Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nuclear Freakout

We finally have found a government which is less transparent than ours in dealing with disasters. One expert, in describing her view of the nuclear disaster in Japan, said that she was reminded of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, “where they said that they had it under control and as events unfolded clearly they did not have it under control.”

O’Donnell’s Last Word last night was typical of our television coverage.

First he had on a representative of Beyond Nuclear, an “unabashedly anti-nuclear advocacy group.” This man described his view of the events in Japan in highly colorful terms and said that putting water on the melting reactors “feeds the problem” and leads closer to the “coming catastrophe.”

The man went on to agree with O’Donnell that it was “impossible to over-react” to this crisis, and babbled at length about evacuating children and pregnant women, as if it were possible to sort out the population and form convoys of buses in the midst of the chaos of cities devastated by combination of earthquake and tsunami.

He went on to talk about the dual role of promotion and regulation of the NRC and its predecessor the AEC. Some truth to the AEC, which was replaced by the NRC in 1975, so why we’re talking about it 35 years later is unclear. The NRC has never had any promotional role and does not, in fact, promote the use of nuclear energy. He went on the say that “the licensing of the Diablo Canyon plant right on top of the San Andreas fault” was an example of the promotional role of the NRC interfering with its regulatory role when, in reality, the plant is 50 miles away from the San Andreas.

After it was licensed was discovered to be directly on top of the formerly unknown Shoreline Fault and it was reinforced to withstand larger earthquakes. It’s another pressurized water reactor, but other than that I don’t know much about it or the fault it sits on.

Lawrence O’Donnell then brought on Barbara Boxer to engage in some political grandstanding. I would certainly have voted against her if her opponent had been anyone other than Carley Fiorina. I would have voted for my cat had she been running against Boxer. I'm not alone, either. I think the Republicans nominated the one person in the known universe that could get Barbara Boxer reelected.

Boxer waxed poetic in outrage about a State Energy Commission report that the NRC was not implementing because Japan “expected a 7.5 and got a 9.0” and so we feel that we should take another look at our expectations. Never mind that an energy department has no qualifications to evaluate earthquakes, that our strike-slip fault zone creates a completely different type of earthquake than the subduction zone that exists off Japan, or that our pressurized water reactors are an order of magnitude safer than the boiling water reactors that are failing in Japan. None of those issues factored into the rather hysterical discussion between her and O’Donnell.

She then started panting about it being “our own NRC” that was telling people in Japan to get 50 miles away from the failing reactors in Japan and so… I lost track of what she was getting at, but it had something to do with 7.4 million people in San Diego. I am one of those people, so I probably should have been paying attention, but I just could not keep up with her.

She interrupted her rant with a “bye the way” to add that five counties in her state had been damaged by the recent tsunami, and Lawrence O'Donnell added that he lived in a tsunami zone and saw the little signs every day. I live in one too, and I ignore those little signs every bit as often as he does. I’m not sure what that has to do with the failing reactors.

Meanwhile, all of the stores in the country are sold out of potassium iodate tablets because they are reputed to protect you from radiation. They won’t actually do that, of course, and we aren’t going to be irradiated, but facts are always irrelevant.


bruce said...

"putting water on the reactor feeds the problem? WTF has this person been smoking?

I do not like Boxer, and never have. The only problem is the Rubs have never found a viable candidate to run against her. Maybe they are closet Democrats... ANyway, what does she knowa bout nuclear power, hazmat, emergency management, etc? She's a politician, and more so that many she thrives on media and the spotlight. Only one of the things that disgusts me about her.

The (nuclear) problems that Japan faces are not ours, and the chances that they will affect us are slim to none.

OHMYGOWDthenuclearcloudwillblanketthe westcoastandmypoorconstituents! Bullshit.

People need to get a grip and think rationally. Yeah the Japan thing is in a crisis. They are dealing with as best they can, as it is is urgent that they do so.

Are we in a crisis? No. Is out nuclear power plants going to be in a crisis? Not bloody likely, but a few well thought out precautions would be in order, namely worst case scenario planning.

Arthur said...

I never get to read Jayhawk's blog anymore, only one of the things I hate about driving over-the-road. So I don't know what else he has posted about the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
But I will pass on to him and to his readers something that his late brother-in-law (the over-qualified nuclear safety expert) once told me. I asked him how safe our pressurized water reactors would be in an earthquake. He said "completely". I clarified, "what if the fault was directly under the reactor building and the containment vessel tipped over?" He clarified, "no release expected."
In that light, note that the engineer who performed the first independent contamination release assessment on Three Mile Island (a pressurized water reactor) told me that he could find no evidence of the release. None what-so-ever, despite being there within 12 hours and conducting multiple kinds of tests.

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