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Power Hardware

Officials Agree On Global Nuclear Stress Tests 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the is-your-power-plant-meteorproof dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Government ministers and officials from the European Union countries who met to discuss atomic energy safety have agreed to carry out stress tests on nuclear reactors to test their capacity to withstand major incidents like the earthquake and tsunami that rocked the Fukushima plant in March. 'The accident at Fukushima in Japan has affected us all,' says French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet. 'It quickly became apparent there is a need to learn lessons from the accident and to improve and raise our standards and ways of cooperating on nuclear safety.' The stress tests will be performed on Europe's 143 working reactors and other atomic installations. 'You have to move the safety envelope,' says Roger Mattson, former leader of the US task force that investigated the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979, and an organizer of the group issuing the letter. 'You have to take these severe accidents into account and do more to prevent the very low-probability events.'"
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Officials Agree On Global Nuclear Stress Tests

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  • by Anrego (830717) *

    I know this isn`t _exactly_ the same (or really even close), but isn`t it this kind of thinking that caused the disaster at Chernobyl?

    • Re:Eep (Score:4, Insightful)

      by vlm (69642) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @08:29AM (#36373354)

      I know this isn`t _exactly_ the same (or really even close), but isn`t it this kind of thinking that caused the disaster at Chernobyl?

      No not at all.

      The "stress tests" phrasing comes from recent similar "stress tests" in the banking and finance industry where everyone important / major is guaranteed to pass, although they really want some more money etc.

      Its a PR campaign, not a mechanical engineering accomplishment. The timing is even pretty similar, just long enough for the bad news to decay from the news cycle, and here comes "good news" that everyone passes the test.

      Participation Trophies for All!

      • by Aladrin (926209)

        I'm sad about how true this is. They couldn't possibly actually stress test them, because if they fail, they have the accident they are trying to prevent.

        I suppose they could totally decommission the plant, run crazy stress tests, fix the problems, and then bring the plant back up... But I can't see something that expensive (and painful for those relying on the power) happening once, let alone 143 times.

        • by Amouth (879122)

          it will be arm-chair stress tests.. get a bunch of people in the room who know at the end of the day biz will go on as normal ... never see anything worth while come out of that meeting.. only exactly what everyone knew going in.

        • You could probably cut down the costs significantly by combining it with normal shutdowns and maintainaince.

          Sadly I too doubt these would be real tests, the only failing marks will be in cases where nobody's head is on the chopping block and there's funding available for it.

          • by Andy Dodd (701)

            Doesn't help - see Chernobyl. Chernobyl was test to handle a loss of offsite power contingency plan during a scheduled reactor shutdown that went HORRIBLY wrong.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I know this isn`t _exactly_ the same (or really even close), but isn`t it this kind of thinking that caused the disaster at Chernobyl?

      Well, it was an extra special stupid stress test at Chernobyl. Or if you are paranoid, since any asshole in that position should have known what happened, it was an extra deliberate overstress at Chernobyl.

      On the other hand, there's probably lots of reactors that are already known to be unsafe which should NOT be tested, they should simply be decommissioned as rapidly as possible. Personally, I think it's reasonable to expect more manufacturing business to operate at night so that the production we have can

      • Given that large utility customers are, not universally; but much more frequently than residential customers, already billed according to more than straight KwH used, with on peak/off peak, power factor, etc. coming into the equation, I'm not sure that Pigovian taxation would be necessary.
      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        >>>Perhaps we need a new tax on manufacturing done in the daytime,

        You really WANT all the factories to pack-up and move to China or India, don't you? That's what would end-up happening. The best solution is for government is to simply say, "You must meet these safety regulations," like the FAA does with airplane manufacturers. And then let businesses figure out where they will get the cash (i.e. raise prices and cut internal costs).

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          You really WANT all the factories to pack-up and move to China or India, don't you? That's what would end-up happening.

          That's not what would "end up" happening, that's a separate (though obviously related) issue.

          The best solution is for government is to simply say, "You must meet these safety regulations,"

          Well, now we're both talking about shit that will never happen, because the federal government helped to create this situation. In general power plants of all kinds are operating well beyond established margins in emissions and often safety as well. We operate under a kind of system of malign neglect.

          And then let businesses figure out where they will get the cash (i.e. raise prices and cut internal costs).

          Well, one way to level the playing field would be for all customers to pay the same per kWh, and always with time-of-

          • by cpu6502 (1960974)

            >>>>>The best solution is for government is to simply say, "You must meet these safety regulations," (like the FAA regulates airplane manufacturers)
            >>
            >>Well, now we're both talking about shit that will never happen, because the federal government helped to create this situation. In general power plants of all kinds are operating well beyond established margins in emissions and often safety as well. We operate under a kind of system of malign neglect.
            >>

            So you no longer trust

            • No, I do not trust the FAA. I trust the cost of a destroyed plane and civil liabilities (tort law), and reputation risk to cause airlines operate in ways that do not endanger passengers or their own assets. Planes will still crash from time to time because there are unavoidable risks and catastrophic failures in operating an incredibly complex machine at high velocity. There is no evidence that the FAA is inherently more safety-conscious or competent than their airlines own maintenance staff operating und
          • by cpu6502 (1960974)

            P.S.

            >>>refuse to import goods from countries whose labor and human rights laws (and practices) don't meet a minimum standard...

            I like this idea. I've proposed it myself, although I'd start with more serious crimes first (example: if China allows workers to work more than 70 hours, or more than 6 days per week, then goods from those factories would be blocked). Trying to enforce that the US and EU and China must tax power companies per kWh is a little ridiculous.

      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        On the other hand, there's probably lots of reactors that are already known to be unsafe which should NOT be tested, they should simply be decommissioned as rapidly as possible.

        Yep. There's two in particular that never passed any sort of safety review which need shut down as soon as possible - the fusion reactor currently looming up over the horizon through the window, and the fission reactor a few tens of metres below my feet.

        Shut them all down! That's what I say. Drill more for easy-to-access oil in poli

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Offshore wind, desert solar, and desert algae to biodiesel, when combined offer the opportunity to replace 100% of our energy consumption using technologies proven at the very latest in the 1980s and no technologies unavailable before 1960.

    • by maxume (22995)

      They are probably going to do crazy things like turn on the backup generators and test out secondary cooling systems.

    • Yes but this time we won't make those same mistakes we will make new ones and not only will there be multiple meltdowns that will stretch our ability to deal with them but there will be power outages everywhere making it that much harder to deal with the situation. [/scary music] The truth is that we should all ready know how these reactors behave when under stress, I have no knowledge as to how the reactors are tested but can imagine that they have been tested under some of these conditions before.
    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      I wish I had mod points... That's the first thing that came to mind when I saw this.

      The worst nuclear power disaster in history was caused by a safety test that went wrong... Obviously there were compounding factors (reactor design flaws, operator errors during the test, a request from the Kiev grid operator to keep the reactor running a few hours longer than planned due to an outage at another plant), but it still remains - if the plant had been undergoing a normal shutdown instead of a test/experiment,

      • Is it so? Then how do you explain the partial meltdown at the Leningrad nuclear power plant in 1975? That was no experiment.

        Fact is, RBMK design was a disaster waiting to happen, the accident was caused by the SCRAM procedure, not by the experiment itself.

    • That's an alarmist flame-bait headline. If they were indeed planning to carry out "stress tests" on nuclear reactors, that would be very foolish and criminal in many countries.

      The headline is wrong.

      From a quick skim of TFA, what they are actually proposing is much more sensible. They are proposing international peer reviews of the design and operation of nuclear reactors and an international safety standard for everyone to attain.

      You just don't perform experiments or tests on nuclear reactors. That's one

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @08:21AM (#36373312) Homepage

    Global Thermonuclear Stress Test sounds like potentially a lot of fun. A very strange game though, the only winning move is to play very very carefully.

    • by mdsolar (1045926)
      And even then, accidents happen....
    • by kiehlster (844523)
      Just be sure you don't have the Global Thermonuclear War program running at the same time. If the computer wanted to win at GTW, losing at GTST may suffice as a good tactical maneuver.
    • by Smigh (1634175)

      Global Thermonuclear Stress Test sounds like potentially a lot of fun. A very strange game though, the only winning move is to play very very carefully.

      I don't like it.

      • - you can't save your progress
      • - there's no way to restart the game
      • - there's no replayability value whatsoever
      • - it may prevent your system from running any other game if you lose

      Sounds like malware to me... I'll pass.

  • In the UK we don't really do earthquakes and tsunamis so I suppose our stress-tests will feature vibrations caused by loud music from the neighbours (because we certainly won't ask them to turn it down, v unBritish) and predictable rain on the first day of a test-match.
    • by vlm (69642)

      In the UK we don't really do earthquakes and tsunamis so I suppose our stress-tests will feature .... predictable rain on the first day of a test-match.

      It rains every F-ing day (I've visited your islands, very nice, but it never stops raining) and you have mudslides. Worse than a tsunami in some ways, because the mud doesn't just drain away. On the good side, it rains every F-ing day so you have little mudslides rather than letting it build up to annual monster proportions...

      Also your rivers flood, which is too bad, because rivers are otherwise really nice for cooling nuke plants, even better than oceans in many ways.

      • Interesting. On the west coast it does rain quite a bit, but last summer and this summer so far, we've had hardly any rain in Aberdeen (east coast). Maybe a couple of days rain a week when it's been at its worst in May. April was sunny as hell.

        I've never even heard of a mudslide in the UK, so I don't know where you're getting that from (. Googling for "mudslide UK [google.co.uk]", I get 1) a cocktail recipe, 2 & 3) music albums, 4) something which seems to be just one of those pages that is there to catch search traff

        • by turgid (580780)

          we've had hardly any rain in Aberdeen (east coast)

          But the temperature rarely gets into double figures (centigrade). Above 5 and it's t-shirt weather, unless it's Hogmanay and then it's t-shirts, a cigarette precariously dangling from the corner of the mouth and a sarcastic expression, whatever the temperature.

          I didn't realise we built our nuclear reactors in the sea.

          We nearly did. Try reading up on Dungeness B some time.

          • It's been topless weather here a lot of weekends.. and sometimes just when waiting for the bus to work.. lovely weather, easily in the 20s in direct sun :)

      • by jez9999 (618189)

        I wish it were raining every F-ing day. Here in the Midlands, there are talks about standpipes in the streets because it's been so dry it's approaching drought conditions.

        (of course what we need is more modern nuclear plants to fund desalination plants, grumble...)

    • by SharpFang (651121)

      Try muslim ethnic minority protests (including heavy acts of vandalism), emergency procedures interrupted by 5 o'clock tea and ecologists protesting by chaining themselves to fuel rods.

  • This reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin asks his dad how they determine the maximum load of a bridge. His dad responds by saying something like: "They keep driving heavier and heavier trucks across it until it collapses then rebuild it"...
  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @08:31AM (#36373380) Homepage Journal
    The EU countries don't want to reveal security arrangements for nuclear industry sites to each other so they won't test their systems for terrorist atttacks. Yet, terrorist attack may be one of the greatest threats related to nuclear power.

    The Fukushima meltdown showed how some nuclear plants are vulnerable to cooling-system failures. That might be of interest to Al Qaeda, which considered attacking US nuclear facilities after 9/11, a new study says.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/0607/Fukushima-meltdown-could-be-template-for-nuclear-terrorism-study-says

    Do we need a single security provider for anti-terrorist protection the way we protect the oil supply chain? If the EU can't work together, perhaps they should cede sovereignty on this in the same manner that Pakistani nuclear weapons are 'secured.'

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      The EU countries don't want to reveal security arrangements for nuclear industry sites to each other

      They already share that information, not least because some of the plants are near the borders of other countries. The EU has an open border policy and member states share intelligence information on terrorism all the time.

      There are even EU standards on nuclear safety and security.

      The only plausible reason for not testing for terrorist attacks is that if someone flies an aircraft into your reactor you are pretty much screwed no matter what.

      • by mdsolar (1045926)
        That is not quite true. The DoE conducts simulated assaults on nuclear facilities though it sounds like they are not covering all the bases.
    • by EdZ (755139)
      If Al Qaida have allied with Neptune and control the Mighty Forces of the Ocean, then we're all pretty much screwed anyway.
      Any potential terrorist would have to get into a reactor complex, destroy the diesel backup generators, destroy the battery backups, destroy the incoming power lines, and destroy the coolant pumps. Flying a plane, or even several planes, into the place would not cut it: that's already a design criteria. It would have to be done from inside. All of this would take quite some time and eff
      • by mdsolar (1045926)
        Actually, their most successful attacks involve infiltration. As nuclear power declines, in may be harder and harder to get trustworthy employees or contractors. Not so sure an inside job could be easily prevented.
    • by Xyrus (755017)

      How are terrorist attacks the greatest threat to a nuclear plant?

      First, you have to get inside the nuclear plant. Then you have to know about the particular plant you're trying to sabotage. Then you have to have the actual know how to get around all the fail-safes in place in order to trigger a cooling failure. And you have to do all of this without anyone noticing.

      It takes a lot more planning and ingenuity to sabotage a nuclear plant than simply walking in and randomly blowing yourself up. Nuclear plants a

      • by mdsolar (1045926)
        According to the report:

        "Terrorists will most likely try to damage a reactor’s support and water-supply systems as well as its control and protection system to cause a heat explosion of the reactor with subsequent demolition of the reactor and the building in which it is located,"
  • Again, the reaction to this is "no bad events, no matter how low probability, no matter the cost!"

    What is the actual acceptable cost/benefit tradeoff? How low a probability event do we ignore, even if the consequences are large? I can't answer these questions, but it's not obvious that this is even in the minds of the people proposing "do whatever it takes" activities. (This is in response to the "we have to do more to address these low-probability events" sentiment.)

    • What is the actual acceptable cost/benefit tradeoff?

      That depends on how much the Fukushima incident will end up costing. And consider that placating the fears of millions of people who live near reactors doesn't have a quantitative benefit.

      • by Anrego (830717) *

        And consider that placating the fears of millions of people who live near reactors doesn't have a quantitative benefit.

        Public fear = governments move away from nuclear power = nuclear industry loses?

        No idea if that makes sense in this case, but when there was a cost benifit to fear for large public things like this, it usually follows along these lines.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      How do you even measure the risk associated with things that never actually happen?

      If you asked somebody in 2007 what the chances of a major economic meltdown as a result of a housing price decline, every economist would have said "super low - it will never happen."

      If you asked somebody in 1985 what the chances of the shuttle being destroyed with all hands they would have said 1 in 100,000 launches or whatever - right now the trend is closer to 1:75.

      Now, we don't have enough data in either case to really pu

      • If you asked somebody in 1985 what the chances of the shuttle being destroyed with all hands they would have said 1 in 100,000 launches or whatever - right now the trend is closer to 1:75.

        Not quite true, when Feynman asked people at NASA the managers came up with the 1 in 100,000 (or even "never"!) quotes. When he asked the engineers they came up with numbers between 1 in 50 and 1 in 100.

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          Yup, and guess whose answer gets sent to the PR department? The engineers don't represent the "official" thinking of the organization. They never do...

      • If you asked somebody in 2007 what the chances of a major economic meltdown as a result of a housing price decline, every economist would have said "super low - it will never happen."

        Hmm, a couple years before that time, three or four of us at work were nattering about the second home that one of us had bought for resale.

        I said something to the effect that "It's getting so housing prices are so high that people can't afford to buy houses to live in, and that's going to cause problems in the housing market

      • by radtea (464814)

        If you asked somebody in 2007 what the chances of a major economic meltdown as a result of a housing price decline, every economist would have said "super low - it will never happen."

        False. The meltdown was predicted. Any number of economists predicted the failure. Google it. Major newspapers were raising concerns about it as early at 2005 in Canada and 2006 in the US based on economists who were raising concerns.

        The thing is, hardly anyone was paying attention to the warnings, and retrospectively people are now denying the warnings existed, as if things ceased to exist simply because they couldn't see them.

        Any time I hear someone say, "No one could have predicted this!" I'm pretty s

  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @08:38AM (#36373450)
    Nuclear safety is amazingly safe as-is, what is needed is replacing older plants with new designs that are inherently more safe and provide that safety more cost effectively.

    The reactionary approach due to Fukushima is precisely the wrong way to look at things, the takeaway lesson should be that even with the worst possible scenario nuclear is vastly safer than coal, gas and hydro and possibly safer than solar. It's the small frequent events vs large singular event problem that plagues the car vs airplane safety disparity all over again.

    We as a species need to learn to evaluate risk better or at least try to be more fact based in global infrastructure matters.
    • by vlm (69642)

      We as a species need to learn to evaluate risk better

      That would ruin the ability to control us thru fear in the mass media... Taking a wild guess, TPTB are not going to support this goal, in fact they support the opposite.

      Now if you eliminated control of the masses thru fear, perhaps by ridicule or sarcasm (fact never works) then there would not be the reason to prevent intelligent risk evaluation...

      Your best course of action to reach your goal is probably to read Schnier and friends while making fun of the DHS as much as possible.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      We as a species need to learn to evaluate risk better or at least try to be more fact based in global infrastructure matters.

      We as a species actually do this quite well. An industry typically learns from its past mistakes, and the mistakes of other industries too. The Three Mile Island incident has lead to high flow being part of every standard HAZard and OPerability study. The Flixborough disaster introduced Management Of Change principles in industries globally. The problem is that our current reactors are the child of a species that didn't know of the mistakes. They are all 40 years old.

      I was part of a Retrospective HAZOP of a

    • by MrKaos (858439)

      Nuclear safety is amazingly safe as-is, what is needed is replacing older plants with new designs that are inherently more safe and provide that safety more cost effectively. The reactionary approach due to Fukushima is precisely the wrong way to look at things, the takeaway lesson should be that even with the worst possible scenario nuclear is vastly safer than coal, gas and hydro and possibly safer than solar. It's the small frequent events vs large singular event problem that plagues the car vs airplane safety disparity all over again. We as a species need to learn to evaluate risk better or at least try to be more fact based in global infrastructure matters.

      Your post demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the Nuclear Industry at all levels. Please refer to to my other postings on this subject [slashdot.org] which *only* refer to reactor operation, not mining, enrichment, or logistics planning for long term spent fuel containment which all illustrate similar levels of negligence.

  • From what I can tell, the Japanese plant (and apparently most around the world) are designed in a way that they will have a 100% chance of a meltdown in about 24 hours if they lose mains power and their generator fails to operate (assuming no outside intervention). Most datacenters have at least that, and some more. How about they build nuclear plants to at least the standard of a common datacenter?

    And if they wanted to get fancy, they could always put a small generator on site that runs on waste heat in
    • by Anrego (830717) *

      This is exactly what needs to happen. Older plants need to be decommissioned and replaced with newer, more modern designs.

      This issue is that this costs a lot. Not only that but:

      You have the anti-nuclear group that wants all nuclear plants decommissioned.
      You have the pro-nuclear group that wants all existing plants kept running and new ones build.

      And what you end up with is the worst compromise. Keep the old plants, don’t build new (modern) plants.

      • by squizzar (1031726)

        It's not the pro-nuclear group that's the problem. Most pro-nuclear people want to see newer plants built, research into better designs etc. The second group should be politicians, who pander to the first group by not building new plants, and pander to everyone else by not having to courage of their convictions to turn the existing ones off and deal with the consequences. Germany is now the exception to this (ironically due to Frau Flip-Flop Merkell), let's see what happens there...

        • by Anrego (830717) *

          Yeah, "pro-nuclear" was a bad descriptor as like you said, I think most pro-nuclear types (myself included) want to see the old unsafe reactors dealt with. Politians or even "nuclear power industry" might be better.

          But here is some interesting mind food. Lets say you are going to build a new nuclear plant. You only get one! You have an existing (old) nuclear plant and several coal powered plants (which while statistics vary, I think are more dangerous in a less spectacular "kills you slowly and indirectly v

      • by kimvette (919543)

        You have the pro-nuclear group that wants all existing plants kept running and new ones build.

        No, the pro-nuclear group does not all want existing plants kept running.

        Old designs should be replaced by latest-generation designs. Plants which were originally scheduled to be decommissioned by now should be decommissioned, and be replaced with newer designs - and shore-situated (or other wave or flood prone regions) installations should have proper failsafe designs to survive even total submersion - and for go

    • by maxume (22995)

      Why do you think they would not already be generating power from the waste heat?

      I ask because you seem to think that it would be straightforward for them to generate useful amounts of power from it.

    • by vlm (69642)

      And if they wanted to get fancy, they could always put a small generator on site that runs on waste heat in the cooling system capable of generating local power in emergencies.

      Grats on re-inventing / summarizing something very close to the deployed RCIC system, and almost exactly describing the IC system in a ESBWR, except instead of passing thru a turbine to generate power, the IC works like a slow cooker, boil at the bottom, condense at the top, drip back down. For those that know what one is, a IC is basically a heat pipe.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_water_reactor_safety_systems#Reactor_core_isolation_cooling_system [wikipedia.org]

      The hard part is making something this big, completel

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      I don't know about waste heat running a cooling system, but modern plant designs don't need offsite power (or any power for that matter) for at least 72 hours - they are passively cooled by convection/gravity/other passive processes. (For example, the ESBWR effectively has giant heatpipes going up to big water pools on the roof.)

      The 72 hour number could probably be increased significantly with some more heatpipes and cooling towers - but even with the current ESBWR design, a plain old fire truck within 72

    • From what I can tell, the Japanese plant (and apparently most around the world) are designed in a way that they will have a 100% chance of a meltdown in about 24 hours if they lose mains power and their generator fails to operate (assuming no outside intervention).

      As far as I'm aware, most nuclear plants have at least two backup generators, and new designs either have three or four or don't need them at all. The issue at Fukushima was that they were inadequately protected from external events. I'm fairly sure your data centre wouldn't survive being hit by a 15 metre tsunami either.

  • The plant was designed to handle tsunamis, just one 1/3rd the size of the one that hit, no other tsunamis anywhere near that had hit that area etc.

    So say they triple the height of the tsunamis it can handle, and then a meteor strikes in the ocean and one 5x the size comes along... still screwed.

    It's called diminishing returns, you can't make something safe for all situations (I mean hell try and make something safe for when the sun explodes in billions of years)

    Once in an unknown period of time freak of nat

  • He the Safety Inspector at SNPP
  • Actually, this -would- be doable without huge risk, but at some serious cost and without all the normal profit.

    The gist would be to replace fuel rods with "simulator rods" that use non-radioactive, chemical energy source. You -can- produce this much energy by plain old chemistry, although over much shorter period of time (and without net energy profit, making the rods will cost much more than electricity they will produce). Some specifics of reactor, like influence of moderator on speed of reaction would be

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      My understanding (and it's a thin understanding so please correct if I'm way off) is that in most cases, stopping the reaction in a fuel core pretty much ends the life of that fuel core. That's the reason I've been told why they don't just drop in the boron at the first sign of trouble .. because once they do, they can't just raise it up and get rolling again.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DemoLiter3 (704469)

        The fuel rods are typically used for 3-4 years and go through several planned or emergency shutdowns, so normal SCRAM procedure does not make fuel unusable. A stopped reactor cannot be immediately restarted though, because of presence of neutron poisons such as Xe-135. While the chain reaction is still running, the neutron production is sufficient to overcome this barrier, but from a complete shutdown it's not easily possible. Chernobyl explosion was actually caused by an attempt to restart the reactor whic

        • by Anrego (830717) *

          That was intelligent, well worded, and very helpful!

          Also sent me on a nice wiki trip. Well done!

          • by Andy Dodd (701)

            Yup. There are two primary ways of stopping a reaction in most plants:
            1) Control rod insertion - No permanent damage, but as stated above, nuke plants have some multi-hour and even multi-day time constants involved, so restarting immediately after a power drop is difficult and potentially dangerous. It CAN be done - the French do a lot of load-following, so do nuclear powered ships, but you have to know what you're doing. The Chernobyl crew were extremely poorly trained in terms of handling xenon poison

            • by SharpFang (651121)

              This would not be a 1-hour online test doable anytime. Shut the reactor down primarily by allowing the rods to get exhausted. Remove spent rods and replace them with "test rods". Run tests for a couple of days or weeks. Perform servicing, upgrades, repairs and so on. Once everything is fine and dandy insert new fuel rods.

    • by squizzar (1031726)

      I thought they did do infrastructure tests using reactor 'cores' that were basically big electrical heaters. They'd test the critical systems and scale up to the full size plant.

  • Why don't we just test them a few at a time? Seems like that might be a little safer.
  • Unless the average citizen of Western states wants to either drastically reduce their power consumption or accept foreign energy hegemony over their economies, nuclear power is essential at least in the interim. We need to take this as an opportunity to spend money to build better reactors, costs be damned up front, and better facilities for handling waste. The alternatives are simply not acceptable to most people and this isn't something we have the luxury of "having it all on." We need to pick our poison.

    • by maxume (22995)

      The U.S. has natural gas coming out of our armpits and giant mountains of coal, I think you are being a little bleak.

      I guess hastening a move away from petroleum is probably a good idea, but it still isn't very expensive compared to the infrastructure that would be required to replace it.

      • by Andy Dodd (701)

        Natural gas drilling operations in only 5-10 years of hydrofracturing shale plays have contaminated more water supplies and sickened more people than the entire history of nuclear power in the United States.

        Prior to Fukushima (triggered by a disaster that killed 25,000+ within hours), it would be more contamination/sickness than the entire history of non-Soviet nuclear power generation.

        Note: I'm not counting weapons-related (detonation or production) contamination incidents, since most countries are disman

    • by fyoder (857358)

      Unless the average citizen of Western states wants to either drastically reduce their power consumption or accept foreign energy hegemony over their economies, nuclear power is essential at least in the interim.

      If Germany can pull it off, the interim could be very short -- nuclear replaced by sustainable energy by 2022 [bbc.co.uk].

  • Some simple advice from Warren Buffett and Freakonomics would do. We need to align owner's/management's goals and motivations to that of the public's by making people responsible for their actions for critical and large utilities or companies that are "too big to fail". If they bankrupt a company, they need to become financially destitute as well, with no insurance protection. They should be culpable for any messes after they leave for up to 1 year. If they commit fraud on an Enron/Madoff level, life se

    • by ed1park (100777)

      Why did only Fukushima 1 fail?

      http://k.lenz.name/LB/?p=1159 [lenz.name]
      http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20110406a4.html [japantimes.co.jp]

      *sigh*

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      Anything less than an A is unacceptable.

      Everyone is fine with this until you tell them what it will cost.

      I do agree that the top level should be personally liable though. And not just for large utilities, and even extending to things that don't directly result in loss of life. The threat of serious jail time and ineligability to ever be in such a position again if you screw up should come with the huge salary.

      • by ed1park (100777)

        It didn't cost that much to make the other plants to have diesel generators that didn't fail. Completely preventable.

        "other sites had the good sense to have emergency diesel generators protected in buildings. Fukushima 2 escaped unharmed because of this simple safety measure. In contrast, the site at Fukushima 1 had crucial seawater pumps for the backup generators exposed to the environment. Not a smart decision, as it turns out."

        http://k.lenz.name/LB/?p=1159 [lenz.name] [lenz.name]

        Or how about they just dump seawat

    • by radtea (464814)

      If they commit fraud on an Enron/Madoff level, life sentences or death would be appropriate.

      In this case, people owning and running nuclear plants would basically bet their fortunes and lives that they are running the facilities with integrity and great care.

      Neither Buffet nor the Freakonomics guy have ever run an actual business... you know, one that employs thousands of people and produces actual stuff.

      Take the BP disaster for example. The people on that rig were highly trained engineers who were going to die if they misinterpreted the results of the well integrity test. Their objective, rational, economic interests were as closely aligned with safety and environmental stewardship as you could possible get, but that didn't stop them from engaging in wishful

      • Advocating punitive responses to human weakness is like shouting at a deaf man to listen more clearly: it isn't going to work, and after a while it makes the people doing it look really, really stupid.

        Not only that, but it encourages cover-ups, which is the last thing you want as it prevents general lessons from being learned.

  • 'You have to take these severe accidents into account and do more to prevent the very low-probability events.'

    As Terry Pratchett said, One-in-a-million chances crop up nine times out of ten.

  • I've posted this before, but never early enough to get much response. I'll post it again to see if anyone has anything reasonable to dispute my concern.

    I've always been a big nuclear supporter of safe nuclear power, and, by safe, I mean ones where the core can reliably melt down to puddle with very minimal impact on the environment around. The thing that bothers me is that I used to believe our current nuclear plants could do this. I am no longer convinced. Indeed, I am openly concerned this is not the case

  • The British are excluding Sellafield from the tests. Obviously, with the likes of "Dirty thirty" and regular data falsification, they don't want anyone poking their nose in there. Anyways, this is no surpise as the stress tests are not binding. Countries can cop out on any excuse.

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @10:06AM (#36374424) Journal

    First thing I will say is that despite the criticisms of many "pro-nuclear" folk protesting that newer reactor facilities be built, the reactors themselves performed to specification. They scrammed, shutdown and survived the quake. What they did not survive was the negligence of the operator despite the BDIs known and circulated by GE and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

    According to the Seismic design criteria for Nuclear facilities, S and B class facilities (those that contain radionuclides (S) or attached to pressure vessels that contain radionuclides (B) ) should not be affected by the loss of a C class facility (a support facility like a backup generator). The actual quake measured around 140Gal at Fukushima but the plant was designed to tolerate 600Gal (S class). As evidenced the C class facilities were not as the power lines were severed in the quake, and B class facilities (the pumps) were inundated by the tsunami. To quote World Nuclear Association [world-nuclear.org](note that ALL reactor manufacturers and TEPCO are members of this organisation)

    In March 2008 Tepco upgraded its estimates of likely Design Basis Earthquake Ground Motion Ss for Fukushima to 600 Gal, and other operators have adopted the same figure. (The magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Taiheiyou-Oki earthquake in March 2011 did not exceed this at Fukushima.) In October 2008 Tepco accepted 1000 Gal (1.02g) DBGM as the new Ss design basis for Kashiwazaki Kariwa, following the July 2007 earthquake there.

    Through two known Basis Design Issues (BDI or DBI if you want to be pedantic) it is demonstrated that a loss of electricity to the plant is the key factor for the loss of cooling for the reactor and the failure of the seals holding water in the spent fuel pools.

    The first Basis Design Issue of the General Electric MK 1 reactor revealed comes from the tests of the reactor prototype by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in Brunswick in the 1970's. Testers of the reactor prototype at Brunswick discovered that the reactor would leak when the internal pressure reached 70psi (they are operated at 65psi approx). Quite obviously this is the primary source of hydrogen that led to the explosion at Fukushima as this design has proven itself vulnerable to this kind of failure. The vessel is an "S" class facility.

    The second is that a General Electric Nuclear reactor of that design requires a constant supply of power due to the nature of the refueling gate pairs that separate the reactor head from the spent fuel containment pool. I understand that, due to the nature of the seals on the gates, they need to be constantly powered to prevent a loss of coolant. Each pool has a volume of 1300 tons of water, they are 12 meters deep and there is 850 tons of water above the spent fuel in each (except for Fukushima reactor 1 spent fuel pool which is smaller by 400 tons). The failure mode for a loss of coolant event in those spent fuel pools was *exactly* in line with what would happen if plutonium in those spent fuel pools was exposed, hydrogen was produced and, subsequently, an explosion occurred. Without those spent fuel containment pools leaking there should have been several *months* to do something (60 Million calories per hour heating capacity in the spent fuel rods in reactor 1 spent fuel pool, 400Mcal/h in reactor 2 spent fuel pool, 200 Mcal/h in reactor 3 and 1600 Mcal/h in reactor 4)

    This clearly proves that the backup power systems were absolutely essential to maintain the safe operation of the Mk1 GE reactor, yet at Fukushima they were not engineered to the same survivability criteria of the reactor for a known Basis Design Issue in *direct* contravention of the Seismic Design criteria for Reactor plants.

    Along with the known basis design issues for a GE Mk 1 reactor (pressure vessel limits of 70psi, cooling pool seals require constant power) this is a clear cut case of criminal negligence at Fukushima. The importance of which, internationally, ca

    • by radtea (464814)

      An accident there would pretty much mean the end of Nuclear power.

      From your detailed description one could easily argue that nuclear power deserves to come to an end.

      You describe a reactor that had well-known issues that was operated by a utility that is by international standards pretty well run and relatively free of corruption. Despite this the issues were never addressed, and that failure led directly to the mess we are in today.

      The downside risk of nuclear power is huge and the costs of "power too cheap to meter" are staggeringly large. While nuclear is certainly b

      • by MrKaos (858439)

        An accident there would pretty much mean the end of Nuclear power.

        From your detailed description one could easily argue that nuclear power deserves to come to an end.

        Indeed. I have often said that we should allow the existing commercial reactor programs to reach the end of their lives and build a geologically stable waste containment facility in granite before proceeding any further with Nuclear energy.

        You describe a reactor that had well-known issues that was operated by a utility that is by international standards pretty well run and relatively free of corruption. Despite this the issues were never addressed, and that failure led directly to the mess we are in today.

        I did not say that the utility was "relatively free of corruption". I was one of the first to accuse TEPCO of criminal negligence back in March citing the exact reasoning I gave here. If you read my post carefully you will see I am now calling for the prosecution of TEPCO

  • It seems to me a lot of the bad mistakes made at Fukushima after the tsunami was because in power-out mode, very few of the sensors in the reactor building were working. No one knew what the water level was in the pressure vessel, spent fuel pools, or even if water was pouring out from the pressure vessel. Sensors could be wired to be able to be powered by remote batteries (even if the batteries need to be helicoptered in).

    Of course avoiding a power-out situation is the best. Back-up generators can have

  • in the sand. (Thought I was going to use another location, didn't you?)

    example of head in the sand [vimeo.com].

"Marriage is like a cage; one sees the birds outside desperate to get in, and those inside desperate to get out." -- Montaigne

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