Saturday, March 12, 2011

Earthquake in Japan reveals frightening concerns about safety of nuclear energy.

From CNN:

An explosion at an earthquake-damaged nuclear plant was not caused by damage to the nuclear reactor but by a pumping system that failed as crews tried to bring the reactor's temperature down, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Saturday.

The next step for workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant will be to flood the reactor containment structure with sea water to bring the reactor's temperature down to safe levels, he said. The effort is expected to take two days.

Radiation levels have fallen since the explosion and there is no immediate danger, Edano said. But authorities were nevertheless expanding the evacuation to include a radius of 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) around the plant. The evacuation previously reached out to 10 kilometers.

You know it may just be that I am a product of my time, but I have always become very uncomfortable when politicians start pushing the idea of building more reactors in America to ease our burden on foreign oil and to move us toward more modern energy solutions.  I have even heard nuclear energy rebranded as a "renewable energy source" in order to make it seem more palatable.

Of course I still remember how panicked we all were during the incident at Three Mile Island, and have watched the China Syndrome at least a half dozen times, so perhaps my perspective is skewed.

What do all of you think about nuclear energy making a resurgence in America?  Do you feel it is safe?  And considering what is happening in Japan, has that altered your point of view?


  1. Anonymous6:11 AM

    Science may have given us wings, but it is slowly taking them away.

    Refute that.

    No, I don't believe nuclear energy can ever be utilized safely. Heck, Drilling for oil isn't even foolproof. The possibility for human error is too great to threaten everyone with it

  2. Anonymous6:13 AM

    I'm with you. Nuclear energy terrifies me. Check out what keith said, too:

  3. Anonymous6:20 AM

    Let's place some bets on how long it will take Palin to "slam" Obama about the earthquake. You just know the a-holes at Fox News were wracking their brains yesterday, trying to think of a way to blame the President for this tragedy.

  4. Olivia6:27 AM

    I so agree with you. I have always thought that nuclear power could be great if it were done right but it will never be done right because it would be too expensive. Every entity involved in designing, building, operating and maintaining nuclear power plants has making money and saving money on costs as their first and second priorities. If the priority could become generating power safely and efficiently without the money factor,it could be done.

  5. Pat in MA6:38 AM

    Olivia - you are 100% right, it is an industry that requires careful and thorough regulation and we know how Republicans feel about that. And even with regulation, private industry is interested in profits, not safety. I worked in the regulatory area for pharmaceutical companies for years, and it was a constant struggle with management to get things done RIGHT.The question was never 'how can we meet or exceed a given standard?' but rather, how can we get by spending the least amount of money?

  6. Anonymous6:43 AM

    part of me wishes we could go back to pioneer times. Seemed simpler then when you didn't have all the modern conveniences that aren't really doing all that much to make things more convenient. But that's just me.

    As for nuclear power, I do NOT wish to have it anywhere near me. Far too dangerous in my opinion.

  7. Anonymous6:44 AM

    I feel strongly that nuclear energy is too dangerous. It cannot be made failsafe in today's world. Hardly anything can be, and the stakes are too high for this one. What if the same money were invested in wind, solar and others?

  8. "Nuclear Power Plants Shut Down Across Japan; State Of Emergency Declared At Five"

    ", is reporting that the Fukushima plant is in at least partial meltdown. The BBC reports that there's been a "huge" explosion at the plant."

  9. linda6:55 AM

    well, i have thought for a long time that my feelings about nuclear reactors was just due to me being an old fogey. i'm 59. we have a nuclear reactor about 50 miles from where i live in ohio and every time i drive past it or see it on the horizon it just creeps me out. i was driving to west virginia this week, along the ohio river, and drove past another one. same creepy feeling. i understand the value of nuclear energy, but i do feel that those reactors are unsafe and so susceptible to damage during a disaster (or by terrorists) that it is not worth it.

  10. Anonymous6:58 AM

    OT, but did you see this video, Gryphen? It's an interview with Schaeffer Cox at the 2009 Continental Congress, a gathering of birthers (Orly Taitz is a member), fellow AIP members, and other nutjob "libertarian" teabagger types from around the US. At about the 2:54 mark Cox talks about Sarah Palin, saying that he knows her pretty well and that she is susceptible to bad advice (ya think?!).

  11. Anonymous7:10 AM

    If you are concerned about climate change, then you have to either be willing to spend a lot more money on energy or use less. Right now we get a lot of our base energy from coal and oil, but if we back off from using those soruces and use more and more electricity, we have to have a huge non-polluting supply. Renewable energy cannot supply us with all that we need, and it's expensive. At this point in time, nuclear is a good answer.

  12. While we debate nuclear, I say everyone who can should get solar on the roof of your house (no upfront money needed now, any your paymets would be less than your current power bills) and a hybrid car when you next need to buy one (electricity to fuel it is almost free, vs gas). But the real benefit is not money but doing the right thing.

    Not a perfect solution, but it puts dollar votes into the right direction, driving entrepreneurs toward developing better solutions. Right now we seem to be doing almost nothing, as our speeding Titanic is 10 min away from its iceberg.

    This is of course a WAAAAAAY bigger issue than SP or even the fascist takeover that is in progress. Unfortunately.

  13. Anonymous7:22 AM

    huge cover-up as to radiation levels currently outside of the plant. There are big discrepancies from what Japan is reporting and the readings taken by British scientists miles away.

    Unit 1 is in meltdown. Unit 2 is in the process of beginning meltdown.

  14. Anonymous7:32 AM

    Yes nuclear power is too faulty: the human and nature faults can not be over come.
    The waste can not even be safely disposed of for the same unchangeable reasons.

  15. Anonymous7:46 AM

    The CNN story of pumps blowing up building is 100% PURE bullshit.

    Look at video .. you can see the shock waves. This is a hydrogen blast.

    The building that blew up surrounds the containment building where the reactor is located.

    The Japan plant is a GE boiling water Mark 1 design, vintage 1970's. It is identical to Millstone 1 in Conn, Davis Besse in Ohio and Grand Gulf 1 in Miss.

  16. Anonymous7:47 AM

    I've always felt that NO indsutrial application should be used until we can close any open loops in any type of pollution that industry creates - whether we are talking about making glass bottles or nuclear fuel.

    Nuclear has never been safe and never will be safe because, as events such as this quake is showing, we do not have the technology to build a completely safe reactor.

    The nuclear industry proponents are trying to repackage nuclear energy the same way they tout "clean coal".

    Over the past 5 years of so, there has been a push to use "small scale" nuclear reactors to power small villages. I'm not so up on that particular technology, but it still has the same problems as large scale reactors - an unstable energy source that still has an end life that remains problematic.

    Maybe this unfolding tradegy in Japan will allow for a more concentrated push for safe renewables such as wind, solar and geo-thermal. After all, nobody ever died because of excess "wind" spillage.

  17. emrysa7:50 AM

    it is depressing that nuclear power is becoming more acceptable in this country. but at the same time, I guess it's not surprising because we have so many selfish and ignorant people here.

    points can be argued till all sides are blue in the face, but it really comes down to this: it is irresponsible and immoral to create waste that is deadly for tens of thousands of years when we have no solution for it. lately people like palin want to bitch about putting off debt onto the future generations (but they've never complained about this in the past), well how about leaving the future generations deadly waste to deal with simply because we want power today? yeah she and her kind will never apply the same standard to nuclear waste as they do money, because it doesn't fit their agenda.

    I really hope that things are okay in japan. but I don't have hope that if anything serious happened that they'd be honest about it. not just in japan, but everywhere that people have nukes. to governments it's more important to keep massive public panic from happening than it is to be honest.

  18. Anonymous7:52 AM

    Energy costs are frequently used as a justisification to build nuclear reactors. Fact - no nuclear reactor has ever been built that didn't cost the Earth and then some (pun intended). Every one has had huge government subsidies and tax breaks. Insurance is virtually impossible to obtain.

    Nuclear Reactors make NO sense, economically or environmentally. The only reason we have so many in the world now is becuase the costs have been propped up by government and the real costs are kicked on down the road.

    - Hedgewytch

  19. Gryph,

    I'm in Seattle for the memorial service of James L. Acord. He died in January, full of grief. He had predicted such an event at a Japanese nuclear plant since long before Chernobyl. I'm glad he doesn't have to see this day he knew was coming for decades.

    The nuclear wastes, devices, power plants and playthings - like DU ammunition - that we have created in a mere 66 years - will remain toxic 1,000 times that long. We have no idea what we have created, but Acord knew it was and is and WILL BE a pesky monster.

    Sorry, but rather than change my thinking, the explosion at Daiichi #1 overnight confirmed it.

    Have a nice day.

  20. Anonymous8:01 AM

    Safe or not, nuclear is here and will increase unless we learn to conserve. How many plastic doo-dads do you really need? And then need to dispose of? How many lights need to be turned on in empty rooms and parking lots?

  21. Anonymous8:05 AM

    Like the physicists say, nuclear power plants are not built for worst case scenarios. So no, I don't like them.

  22. Richard8:12 AM

    Is it 100 percent safe?
    Can it be guaranteed to be 100 percent safe?
    Can we dispose of the spent material in a way that will isolate it form, say, a few hundred million years?

    This is an area where 99.9999% safety isn't enough. It just takes one major accident to permanently destroy hundreds or thousands of square miles of land and sicken and kill perhaps millions of people.

    I live near two reactors, both very near fault lines. They are both supposed to be seismically safe, yet no one can promise 100 percent safety.

    Decommission them all. It's the only sane thing to do.

  23. Anonymous8:25 AM

    When I was in 8th grade, My history teacher had a set of maps hanging on the wall just like most teachers do. However, his were different. He added a nuclear war map: it was a simple blank paper

    This has obviously always stuck with me

  24. Anonymous8:27 AM

    I think we should be utilizing more nuclear energy.I'm very much aware of the dangers but burning fossil fuels is not without its risks either.Global warming is real and I don't think there is any way to reverse it.I just hope and pray we haven't reached the point of no return.We need to reset our priorities as a nation.Mankinds very future depends on it.

  25. Anonymous8:28 AM

    On September 15, 1945, a scientist working on the Manhattan Project became the first American victim of nuclear fission. His name was Harry Daghlian, age 24, an instructor at Purdue University, who had joined the bomb project in November 1943.

    On the evening of August 21, Harry Daghlian was conducting an experiment when he dropped a thirteen-pound tungsten brick on top of a small structure enclosing a sphere of plutonium that had already gone critical. In a panic, he attempted to bring the reaction under control by tipping over the table, but it refused to move. Finally, with his bare hands, he tore away the bricks surrounding the plutonium, allowing the neutrons to escape, and the reaction stopped.

    Within hours, Daghlian felt sick and went to the hospital. Over the following days, he exhibited many of the symptoms of radiation disease being reported in Japan.

    He suffered for twenty-four days.

  26. Merry9:19 AM

    If I ever had any doubts about whether nuclear power was dangerous, Dr. Helen Caldicott from Australia put those doubts to rest decades ago.

    The half-life of nuclear waste is in the hundreds of thousands of years. That means it has to be stored, stockpiled and guarded for incalculably long, in a world that changes every day. Look at Egypt...different than it was a month ago by human forces. Look at Japan...different than it was on Tuesday by natural forces.

    Who can possibly guarantee safety under any and all circumstances for a million years?

    When the wind blows, it has no half life at all. When solar power hits your solar cell, it creates truly clean energy.

    And by the way, Obama to the contrary, there is no "clean coal" or happy-face natural gas.

    Follow the will not lead you to truly clean energy. Someday, maybe, but right now it is only leading to non-renewables.

    If you think there is any chance for good nuclear, please do your homework.

  27. Yes, nuclear power isn't 100% safe, but how safe is oil? How many people have been killed by explosions, how much land/sea has been despoiled for more than decades? How safe is coal? Me, I'm a fan of solar.

  28. Anonymous10:18 AM

    I am totally against nuclear power. I remember in my long-ago youth it was being peddled as "cheap, safe, and plentiful." I thought that sounded marvelous and was all for it till I grew up and studied enough science to realize the incredible risks it poses. Scientists who insist it's safe are being scarily arrogant, thinking they can foresee, plan for, and control all possible problems. They can't, and that's been proven time and again. Between human error/arrogance, and mother nature, it will never be safe; the possibility of huge catastrophe will always be very present.

  29. Thanks for posting on this Gryphen. I too became suspicious of nuclear power -and the people that push it and profit from it - way back, because of TMI.

    Here are some recent pictures from Chernobyl - the thing to remember is that disasters like this aren't just unacceptably POSSIBLE - they are INEVITABLE.

  30. Anonymous10:32 AM

    IMO, there is a way to at least semi-safely use nuclear energy. But those who build the plants are in it to make money for themselves, not to protect the population.

    Build the plants far underground, as they do missile silos, and did for the nuclear bomb testing in the west in early years. Isn't the Iranian nuclear plant inside a mountain? A meltdown or explosion there would be buried, as would the reactor. Only those who worked there would be compromised.

    Looks as if the fallout from the Japanese plant meltdown will be here in AK and on the west coast within 10 days if the weather currents remain the same. Be prepared.

  31. Anonymous1:01 PM

    I have been against nuclear power from day one, primarily on the waste storage problem, which has not been solved, not in Europe or in the US.

    (Palin has gotten loads of money from Texas waste management/nuclear waste management entities, BTW.)

    And, apart from natural disasters, these plants are fat targets for terrorism, both on site and transportation of materials/waste.

    It's like jumping from the frying pan into the fire, switching from coal/oil to nuclear. We have a huge nuclear reactor in place, the sun. We need to harvest more of that energy.


  32. Anonymous1:02 PM

    Come on, Sarah, I'm waiting for your inevitable tweet making you the victim of the Japanese quake/tsunami/nuclear fallout scare. Are you sleeping at the wheel?

  33. Anonymous1:02 PM

    The US should have transferred to nuclear energy years ago.

    Is it serious business? Yes. But considering France and Japan have had them for *decades* and treat it as serious business, our fears make us look foolish TBH.

    We've put men on the moon, for Pete's sake. Maybe it's because I'm a science fiction nerd, but reading all these comments about "gosh it's so scary!" makes me feel if it were up some, we never would have left the caves.

    Remember, FIRE used to be a big danger, you know? Entire towns and cities burned to the ground before thanks to . . . fire.

    Life is risk. It's a pipe dream to pretend otherwise.

  34. Anonymous1:17 PM

    I don't know how real the threat of nuclear fallout is for Alaska right now, but as someone mentioned it, here are two useful sites:

    How to obtain potassium iodide pills on the internet (can be hard to find over the counter is my understanding):

    Google "Nukepills" for Amazon.

    Also a map of projected fallout can be found at


  35. Anonymous3:02 PM

    Whether or not a nuclear plant can be safely operated isn't the big question. The problem is the nuclear waste. Who wants that in their backyard?

    Someone mentioned looking for iodide. You might find it at a good health food store. If not, it's easy to find on the internet.

    Meanwhile... reactor #3: cooling system has failed. Radioactive steam is about to be/has just been released to reduce pressure.

  36. Anonymous3:04 PM

    I grew up next to a nuclear facility, and my parents worked on the Manhattan project (as did the parents of most of my schoolmates and neighbors).

    My high school class -- and the entire area -- has an unusually high rate of myeloma, lymphoma, leukemia;most of my good friends from high school have already died from cancer: and I have just received my own diagnosis.

  37. onething3:53 PM

    Not safe. Cold fusion and other alternative energies are rumored to be ready to go but suppressed by the powers that be.

  38. The Atomic Kid4:23 PM

    Nuclear disaster, the gift that keeps on giving! If the greedy bastards had not put so much of their money into uranium we would all have cheap and efficient solar power today. It's always about the money, human safety does not compete with profits!
    Were you exposed during Chernobyl?
    Did you drink water from a surface reservoir?

  39. Anonymous4:50 PM

    Japan stopped spraying seawater at 5:30AM. The rods are exposed and Unit 1 is currently on fire and is in meltdown, Unit 2 is in the beginning stages of meltdown.

    amazing how many reports are wrong - no boric acid was used. It was Boron.

    Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton announced yesterday that the U.S. Air Force has provided cooling water for the troubled reactors. Wrong. no such thing happened - the air force is not involved - an official statement has come out that she mis-spoke. (rolling eyes)

    radioactive elements such as xenon, krypton, cesium, iodine, and strontium are already being released from the nuclear reactor. Nearby hospital patients have tested positive for radiation poisoning.

    just spoke with a GE engineer that worked at the plant - he and 19 others were ordered to evacuate immediately yesterday AM.

  40. Anonymous5:35 PM

    You may be right about the health food store as a source; however, it is my understanding that some iodide pills are not at all effective, that you can only be sure of dosage and efficacy if you purchase the ones specific to ameliorating radiation exposure.

    I'm not being Henny Penny here as I have no idea whether or not the Japan plant(s) truly pose a threat to the world at large at this point.

    However, the US is still pretty asleep at the wheel when it comes to preparing for a nuclear event. It doesn't hurt at all to treat this as an "as if" and bone up on your info and possibly, if you feel it worthwhile (especially if you live near or downwind of a nuclear facility) to have a bottle of the "nukepills" in your cache.

    I did this shorty after 911 when no one really knew the scope of what was to happen. I was surprised at how much I had forgotten since the 60s.

    I also keep a good supply of those hard to find fitted facemasks (the only kind that truly protects against airborne agents) in case of a pandemic. They are ten years old, but still there!!

    I tend to think in these directions as I used to live in earthquake/multiple disaster zone and prepared the emergency manual and protocol for my company.

    "Hoax" or "misinformation" or "hysteria" aside, like I said, it doesn't hurt to educate and prepare yourself. It certainly doesn't hurt people who go to higher ground for a tsunami that does not come or is milder than expected. It's a good dry run. I would treat this as same.

    You may think, well, I live in a rural area. . .but you never know how you might be affected by transportation interruptions elsewhere.


  41. Anonymous4:49 AM

    After having witnessed Chesapeake's complete disregard for people's homes and health in their quest to make a buck off natural gas, no way do I want any for-profit entity running a nuclear reactor.

  42. Anonymous4:57 AM

    1:02, yeah, because nuclear energy is just like fire.


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