Take a Look at Frontline's Nuclear Afterschocks

I meant to blog this when it first aired in January (go here for Frontline's page). It's an interesting documentary about the Fukushima, Japan nuclear plant wipeout and what lessons might be drawn for a U.S. audience.

From a Boing Boing review of the documentary:

[We] need a better grid that can store electricity for later or transport it far more efficiently than is currently possible. Until we get that, we'll need to rely on some source of power that is completely controllable, that can produce exactly as much electricity as we need. No more. No less. There are four options for that: Coal, natural gas, hydro, and nuclear power. Hydroelectric power can't operate everywhere. And the other three all come with serious risks, to local health and to the planet**.

Yet we will still need them for decades to come. So how do we decide which risks we're willing to live with? The only way to do that is to set aside reactionary fear and anger and start having conversations that account for all the risks in an honest way. We have to talk about mitigating risks as best we can—because, as Nuclear Aftershocks points out, we aren't currently doing that in relation to nuclear power, at least not consistently. We have to prioritize our fears. And we have to recognize that, for right now, there is no such thing as a right decision. No such thing as eliminating risk. No matter what we choose, someone will get hurt.

HT: Boing Boing's Xeni (who didn't write the review quoted above).

Reason on Fukushima.

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  • ||

    I will take the made up risks associated with coal thank you. It is only a problem if you believe in the CO2 cult.

  • Sparky||

    Because nuclear is cleaner and more efficient. But who cares, amirite?

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Efficiency should take consideration of expense. Is nuclear generation financially efficient? (It very well has a better chance of being so if the impeders fuck off)

  • Sparky||

    Well that seems to be the issue (as usual). If people would stop freaking out like little girls ZOMGNUCLEARBOMBEXPLOSIONWE'REALLGONNADIE!!!! it might be possible to lower (or eliminate) the barriers.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Coal is a nasty fuel. Mercury, fly ash, radioactive particles are all generated by burning coal and the waste products have to be put somewhere. I'd take nuclear over coal if I'm not living on the San Andreas fault line.

  • ||

    The mercury is minuscule. I will take that risk over a meltdown. I like Nuclear. But in earthquake prone areas, it just doesn't make any sense. Coal is plentiful, cheap and reliable. And with modern scrubbers they don't put out much more than steam and CO2.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    You still get the fly ash which is loaded with heavy metals. They usually end up burying it somewhere with the consent of the local and state government. The problem arises years later when they build a housing development on top of it and the wells all leach arsenic.

    http://hamptonroads.com/2011/0.....y-open-now

  • Colonel_Angus||

    That is a problem with government doing things it shouldn't. Companies should store ash on their own private property, or private property it has negotiated for, and make sure it doesn't spill on to property of non consenting parties. And idiots shouldn't by houses on ash dumps if they don't like poison. Fucking property rights, right?

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    It is a problem with government. The disposal was with the consent of the government, the house permitting was with the consent of the government, the non-requirement for notification was with the consent of the government, etc...

    Meanwhile, the homeowners who, at a minimum, have lost the complete value of their homes, get stymied by the judicial system at every turn because the government doesn't want to accept any blame for the problem.

    As an aside, I do know people who live there and have had their well water tested independently. The labs told them not to take a bath in it, much less drink it.

  • Sparky||

    You know, 95% of the US is not earthquake prone.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Is, or is not? 100% of the world is earthquake prone, if you mathematically define prone as "can and recordably does occur".

  • Colonel_Angus||

    The actual toxins these days are reduced to very negligible or nonexistent threats to health and property. "Waste products" are dealt with by the operators, and they do have value. As long as they are putting the "waste products" somewhere that isn't hurting anyone, what is the problem?

  • ||

    Ra-di-a-tion. Yes, indeed. You hear the most outrageous lies about it. Half-baked goggle-box do-gooders telling everybody it's bad for you. Pernicious nonsense. Everybody could stand a hundred chest X-rays a year. They ought to have them, too.

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  • cynical||

    If I had the money, I'd rather have solar, just because it makes energy (rather, energy producing tools) a commodity that can respond to market pressure, instead of a utility that tends toward monopoly. Plus, it makes power generation distributed and less of a target for terrorists. There is the issue of storage, but I think we can solve it for the short term. Fortunately, electricity is least necessary when solar energy is least available.

    Combine it with wells and some sort of advanced graphene-based filtration system, and you pretty much don't need to rely on utilities for anything but communication (and that, only until we develop a functional distributed internet system).

    I suspect that with recent advances in physics and materials science, we will have access to high-efficiency (~30-40%) panels this decade. Turn the market loose, and we get those panels at a decent price.

  • Ice Nine||

    Great theory. This of course would require rationally planning ahead. Nevah happen, sir - neither the planning ahead nor the rational part. We don't do things that way; we only react to crises.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Are we going to dance around the real problem with the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant? The plant's mascot is insulting to New York's Native American population.

    It doesn't help that this PBS correspondent obviously traveled back in time to view nuclear power, even though he is fully trained in the much more advanced antimatter reactors used in both Galaxy and Defiant class vessels, not to mention the Danube class runabout.

  • ||

    How many people in Japan were killed by the Fukashima accident? I think the number is about 0. How many were injured? If you count as "injured" the ones who were struck from radiation from the plant, then the number is much, much higher. On the other hand, if you want to call everyone who has been struck by radiation from a technology, at the same level as from Fukashima, then probably ALL of us on this planet have been "injured" by radiation.

    Compare this to the number of people who died in the trains that were struck by the earthquake and tsunami? I believe that at least one train "disappeared". Hundreds of children in day-care centers were killed. Why is there no discussion about the dangers of trains and daycare centers, and their inability to protect children and innocent people from these hazards? Maybe we should shut down all the trains and day care centers until they can proven to be safe from natural hazards?

  • Zeb||

    If I recall correctly, there was also a natural gas facility somewhere that was pretty close to blowing up and killing hundreds if not thousands of people. I don't hear a lot of people calling to stop all use of natural gas (not because of what happened in Japan anyway). Most people just really don't understand the risks of radioactivity or even what it is, so they imagine it to be somehow worse than other risks that are in fact much more of a threat.

  • Zeb||

    Whatever you think about nuclear, it is just totally ridiculous how many people acted as if the Fukushima situation was some great revelation about the dangers of nuclear power. Anyone who had given it a bit of thought should have known well before it happened there that there is a good possibility of a serious accident at a plant on the shore of pretty much the most earthquake and tsunami prone place int he world. If you didn't realize that was a possibility, then you never really gave any thought to nuclear safety. The reaction in Germany seemed particularly insane (though I am sure that was mostly political opportunism by people who were already opposed to nuclear).

  • ||

    energon cubes bitches

  • ||

    Put nuclear reactors in space, and beam down the power via microwaves. Can also be used to quell revolts.

  • H man||

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  • ||

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  • Steve Skutnik||

    Of note - the NRC just approved the first COL (Construction & Operating Licence) for the two Vogtle units, the first new license granted since 1978. Both are the AP1000 units mentioned by Ron, with many passive safety features (including natural circulation cooling instead of pumps, obviating the issues which occurred at Fukushima.)

  • Steve Skutnik||

    I should note that Ron Bailey mentioned these in previous postings, not the above. Point stands though - the failure pathway which is hit on is already largely moot.

    Meanwhile, how is it exactly that folks like John aren't having a conniption fit over the amount of radioactivity emitted by coal plants?

  • ||

    How many people have died because of Fukushima?

    My guess: ZERO

  • ||

    If it can happen in Japan it can happen anywhere

    pacific ring of fire

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Ring_of_Fire

    If it can happen in japan it can happen anywhere

    pacific Ring of fire

    If it can happen in japan it can happen anywhere

    Pacific ring of fire.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Ring_of_Fire

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