Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fukishima

I find it amazing just how scared people get when it comes to nuclear power. I suppose it all stems from the nuclear bomb and the unbelievable power that can be released in such a short time. Let me contribute my two bits when it comes to the Fukishima reactor. I would just like to say what a great design that must have been. Think of it, it just survived the fourth largest earthquake in all recorded history. The earthquake was seven times larger than this reactor was designed to withstand and it still survived and shut itself down just as it was designed to do. The only problem was that shortly after the earthquake along came a thirty foot tsunami that flooded the backup generators that were required to power the cooling pumps. That was a bit unfortunate but even without the cooling pumps the reactor remained relatively safe until crews could get in and flood it with sea water. I think this reactor is an engineering marvel. Sure, it has released some radiation in the local area but when everything is said and done I'm predicting that the harm done by the reactor will be minor compared by other problems going on. Take a look at the refinery that is on fire releasing tons of toxic fumes. I'll bet the health effects caused by these fires overwhelm the health effects from the reactor.
What really bugs me is when people start talking about putting a moratorium on building new reactors or even shutting down the ones we've got. It is by far the safest and cleanest source of energy we've got. Do you realize that burning coal causes 10,000 deaths a year from it's pollution? Just mining the coal causes an average of 1,000 deaths a year. In 1907 there were over 3,000 deaths from coal mining.

Nuclear power on the other hand hasn't caused a single death among the public ever with the exception of Chernobyl which caused 50 deaths. You can't really count Chernobyl however since that was pure incompetence that caused that melt down and it could never have happened in the western world. Even if you do count it though it was only 50 deaths. 

Some people might argue that the radiation generated by nuclear power plants causes cancer. They say that there is no safe level of radiation. That may be true but what they don't tell you is that you get radiation from all around you. The very ground we live on bubbles up radon gas that emits radiation. It is estimated that about 1% of all cancer is caused by natural sources of radiation. Burning coal in a power plant releases more radiation that a nuclear power plant. In fact running a nuclear power plant takes uranium out of the ground and so reduces the release of Radon gas. Running a nuclear power plant for one year will actually save a few hundred lives where running a coal powered plant will cause thirty deaths. 

For those of you who are worried about Fukisihima blowing up in a mushroom cloud it can't possible happen. People have to work extremely hard to make a nuclear bomb blow up and it can't happen accidentally. The radiation that is leaked is in the steam used to cool the fuel rods and while it is a minor problem for the local residents it could never make it across the ocean. The explosions they're having are hydrogen explosions not nuclear. The hydrogen is generated when the radiation splits water molecules. 

So to sum it all up. Hurray for nuclear power and good job on the Fukishima plant. I wish them luck on getting it safely shut down.


7 comments:

Lynn said...

Well, I for one will be sleeping better tonight. ; D Thanks for sharing that. I did not know. Seriously. Thank you.

Kim said...

I'm with Lynn. Thanks, Fred! I'll go to bed a whole lot less stressed tonight. That being said, I'm married to a mining engineer that works at one of those cursed coal mines. :)

Brandon J. Leavitt said...

Its also important to note that if a similar event were to happen in, say San Onofre (one of Southern California's plants), the construction is deemed superior to the Fukishima plant AND has a 35 foot retaining wall (the tsunami that hit Japan was 6-9 meters).

The real concern in my opinion is that, mushroom cloud or not, this plant is about 45 miles from Tokyo. Nevertheless, you can see from the following link that, at least so far, radiation levels are unchanged in the city.

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/hino-tokyo-geiger-counter-feed

Lisa said...

Very interesting. I love being married to a smart man :)

Alycia (Crowley Party) said...

I have been reading a lot about this and it does sound like it was built amazingly! I heard someone say there is some Iodine pill or something people in that area can take which will help them not absorb any of the effects?

Peter and Mandy said...

That's pretty interesting

dad said...

To bad the press only deals in half truths and worst case scenarios.