NUCLEAR forum: Nuclear Disasters

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ImageAguane
Apr 23, 2011 3:20 PM CST
Name: Susie
Phoenix AZ
The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale determines the Level of a danger an "Accident" or and "Incident" may present. Fukushima nuclear explosion March 12, 2011 was first declared to be a Level 5 and later settled to be a Level 7. Chernobyl was a Level 7. Estimates on the number of casualties related to the Chernobyl accident vary a great deal.
Thumb of 2011-04-23/Aguane/92ad9b
"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." --Albert Einstein
~ All Things Plants, SOUTHWEST GARDENING ~Cubits.org ENERGY & POWER
[Last edited Apr 26, 2011 12:37 PM CST]
Quote | Post #632216 (1)
ImageAguane
Apr 23, 2011 10:32 PM CST
Name: Susie
Phoenix AZ
Kyshtym Russia Sept. 29, 1957 Level 6

Windscale U.K. Oct. 10, 1957 Level 5

Three Mile Island March 28, 1979 Level 5

Chernobyl April 26,1986 Level 7 (This April 26, 2011 is the 25th Anniversary of the Chernobyl.)

Fukushima March 11, 2011 Level 7

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." --Albert Einstein
~ All Things Plants, SOUTHWEST GARDENING ~Cubits.org ENERGY & POWER
[Last edited Apr 23, 2011 11:55 PM CST]
Quote | Post #632621 (2)
Steve812
Apr 25, 2011 11:50 PM CST
Name: Steve
Prescott, AZ
I guess I don't understand the scale very well. I have no reservations whatsoever about calling Chernobyl a major catastrophe. Perhaps it is even the single worst technological catastrophe in the history of man. I think it's easy to show that hundreds or even thousands of people died directly from Chernobyl, but I'd need to see the analysis to believe that it was within a factor of a hundred of being a million people. Do you have the citation of the scientific paper that provides that estimate?

It seems non-intuitive to me that Fukushima should be considered qualitatively in the same category as Chernobyl. One difference is in reactor design. The Japanese reactors were in confinement buildings, Chernobyl was not. The amount of material released at Fukushima is almost certainly less - probably by orders of magnitude - than the amount released at Chernobyl. A second difference is that Chernobyl had a graphite core for producing plutonium. Commercial power reactors in Japan and the west don't use graphite. My educated guess is that this makes the toxic melange that spews from western reactors materially less dangerous.

Another difference is that dozens of people at Chernobyl actively fought the graphite reactor fire and were knowingly exposed to levels of radiation that were potentially lethal over a short period of time. I would be surprised if the radiation levels at Fukushima have been even 10% as high. I'm not aware that the levels have been high enough that the operators have been forced to abandon the site - as was the case at Chernobyl.

So it seems to me that comparing Chernobyl to Fukushima is like comparing a motorcycle accident that produced one badly broken leg to a ten bus pile-up that killed 200 school children. At this point in history they seem categorically different to me.

Power generation is a dangerous business. In the US 10,000 people per year die before they otherwise would because of health problems that result from burning of coal. I don't think anyone has died from the operation of a commercial nuclear reactor in the US. And 20% of our power comes from nuclear plants. A typical coal burning plant releases more radioactive material - mostly radon gas - as a result of its operations than a typical nuclear plant. And of course coal plants release a lot of other pollutants including CO2.

I really think we have a lot to learn from Fukushima. For example, the industry has designed nuclear plants in California (Diablo Canyon) to withstand 7.5 earthquakes. It might be a lot more expensive to do so, but designing for a 9.0 earthquake is not a bad idea. Earthquakes of this magnitude strike California a few times a century. Fukushima withstood 9.0 earthquake; but it choked on a tsunami. And the technological solution would have been simple and inexpensive. Besides being better with designs we desperately need a sensible and effective waste disposal plan.

I think if we can be as good at deploying nuclear power as we need to be, nuclear power can be a sensible choice as the backbone of our power system. Fossil fuels have more limited supply and cause global warming. Renewable resources cannot take up the slack for many more decades. And each technology has a specific problem that prevents it from taking over the role that nuclear power plays.
ImageAguane
Apr 26, 2011 12:41 PM CST
Name: Susie
Phoenix AZ
Hi Steve,
Really good points. I appreciate your analysis and background and tend to agree. I'm new at this.

Here is the reading I did re the Chernobyl accident. There is an awful lot available on the Web supporting all sorts of opinions and view. These two views are probably at polar opposites in stating the facts (unknown to me, of course). Depending on the chosen scope that might be defined to illustrate a POV I tend to go with the IAEA and that POV.

http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/chernobyl/faqs.shtml

Wikipedia reports from several POV… the views vary a GREAT deal. I assume there are even more varying views from others. I’m going to edit my comment about the 985,000 deaths 

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

On page 2 this article states that the loss of life occurring between 1986 -2004 totaling 985,000 worldwide can be attributed to the Chernobyl accident.
http://www.voicenews.com/articles/2011/03/29/news/doc4d91de8...

This video (29 min) probably explains the scope of how that 985,000 was arrived at (always going to be a slant or bias in this sort of reporting):
http://www.beyondnuclear.org/home/2011/3/24/watch-chernobyl-...
"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." --Albert Einstein
~ All Things Plants, SOUTHWEST GARDENING ~Cubits.org ENERGY & POWER
Steve812
May 6, 2011 9:03 AM CST
Name: Steve
Prescott, AZ
Thanks for the explanation. I'm a little skeptical of the numbers at beyondnuclear.org. But I think it is almost certainly true that IAEA did not properly take into consideration a lot of the longer term effects in their estimate of 4000 fatalities. I wish there could be consensus numbers that did not differ my more than two orders of magnitude. A meaningful consensus would help us toward better energy policy.
ImageAguane
May 6, 2011 1:13 PM CST
Name: Susie
Phoenix AZ
Agreed. I think with any controversy there will be agenda's, differing messaging, slant. Statistics can be massaged to tell the story any which way.

When reading about something like this...or anything, for that matter, I always remind myself that this is what is "known". What don't I know, what can't I know, what can't I find? Reading about the Soviet/Afghanistan conflict of the 1970-80s reminded me of this recently. When you look at our presence in Afghanistan today and aren't aware of the history of the last 30 years (at least) it's a real wake up call once you do know the history.
"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." --Albert Einstein
~ All Things Plants, SOUTHWEST GARDENING ~Cubits.org ENERGY & POWER
Imagestormyla
Oct 1, 2011 3:33 PM CST
Name: Stormy
Valley Forge Pa
I Love MAM ~ So Happy Together
I have never been opposed to the use of nuclear power. It seems to be one of the safest, most efficient and cheapest forms of energy generation in the US.

While the part of the country that I live in only gets minor earthquakes, this year we got massive and prolonged flooding. It seemed to me that this could be a problem for the reactors. I kept searching for any news of any problems, but never found any. The area around Three Mile Island sustained record breaking flooding as did the areas around some of the plants in New Jersey and New England.

I swear that I have read articles in the past about the dangers that flooding presents to the reactors. Am I wrong about this? On a clear day, I can see the towers for the Limerick plant from the hill outside. They are about 8 to10 miles from here and the waters from that area run through the creek just below this house.
ImageAguane
Oct 2, 2011 12:38 PM CST
Name: Susie
Phoenix AZ
Hi Stormy,
Thanks for posting this point. I haven't looked at this issue in depth yet but did find these two reports on one flooding incident. I'm certain there is available data even at DOE on hazards of flooding and events of contamination due to flooding. I'm thinking that, as is pointed out in these reports, if the reactor is shut down the water on site will not be circulating through it to cool... so if flooding were to occur it wouldn't be exposed to radiation. If the reactor is running and flooding occurs flooding waters MAY mingle with reactor cooling waters. Also, and I have to look into this, seems there'd have to be a leak to contaminate. Flooding would have to CAUSE (crack) a leak (as the earthquake in Sendai Japan caused the leak at Fukushima did). The flooding from the tsunami carried the reactor's contaminate cooling waters throughout the lands and ocean. Just a logical guess on my part. Have to look into this more.

June 2011 Missouri River flooding:
IBT reporting on Calhoun reactor flooding
http://tv.ibtimes.com/nebraska-nuclear-power-plant-safe-desp...

Rachel Maddow MSNBC reporting on Calhoun and Cooper reactors in Nebraska.
http://www.naturalnews.tv/v.asp?v=5A87F610FC34D15E3DCD07783B...
"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." --Albert Einstein
~ All Things Plants, SOUTHWEST GARDENING ~Cubits.org ENERGY & POWER
Imagestormyla
Oct 2, 2011 1:05 PM CST
Name: Stormy
Valley Forge Pa
I Love MAM ~ So Happy Together
Thanks Susie, Yes now I remember reading that there would have to be cracks in the reactors for it to become a problem. We had huge cracks and breaks in highways and actually had big concrete walls collapse in the flooding of both buildings and bridges. I don't know if Reactors are built more strongly than other buildings and bridge supports and road overpasses.

Now I do remember reading that the scenario would have to be a power failure that shut down the reactor coupled with a crack. I think that it was one of the New Jersey papers writing about the flooding in Salem County. That county in South Jersey was the first one to flood above the Delmarva peninsula and it houses 2 nuclear power plants.

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