Brave New Climate – Where are We in the Nuclear Event?

March 13, 2011

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Brave New Climate is a blog run by Professor Barry Brook, who holds the Foundation Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change and is Director of Climate Science at The Environment Institute, University of Adelaide.

The blog’s position is that climate change is a crisis and that nuclear energy is a key solution.  BNC has an informative and lengthy post on where we are in the nuclear accident process. Here are the conclusions:

Now, where does that leave us?

  • The plant is safe now and will stay safe. (my emphasis – PS)
  • Japan is looking at an INES Level 4 Accident: Nuclear accident with local consequences. That is bad for the company that owns the plant, but not for anyone else.
  • Some radiation was released when the pressure vessel was vented. All radioactive isotopes from the activated steam have gone (decayed). A very small amount of Cesium was released, as well as Iodine. If you were sitting on top of the plants’ chimney when they were venting, you should probably give up smoking to return to your former life expectancy. ( As I am not a smoker, I do not find this reassuring – PS) The Cesium and Iodine isotopes were carried out to the sea and will never be seen again.(in an environment that is exquisitely interconnected, everything will be seen again – PS)
  • There was some limited damage to the first containment. That means that some amounts of radioactive Cesium and Iodine will also be released into the cooling water, but no Uranium or other nasty stuff (the Uranium oxide does not “dissolve” in the water). There are facilities for treating the cooling water inside the third containment. The radioactive Cesium and Iodine will be removed there and eventually stored as radioactive waste in terminal storage.
  • The seawater used as cooling water will be activated to some degree. Because the control rods are fully inserted, the Uranium chain reaction is not happening. That means the “main” nuclear reaction is not happening, thus not contributing to the activation. The intermediate radioactive materials (Cesium and Iodine) are also almost gone at this stage, because the Uranium decay was stopped a long time ago. This further reduces the activation. The bottom line is that there will be some low level of activation of the seawater, which will also be removed by the treatment facilities.
  • The seawater will then be replaced over time with the “normal” cooling water
  • The reactor core will then be dismantled and transported to a processing facility, just like during a regular fuel change.
  • Fuel rods and the entire plant will be checked for potential damage. This will take about 4-5 years.
  • The safety systems on all Japanese plants will be upgraded to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami (or worse)
  • I believe the most significant problem will be a prolonged power shortage. About half of Japan’s nuclear reactors will probably have to be inspected, reducing the nation’s power generating capacity by 15%. This will probably be covered by running gas power plants that are usually only used for peak loads to cover some of the base load as well. That will increase your electricity bill, as well as lead to potential power shortages during peak demand, in Japan.

The piece also includes links to outside information resources:

Tokyo Electric Power Press releases

Nuclear Energy Institute regular updates

6 Responses to “Brave New Climate – Where are We in the Nuclear Event?”

  1. BlueRock Says:

    I don’t know much about Brook as climate scientist, but as nuclear advocate he is atrocious. I think of him as the Anthony Watts of energy. Although, it seems that most nuke drum bangers are as accurate, honest and informed as Anthony Watts is on climate science.

    > The plant is safe now and will stay safe.

    I imagine that being read out by Comical Ali from Baghdad.

    Explosions, fires, evacuation of plant workers, massive exclusion zones, people told to stay indoors, US helicopters and their crews contaminated. If that is what Brook considers “safe”, I hope he is never in a position to make life or death decisions.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      I’m trying to present a range of views on the evolving situation. Readers can just what the most accurate presentations are.

      • BlueRock Says:

        I appreciate that – and it is good to see how this unfolding disaster is being ‘managed’ and reacted to by different sources. You’ve pulled together some great resources over the last few days.

        I just watched the Maddow video – she nails how big this could be with the fact that the tsunami and the death of tens of thousands is now overshadowed by this nuke clusterfcuk.

        It’s been morbidly fascinating watching the damage control from the nuke lobby in blog and MSM comments over the last few days. It’s gone from triumphant – “See?! Nuke withstands 9.0 quake and tsunami!” to the bizarre denial displayed by Brook. On the upside, it seems like plenty of people are voicing their highly negative opinion of nuclear.

        As horrible as this could be for the Japanese and as awful as it is for others to benefit from this unfolding tragedy, the hit to the credibility of nuke power could be a godsend for the planet.

        P.S. If you’ve not seen it:

  2. BlueRock Says:

    Why does this not surprise me?

    Brook has edited his post and removed: “The plant is safe now and will stay safe.” It’s still quoted in the comments to his blog post.

    Barry Brook: the Baghdad Bob of energy!

  3. peterkrauliz Says:

    In my opinion Prof Barry Brook is a sort of bully. This can easily be derived from his statements and comments on environmentalists’ objections regarding nuclear power plants. It is inconceivable that a person representing a tertiary education institution approaches the public in the way he does. By the way, if you watch his facial expression on his photos, you know everything. This is the face of a bully. PK

    • greenman3610 Says:

      I admire Brook’s efforts to teach about climate change, and I share his alarm with the problem.
      I disagree that nuclear is, or even could be, the answer, and I think that in market driven economies, that choice was made decades ago.
      I am horrified and heartbroken at what is happening in Japan, but I still believe the biggest “nuclear accident” would be a terrorist attack or war resulting from the global proliferation of nuclear materials.
      I’m open to the possibility that problems of safety and proliferation might be over come with research one day, but our urgent need is now, and the renewables are ready.

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