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Had the massive 8.9 Richter-scale earthquake that has just savaged Japan hit instead off the California coast, it could have ripped apart at least four coastal reactors and sent a lethal cloud of radiation across the entire United States.
 

Had the massive 8.9 Richter-scale earthquake that has just savaged Japan hit instead off the California coast, it could have ripped apart at least four coastal reactors and sent a lethal cloud of radiation across the entire United States.

It is not yet clear what damage may yet be done by the resulting tsunamis.  Early estimates have put the size of the first of them at as high as 10 meters.  The first and many succeeding waves are expected to hit land at Hawaii and throughout the Pacific rim.  

It remains possible that residual geological instability could still cause damaging tremors along the California coast.

The two huge reactors each at San Onofre and Diablo Canyon are entirely incapable of standing up to such a powerful earthquake.  All four are extremely close to major faults.  By orders of magnitude, none are designed to withstand shock waves as powerful as have been generated by this quake.

Depending on the size of the tsunami generated, the reactors---all four located relatively low to the coast----could also be flooded, again causing horrific radiation releases into the air and water.

San Onofre is located between San Diego and Los Angeles.  A radioactive cloud spewing from one or both reactors there would do incalculable damage to either or both urban areas before carrying over the rest of southern and central California.

Diablo Canyon is located at Avila Beach, on the coast just west of San Luis Obispo, between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  A radioactive cloud released there would pour into central California and, depending on the winds, up to the Bay Area or southeast into  Santa Barbara and then to Los Angeles.  The cloud would at very least permanently destroy much of the region on which most Americans rely for their winter supply of fresh vegetables.

By the federal Price-Anderson Act of 1957, the owners of the destroyed reactors---including Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison---would be covered by private insurance only up to $11 billion, a tiny fraction of the trillions of dollars worth of damage that would be done.  The rest would become the responsibility of the federal taxpayer and the individuals who suffer the actual destruction.  Virtually all homeowner insurance policies in the United States exempt the insurers from liability from a reactor disaster.

More importantly, the death toll would be incalculable.  The most definitive recent study of the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl reactor puts the death toll at 985,000.  This accident happened in an impoverished, remote rural area.  The nearest city, Kiev, is 80 kilometers away.

By contrast, San Luis Obispo is less than ten miles from Diablo Canyon, and directly downwind.  The region downwind from San Onofre has become heavily suburbanized.

Heavy radioactive fallout spread from Chernobyl blanketed all of Europe within a matter of days.  The area irradiated was larger than the United States.  Fallout in fact carried into the jet stream and arrived on the coast of California, thousands of miles away, within ten days.  It then carried all the way across the northern tier of the United States.

Chernobyl Unit Four was of comparable size to the two reactors at Diablo Canyon, and somewhat larger than the two at San Onofre.  But it was very new at the time it exploded.  The four California coastal reactors have been operating since the 1970s and 1980s and have thus accumulated much larger internal burdens of radioactive materials. Major releases at any of the four could exceed what was spewed at Chernobyl.

Japanese officials are currently asserting that four reactors in the Tohoku region automatically shut, and that there were no radiation releases.  But such announcements are not reliable.  In 2007 a smaller earthquake rocked the seven-reactor Kashiwazaki site and forced its lengthy shut-down.

Japan has some 55 commercial reactors, all of them within seismic danger zones.

In 1986 the Perry nuclear plant, east of Cleveland, was rocked by a 5.5 Richter-scale shock, many orders of magnitude weaker than the one that has just hit Japan.  That quake broke pipes and other key equipment within the plant, as well as taking out nearby roads and bridges.  The reactor had not yet opened.  An Ohio gubernatorial commission later determined that evacuation in the middle of such a quake would be impossible.

Other American reactors sit on or near earthquake faults in Missouri, New Hampshire, New York and elsewhere.

The Obama Administration is now asking Congress for $36 billion in new loan guarantees to build more commercial reactors.  It has yet to share with the public its exact plans for dealing with a disaster on the scale of the ones that could be caused by an earthquake this size in California or elsewhere.

It has also yet to disclose where it has stashed the cash reserves needed to cover the liability that would not be covered by the utilities that own the reactors.

As the whole world watches Japan dig out from this catastrophe, we Americans might contemplate what could have happened here---and may yet.

The only good aftershock of this disaster would be a decision to  end the horrific gamble being waged with the continued operation of these apocalyptic disasters waiting to happen.

Not to mention the tragic attempt to soak taxpayers for still more of them.

 

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Comment Preferences

  •  What to do? (0+ / 0-)

    It's obvious that a shut down of current nucular plants would be catastrophic as well.  Why do I feel that I am lying in someone else's bed?

    Fools are the teachers of the wise. It is foolish to disrespect one's teachers. - Old Man

    by A Voice on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 02:14:04 AM PST

  •  The images of this disaster are stunning... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cedwyn, mochajava13, DRo, Joieau

    I've been watching part of the coverage on CNN somewhat in shock, seeing events in real time like the tsunami waves sweeping into the farmland in Japan.

    I agree that nuclear power is just too risky, especially in quake-prone areas like the left coast of the U.S. There are just too many people in proximity to suitable reactor sites.

    Thanks for the analysis.

    The history of the CIA's involvement with the American press continues to be shrouded by an official policy of obfuscation and deception -- Carl Bernstein

    by markthshark on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 02:19:44 AM PST

  •  Not sure what this means (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LNK, DRo, Joieau

    There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly. ~Richard Buckminster Fuller

    by Blissing on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 02:20:40 AM PST

  •  Fire at one nuclar plant (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    semiot, Cedwyn, mochajava13, Joieau

    http://www.reuters.com/...

    Anomaly. Cooling system.
    Kyodo Wire:

    The operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant reported an abnormality Friday following a powerful earthquake which hit a wide area in northeastern Japan including Fukushima Prefecture, the industry ministry said.

    The system to cool reactor cores in case of emergency stopped at the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors of the plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., it said.

    Japanese Prime Minister...one of first items he reported on was state of nuclear power plants. Obviously on everyone's mind there.

    P.S. THIS IS A 'TEACHING MOMENT' and a good time to learn as much as possible so we can take appropriate action for our future.

    Note to those who aren't familiar with the diarist. He has a long and sterling reputation as a good guy and is extremely well-informed. Links to some of his articles:
    http://www.alternet.org/...

    and don't forget his work documenting what went wrong with the Ohio election:

    http://freepress.org/...

    Harvey and co-author Bob Fitrakis have been called "the Woodward & Bernstein of the 2004 election" by Rev. Jesse Jackson. Their HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, published by the Columbus Institute of Contemporary Journalism, is the definitive digest on the theft of George W. Bush's second term. Their WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO? (co-authored with Steve Rosenfeld) is the leading document book, published by New Press.

    Harvey's journalistic writings and columns have appeared in major newspapers and magazines worldwide since 1967. He and Fitrakis co-host Radio FreePress.Org, and have appeared on Lou Dobbs, Democracy Now! and other major US media.


    •  thank you....this is a horrible nightmare.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cedwyn, Joieau

      the scenes of the water moving into Japan as much as 60 miles from the coast are staggering.

      we are all living on the edge on this planet.  

      taking risks with these nuclear plants is a truly horrifying flirtation with suicide....except that that risk is being imposed on those who have no part in the decision.

      thank you again for your kind comments.  let's hope this "learning moment" leads to the shutdown of all reactors.  

      •  No. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Corwin Weber, Mcrab, Blubba, rfall, erush1345

        They handled the situation. Give it a rest.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 07:58:29 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Please re-check (0+ / 0-)

          the news.

          NYT reports this evening:

          Japanese officials on Saturday issued broad evacuation orders for people living in the vicinity of two separate nuclear power plants that had experienced breakdowns in their cooling systems as a result of the earthquake, and warned that small amounts of radiation were likely to leak from the plants.

          Evacuations now extended to the Daini plant, where CNN reported just over an hour ago:

          Potentially dangerous problems cooling radioactive material appear to have cropped up at another of the Tokyo Electric Power Company's nuclear plants. Kyodo reported Saturday the power company alerted authorities that the cooling system at three of the four units of its Fukushima Daini plant – which is different from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, nearby in northeastern Japan in the Fukushima prefecture – has failed.

          Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

          by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 06:01:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  What I hope (9+ / 0-)

      and what I think we will learn, is even after the fifth most powerful earthquake since 1900, nuclear reactors functioned as intended and did not release significant quantities of radioactive material to the environment.

      Unfortunately, I don't think this will stop people from continually worrying about earthquakes and nuclear power plants.

      •  what a fantasy.....this event is nowhere.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mochajava13, Joieau

        near over & you're already issuing a clean bill of health.

        how about we wait until the tremors stop & we see what's really happening at the reactors that are obviously stricken

        •  How about you wait (9+ / 0-)

          until after the event is over before fear-mongoring with half-truths?  The safety systems contained the fuel rods just as they were designed to do, there has been 0 radiation leak even after one of the top-5 strongest earthquake in more than 100 years.  

          If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. --- Charles Darwin

          by coracii on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 05:23:10 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  World media is reporting (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            radical simplicity

            issues with Japan's nukes as a result of this devastating earthquake. So long as the situation remains newsworthy, it is an appropriate subject for diaries and discussion. You don't have to participate if it scares you.

            Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

            by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 08:44:19 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I grew up (4+ / 0-)

              5 miles from the Perry Nuclear Plant in Cleveland and lived there when the earthquake hit quite a few years ago.  I don't know how you got the delusional idea that the news "scares me", I prefer to stick with the facts, and right now those facts state that there is damage to the facility but the core and rods have been secured by the safety systems.  The coolant system failing will cause significant damage but will not cause a radiation leak or meltdown.  The containment system is designed to withstand this situation.  There's a difference between news and fear-mongering, Harvey continuously steps over that line.

              If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. --- Charles Darwin

              by coracii on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 09:30:24 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  So... (0+ / 0-)

                it's not that you are afraid of nukes, it's just that you don't want anybody to be allowed to discuss nukes?

                Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 09:36:48 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Discuss away (5+ / 0-)

                  But everyone should stick to the facts.  Do you really believe a diary with the title of "Japans' Quake could have irradiated the Entire U.S." is based on facts or fear-mongering?

                  If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. --- Charles Darwin

                  by coracii on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 09:39:56 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Looks like a title (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    radical simplicity

                    that fairly characterizes the speculation about what would happen in one of California's nukes were to suffer a serious situation following an earthquake.

                    Weather dot com still provides the standard information that weather patterns/winds move from west to east in this country. I don't think thats changed just because they had an earthquake in Japan.

                    Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                    by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 10:06:23 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Does your (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Corwin Weber, erush1345

                      extenisive weather.com research also tell you how the amount of radiation that could possibly leak from the sealed containment cores would travel 5,500 miles across the Pacific Ocean and then manage to spread out across the 3.8 million square miles that makes up the United States?  Yes, the damage to the Japanese nuclear facilities is a concern and there are risks and drawbacks to nuclear energy, but the title and purpose of the thread were nothing but sensationalism meant to instill fear.

                      If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. --- Charles Darwin

                      by coracii on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 10:48:38 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I did not read (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        radical simplicity

                        this diary to be talking about what might happen due to the Japanese reactor, but what could happen after a bad accident at one of the reactors in California built on fault lines and not rated to be able to withstand projected earthquake magnitudes.

                        Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                        by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 11:17:04 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Except.... (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          erush1345

                          ...that they are rated for that and more.  Harvey has a long history of ignoring inconvenient facts.  (Witness the fact that he keeps bringing up Chernobyl in discussions that have nothing at all to do with that sort of reactor or situation.)

                          •  I have no problem (0+ / 0-)

                            with Harvey (or anybody else) being anti-nuclear, or bringing up notable nuclear accidents when talking about why they don't like nuclear power. It's a freedom thing, I am fond of freedoms.

                            If the Japanese plant melts and its containment can't hold against the resulting steam/gas explosions, Chernobyl will no longer be in a class by itself. But we can be pretty sure this one won't involve a lot of thick black smoke from a graphite fire to accompany all that invisible radiation and contamination. We could get lucky and have it encounter a nice spring storm before it gets across the ocean. You never know, luck could happen...

                            Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                            by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 03:29:02 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Ok, we know it won't happen. (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Mcrab, erush1345, bryfry

                            At all.  None of the factors involved in Chernobyl are in play here.  It's a fundamentally different type of reactor used for fundamentally different purposes and the factors that led to the Chernobyl disaster just don't apply here.  Even a steam release would be no real problem from this reactor, and frankly the steam release from Chernobyl wasn't either.  It's nothing.

                            The problem with Chernobyl had to do with the graphite pile catching on fire.  The smoke carried radioactive material into the air with it.  This would be why nobody uses pile reactors for power.  The Soviets were producing power from Chernobyl to gloss over what the design was actually for:  plutonium.

                            It's an apples and oranges comparison that Harvey makes all the time.

                          •  Our reactors produce (0+ / 0-)

                            plutonium too, and radioactive isotopes don't need graphite smoke in order to become airborne. They'll be in the steam. Worse if there's loose fuel by then. Heck, most releases of radiation and contamination from nukes don't even involve steam. The stuff still goes out when it can.

                            Once a plant goes critical and hangs out there for awhile, a third or more of the power is from plutonium fission. Produced when uranium-238 captures a neutron and becomes plutonium-239. 95% of the uranium in the fuel is 238.

                            Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                            by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 04:05:50 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Except that unlike the Soviets..... (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            erush1345

                            ....we've had policies in place to prevent exactly this situation for decades, and they work.  The Soviets didn't and were covering the fact that Chernobyl wasn't a power reactor, and so had different standards and mechanisms in place.

                            Again, apples and oranges.

                          •  "Policies" in place? (0+ / 0-)

                            What "policies?" What we have in place are BWRs and PWRs, not graphite pile reactors. Which were not developed for commercial power production because we learned at Fermi they have issues. We also require containment structures because we know that shit happens.

                            This has nothing to do with fuel and fission products that can get out if a meltdown occurs and containment is breached. It has to do with reactor design and the lack of political will (and/or bucks) in the old USSR to do things safely.

                            Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                            by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 04:55:24 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  We also don't do... (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Mcrab, erush1345

                            .....stupid experiments in a reactor that uses a warehouse as a containment vessel.  We also give the reactor administrators the freedom to say 'hell no, shut it down' without repercussions.  

                    •  It fairly characterizes.... (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      erush1345, bryfry

                      ...paranoid speculation on the order of 'conttrails can control your mind' or 'government mind control rays are threatening your children!!!!!'

    •  The fire was in the Turbine Building (8+ / 0-)

      which is not safety-related.

  •  Most definitive study? (5+ / 0-)

    Do you want to provide a link to the study showing almost 1 million deaths due to Chernobyl?

    The IAEA, WHO, and UNESCAR came up with a number of 4000 additional deaths in old reports.  From the most recent (bold is mine)

    From UNESCAR

    Among the residents of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, there had been up to the year 2005 more than 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer reported in children and adolescents who were exposed at the time of the accident, and more cases can be expected during the next decades. Notwithstanding the influence of enhanced screening regimes, many of those cancers were most likely caused by radiation exposures shortly after the accident. Apart from this increase, there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure two decades after the accident. There is no scientific evidence of increases in overall cancer incidence or mortality rates or in rates of non-malignant disorders that could be related to radiation exposure. The incidence of leukaemia in the general population, one of the main concerns owing to the shorter time expected between exposure and its occurrence compared with solid cancers, does not appear to be elevated.

    I did a little digging and found the "most recent definitive study" you mention.  A new book "Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment" published by the New York Academy of Sciences.  Not peer-reviewed.  I'll stick with the reports from the WHO, IAEA, and UNESCAR as the definitive story.  

    One thing I think we both can agree on, let's hope there's no damage to any nuclear power plants because of this event.  I'm not worried about radiation leaks like you are, but if the plants have to close down the electricity will have to be provided some other way.  This will probably be by natgas or coal, and burning more fossil fuels WILL kill people.

  •  asdf (8+ / 0-)

    Harvey, should have expected your clueless and in this case very insensitve comments here tonight.

    Why don't you tell us what rating earthquake the reactors in the US are built to withstand since you seem to know this information?  It should be easily told since you seem to know so much about nuclear reactors.  Oh wait... you don't.  I'll give you a hint: nuclear reactor designs include a worst case scenario - a fault rupturing exactly under the containment dome - that has a minimum rating (in most cases a 7.0 quake directly under the reactor) required to obtain permit to build and operate.  There would be no adverse effects on containment if the 8.9 off the coast of Japan was instead off the coast of California for these reactors.

    Note to those who aren't familiar with the diarist. He has a long and sterling reputation as a good guy and is extremely well-informed. Links to some of his articles:

    Umm... Harvey does not know anything about nuclear power at all.  He makes things up and tries to scare people.  Don't know why someone would be trying to pawn Harvey off as an expert on nuclear reactor design.

    His long and sterling reputation is that of a person that knows nothing about nuclear power, and, in general, very little about electrical generation or distribution.

    Perhaps you should actually read his articles on nuclear power before making yourself look not so good here.

    "It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first." - Ronald Reagan

    by erush1345 on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 03:01:34 AM PST

    •  Are you a nuke? (0+ / 0-)

      If so, in what capacity?

      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

      by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 08:53:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  asdf (3+ / 0-)

        Was a nuclear electronics technician in the US Navy for 8 years.  Qualified as Log Recorder, Throttleman, Instrument Watch, Reactor Operator, Shutdown Reactor Operator, Reactor Technician, Engineering Watch Supervisor.  Got out of the service and now work in the civilian sector at a gas turbine power plant.  Qualified Water Treatment, Operator Mechanic and Control Operator.

        Are you a nuke?

        "It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first." - Ronald Reagan

        by erush1345 on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 10:06:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Chicken Little, Liar (14+ / 1-)

    Harvey, I usually let your ignorant rants pass without comment. In fact, I suspect your over-the-top rhetoric does more harm to the antinuclear movement than it helps.

    Allow me to debunk:

    In 1986 the Perry nuclear plant, east of Cleveland, was rocked by a 5.5 Richter-scale shock, many orders of magnitude weaker than the one that has just hit Japan.  That quake broke pipes and other key equipment within the plant,...

    From this source, "Inspections of the Perry plant after the earthquake disclosed only minor cracks in concrete and small leaks in noncritical water pipes. Both conditions may have existed before the earthquake..."

    By the federal Price-Anderson Act of 1957, the owners of the destroyed reactors---including Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison---would be covered by private insurance only up to $11 billion...Virtually all homeowner insurance policies in the United States exempt the insurers from liability from a reactor disaster.

    Minor nit, but the total protection afforded by the Price Anderson Act is up to $12.6 billion. The reason your homeowners policy exempts reactor accidents is the Price Anderson Act. If you were reimbursed for your damages twice, from Price Anderson and your insurance company, you would be committing fraud.  

    Chernobyl Unit Four was of comparable size to the two reactors at Diablo Canyon, and somewhat larger than the two at San Onofre.  But it was very new at the time it exploded.  The four California coastal reactors have been operating since the 1970s and 1980s and have thus accumulated much larger internal burdens of radioactive materials. Major releases at any of the four could exceed what was spewed at Chernobyl.

    Comparing Western light-water reactors that have robust containments with flammable graphite-moderated reactors that lack such protections is like comparing the Goodyear blimp to the Hindenburg or a hot plate boiling a pot of water (in a vault) to a smoky campfire.

    The amount of radioactivity that could be spread following an accident is a function of something called the Source Term. Although the NRC allows plants to assume improved source term calculations in most applications, they have not yet allowed them to be credited in emergency planning calculations. If they did, the Emergency Planning Zones around plants would be a couple miles at most and in some cases would not extend beyond the utility's property line. For all the hysteria TMI generated at the time, extensive air and ground surveys conducted during the event by EPA, the state of Pennsylvania and local colleges found nothing more than some inert noble gas releases.

    Japan has some 55 commercial reactors, all of them within seismic danger zones.

    And they have survived earthquakes that far exceeded their design assumptions...and continue to produce power today.

  •  situation as of 3:30AM Pacific Coast (US) time: (15+ / 0-)

    All reactors in the quake zone except one (below) have automatically shut down as they were designed to do, and are entirely safe at this point.  They will be inspected in detail and any needed repairs made before being returned to operation.

    One reactor is having a mechanical problem that is interfering with normal cooling water flow, and emergency measures are in effect at that reactor.  NO radiation has escaped into the environment, and no radiation is expected to escape into the environment.  

    The worst that can be expected from this is that one unit will have to be replaced: expensive of course, but, unlike humanity's CO2 emissions, hardly a threat to life and health.

    Diaries such as this one spread misinformation about technology, spread fear in the same manner as Bush Administration terrorism propaganda (be very very afraid!), and contribute to policy gridlock over climate change as surely as overt climate denialism.  

  •  Japan just declared its 1st nuclear emergency (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mochajava13, Joieau
    State of emergency is declared at Japanese nuclear plants
    Process for cooling reactor 'not going as planned' in wake of quake, administrator says

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/...
     

    •  Just as (4+ / 0-)

      is mandatory for every nuclear facility when there's been any one of dozens of events that could affect the area.  It's not just earthquakes that trigger a mandatory shutdown and there doesn't even have to be visible damage for the shutdown to occur.  When the earthquake hit in the Cleveland area years ago the Perry facility was shut down long before the small amount of damage was found.  I lived 5 miles away and had family there when it happened.  The issuance of a State of Emergency is a mandatory precaution.

      If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. --- Charles Darwin

      by coracii on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 05:25:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, state of emergency is not mandatory (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau

        Please go read up about Japanese law.

        Automatic shutdowns because of seismic activity  . . .but.....

        VERY limited circumstances for issuing a State of Emergency in Japan.

        They are also urging evacuation of residents within 5 kilometers and senior officials are on their way to the plant that can't get its backup cooling system to work.

        The evacuation decision came during the night; I have no idea how residents managed or how the roads are, or where they can go.

        •  It's just precautionary (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koNko, Corwin Weber, bryfry, erush1345

          If they were truely worried about the possibility of a meltdown or radiation leak a 2-mile evacuation corridor would do absolutely nothing.  There's plenty of horrific events to worry about with this earthquake and tsunami, we don't need to fabricate more.

          If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. --- Charles Darwin

          by coracii on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 06:20:49 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Reactors faired better than the oil refinery (8+ / 0-)

      How many tons of C02 and toxic pollutants are being belched into the air from that massive oil refinery fire burning completely out of control?

      The reactors are handling the quake better than oil is.  But by all means, keep demonizing nuclear power, and by default supporting those who burn coal and oil.

    •  Precautionary (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Corwin Weber, KroneckerD, erush1345

      And reasonable. Let's see what happens before jumping to conclusions.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 08:22:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Evidence beyond fear-mongering please? (12+ / 0-)

    This is really shoddy work.
    "Be afraid! Be very afraid! Nuclear boogeyman!"

    Other than the dying Soviet Union's clusterfuck at Chernobyl, nuclear power's safety record is absurdly good, particularly when compared to coal and other fossil fuels.

    The nuclear industry has killed how many U.S. civilians?
    That would be zero, unless you buy into some of the more outrageous "extrapolations" from Three Mile Island.

    Meanwhile, literally thousands of Americans die every single year of lung disease due to coal-burning power plants.

    You could look it up; but then, facts evidently don't matter much when your goal is panic mongering.

    •  OT, Ralphdog needs to study carefully (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joieau

      because comment above is full of errors and misunderstandings.

      I'm sorry.

      The work of Harvey Wasserman has nothing to do with panic mongering.

      Meanwhile, NOTE TO ALL: history lesson = don't be so sure you can trust government or industry assurances about subjects like this. As we New Yorkers learned from 9/11, there is a great tendency to minimize and lull public into false sense of security about conditions--we were told by Bush's EPA that the air was perfectly safe.
      I knew from occupational hazard professionals that it was NOT safe, but the public was not being told the truth. People have died, are sick, will die prematurely because of government/industry not telling the truth.

      USA was keeping two sets of books about radiation in Japan, which we didn't hear about for many decades.

      Some of you who automatically doubt Harvey Wasserman also do a lot of name-calling. Why not ask for references and citations instead?  

      •  Oooh, a conspiracy! (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Corwin Weber, bryfry, rfall, erush1345

        Nice tin foil hat ya got there.

      •  Just as I don't believe (5+ / 0-)

        sources and recommendations coming from right-wing trolls when they link to the Heritage Foundation or Americans for Prosperity, I don't bother with links that are obviously biased when they come from anti-nuclear people bent on instilling fear.  I can look up my own information, and from that can see that infinitely more people are killed by coal plants every month than have ever been affected by nuclear plants in the U.S.

        If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. --- Charles Darwin

        by coracii on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 05:29:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Why do you keep (0+ / 0-)

          flapping your arms? The facts are the facts and are being reported by international press. Why in the world do you believe we should not know about it or discuss it? What are YOU so afraid of?

          Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

          by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 09:08:10 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  There's (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Corwin Weber, erush1345

            quite a difference between reporting the facts and what some here have been stammering on about.  Yes, there is damage to the facility but the core and the rods have been secured by the safety systems of the nuke plant.  The fire was nowehere near the nuclear reactor and has already been extinguished.  The containment systems are designed to contain radiation if the coolant system completely fails.  It's a horrible natural disastor and the nuclear facilities did sustain some damage, but if you believe what a few are spouting here it's already worse than Chernobyl.  

            If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. --- Charles Darwin

            by coracii on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 09:26:17 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Far as I can tell (0+ / 0-)

              there has just been discussion of nukes in general and in Japan in particular due to the quake and now problems with a couple of their facilities. You obviously don't want anyone to mention the situation or discuss anything about nukes - as if it should all be some kind of absolute state secret and what we aren't allowed to know or talk about can't possibly hurt anyone. That's beyond absurd, all the way to highly dismissible.

              Y'all lost that big bid to keep your beasties secret many decades ago, and you're never gonna get another chance.

              Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

              by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 09:43:28 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  So, (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                erush1345

                are you this delusional to continue imagining that people are claming that damage doesn't exist at the facilities?  There's not a single person in this thread trying to "keep beasties secret", there's a whole group of people that have an objection to blatently false information being spewed by those with an anti-nuclear agenda.  There is plenty of news reporting on the damage to the facilities and each and every one of them have consistently stated that the safety systems automatically secured the core and rods but that the backup coolant system has failed to activate.  That means the containment systems engaged and the likelihood of radiation leak in virtually non-existent.  In the infinitely small possibility that it happens, the two mile evacuation will be useless.

                If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. --- Charles Darwin

                by coracii on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 09:53:48 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Corwin Weber, coracii

                There's another thread that actually reported the facts about there being an evacuation and the reactor problems.  I have no problems with that thread, since they are reporting facts.

                However, Harvey jumped on the natural disaster that occurred to try to push his nonsense (not that I consider everyone that disagrees with nuclear power as espousing nonsense, Harvey however does and has been repetively called on it in many other diaries) anti-nuclear/anti-science stance.  He has been called out even in this diary about lying about facts that the scientific community agrees with by providing 'evidence' by discredited individuals and organizations.

                Big difference.

                "It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first." - Ronald Reagan

                by erush1345 on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 10:14:02 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Speaking of facts, (0+ / 0-)

                  since when is reactor water considered "slightly" radioactive? I keep hearing that adjective on the news reporting that pressure in the vessel has increased to the point where the steam and gases must be vented or it will rupture.

                  People within 3km have been evacuated, according to the news. The plant sits pretty much right on the coast, so if there's an off-shore breeze they'll have lucked out on something in all this awful disaster. I question the wisdom of not extending the evacuation if they'll have to vent the reactor, because it's highly unlikely that many of the houses in that precinct still have working doors and windows, or aren't more likely to collapse in an aftershock. People may well not be able to stay indoors with doors and windows closed.

                  Doesn't sound like a great situation, but at this point Japan's got bigger problems than one leaky reactor.

                  Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                  by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 01:21:51 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  If all it has in it.... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    erush1345

                    ...is traces of tritium, (which gets Harvey into hysterics) then yes, it's only slightly radioactive.  Barely detectable and less than normal background radiation.  Thorium is only slightly more dangerous.  They're both low energy beta radiation emitters.  Just like.... wait for it?  Carbon-14... which you have inhaled with every breath you've ever taken unless you've spent time on pure oxygen.

                    •  Thorium is also (0+ / 0-)

                      an alpha-emitter, just so you know. Not something you'd want to breathe or eat with your ham sandwich.

                      CNN reports the evacuation zone has been extended to 10km and radiation is significantly elevated at the plant gate, so it's already been leaking for awhile. They've got power now (USAF flew in generators), but still can't seem to get coolant into the vessel. Looks like they might lose it - once the cladding goes they've got a really big mess. How good are their containment structures? How sound might it be after an 8.8 earthquake? How about if they have to flood it?

                      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                      by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 03:11:00 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  Well, (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Corwin Weber, Mcrab, erush1345, bryfry
                    since when is reactor water considered "slightly" radioactive? I keep hearing that adjective on the news reporting that pressure in the vessel has increased to the point where the steam and gases must be vented or it will rupture.

                    To answer your first question, water itself doesn't become radioactive easily because it is made of hydrogen and oxygen. Simple hydrogen can absorb a neutron to become deuterium, which isn't radioactive, and then absorb another neutron to become tritium, but hydrogen has relatively low absorbtion cross-sections for that sort of thing. It happens, but not at a screaming rate. The oxygen can also absorb a neutron to become nitrogen-16, but it has a very short half-life. Water can also carry dissolved matter that is itself radioactive but there are demineralizer systems that attempt to remove as much as possible. People have been known to drink reactor coolant before members of Congress. I'm sure it tasted nasty (have you ever drunk a glass of distilled water?). YOU are "slightly" radioactive too. You have all manner of Potassium-40, Carbon-14 and God knows what coursing through your veins.

                    Second, from what I gather they aren't talking about venting the reactor but the containment around the reactor. After the earthquake the system that cools the containment atmosphere would have been knocked out so the heat radiating from the reactor and the piping inside would be heating the containment atmosphere. When you heat a gas (the containment would have been inerted with nitrogen) it expands if you let it or builds in pressure if you don't. There may be some water vapor too, but mostly nitrogen. Sounds like they need to burp some of the gas, which since they haven't reported any fuel failures should be only "slightly" radioactive.

                    •  I'd agree that (0+ / 0-)

                      venting either the reactor building or the reactor would be a lesser of evils so long as the core hasn't been uncovered and begun melting. Wonder what their hydrogen/oxygen readings look like. That would present a much greater problem than mere heat (and minimal resulting pressure) in a containment structure.

                      Glad they've expanded the evac zone. Anybody know which way the wind's blowing?

                      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                      by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 03:16:19 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  If you are alluding to the infamous (4+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Corwin Weber, Mcrab, erush1345, bryfry

                        "hydrogen bubble" inside the reactor at TMI, my understanding is it was blown out of proportion at the time (the question, "I wonder if..." by an NRC inspector became translated into "OMG, the reactor might blow!" by the press. Gamma radiation in the core does dissassociate water into hydrogen and oxygen sort of like the old electrolysis experiments you might have tried in jr. high. But it will typically reassociate on its own as well. An equilibrium gets established. This is likely the least of their worries at the moment.

                        If you were referring to hydrogen and oxygen somehow getting into the containment outside the reactor, the containment in this vintage plant would have been inerted with nitrogen gas specifically to minimize the potential for fires.

                        •  No, I wasn't talking (0+ / 0-)

                          specifically about hydrogen/oxygen in the vessel, though BWRs tend to have more of a problem with that than PWRs (like TMI-2). I was wondering about what the vessel is leaking into the containment atmosphere. There were two such explosions at TMI, one early that took the psi from -3 to +4, and a later one that registered greater than 30 psi (euphemistically called "containment internal pressure spikes"). The 30-pounder was twice spec capacity, and while one equipment hatch was rather badly damaged, it held. Union labor!

                          Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                          by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 03:51:23 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                      •  Here's a late (0+ / 0-)

                        story (~6:30 pm ET) from NYT that says they do have wind blowing offshore, which is good. Also that they now have power and are able to pump coolant into the vessel. They should vent the heck out of the building while the wind is blowing out to sea.

                        Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                        by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 05:41:52 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  And from (0+ / 0-)

                        CNN at 7:45 pm ET we get:

                        Potentially dangerous problems cooling radioactive material appear to have cropped up at another of the Tokyo Electric Power Company's nuclear plants. Kyodo reported Saturday the power company alerted authorities that the cooling system at three of the four units of its Fukushima Daini plant – which is different from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, nearby in northeastern Japan in the Fukushima prefecture – has failed.

                        Oops. Not out of the woods yet.

                        Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                        by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 05:49:47 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

      •  Um, (9+ / 0-)

        why should we have to ask for references and citations? Extraordinary statements require extraordinary proof. Harvey should be providing them without being asked rather than ask us to take him at his word.

        When Harvey does cite references, it is almost always some obscure paper that the expert community has either never heard of or doesn't take seriously. I suppose you believe Andrew Wakefield is being targeted by Big Pharma over "exposing" the risks of child immunization.

        Harvey's claims over the wide destruction that would result from a nuclear accident at a light water reactor ultimately stem from a 1950's report that was full over overconservatisms and unsupported assumptions. No real expert takes it seriously today and the original study has been superceded several times with more realistic assumptions. Only fearmongers like Harvey continue to call on WASH-740 because it gives the scariest results that support his agenda.

        •  Lots of inuendo and name calling (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joieau

          It doesn't do you credit.

          Harvey Wasserman is not a fear monger.

          I'm not sure which 'expert community' Blubba refers to.
          Please explain.

          The type of experts I look to include the man who was head of energy dept at time of TMI. Also the epidemiologists, occupational health and safety experts, and medical community.  

          As for Andrew Wakefield and the immunization issue, I never ever thought he was on the level although I personally know one family whose child, for whatever (other) reason, became autistic within days of the MMR shot.

          When it comes to vaccines the weakness in the chain, as far as I know, is on the part of manufacturers and voluntary compliance with bovine products, whether they come from well-regulated, well-known BSE-free sources.

          •  asdf (6+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Corwin Weber, bryfry, Mcrab, Blubba, rfall, turnover

            Show me a diary that Harvey's done that has not mentioned Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, you know things that have happened in the last 25 years.  You cannot.  Harvey keeps mentioning these things even though those two plants barely resemble plants of today.  He pulls out 'studies' and 'expert' opinions that are discredited, not appliciable, or worst case scenarios that are required to be discussed (but cannot realistically happen) to try to prove his point of view (and his agenda).

            Even when countered with actual studies (and in addition that are peer-reviewed), he refuses to accept that nuclear power is one of the safest industries and forms of power generation that is currently achievable.

            That is what I call fear mongering, no better than the 'experts' on Fox News.

            "It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first." - Ronald Reagan

            by erush1345 on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 06:42:51 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  It's all they've got, LNK. (0+ / 0-)

            Because they can't make it a secret, can't shut off the international media coverage, and can't physically scrub our brains with bleach.

            Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

            by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 09:10:35 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Was that Chalk River's (0+ / 0-)

          scram failure meltdown? The first one or the second one?

          Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

          by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 09:09:32 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Fine, then burn coal (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Corwin Weber, coracii, erush1345

    Keep dumping C02 into the air.  But if that's your choice, then stop whining about climate change.

  •  To All Who HRed This Diary - (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau

    You have just confirmed how intolerant you are of views contrary to your own.
    Unfortunately, such events occur with great predictability here at DKos.
    Those with the dominant view on some issue airbrushing out contrary voices -
    much as Stalin's censors deleted Zinoviev and Kamanev from photos
    after the Show Trials.

    You make me want to throw up.

    •  asdf (8+ / 0-)

      There's a point that someone crosses in trying to publicize his point of view (which is against this site's 'reality based community' by the way).  When a person uses a disaster, such as this, that had minimal relativity to that view to pimp their view, they are doing this community a disservice.  And to be honest, it diminishes what has sadly happened.  Not everything in the world is politics.

      Now, what the hell is censoring about telling Harvey that he is being inconsiderate and insensitive to the suffering in Japan?  He deserved this HR.  Were I to be at the point that I could HR, I would have, and I've had many run ins with Harvey.  I would not HR the other times, but this one is bad.  Pimping his anti-nuke/anti-science views on the suffering of others is way out of line.

      "It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first." - Ronald Reagan

      by erush1345 on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 06:36:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  See Above - (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        erush1345, Joieau

        I love it when people in the AGW community prsent every opposing view on any issue as "anti-science".  As stated above, people at DKos made political comments immediately following the Tucson shootings - many widely off the mark.  Same goes for the mine disasters in West Virginia and Utah.

        The problem for you is that the views expressed are contrary to your own.  That's fine.  Say what you wish - but leave off the HRs.  Do people at DKos exaggerate to make their point?  Yes - frequently.  How many people repeated the erroneous Himalaya glaciers melting by 2030 line before the IPCC recanted?  And a regular here once posted that the Arctic Ocean was 10 degrees warmer when it applied only to the White Sea.  (And pointedly refused to make any correction.)

        I may not share all of HW's views or his tendency towards hyperbole - but I believe the should be able to express those views free from concerted attempts to shut him down - which is what mass HRing is about.   I do share his view that a return to nuclear power generation is dangerous, expensive, and profoundly wrong.

        •  asdf (5+ / 0-)

          I welcome honest discussion on the issues.  If given the facts and you decide you think nuclear power is not worth the risks, that is your choice to make.  But when a person presents discredited, wrong applicability or comparisons, or downright lies and does not back their views with other repubitable soucrces, they are not engaging in honest discussion, they are trying to push an agenda.

          I've worked as a reactor operator in nuclear power plants.  I've studied design, safety, maintenance, casualties, and a little of licensing.  I currently work for a major utility in electrical generation at a brand new gas turbine power plant.  I know electricity, generation, and somewhat on the political side and of transmission and distribtion.  Harvey does not have that background, but he can have an opinion.  But when he tries to push his agenda talking points, is rebuked, and still pushes, I really do see him as being just totally anti-nuclear/anti-science.  To me, that does this community a disservice.  If he used actual science and said 'this is bad mkay...' I'd just disagree.

          As for those other instances, if I could HR them I would.  Using local and national tragedies to push agendas or politics is just plain wrong, especially while the event is still occuring.  That's why I stated that in all my run ins with Harvey, this is the one time I would HR him.  The rest, I'll just post honest (as far as I can be) comments, an HR in those instances is not quite justified.

          "It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first." - Ronald Reagan

          by erush1345 on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 06:59:59 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I have to disagree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      erush1345

      Climate change is being called the greatest threat to humanity's survival.
      Biofuels are called a crime against humanity.
      We see the destruction wrought daily on this planet by our use of oil.
      We see the mountaintop removal mining to keep the coal plants burning.
      We know that our economic survival depends on converting to the electric car that has to be charged by something.

      Given all that, we have two choices for America.  To move forward and make serious push to expand nuclear power, or to continue to watch fossil fuel use destroy both the environment and the economy.

      Given that this sort of anti-nuclear fear mongering will only drive for continued C02 emissions and kill God knows how many people in the future, I'm not so sure that an HR is unwarranted.

      •  I Am Sorry - (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau

        I believe that there is no possibility of having any discussion with many in the AGW community.  I have strong anti-nuclear views based upon years of valid scientific evidence and decades of environmental activism.  Yet, here at DKos I have been called a denier, mass murderer, and fascist.  So I think any reasonable discussion is impossible and will bow out.

        •  I'm not calling you a murderer... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Corwin Weber

          But I do think that you should admit that your anti-nuke attitude means that coal plants will keep burning and killing far, far more people than nuclear plants ever will.
          Plus there's the climate change from all that C02.

          Look, freedom means doing what you want, but also accepting responsibility for those choices.

          So if you don't want nuclear, fine.  Then just accept coal and oil, and stop complaining about it if you don't want to do anything about it.

      •  Just showed your own bias (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau

        Nuclear is not the only other alternative option to fossil fuels and coal.

        •  It is for base load (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Corwin Weber, erush1345, jam

          Solar and wind can contribute up to 30% before the grid goes unstable.  I'll be charitable and give you 50%.

          The other 50% has to come from nuclear, hydro or geothermal.  Good hydro sites are already developed or lead to massive environmental destruction.

          I have high hopes for geothermal and have no problem if that proves me wrong and does supply much of the base load.

          But the reality is, every nuclear plant that isn't built means a coal plant will keep burning for 50 more years, or longer.

    •  I have no problem (5+ / 0-)

      with a debate on the merits or faults of nuclear power, I wecome that discussion.  However, the HR I added was put in place specifically because he decided to put his anti-nuclear agenda in on the backs of the people suffering in Japan while at the same time posting half-truths about the doom and gloom that was supposedly inevitable from the nuclear plants shut down by the quake.  There's a time, there's a place...  This is neither.

      If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. --- Charles Darwin

      by coracii on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 06:44:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I fear you miss the point (0+ / 0-)

      Or you don't want to get the point.

      Don't forget to brush your teeth after you throw up. The acid is terrible for your teeth.

      Done with politics for the night? Have a nice glass of wine with Palate Press: The online wine magazine.

      by dhonig on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 07:39:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Dee - - (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau

        Seems as though all the comments above saying that there is no problem were a little premature.  There is definitely a crisis situation at one facility with rapidly rising heat and pressure - - and now there have been radiation leaks.  "Small" ones according to official sources.

        Hopefully, there will be no major radiation exposure.
        But hopefully, too, this will convince many that the new nuclear is nonsense.

  •  Unwarranted alarmism (5+ / 0-)

    Back in the days of Three Mile Island, my father was a partner in a firm that consulted on industrial waste management (which included nuclear).  One of his business partners was literally the first investigator on the scene at TMI after the incident.  I'll relay what was told to me:

    TMI did exactly what it was supposed to do.  Nuclear plants have (and had) multiple redundant safety systems and the ones at TMI worked perfectly.  What went wrong was a matter of human error.  Most nuclear facilities get their trained staff from the Navy as the Navy is one of the largest users of nuclear power and is constantly training staff to manage it.  However, there's a significant difference between operating a nuclear plant on a submarine and operating a land based nuclear reactor... on the sub you have more coolant than you could ever need all around you.

    The staff operating TMI at the time of the incident were relatively new and had not been properly retrained on handling a land based nuclear reactor.  The staff saw coolant levels that were outside the range they were familiar with and shut down a coolant pump.  The computers operating the plant saw coolant levels outside the range it was programmed for and turned on a backup pump automatically.  The staff then turned that pump off.  The computer compensated by turning on another backup pump and the staff turned that one off too.

    This is where things went wrong.  With coolant levels dropping and the computer unable to turn on yet another redundant backup pump, the reactor began to go out of control.  Note I said "began" not "went".  Because of this situation and the fact that literally thousands of alarms went off in the first minutes of the incident, the computers did exactly what they were supposed to do... they shut the humans out of the system and turned back on the coolant pumps to return the reactor to normal.  No human being could possibly understand, process, and safely react to the alarms going off in a timely manner and as the computers are far  more capable of handling such a situation, they took control and fixed things.

    Since the incident at TMI, training programs have been adjusted to better teach new staff what to expect in a land based reactor that they may not be familiar with from their previous experience in a Naval reactor.

    As for Chernobyl, the safety guidelines used in the construction of the old Soviet reactors is pitiful and most Americans in the nuclear industry weren't really surprised when one of the Soviet reactors went south.  The safety systems for nuclear plants in the West (and Japan for that matter) are light years beyond that.  The difference is like hitting a wall at 10 miles an hour on a bicycle vs. being in a Volvo.  On the bike you're probably going to be pretty banged up and might have broken bones whereas the Volvo has crumple zones, air bags, seat belts, and so on just to keep you safe.

    •  Total crock. (0+ / 0-)

      I can't believe people are still spouting self-serving lies about TMI in this day and age, when there is so much factual material out there.

      Just for fun, check out some of these informative examinations and reports. And don't forget to keep chanting, "clean, safe, too cheap to meter" so you won't start thinking this technology is plain old stupid...

      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

      by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 09:19:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Corwin Weber, Mcrab, erush1345

        Adam's description of what happened at TMI is fairly accurate. The worst part of the accident wouldn't have occurred if the operators had not intervened to shut off the pumps manually.

        Perhaps you should actually read some of those references you cite.

        An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
        -- H. L. Mencken

        by bryfry on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 09:46:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not true, bryguy. (0+ / 0-)

          That is not what Kemeny's TATF reported, and it is not what Rogovin's TATF reported. Because that is not what happened.

          I really liked the report in that link about demineralizer failures, and the sneaky way they got around the fact that the demineralizer failure they're talking about is what caused the accident at Three Mile Island. There's all kinds of nifty info in those reports about what really goes on in our antiquated nuclear plants, none of it quite so humorous (and obvious) as collapsing cooling towers, of course...

          Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

          by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 09:54:26 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oh god (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Corwin Weber, Mcrab, erush1345

            We've got a conspiracy theorist here -- and not even a very good one.

            I seriously doubt that you have read either report, for otherwise you wouldn't be talking about "demineralizer failures." That gave me quite a good chuckle, however, so I suppose I should thank you for that.

            I've read the reports ... hell, I've even talked to one or two of the engineers who designed the plant. The more you talk, the more you demonstrate that you're a loon.

            An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
            -- H. L. Mencken

            by bryfry on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 10:20:26 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Now, now. (0+ / 0-)

              No need to descend into ad hominem and name-calling. Calm down, dear. It's just a discussion.

              If I had an opportunity to talk to one or two of the engineers who designed TMI-2, I'd ask them what the hell they were thinking when they designed Engineered Safeguards that locked the operators out of manual control of the PORV block valve, when had they had manual control they could have prevented quite a lot of the core damage and subsequent releases of radiation.

              Did you get around to reading the recommendations of the Kemeny and Rogovin investigations? Specifically, the ones having to do with siting, wherein it was strongly recommended that any new plants any utility might be tempted (or bribed) to build be sited far from population centers? Strange how all plans for new nuclear plants all these years later simply ignore those recommendations. Perhaps they're hoping no one will notice.

              Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

              by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 11:05:24 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Sorry (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                erush1345

                I didn't mean to offend your delicate nature. From now on, I'll try to remember that I'm dealing with the sensitive type, who loves to dish it out, but can't take the heat when called on making stupid statements.

                For example, when it comes to the "PORV block valve" (hint: the "V" stands for valve, so please try to avoid being redundant in the future), if the operators had known that the valve was stuck open, they would never have turned off the pumps, and the worst of the TMI accident would have been avoided.

                The engineers would have looked at you with a collective "huh?," if they had managed to keep from laughing. Your ignorance is that funny.

                Strange how "all plans for new nuclear plants" in the US are for the new reactors to be located at existing sites, which means you don't have the first clue when it comes to what you're talking about.

                Personally, I'd like to think that we've learned something in the last 32 years. You, however, prefer to live in 1979.

                Well, it takes all kinds. Please say hello for me to your pet rock.

                An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
                -- H. L. Mencken

                by bryfry on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 11:36:28 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Au contraire, mon ami. (0+ / 0-)

                  The PORV [Pressurizer Overhead Relief Valve] vents atop the pressurizer to a discharge line (a 6-incher, I seem to recall) that leads to the reactor coolant drain tank. The block valve is located between the pressurizer and the PORV. Engineered safeguards locked the block valve open and non-available to the operators until the temperature of the discharge line fell below 230º - which took some rather creative methods of diverting the RCS flow away from the B hot leg and over to the A side instead.

                  Operators manually requested PORV discharge line temperature three different times during the first two hours, twenty minutes of the accident. Not even you would attempt to claim that this interest in the temperature of the discharge line supports the silly idea that the operators didn't know the PORV was open. Since if the PORV weren't open, the discharge line wouldn't have been hot and the reactor coolant drain tank wouldn't have filled with reactor water and ruptured. The sumps wouldn't have come on to pump a million gallons of it into the unshielded aux building basement, and the operators would not have had to turn those sumps off and let 10 feet of water flood containment instead.

                  You just confirmed that the industry and its "watchdogs" are pointedly ignoring the future siting recommendations of both investigations. Congratulations!

                  Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                  by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 01:54:07 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Read the 2nd paragraph (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    erush1345, bryfry

                    http://en.wikipedia.org/...

                    Or to save you the click:

                    The accident began at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, March 28, 1979, with failures in the non-nuclear secondary system, followed by a stuck-open pilot-operated relief valve (PORV) in the primary system, which allowed large amounts of nuclear reactor coolant to escape. The mechanical failures were compounded by the initial failure of plant operators to recognize the situation as a loss of coolant accident due to inadequate training and human factors, such as industrial design errors relating to ambiguous control room indicators in the power plant's user interface.

                    The alert light for the PORV indicated only that power had been cut to the solonoid that triggered the valve, not that the valve had actually been closed.

                    Due to the loss of heat removal from the primary loop and the failure of the auxiliary system to activate, the primary side pressure began to increase, triggering the pilot-operated relief valve (PORV) at the top of the pressurizer to open automatically. The PORV should have closed again when the excess pressure had been released and electric power to the solenoid of the pilot was automatically cut, but instead the main relief valve stuck open due to a mechanical fault. The open valve permitted coolant water to escape from the primary system, and was the principal mechanical cause of the crisis that followed.

                    Like I said earlier, I'm a web developer and this story is famous for illustrating problems in human user interface design.

                    •  So, you're a (0+ / 0-)

                      web developer and Wikipedia is where you learned about nukes. Got ya.

                      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                      by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 03:21:12 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I went for the easy citation... (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        erush1345

                        Here's one from NASA:

                        http://pbma.nasa.gov/...

                        Here's one from the NRC:

                        http://www.osti.gov/...

                        Here's one from the Smithsonian:

                        http://americanhistory.si.edu/...

                        It seems to be pretty well history that the valve was stuck.  

                        Or you can try to score points by taking fault with me linking Wikipedia because I was trying to give you a simplified source to look at rather than a more complex engineering report.

                        •  Of course the (0+ / 0-)

                          valve was stuck. That's why the operators needed control of the block valve. Which they couldn't get until the discharge line had cooled enough to allow them to take it from the ES.

                          It's not like that particular PORV didn't have a history of being "sticky" or anything.

                          Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                          by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 03:57:38 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Ok, (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            erush1345, bryfry

                            Now we're agreeing that the PORV was stuck.  Where we're differing is you're claiming that the operators knew that the valve was stuck when everything I've seen and heard is that they did not know the valve was stuck in the open position.

                            In fact the NRC's own site says that the operators did not know that the valve was open:

                            http://www.nrc.gov/...

                            Sorry for only linking to summaries rather than the more in-depth source documents but I'm not in the habit of requesting full documentation for a discussion on the Internet.

                          •  Well, what was said (0+ / 0-)

                            by the NRC is not the same as what the operators testified to. Nor is it what is clearly indicated in the actual sequence of events. As I mentioned, the PORV was known to stick, and the ops requested discharge temperature three times. The last immediately prior to re-setting the ES and closing the block valve. There is no reason to request outlet temperature if you think the valve is closed. Nor would you be concerned about the reactor coolant drain tank filling and rupturing if you thought the valve was closed.

                            I assure you they weren't sleeping while their reactor was melting, nor did they fail to notice that their entire heat transfer system - both primary and emergency feedwater - was down. BOTH steam generators had boiled dry by just a minute and a half into the accident. These are just the sorts of things operators tend to notice. As if it was their job or something.

                            8 minutes in the emergency feedwater valves were opened (a "physically awkward" operation, since the valves had failed shut when water got into the instrumentation air supply, and without the instrumentation air supply they couldn't be opened from the control room). The generators had been dry for more than six long minutes. The resulting thermal shock opened the main steam dump valves outside containment, at which point the exterior radiation alarms sounded and site emergency was signaled (evac of non-essential personnel). Control room supervisor made the requisite calls. All this more than two hours before control of the PORV block valve was finally gained so the coolant and pressure leak could be controlled.

                            Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                            by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 05:30:39 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Like I said (0+ / 1-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Hidden by:
                            indycam

                            Conspiracy theorist.

                            If you get any dumber, you're going to need a helmet.

                            The operators were under the (mistaken) impression that the primary system was overfilling with water (which is something that you do not want to happen in a pressurized water reactor). Why do you think that they turned off the feedwater pumps?!

                            If they knew that the steam generators were dry, would they have turned off the pumps? Do you deny that they turned off the pumps? Please explain that.

                            Your spiel is logically inconsistent, but then again, you're a fool, so why am I surprised.

                            An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
                            -- H. L. Mencken

                            by bryfry on Sun Mar 13, 2011 at 10:42:25 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

        •  Just as a point of clarity (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Corwin Weber

          I'm 41 now and the TMI incident occurred when I was 10 years old (1979).  So it's quite possible that what was being said to me by my father and his business partner was simplified down to what a 10 year old could understand.  Granted I was a precocious 10 year old with a fascination for science but still...  So I'll gladly grant that my understanding of the events at TMI as told to me at the time may be a simplified version.

          I would throw in this tidbit though... think about the computers of 1979 and that they were capable of handling a nuclear reactor even in this situation.  Now think about what a modern computer could do. Heck, my cell phone has more computing power than the sum total of the computers that were running TMI in 1979.  This alone is reason to look at retooling existing nuclear reactors and to think about the safety levels of nuclear reactors given all we have learned since 1974 (the last time ground was broken in the U.S. for a new nuclear reactor).  We have better computers, better materials science, better engineering, and a far better understanding of how to build sustainable nuclear reactors.

          •  I don't know if (0+ / 0-)

            the industry and its promoters in government have decided to stop using reactor operators to run nuclear plants, but there were 5 reactor operators on duty in the control room at TMI-2 when the accident occurred. The only thing the computer did was relay and record the incoming data.

            I do not think any nuclear power plant in the U.S. is run by computer.

            Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

            by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 11:10:29 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, exactly. You don't know (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Mcrab, erush1345
              I do not think any nuclear power plant in the U.S. is run by computer.

              That is because you have no clue. Thank you for confirming this for everyone.

              Do you really think that an automatic safety system depends on the operators to react?!

              An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
              -- H. L. Mencken

              by bryfry on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 11:26:06 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Gee. (0+ / 0-)

                I thought power plants operate by means of physics - sort of a mechanical thing dealing with thermodynamics, pressure, pumps, things of that sort. Computers don't do mechanical physics. Or, my trusty Mac certainly doesn't. Maybe a PC has a relief valve for when Windows makes it boiling mad or something. I'd make it a whistler, like on my teapot. Just for fun... All a computer can do is signal actuation of a device or set of devices. If its access to the control system still works and if remote data sensors aren't compromised. An operator can do the same things.

                Did they ever fix that little problem with the air intake for the integrated control systems? You know, the one that tends to fail entire systems (more than one!) whenever high pressure water gets sprayed into it, auto-isolating the polisher to cut the main feedwater supply and closing the emergency feedwater valves at the same time... that wasn't all that smart a design either, come to think of it.

                Darned loose resins in demineralizers. Clogs 'em right on up and messes with the whole darned system.

                Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 03:03:09 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  On that note ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            erush1345

            You should realize that what you are referring to as "computers" in the instrumentation that is controlling a nuclear plant back then is far different from what we consider to be computers today. Almost all of the electronics used in instrumentation and control back then was analog.

            The nuclear plants operating today have been retooled, and many of the old analog systems have been replaced with modern digital systems. Replacing the old systems has actually been quite a lucrative business in the past decade or so. I recall hearing that the Germans (i.e., Siemens) have a pretty successful product line.

            An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
            -- H. L. Mencken

            by bryfry on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 11:15:58 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Point (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              bryfry, erush1345

              More than happy to concede the point on that.  In fact I remember reading something about one of the alarms at TMI being completely missed by the operators because it was one of those (now) old-style lights on a panel that was located in such a way that it was easily overlooked.  And frankly at this point in time, the idea of an actual warning light seems so antiquated as to be laughable.

              The main point I was trying to go for and on re-reading my post I see I failed to illustrate was simply that most objections to nuclear power seem based on how things were done 30+ years ago and that science, engineering, materials, computers, and even training methods have changed radically since then.

          •  there is no such thing as a sustainable nuke (0+ / 0-)
            •  You mean (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              erush1345

              there's no such thing as an intelligent comment from Harvey Wasserman.

              Now, please crawl back under your rock until the next nuclear "emergency" gives you the opportunity to spread your lies.

              An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
              -- H. L. Mencken

              by bryfry on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 11:57:56 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  Did you read your link? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bryfry, erush1345

        Those are a list of possible (and in some cases theoretical) problems that could occur in a nuclear plant.  They then go on to establish the theoretical probability of the issue and what can be done to resolve the issue.  The only ones in that list regarding TMI are 155 and 177.  177 is in regards to a vehicle intrusion and then goes on to how to improve site security.  I'm assuming that 155 is the item you're referring to where it goes into great detail as to the problems that occurred due to coolant pressure loss and how to improve construction, training, and disaster response scenarios.  In other words, they learned from the incident at TMI and applied what they learned.

        As for "self-serving lies".  My father is retired (and got out of the industrial waste business almost two decades ago) and I have no financial stake in the nuclear industry (I'm a web developer at a game company).  So nothing I said is "self-serving" in any way I can imagine.  As for lies, I repeated to you exactly what was told to me by the first investigator on the scene at TMI.  So unless you were an investigator on the scene at TMI or have documented proof that what I said about TMI or the horrible safety standards of the old Soviet built reactors, please be a bit more polite in the future.

        There are currently 104 commercial nuclear reactors in the United States. Since 1952, there have been 56 accidents (this includes workplace accidents such as an incident in 1987 where a worker died from electrocution due to a mislabeled wire, tragic certainly but not a threat to public safety) in those nuclear reactors, many of them due to the age of the facilities (there hasn't been ground broken for a single new nuclear reactor since 1974... 37 years ago).  And given the public sentiment about nuclear power, there isn't a lot of incentive to upgrade existing facilities.

        Bottom line... as I have said, I have no personal stake in the nuclear industry other than what I think is best for the long term future of our country.  And I'd much rather live next to a nuclear reactor than a coal fired plant any day.  I'd even take a lower dose of radiation from the nuclear plant than the coal plant.

        •  Tell me about this (0+ / 0-)

          "first investigator on the scene." NRC? They didn't arrive until late in the day, though site emergency was declared 10 minutes after the secondary system failed, when the emergency main steam dump valves opened outside containment due to thermal fracturing in the steam generators once feedwater was restored...

          Your choices of where to live and what kind of risks to take are your own and no one would try to deny you that right. But your choices do nothing to make commercial nuclear power any cleaner, safer or cheaper than it ever was[not]. I'm sure you can handle that reality okay.

          Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

          by Joieau on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 10:01:04 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Sources? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rockhound, bryfry, erush1345

    I am a tad skeptical that modern US reactors were built in California w/o shock suppressions systems and overbuilt containment domes.

  •  harvey, I've rec'd and tipped your diary to offset (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau

    the obvious, biased, hide ratings.

    For those who support more nuclear power plants, may I ask, where do you want all nuclear waste stored?  It's OK if it is Yucca Mountain in the west, but not in your part of the country?

    As progressives, or liberals if you prefer, is our goal to achieve energy independence through truly, renewable and sustainable sources?  Where do we get the most bang for our dwindling bucks?  

    The cancer rates in the TVA (Tennesse Valley Authority) are some of the highest in the nation.  Is the ground water contaminated with nuclear waste?

    This is an important issue, imho.  It's a shame that personalities, and alliances based on emotion are clouding the judgement of some very intelligent commentors.

    •  Actually, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Corwin Weber, bryfry, erush1345

      I live in a state that has been considered for a spent fuel repository. If scientific studies of the geology, hydrology and the rest determined it would be a suitable location I'd be OK with it.

      Energy independence and global warming are separate issues. If your concern is independence, we have plenty of coal and natural gas right here to run electric plants for decades, if not centuries, to come...and cheaply. If your concern is global warming, where you get the most bang for your buck depends on where you live. If you live in the Northwest, for example, your best bang is hydro power. If you live west of the Missouri River, some wind can make sense (just as most cars will run with some ethanol in your gasoline). There are states in the deep South that have none of these resources are abundant enough to be economically viable. That is why most of the new reactor license applications are for places like Georgia and Florida.

      There are nuclear plants all over the country, if cancer rates are really highest in TVA's service territory it might be for a different reason (carcinogenic dry rub BBQ?).

  •  this is the 2d time in 4 years 7 or more... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau

    reactors in Japan have been shut by earthquakes.

    how many more times will it take to learn we MUST
    use other power sources?

    •  Have you noticed... (5+ / 0-)

      that just about every method of power generation in Japan is shut down at the moment?  And is it outside of your consideration that if any nation on the planet might have concerns about nuclear radiation, it might be the Japanese?  

      Nuclear plants are shut down during an earthquake just so they can be checked out thoroughly for damage before being brought back online.  This is exactly what is supposed to happen.

      However using your logic, we should abandon hydro-electric power because a dam in the Fukushima prefecture broke due to the earthquake and homes were washed away.

  •  Let's make this simple... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mcrab, erush1345, turnover

    Solar, hydro, geo-thermal, and wind do not have the ability to carry the base load of the power grid as it stands.  East Tennessee, which arguably has some of the best conditions in the country for hydro, still needs both coal and nuclear plants to power their grid despite building dams even to the point of threatening local ecology and species. Anyone remember the snail darter?

    But that's just the current base load.  As I'm sure many of us here are aware, the load will only be increasing due to both increasing user load and hopefully the proliferation of electric cars.  Electric cars are our best chance for energy independence in the United States not to mention to end the funneling of HUGE amounts of cash to a variety of very unsavory governments.

    So how do we handle that additional load?  New solar tech is promising but years if not decades away.  Hydro has been put in place in virtually every place we have an option to put it.  Off-shore wind has been largely nixed by the ecology minded of us who are concerned about damage to local wildlife.  Geo-thermal isn't really an option in the continental United States unless you feature the idea of putting power plants in Yellowstone National Park and even then it wouldn't make a dent.  And tidal hydro has been thrown out for much the same reasons as off-shore wind (might harm the local ecology and it spoils the view).

    That leaves us with oil, coal, and nuclear.  We're trying to get off oil so that's not really an option.  Coal is dirty, destructive (or haven't you seen a coal mining operation), and depending on what we're willing to do to get it, a limited resource.  Now we're down to nuclear or watching the power grid go into rolling blackouts.  So how about arguing for doing nuclear safely and intelligently instead of going off half cocked and spouting what amounts to conspiracy theories?

    Any method of power generation has its faults, the thing to do is figure out how to mitigate or control those faults so that it's something we can live with.  Anything else is either Luddite fantasy or some sort of wishful thinking where you can get all the electricity you want because it comes out of the the plug in the wall and not from some sort of nasty dirty power plant.

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