Mar 18, 2011

Fukushima directly from the Dr Strangelove script

The Fukushima disaster is not merely about one event at one plant. A pause on nuclear power is spreading across the world, with China -- China -- the latest country to announce a pause on construction to examine the industry.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


For those of us who are such absolute believers in the power of human beings to shape their own lives and control our own destiny that we think we can do better and smarter than the desperate kludge technology of nuclear power, the continuing disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is that extraordinary type of event that speaks for itself, beyond any attempt to talk it away.


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45 thoughts on “Fukushima directly from the Dr Strangelove script

  1. MLF

    And you know what else Guy, all the flying over the plant checking it out, dropping water etc. Essential activities in the current situation I grant you.

    But what are these choppers not doing? They’re not dropping food or water or medicines to the thousands and thousands and thousands of people who are freezing and starving to literal death in the centres set up in those 3 precincts worst affected by last Friday’s quake and Tsunami. Last Friday. A WEEK and these people are starving because everyone has to focus on the goddamned nuclear plants so noone is sending them food.

    Bugger me but I’m p-issed off with the world today.

  2. John Bennetts

    Guy, you have decided to concentrate your bile on a single facet of a disaster which is many times as large as the reaqctor problems.

    References to “kludge technology” and to “skin and muscle sloughing off” are emotional and colourful, so they qualify under Limited News’ criteria, but where is the meaning, the essential truth?

    You and I may disagree, at least in part, about the merit of nuclear technologies for meeting this world’s energy demands, but what’s the meaning of “kludge” as against its inclusion for impact and emotion? It coveys no meaning.

    Regarding the supposed skin ailments of USAF pilots and crew, I suggest that you stick to demonstrable facts and stop doing a Bolter or an Albrechtson and relying entirely on fabrication and emotion?

    I like and look forward to reading so much of your work that this message is written, as they say, in sorrow. You can do so much better, and you owe it to your profession and to your readers to tone down the ranting.

  3. John Bennetts

    Sorry, not USAF pilots. Presumably, SDF pilots. Don’t know where that came from.

  4. Michael Sprange

    The predictable taking of sides for and against nuclear power through this tragedy is sad.

    Whilst I still have an open mind about nuclear power, I remain unimpressed by the spin the likes of O’neill and mophead Boris are delivering.

    We can only form a view in response to the current situation when it has settled down and we can fully assess it – which will be days away at least.

    Three points that no-one seems to have made clearly yet are:

    When police water cannon and helicopter water dumping is used to attempt to fix a problem you sort of know intuitively that those approaches aren’t prescribed in the operating manual – that’s scary and hasn’t happened with conventional power stations.

    One of the reasons for greater than normal fear is that the public information provided by the authorities has been inaccurate, incomplete, and regularly contradicted. This will naturally destabilise confidence. We need to assess if this applies to all nuclear plant operators or just TEPCO.

    Finally, inherently the “risk curve” of nuclear power is very different from conventional power generation. In a flood analogy it might be like saying with conventional power generation the risk is like low level floods at frequent intervals whereas the nuclear equivalent is catastrophic floods at extremely long intervals, although the relative net risk might be the same. We can only over time get an idea of how long those intervals might be, but our experiences right now leads us to think that they might be more frequent than we had thought prior to this earthquake.

  5. Patrick Brosnan

    That Sheridan piece is insane. The first few pars about his trip to Japan 30 years ago look like the ravings of a dementia patient.

  6. syzygium

    I couldn’t have said it better myself, Rundle. No, really, I couldn’t have. Which is why I’m glad you’re here. Thanks.

    Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now this. Every second decade there is something, which is leading me to believe that the risk analyses are in fact wrong. The industry will say the next-generation reactors are much safer – maybe they are, but clearly we are also incapable of accurately calculating highly significant, rare events in an uncertain and complex world. To my mind that makes nuclear power unacceptable. Prometheus, indeed.

  7. Venise Alstergren

    All I need to know is WTF a nuclear plant could have been given governmental permission to be placed in an earthquake prone area? To me this bespeaks corruption on a scale comparable to a nuclear explosion itself. HOW did the Japanese government allow itself to be bought on such a gigantic scale?

    Recent articles have suggested that Indonesia is already planning it’s first nuclear plant installation. Hello? Has no one heard of Kracatoa? Or the last gigantic tsunami to have hit that country? Why not go the full caboodle and urge the Chilean government to install mega-plants? As the planet’s most earthquake prone country Chile is the obvious choice to lead with nuclear installations.

    As someone who has been edging towards being pro-nuclear, I am reversing my stand. Yes, nuclear probably is the way to go for the world’s power needs. It’s just unfortunate that people are too stupid, and governments are too corrupt, to utilise it properly.


  8. Simon Mansfield

    Actually splitting the atom is rather primitive compared to the semiconductor technologies that underpin today’s solar cells, memory chips, microprocessors and flat screens.

    All of these are far and away at the cutting edge of material science.

    Whereas splitting the atom – to boil water – to make steam – to drive a turbine – to generate electricity – to boil water – to make a cup of tea – so you can sit at your computer on the other side the world and pretend to write about science and technology in the early 21st century – is the old and primitive part here in this conversation.

    Technology made us human, and technology is the only possible way to solve a human material problem. To pretend otherwise is simply nature worship of the most deluded kind.

    The real story here with the Nukes is that the industry appears to have learnt nothing since Chernobyl – and dismissed the day after there as simply a Soviet problem – whereas old Western nuclear reactors were better and planning for the absolute worse was not needed.

    And we know what the worst case is – Chernobyl – a full meltdown. That the buildings and design are different is a minor issue in a worst case situation.

    My guess is that many of the old reactors – which is most reactors – are filled with design flaws that can lead to worst case situations that spiral out of control – if events conspire to make such a possibility.

    Then again it could be just a case of Japan’s only really corrupt industry sector – construction – coming back to bite Japan. In Kobe it was the pylons holding up the overhead expressways that fell over – they were filled with wood scraps to save on concrete – so who knows what short cuts were taken in these reactors during their construction – all those decades ago.

  9. syzygium

    I’m not convinced that fission is primitive compared to semiconductors, but nonetheless – the fact that the iphone was adopted so readily while nuclear power remains politically unpalatable and will continue to be so for a long time, speaks to a fundamental unease we have with the technology. It has something to do with it being able to spread invisible death and render parts of the Earth uninhabitable.

    This isn’t about nature worship, it’s about recognising that not all technology is benign and that the decision to use or not use certain types of technology is a political issue driven by human beings. To me the difference between getting energy from semiconductors on a PVC array and getting energy from splitting an atomic nucleus is obvious.

    And technology, by the way, is not the only possible way to solve the energy problem. Lowering consumption can also help.

    And every nuclear disaster, there is always a reason why it happened this time, but next time will be better, safer. Until it isn’t. Then there’s a reason for that one, too.

  10. Simon Mansfield

    100 years from now – energy consumption will be 100 times what it is today.

    Read up on chip technology to understand the world we live in today and how fission is actually quite a primitive technology in comparison.

    Fission is essentially 1940 era science, whereas today’s semiconductor manufacturing technology is being invented a new as we speak.

    If you put your mind to it – no technology is benign – and you can kill a person with just about anything man made.

    In the 1860s trains use to be really dangerous. But who would think twice about getting on a Japanese bullet train today. Come to think of it – has a bullet train actually ever crashed and killed anyone in Japan.

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