twobob, I have nothing against renewables. We should have a mix of different energy sources for resilience, all competing on their merits to fill various requirements at the lowest total lifecycle cost. Nothing should be off the table. (OK, I don’t mind if you take shipping waste to the moon off the table; I meant anything rational should remain on the table.) I posted another link about nuclear waste waste recycling technology, but it’s still in moderation: (( usnuclearenergy.org/PDF_Library/_GE_Hitachi%20_advanced_Recycling_Center_GNEP.pdf ))

  74. Meski

    @CaptainPlanet: same tired old antinuclear myths. We’ll run out soon (not if we use FBR or thorium), the waste lasts for millions of years (500 or so if you use thorium or FBR), it costs too much… OTOH, you propose alternatives with no demonstration of one that has been run at the scaled up levels of nuclear.

    @SirLunchalot: The Moon? (Flashback to Space 1999) Not with the current reliability of the shuttles.

  75. freecountry

    The moon idea is hilarious. It takes 2000 tonnes of rocket fuel just to get the shuttle into low orbit.

  76. baal

    Those clowns deriding nuclear critics for spreading ‘panic’ and/or ‘hysteria’ might like to fly to Tokyo and see what’s coming down there

  77. freecountry

    Good point, Baal. A death toll of 2,400 so far from the tsunami and earthquake, and estimates of 10,000 dead in just one province. A serious hazard from damage to nuclear stations and hydrogen explosions spreading radioactive toxins … But still, not one dead from nuclear accidents so far; yet all anyone wants to talk about is anticipating what they imagine will be a nuclear chain-reaction explosion–which is not on the cards and has not been on the cards at any stage.

  78. baal

    @Freecountry – I think there is a tendency to assume that people are afraid of a nuclear explosion and pooh-pooh their concerns as over-reactions. I think people are more afraid of even ‘harmless’ clouds of ‘low level’ radioactive material escaping because of a ‘normal’ blast that diffuses it across the country. You may think people have irrational fears but that is a quite rational response to the secrecy that has shrouded Japan’s nuclear industry’s accident record for decades decades. People are justifiably fearful and suspicious they are not being told the truth and will not be reassured by fingerwagging bloggers telling them not to be hysterical.

  79. Lovard

    Do ALL people on forums seriously believe that isf no-one disagrees with a comment everyone disagrees?

    Sir Lunchalot, I didn’t disagree because it is ridiculous, beyond ridiculous, just as your 4000km is ridiculous.
    In fact the only reason I argued about the 4000km was because I know 4000km from Newcastle puts it off the mainland. Simply, I wanted to show the true foolishness of your comment in-case others hadn’t picked up on it.

    Freecountry, I don’t think anyone is any longer debating whether the situation is life-threatening, just as inhaled asbestos fibres won’t kill you immediately, they will effect your quality of life and lifespan. Radiation will effect your lifespan, likelihood of genetic mutation and quality of life, ask a radiologist why they stand behind a shield.

    Not everything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

    I hope for the sake of the people of Japan they get this under control, they don’t deserve to be subject to such hardship. If anywhere in the world such a reactor would be well maintained, it would be in Japan. Having worked with Japanese engineers, I have some understanding of their uncompromising standards and work ethic. If something like this can occur in Japan it can happen anywhere.

    I hope for the sake of the people of Australia we look towards what we can do, what we can innovate so that we do not need to resort to nuclear power. I suspect however the lack of investment in energy research, will cost us dearly, when we have the potential to solve a lot of the difficulties of renewable energy reliability and storage.

    If a country as small as Denmark (with short winter days) believes is can operate on 100% renewables (no nuclear), why can’t we? Denmark invests in this belief and already gets a good return on the technology developed, and continues to develop.
    Is 100% realistic, I guess for them it is, they can use northern Europe effectively as energy storage, export excess power to Norway, Sweden and Germany and import power when it needs to.

    History will judge us, and as relatively wealthy, prosperous Australians with a relatively mild climate, we will not have any excuses.
    Even the UK produces 1/2 the carbon emissions (and green house gasses generally) per capita we do. What is so different about our energy use and generation?

    Even if you believe (in whatever misguided way) AGW doesn’t happen how do we continue to fuel our energy use with fossils? It’s a finite resource.

    A controlled hand over to renewable power generation and efficient use of the remaining resources is the only practical way forward IMO.

  80. freeze

    Cannot for the life of me understand all you nuclear self back slappers. Get the message, your the only ones who want nuclear power. This has to be the nail in the coffin. Bashing uranium molecules together is getting VERY expensive. No progress on elimination of waste, Government running as financial guarantors, no banking investment and a NIMBY situation means its dead man walking. SPEND YOUR ENERGY ELSEWARE.
    As for comparing coal to nuclear, whats wrong with eliminating BOTH. Your going to spend the money anyway so why not on renewables, think wave power and geo-thermal to name two VERYVERY powerfull sources. . Get you head out of your…

  81. Flower

    @ Mark: “But what makes me grind my teeth is that people mounting the ‘cost’ and/or ‘time’ argument against nuclear never put up the comparison with equivalent generation capacity alternatives.”

    Wind power: As at October 2009, the >$1 billion Roscoe Wind Farm in Roscoe, Texas, was the world’s largest wind farm, with 627 wind turbines and a total installed capacity of 781.5 MW, which surpassed the nearby 735.5 MW Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center.

    Nuclear reactor: The Wall Street Journal reported that Areva’s “top of the wazza” Gen III 1650 megawatt Olkiluoto nuclear reactor under construction in Finland has blown out to $7.2 billion originally slated to cost around $4 billion and it is four years behind schedule. You will note that I have omitted the “+” symbol from “Gen III+” since how could one ethically award a “+” to this shamozzle?

    Areva and Siemens didn’t have detailed design documents ready when construction on Olkiluoto started, and they underestimated the time it would take to complete them, setting the scene for big delays.

    Then, regulators stopped work at the site for several months after it emerged that the concrete mix used to build the base of the plant was too watery.

    Finland’s nuclear safety regulator, STUK, criticized Areva’s concrete supplier, saying it and other subcontractors had “no prior experience in nuclear power plant construction.” It also said Areva appeared to have chosen companies on the basis of price rather than expertise.

    Finland’s inspectors also uncovered welding problems: The gaps between the panels of the steel liner encasing the reactor were larger than specified in the design documents, they noted. The discrepancy, STUK (Finland’s regulators) said, was “absolutely unacceptable.”

    In 2008, STUK demanded changes to Olkiluoto’s automation systems, and the following year, it halted work on the pipes of the reactor’s critical cooling system after it discovered welders had violated procedures. Areva itself had to scrap piping made for Olkiluoto at its fabrication plant in France after it discovered the components didn’t comply with the Finns’ stricter safety requirements.

    Areva and its Finnish customer, Teollisuuden Voima Oyj, have had a spectacular falling out over the project. The two are countersuing each other for compensation over the delays, with TVO accusing Areva of gross negligence.

    @ Freecountry: “But still, not one dead from nuclear accidents so far…”

    FC – That sounds like the tiresome spin of the nuclear industry. The first lesson radiation students learn is that radioactive emissions kill by stealth and rarely catastrophically i.e Chernobyl. And there is plenty of literature published by radiation experts on the hazards of low-level radiation exposure. The US EPA have advised of the potential for increased cancers for those living in close proximity to nuclear reactors while the nuclear lobbyists categorically deny it. Which one is lying?

    The pro-nuclear posters on this thread are quick to ridicule the anti-nuclear proponents, however, when the grim facts of the nuclear industry are raised , the nuclear proponents duck for cover – the side-step shuffle . If nuclear proponents continue to obscure the ecocidal carnage (officially documented) committed by the nuclear industry, why would anyone find their argument credible?

    BTW, I am behind with the news today but is there some logical/scientific reason why Barry Brook omitted Strontium 90 from Japan’s toxic soup, emitting from the MOX fuelled reactor?

  82. freecountry

    I certainly don’t mean to trivialize it. Nuclear meltdown and gas explosions carrying nuclear waste are very scary, can kill people, and all credit to the workers still there battling to bring it under control.

    But let’s get it in perspective please. A worst-case scenario explosion would not be a “nuclear explosion” (i.e. a catastrophic nuclear decay chain reaction, which is what a nuclear bomb creates). It would not come anywhere near the scale of catastrophe that the tsunami has already wreaked, killing thousands of people in the space of a few minutes. An explosion or any other cause of leakage would probably would probably cause less total harm than a year’s worth of cigarette smoking in Japan.

    Some of the people I’ve heard complaining loudest about nuclear power have no compunction about taking toxic recreational drugs into their bodies, or spraying insect-killer substances around their kitchens where they prepare food for children. Smoking is a personal choice but the latter p**ses me off no end. Yet the moment anyone says “radiation” they start picturing a Hiroshima explosion. I’m just asking for a bit of perspective. The earthquake was several times the power these reactors were designed to withstand (a 9 Richter earthquake is 10 times the power of an 8 Richter earthquake) and they withstood it, but then came the tsunami. The next generation of nuclear stations will be even safer again after this.

  83. justinnt

    freec: smoking, speed and sprays are all choices.
    no one chooses to live under the fallout of a disaster like this.
    No, it won’t kill thousands over a few minutes : but it may contribute to many thousands of cancers over a lifetime.
    I’m tired of the nuclear industry’s promises of the next generation :
    remember ‘electricity too cheap to meter’?

  84. freeze

    Freecountry, we have been hearing about the ” next generation” for the past 60yrs. And if the next generation isn’t? How many billions have already been invested world wide on the nuclear “solution”, only to get so far. I say its time we turned our attention to other sources of power which have less problems and are ready now.
    Its about the waste stock pile that never declines. How many generations does it need to be stockpiled? Whats the longest lived stable society? If the problem cannot be solved in our life time, it ain’t worth it.
    Its about the NIMBY syndrome. In this country IT JUST ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN
    Its about the water, nuclear power stations need water. In the land of droughts?
    Its about the MONEY. No power plant of this type can get insurance. It has to be guaranteed by the government to get the finance. If things go wrong, who gets the cleanup bill? WE DO.
    The government needs to invest in the nuclear sciences to build up the skills required to build and run them. It could take 10yrs to do, if we start today. It isn’t happening, doh!
    It would take 20yrs to get the first station up and running. According to Ziggy, we need 15.
    For all of the above reasons, get your head out of your……..
    Stop advocating something that just will not happen and get on board something that will. All you are doing is creating white noise.
    Note: non of the above info relates to exploding nuclear stations, but clearly, anything involving fallable cratures called humans IS POSSIBLE!

  85. freecountry

    OK, the last two posts from Freeze and Justinnt are much more sober and reasonable than some of the earlier reactions. We might agree to disagree on a few points, but Justinnt that’s a fair point about choices, and Freeze that’s a fair point about oversold promises. And at least I got the message through that this is not a Hiroshima situation.

    I’m not particularly an advocate for nuclear power in Australia, by the way. I’m an advocate for keeping our options open, and assessing all options fairly on their costs, benefits, and risks. As for choices, I think if a democratic country like India makes an informed choice to use nuclear power, it’s not for us to impose trade sanctions to limit their supply of fuel.

  86. Mark Duffett

    @Flower, no mention of wind capacity factor. Instant fail.

    “The US EPA have advised of the potential for increased cancers for those living in close proximity to nuclear reactors while the nuclear lobbyists categorically deny it. Which one is lying?”

    What the US EPA do make abundantly clear is that the radiation exposure from living in close proximity to nuclear reactors is negligible. Much less than from living in close proximity to a coal generator, in fact.

  87. Mark Duffett

    For those interested in facts, I haven’t seen this surpassed for a summary of the current situation: http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3396817

  88. freeze

    freecountry, some times NOT SELLING a poison chalice to a friend is the better option. Sure india and others need power and nuclear may very well be their only option. But until they get their act together, its like giving a kid a loaded gun. For example, where is indonesia building its nuclear power station? Not on a fault line, no, surely not?
    I rest my case.
    Its fine to keep your options open, but nuclear as I see it, is a non option because it won’t happen. Its just white noise getting in the way of what we need to do.
    Its been a good ride for the nuclear scientists, but sorry to say for them, the news is they haven’t coughed up the goods and “the next gen” doesn’t wash anymore.

  89. freeze

    the “good news “just gets better — NOT.
    I looks like all 6 reactors in the complex are rooted. Very sad for Japan.

  90. freecountry

    Freeze, you are overstating your case. There are more than ten thousand dead, and the thing you’re talking about is not what killed them.

  91. freeze

    In the context of what we are talking about , I think not
    Loss of essential services ie no power, no water
    Possible 10s of thousands dead
    Possibly 3 meals away from rioting
    Economic meltdown
    Nuclear meltdown
    This nuclear meltdown may not kill many people. But that is not the point. There are probably 50 techs in the plant who have vertually committed suicide to stop the run away train. If the plant runs out of control, it could wipe out a substantial part of the country. And you don’t think it’s that serious because no one has died yet?

  92. twobob

    I would note with a touch of sad irony that the bigger danger in Japan is the problem with reactor 4. Reactor 4 is off-line, that is it is shut down but it stores nuclear waste.
    If it goes off it will be an order of magnitude worse than Chernobyl.
    AND we (humans) have to store this sh!t for 10 000 years!
    Yet we cant even manage 40!
    Enough said I believe, to make more of this toxic waste and then to have the audacity to call nuclear power clean is to be incredibly myopic and blatantly dishonest.

  93. freecountry

    Loss of food, shelter, electricity, clothing, for perhaps hundreds of thousands, many of them injured or stranded, in cold weather. Fires. Perhaps loss of hospitals and communications infrastructure. The rest we can only speculate about for now, because no one is reporting on anything except the nuclear power stations. Thousands of bodies still in the open, infection risk, maybe release of toxic chemicals and waste which could be more carcinogenic than the radioactive residues. You speak of the workers committing suicide, which is an exaggeration (this isn’t Chernobyl, where many workers did volunteer for suicide missions) but did you stop to wonder whether their families are still alive?

    My grandfather was a cavalry officer in WWI on a troop carrier sunk by a torpedo. I don’t know what happened with the lifeboats. Those who survived the break-up of the ship and couldn’t swim, drowned. Then came the horses. Someone had taken pity on the beasts, released them from the stables down below, and they thrashed around and killed many of the men treading water before themselves drowning. In the end only a few score men were left to rescue.

    The Fukushima nuclear reactors are like those stampeding horses. What are you going to do, ban horses? It’s very hard to plan for catastrophes that kill ten thousand in a few minutes. Authorities can and do plan for that kind of chaos, but it’s never perfect, you never think of everything, and I have little regard for people sitting in comfort, bellies full, children safe, second guessing that they should have done this, shouldn’t have done that, shouldn’t have had nuclear power in the first place.

  94. twobob

    Similarly fc I have even less regard for fools who see this and then advocate for the toxic waste to be transported and stored here. For money.
    The Fukushima nuclear reactors are not like stampeding horses they are more like ticking time bombs, one can hope that catastrophe can be averted in this situation, but to ignore the difficulties in storing nuclear waste for 10 000 years is to be willfully ignorant. And it reminds me so much of the the willful ignorance surrounding one side of the climate change debate. Imagine the tragedy of those calling for caution in that having to say ‘I told you so’.

    I can just see it now
    “The climate change catastrophes are like those stampeding horses. What are you going to do, ban horses? It’s very hard to … blah blah blah”

    We were warned, we know the dangers and to proceed is sheer bloobyminded lunacy, fueled by the usual suspects, greed and arrogance.

  95. Meski

    @Freeze: After exceeding their specs like that, they wouldn’t trust them for long term use, anyway. I guess we’ll find out how long it takes to construct a modern reactor if you’re in a hurry, and really need it. Or suggest an alternative that generates the gigawatts that that plant did, in total. (let’s rule out oil/gas/coal, as being CO2 producing)

    Twobob’s still running the 10,000 years myth. Yawn.

  96. twobob

    And meski’s fantasising that nuclear has a snowballs chance in hell of being built in Aus. lol

    Heres some data for ya meski

    In 1/2 lives
    Strontium 90, 29 years , Caesium 137, 30 years,
    There are seven isotopes identified which will still be active after millions of years

    Technetium 99, Tin 126, Selenium 79, Zirconium 93, Caesium 135, Palladium 107, Iodine 129, Caesium 135,

    Thus effectively you can say it stays dangerous for ever, or as long as humans are likely to exist, but the most dangerous parts will have decayed to only a small proportion of their original activity after a FEW THOUSAND years.

    Only a fool would yawn at that, fool

  97. Meski

    And none of those are produced in a modern reactor. yawn. (again)

  98. Gederts Skerstens

    Nuclear Disaster Update:
    Death toll from damaged reactors soars to zero.

  99. twobob

    Thats pretty unoriginal gedert, and if you had bothered to read the thread you would know that that line or argument has been dealt with. Do try to keep up, we are now taking about a mythical modern reactor that pops out cornflakes for other flakes to digest aren’t we meski?

  100. ronin8317

    The ‘worse case’ scenario will be much, much worse than the tsunami. If the cooling system is not restored to the 3 ‘offline’ reactors, they will blow up their casing, start burning, and send radioactive materials into the atmosphere. Water will have to be poured on them to prevent the spent fuel rods to cool them down, and they’ll continue to spew radioactive steam for weeks and months, contaminating the entire Japan, Korea, east coast of China, Taiwan and Russia. It will be far, far worse than Chernobyl.

    Now, you would think that given the catastrophic consequences, the cooling system will be brought back online as if the future of Japan depended on it. However, after 4 days, we just keep getting more and more explosions.

    There is a risk/reward balance when it comes to energy generation, and not all nuclear plant is the same. The older style uranium power plants are designed primarily to create bombs, generating power is simply an added bonus. Anyone who advocate Australia should build those kind of power plants needs their head thoroughly examined. Getting the fuel to the power plant is a major security and environment hazard, and there is nowhere to put the nuclear material being created.

    The newer generation of nuclear reactors is designed for power generation rather than making bombs. Thorium as a fuel is only slightly radioactive, making it easier to transport and safe from terrorists. The waste is still a problem, however there is a lot less of it. I see it as a viable alternative as a bridging technology : maybe one day we can get a fusion reactor running!! Until then, simply ruling out everything ‘Nuclear’ is being unrealistic.

  101. freecountry

    [“freecountry, some times NOT SELLING a poison chalice to a friend is the better option. Sure india and others need power and nuclear may very well be their only option. But until they get their act together, its like giving a kid a loaded gun. For example, where is indonesia building its nuclear power station? Not on a fault line, no, surely not?
    I rest my case.”]
    I think the Indians made it pretty clear 63 years ago that they don’t need to be patronized by us, wouldn’t you agree? They are a democratic country with a lot of highly educated scientists, and unlike us they have a great deal of respect for scientific knowledge. Who the hell are we to tell them only whiteys are allowed to play with fire?

  102. Elan

    “Nuclear Disaster Update:
    Death toll from damaged reactors soars to zero.”

    What a bloody stupid thing to say.


  103. Captain Planet

    Many have pointed out here that the tsunami and earthquake direct death and misery toll is at this point vastly worse than that from the Fukushima plant.

    There is certainly an argument for keeping this in perspective. However there is precious little that humans can do to prevent earthquakes and tsunamis (Or is the plural tsunami?). Certainly we can do more to be prepared for their eventuality, but the occcurrence of the event is beyond our control.

    There is plenty we can do to prevent nuclear plant meltdowns and releases of radioactivity, and this is why there is such raging debate about the safety of nuclear power.

    FC, the last I heard was that radiation levels at the Gate to Fukushima were measured at 0.4 Sieverts per hour. At the front gate. The inverse square law dictates that levels closer to the source will be orders of magnitude higher.

    Not MicroSieverts. Not MilliSieverts. Sieverts.

    I’m not sure how familiar you are with the effects of ionising radiation on the human body, but if exposures measured in Sieverts are occurring at Fukushima (as seems quite possible) this is likel to mean that the incredibly brave and dedicated staff at Fukusima ARE effectively killing themselves, in an attempt to hopefully save hundreds of thousands of their fellow humans from exposure.

  104. Captain Planet

    …. And in the interests of keeping things in perspective, vis-a-vis the safety or otherwise of nuclear power:

    Despite the (in my opinion) fairly good safety record of the nuclear power industry (considering the inherently hazardous nature of the substances being tampered with):

    You will never have to evacuate 200,000 people from the vicinity of a wind turbine or solar thermal power plant after a natural disaster, for fear of toxic emissions from the plant, no matter what magnitude the disaster.

  105. Mark Duffett

    Capt Planet, what’s your source? Mine (BNC, quoting official information) says the 400 mSv/h was a spot peak (later fell to 0.5 mSv/h) measured at a location between Unit 3 and 4.

  106. Gederts Skerstens

    Captain Planet contended: “..You will never have to evacuate 200,000 people from the vicinity of a wind turbine or solar thermal power plant after a natural disaster, for fear of toxic emissions from the plant, no matter what magnitude the disaster.”

    That’s true, but incomplete. Fear alone wasn’t enough to keep humans cringing in caves. What always operated was an estimate of return for risk. Sure you could get eaten by a bear, but you go outside anyway to find a better breakfast than mushrooms.
    (I.E., real energy to keep you going instead of horizon-to-horizon windmills weakly farting round their slow circles.)

  107. Flower

    @ Meski: “And none of those are produced in a modern reactor. yawn. (again)”

    Meski – Which of the 435 operating nuclear reactors worldwide do you describe as “modern?”

    Mark Duffett – Arguing the relative radioactivity of one hazardous industry compared to another is kind of like discussing the merits of being shot versus being hung or drowned. Your allusion to coal generation and radioactive emissions irrefutably confirms that industry cannot/will not control radionuclides.

    Further, your statement also confirms irrefutably that the energy industry are criminally negligent in failing to protect the environment and people from the risks present in their waste.

    Having learnt zero from wiping out Hiroshima and Nagasaki and obliterating 200,000 Japanese citizens, the maniacal nuclear cowboys criminally detonated atomic bombs on foreign and sovereign soils for the next forty years including Australia. And the criminals? Try France, UK, US and Russia, who ‘coincidentally’ have the largest cache of radioactive hazardous waste on the planet. A sure sign that when you put shaved monkeys in charge, evolution goes backwards.

    @ Mark Duffett: “no mention of wind capacity factor. Instant fail.”

    1) The >$1 billion Roscoe project provides enough power for more than 250,000 Texan homes.

    2) Whitelee Wind Farm was commissioned in May 2009. Located on Eaglesham Moor, 15km from Glasgow, Scotland, it has 140 turbines generating 322MW of electricity, sufficient to power 200,000 homes. The total cost of constructing the wind farm was estimated at £300m.

    3) Capable of powering 1.5 million homes, the Olkiluoto-3 reactor has aleady cost $7.2 billion and rising and litigation abounds. Finland ordered the reactor from Areva in 2003 to be commissioned in 2007. ETA – 2012 – snigger.

    Meanwhile, the saboteurs of renewable energy, the duplicitous nuclear industry, chewing the a*se out of Momma Nature, converts future tense into present tense to hit us with stupefying rounds of swill about their “modern,” non-existent, unproven, drawing board Gen. IV nuclear reactors – ETA 2030-2040. And they pass this illusion off as fact? Hilarious and a very good lesson on how to become a megalomaniac.

    Mark Duffett: Ranked “F” = “Instant fail.”

  108. Gederts Skerstens

    Two Bob took the view: “..Thats pretty unoriginal gedert”
    So quote the original. If true, you get one point. If not, you lose one. The choice is yours.
    Also, using the correct vocative form of Gederts would get you ten seconds more of politeness. But my guess is it’s a typo.

  109. Captain Planet

    @ Mark Duffet,

    ABC National News Radio said 400 milliSieverts at the Gate during a newscast this morning.

  110. Gederts Skerstens

    “ABC National News Radio said 400 milliSieverts at the Gate during a newscast this morning.”

    400? Oh No! That’s more than 300!
    Cave Collectives with Cave Commissars allocating Cave Embers according to Political Worth is the only solution to disasters like this, wiping out zero victims, possibly everywhere on The Globe!

  111. Elan

    Poor bloody sods! And we carry on like this.

  112. Gederts Skerstens

    “Poor bloody sods! And we carry on like this.”
    Sophistication. Rhymes just as you think.
    So let’s hear it. From a better-than-bloody-sod. Guidance from our Betters.
    Standing By:

  113. Elan

    Sorry to keep you waiting GERTY: what would you like to know?

    Looking forward to a nice little chat.

  114. Gederts Skerstens

    Elame: “GERTY”? “nice little chat”? Wrong board. You were probably looking for a lifestyle site.

    Several posters here are good writers. Articulate and coherent. So I reread the sequence more thoughtfully. The subject of environmental debating here or anywhere has to get to the fundamental question: What’s the objective for humans?
    There’s no end of “should”s. Never following-up with a reason.
    People should be more co-operative. Why? More individualistic. Why? We should live simply. Why? We should explore and learn as much as possible. Why?
    Try to get to a purpose that can’t reasonably be followed by “Why?”. Very hard.
    That’s something to pursue. The technological competition between Nature’s Own and man-made energy is long lost.

  115. Elan

    Riiiiightt GERTY, OKKKKK….

    ‘Articulate and coherent’ eh?

    Oh sorry !! you were referring to otherposters.

  116. Gederts Skerstens

    ELAME does its best:”…Riiiiightt GERTY, OKKKKK….

    Just leave it.

  117. Elan

    Just read that waffley bullsh.it you posted, again GERTY.

    I reread it ‘more thoughtfully’. Nope. Still BS.

    (What a silly man you are. I make a general comment about fiddling while Rome burns and you get your knackers in a twist!

    Did you really think I was going to meekly except your sarcasm?

    As I said: silly man).

  118. Gederts Skerstens

    ELAME: A credit to the Greens. A typical disciple.

    For Passersby: These are the characters that swing Labor policy, now.
    You won’t win anything with these freaks attached. Get clear of them.

  119. Elan

    That’s it? Resorting to that? Sheesh!

    Something more original too much for you GERTY?

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