Today's plants far safer than Fukushima: US expert

Sep 15, 2011
A view of a nuclear power station in eastern France. Today's nuclear reactors are "much safer" than the Japanese plant damaged in this year's earthquake and tsunami, a US expert said Thursday, citing dramatic improvements that could prevent similar disasters.

Today's nuclear reactors are "much safer" than the Japanese plant damaged in this year's earthquake and tsunami, a US expert said Thursday, citing dramatic improvements that could prevent similar disasters.

The first of Fukushima Dai-ichi's six nuclear reactors came online in 1970, a full nine years before the Three-Mile Island crisis in the United States and 16 years before Chernobyl, the world's worst .

"The Fukushima plants were early plants, and so... more modern designs would be much more robust in their capability to deal with the situation" that Japan faced, said former US chairman Richard Meserve.

"Plants are much safer in their designs today."

On March 11, a 9.0-magnitude quake rocked Fukushima, and the resulting 14-meter (46-foot) drowned the plant, knocking out the power supply, the reactor and back-up diesel generators.

The resulting meltdown of reactors forced the evacuation of thousands of people and the banning of local farm produce. Six months on, engineers are still fighting to stop radiation leaking out.

Meserve said Fukushima's designers should have looked at historical data which showed a similar-sized tsunami hit the area in the year 869. The plant, he said, was designed to be able to accommodate a 5.7-meter tsunami.

Meserve, an advisor to the UN's , said plant developers in the United States always look at "what's the maximum probable event in that environment," and design accordingly.

"It appears that this was not the case with regard to the Fukushima plant," he said.

While its layout and design would not be considered by today's builders, Meserve stressed that Fukushima, for its day, was not seen as unsafe.

Designs have improved substantially in large part because engineers are "continuously learning from what has happened in the past and making sure that you learn from experience so that history is not repeated."

Aside from advances like high-quality construction and passive safety systems that override human failures, today's designers incorporate what's known as "probabalistic risk assessment," which looks at the likelihood of events that could cause damage.

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User comments : 16

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Squirrel
2.3 / 5 (6) Sep 15, 2011
If an expert says X is safe, then it is probably time to worry. Those in the aircraft design and production business don't do this. They remind us that they constantly know things can go wrong in ways they cannot imagine and remind us of their unsurety--no commercial flight goes off without its "blackbox".
Callippo
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 15, 2011
Why experts are usually wrong

http://www.nypost...QJHmT5QO

The era of expert failure

http://www.realcl...170.html

Why the experts missed the crash...

http://money.cnn....ndex.htm
sigfpe
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2011
Well yes, Fukushima failed so we immediately have evidence that it was less safe. What I'd like to see is these experts make a *prediction* as to which reactors are most likely to fail next and then watch what happens around the world over the next few decades.
Jeddy_Mctedder
2.1 / 5 (7) Sep 15, 2011
bullshit. if the environmentalists had had foresite and simply required all nuclear and COAL plants to be updated every ten years, our energy infrastructure would be cleaner and safer. instead they not only fought these the whole way in their attempts to squash these energy sources, but they gave these industries the cover they needed to not make ANY changes and updates for decades in order to squeeze out more profit for themselves.

the result , decades old energy infrastructure everywhere and a renewal/update challenge that is so massive it is largely thought of as impossible to accomplish without bankrupting both nuclear and coal industries.

the result, stagnation , more pollution, AND higher prices and less advanced technology to sell abroad.

america is both self destructive at home and non-competitive for nuclear/coal technology exports abroad.
Sin_Amos
1 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2011
Such FAIL!
kochevnik
1 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2011
Future terrorist targets beckoning sponsors.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (3) Sep 16, 2011
Deaths per TWh produced for modern nuclear plants could very well be even lower than renewables. Advanced nuclear will be key to future energy infrastructure of the world.
rawa1
2 / 5 (4) Sep 16, 2011
"Advanced nuclear" will be a way risky, than the existing reactors because of working regime of breeding reactors (higher temperatures, pressure, liquid metals as a coolant, unstable neutron flux regime, corrosive environment, etc..). The only safe & clean nuclear technology is the cold fusion and I hope it will burrow all these old dirty technologies as fast, as possible. I actually hope, all nuclear reactors in future will be globally monitored with neutrino detectors and banned as a terrorist technology. Which could effectively lead into end of nuclear weapons.
LuckyExplorer
1 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2011
"probabalistic risk assessment" was also said to be fine for Tschernobyl and Fukushima...
... before the accidents happened.

Again a poor article with pure statements and without proof or quantification.

For sure newer plants will be safer. It would be a shame if they were not. - But how much safer? Will this increased safety be flattened by an increasing number of plants?

Question over question, but no answer...
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2011
"Advanced nuclear" will be a way risky, than the existing reactors because of working regime of breeding reactors (higher temperatures, pressure, liquid metals as a coolant, unstable neutron flux regime, corrosive environment, etc..)."

Nope. Breeding reactors will be a lot safer because of using only atmospheric pressures (explosion is physically impossible), passive nuclear safety (freeze plug), negative void coefficient, and using inert liquid SALTS as a coolant (and fuel).

http://en.wikiped..._reactor

"I actually hope, all nuclear reactors in future will be globally monitored with neutrino detectors and banned as a terrorist technology."

You are crazy. You are the kind of person that would ban all fire when the first houses burned down.
rawa1
1 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2011
Breeding reactors will be a lot safer because of using only atmospheric pressures (explosion is physically impossible)
For example, the thorium breeder reactor built in at Kalpakkam, India sodium, which explodes if it comes into contact with water and burns when in contact with air. In a reactor it absorbs neutrons to generate the radioactive isotope Na-24, which has a half-life of 15 hour. The ATBR annually requires 2.2 tonnes of plutonium as 'seed'. It operates at the 420C outlet temperature and pressure 300 atm.

The breeder reactors in India so far are only realized by a small experimental fast breeder reactor (13 MW), at Kalpakkam. This reactor has a history with a lot of problems. This reactor is on top of a list of dangerous reactors in the country, according to a safety assessment of India's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

http://bellona.no...ion/3126
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2011
Yes, indian PFBR experimental reactor is not a very safe design due to the coolant choice. But there are far better designs. Generation IV reactors do not end at liquid metal cooled designs:

http://en.wikiped..._Reactor

http://energyfrom...reactor/

http://en.wikiped...periment

http://en.wikiped...Fuji_MSR
kochevnik
1 / 5 (2) Sep 17, 2011
Deaths per TWh produced for modern nuclear plants could very well be even lower than renewables. Advanced nuclear will be key to future energy infrastructure of the world.
Only according to your fake beancounting, published by some astroturfing blogger/spammer for the nuke industry. In a related vein: numbers prove cigarettes are good for you.

If you ONLY count citizens, which are the only relevant population, nukes are millions of times more dangerous than solar/wind/wave. Indeed how exactly does a solar cell kill an end customer? You should explain that, given you're so scientific and devoted to accuracy.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (2) Sep 17, 2011
Yes, indian PFBR experimental reactor is not a very safe design due to the coolant choice....
Flailing around pointlessly hoping to make an inherently dangerous technology safe is stupid, when today we can deploy inherently safe, sustainable, and permanent alternatives.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Sep 17, 2011
There is no such thing as inherently dangerous technology, especialy when you are talking about the whole field. Only designs can be dangerous/safe.

Renewables are costly and provide unstable low quality electricity (unless you invest in huge storage facilities and smartgrid infrastructure, which costs another big bucks), so they are unusable for base load power. And they are by far not permanent, solar panels degrade after 20 years and will require continuous replacement.

Because renewables are simply physically incapable of satisfying huge and rising power requirements of 21.st century industrial civilisation, they only practical resulf of antinuclear fearmongering is this:
http://depletedcr...il-fuel/
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Sep 17, 2011
There is no such thing as inherently dangerous technology, especialy when you are talking about the whole field. Only designs can be dangerous/safe.
It's the profitability, which defines, whether the technology is inherently dangerous or not. If we cannot achieve the safe design profitable, then all implemented technologies are potentially dangerous, when they're generating profit.

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