Gunderson, May 23: Lessons of Fukushima for Operating Reactors

May 24, 2011

Arnie Gundersen explains how containment vents were added to the GE Mark 1 BWR as a “band aid” 20 years after the plants built in order to prevent an explosion of the notoriously weak Mark 1 containment system. Obviously the containment vent band aid fix did not work since all three units have lost containment integrity and are leaking radioactivity. Gundersen also discusses seismic design flaws, inadequate evacuation planning, and the taxpayer supported nuclear industry liability fund.

One Response to “Gunderson, May 23: Lessons of Fukushima for Operating Reactors”

  1. David Lewis Says:

    Gundersen is not a credible analyst.

    I am a climate activist since 1988. I was calling for stabilizing the composition of the atmosphere and aiming for returning it to the preindustrial composition at that time as a leading figure in the British Columbia Green Party. Because I staked my political future on whether Canadians would support decisive climate action, I went nowhere.

    I have been researching nuclear power since James Hansen started talking about it several years ago. Like Hansen, I have concluded that the risks associated with nuclear power are dwarfed by climate change, and I, like him, advocate that civilization should ramp up nuclear as quickly as possible.

    I heard Gundersen’s line at the height of the Fukushima crisis when a Canadian national radio show, As It Happens, turned to him as some kind of expert.

    This was the day the Japanese changed the rating on Fukushima from 5 to 7. I studied Gundersen’s appearances on that show in detail that day, as I am Canadian and I know that show cares enough about the truth that they will carefully consider critical comment. It so happened that I had studied in some detail why the rating had changed from 5 to 7 as well. (The interview with Gundersen starts about 11 miutes or so into Part 1 on the streaming audio available on this page )

    Gundersen asserted that as of the date of the interview, April 12, TEPCO was telling the world that the eventual total radiation release from Fukushima “will exceed Chernobyl”. TEPCO did not say this. Gundersen is either lying or is demonstrating his ignorance here. Either interpretation affects his credibility.

    He stated that the full extent of even what TEPCO was aware of to that date was not being revealed, because “the type of radiation” he was seeing in the reports saying why the incident level had moved from 5 to 7 was “dramatically different” than what came from Chernobyl. “They’re basing this decision to go to a Class 7 based on the iodine releases”, he said, then he said “actually Fukushima is a lot worse” than just the iodine….

    He had no idea that the requirements for INES (International Nuclear Event Scale) classification are that operators are to express all estimated radiation release as iodine equivalent. Or, he was lying about what he knew in order to make a spurious charge that TEPCO was somehow hiding information about other isotopes. It seems clear he didn’t know what he was talking about. There is an INES “User’s Manual” available for the use of member states to assist them in deriving an appropriate rating – it is here On page 15, it is explained that in the case of a radiation release to the atmosphere the estimated amount of all radioactive material released should be converted to its equivalent in radioactive iodine and reported that way.

    He then asserted that the nuclear industry isn’t prepared to deal with events the size of Fukushima, only ones that are 1,000 times smaller in magnitude. I’m not making this up. The “worst case” event the nuclear industry is prepared to deal with, according to Gundersen, is when “1% of the fuel fails”, whatever that means to him, “the containment holds”, again, whatever that means to him. Whatever it means, he says the nuclear industry is not prepared to deal with events 1,000 times smaller than however big he could blow Fukushima up as of the date he was interviewed. He was on this show weeks earlier proclaming that it was 50-50 that the worst possible meltdown anyone could imagine was about to take place, saying “the containment had failed”.

    What Gundersen does appears very similar to what those who deny climate science do.

    I think people who support scientists who are under attack as not credible because what they’ve discovered about climate is uncomfortable for some to accept, who are astonished at how our civilization can pretend that climate change is not happening, who oppose nuclear power, should be careful they don’t use the same science denying or fact denying tactics that people who oppose taking action to conserve climate do.

    Its one thing to have doubts about nuclear technology, and quite another to spread lies or disinformation about it.

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