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All French Nuclear Reactors Deemed Unsafe 493

Posted by samzenpus
from the what's-the-worst-that-could-happen dept.
hweimer writes "A new study by a French government agency, commissioned in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, found that all French nuclear power plants do not offer adequate safety when it comes to flooding, earthquakes, power outages, failure of the cooling systems and operational management of accidents. While there is no need for immediate shutdown, the agency presses for the problems to be fixed quickly. France gets about 80% of its power from nuclear energy and is a major exporter of nuclear technology."
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All French Nuclear Reactors Deemed Unsafe

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  • by generikz (413613) on Friday November 18, 2011 @02:38AM (#38095082) Homepage

    MERDE !

    • by jd (1658)

      It saves time. They only have to add an R if things don't get fixed.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2011 @05:29AM (#38095872)

      the east of France is also threatened of earthquakes since Basel, a border city in swizerland was once almost completely destroyed in 18..hundred-something and there are also power plants using the border river rhine to cool their systems

  • by symbolset (646467) * on Friday November 18, 2011 @02:38AM (#38095086) Journal

    The only alternative is coal. Nucular and coal is all there is. And coal is worse. Coal ash has more radioactive emissions than nucular plants, and arsenic and landslides too.

    There is no geothermal. Don't look at geothermal.

    • by Anthony Mouse (1927662) on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:26AM (#38095268)

      There is no geothermal. Don't look at geothermal.

      The problem with your argument is reality. We are still building new coal fired plants today. Not just not shutting down old plants, building new plants. Because it's known, cheap, and legal.

      So let's go with your argument that geothermal is better than both coal and nuclear for a second. That doesn't change the fact that nuclear is better than coal, does it? So until we shut down all the coal fired plants, any talk about shutting down existing nuclear plants is an instance of defective prioritization.

    • by perpenso (1613749) on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:49AM (#38095374)

      The only alternative is coal. Nucular and coal is all there is. And coal is worse. Coal ash has more radioactive emissions than nucular plants, and arsenic and landslides too. There is no geothermal. Don't look at geothermal.

      In Europe I believe the backup plan is buying more natural gas from Russia.

    • Coal ash has more radioactive emissions than nucular plants

      I see this comment a lot. It looks like the education cuts since Reagan left their mark.
      One professional liar better known for writing books about classic cars writes a propaganda piece in a Oak Ridge Labs newsletter (Alex Gabbard: Soldier, Scientist and Author Extraordinaire!) and suddenly people think coal is more radioactive than the impurities of small amounts sand in it that actually contain those radioactive trace elements. Do the banana dos

      • by Gordonjcp (186804)

        That'll be why coal-fired power stations have radiation detectors all over the place, then. Do you know how "hot" the ash coming from these plants is?

      • by symbolset (646467) *
        So I'm guessing the "nucular" spelling wasn't enough of a sarcasm clue for you. I'll work on being less subtle. Thanks.
      • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Friday November 18, 2011 @04:26AM (#38095536)

        The data doesn't come from an Oak Ridge Labs newsletter or Alex Gabbard.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation#Human-caused_background_radiation [wikipedia.org]

        It was already published in Science magazine in 1978.

        Coal plants cause more deaths due to radioactivity (statistically) than nuclear plants. Even in this year, with Fukushima blowing up.

        No, per gram fly ash doesn't contain more radioactivity. But coal plants emit a lot more fly ash in a year than nuclear plants consume fuel.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2011 @05:17AM (#38095796)

      false: the geothermal is very big in France: all the "bassin Parisien" ( about 30 million people) is a big hot water undergroung area. Some cities near Paris just heat their citizens with this. The big building in Paris " maison de la radio" is entirely heated with a thermal source at just 400/600 meters deep, since the sixties ! but this resource is unexploited. Other big geothermal areas: Brittany, bassin Aquitain, Alps, massif central...
      Another unexploited very big ressource in France is "hydrauliennes" ( big watermills in the sea streams), because most of France is surrounded by coast with huge sea streams. Both geothermal and tidal/sea streams energy are 24/24 and 365/365 energies, with very few impact on ecology. But banksters prefers nuclear.

      • by Luckyo (1726890)

        Geothermal has a widely known and very negative impact on ecology. It's called geothermal depletion and is what happens when you start using geothermal seriously instead of a few showcases.

    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday November 18, 2011 @09:03AM (#38096976) Homepage Journal

      There is no geothermal. Don't look at geothermal.

      Geothermal is not automatically safe any more than nuclear is automatically unsafe. In the USA, where we have the world's most geothermally active region on the planet, we have a geothermal power plant that is perpetually under production and over budget. Calpine's steam plant at The Geyers, CA, has also been the source of a superfund site; when one of the massive turbines gets encrusted with deposits coming out of the vent, they position them above a concrete pit and pressure-wash the blades clean. The water is permitted to evaporate off and the remainder sits in open ponds. When the pond fills up with this material, they cap it over with concrete. The material contains a lot of heavy metals including some radioactives. In the past, they used to just put the slurry into drums and then bury the drums. This naturally contaminated the local water and we had cows born with two heads and that sort of fun stuff. Not being especially interested in Brahmin ranching, the locals made a stink and eventually it was all dug up and reburied with a rubber liner which will eventually fail and cause the same problem all over again, for our descendants.

      Unfortunately, the concrete layer cake of heavy metals and radioactives at the site is just waiting for some major seismic activity to break apart and become a hazard itself. And because of its layered nature, even if the slurry were reprocessable into useful elements (which it isn't, at least not cost-effectively, or they would do this instead of storing it) it will be horrendously hazardous and expensive to clean it up later.

      Geothermal is cool when you're talking about a cute little geo tap used to heat some water with a heat pipe. It's not so cool when you're talking about power generation on a grand scale. There are not very many places well-suited to such a facility, so it can never produce a significant amount of our current consumption. And it is not inherently clean as many people think. About the only technology we have for power generation that doesn't necessarily have a massive impact is solar. We can install it where we want shade. Oh, and wind, now that we know how to build windmills that won't kill birds even if you put them right on a migration path like a greedy tool.

  • by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Friday November 18, 2011 @02:39AM (#38095090)

    That's unfortunate - France's nuclear power plants were a key part of Germany's decision to go non-nuclear but still buy tons of nuclear-based power from France. [slashdot.org]

  • Funny that (Score:5, Insightful)

    by singlevalley (1368965) on Friday November 18, 2011 @02:46AM (#38095114)
    the report says the plants have to exceed the limits that are planned for/ stated. How can you build a completely fail-proof plant? By not building one...
    • Re:Funny that (Score:5, Informative)

      by Joce640k (829181) on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:42AM (#38095332) Homepage

      TFA says they just need a more robust diesel generator backup. Doesn't sound very panic-worthy to me, but that's the media for you...

      • Re:Funny that (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Luckyo (1726890) on Friday November 18, 2011 @08:40AM (#38096822)

        Basically, it's a Fukushima lesson. Their cooling systems were designed for 7 magnitudes, took a 100 times stronger quake, SURVIVED but diesel generators running power for those systems got flooded by tsunami that followed the quake.

        So it certainly makes sense to install more flood protection on the generators.

    • Re:Funny that (Score:5, Insightful)

      by siddesu (698447) on Friday November 18, 2011 @04:56AM (#38095700)
      It isn't about complete fail-proofness, it is about risk management - risks change, and estimates of risks change as knowledge about operation is collected. Are you against bugfixes and patches as well? If anything is going to change the mind of nuclear skeptics like myself, it is constant and honest assessments of the risks throughout the life of the plants and adequate measures to ensure that established risks are addressed in a timely and sufficient manner.

      The current situation, as exposed by the checks after the Fukushima debacle show exactly the opposite -- insufficient planning, insufficient risk assessments, inadequate procedures, etc, and that happens in the most advanced countries - Japan, Germany, now France. I'm scared to think what's the situation in countries that traditionally uphold highest safety standards like China, India or Russia.

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday November 18, 2011 @02:46AM (#38095116) Journal

    If a coal power plants fails, it is just a big fire, annoying and hard to put out BUT controllable. A hydro dam that breaks will NOT cause the water to shoot up stream. Sure it sucks for the people down stream and there might be a lot of people downstream but the risk is calculable and limited.

    Chernobyl and Fukishama have now both shown that nuclear incidents are ALWAYS worse then estimated and even worse then admitted to afterwards by the nuclear lobby. You can build again on a flood plain, but radiated soil will be unusable for decades.

    It is not as nuclear technology can't be made safe but since about the only argument in the past has been that it is cheap, costs are going to have to be cut in the hope that "it" never happens. That is not a very reliable method to prevent accidents. Or at least not reliable enough. The public might want safe power but they are not willing to pay the price of 1 nuclear accident every couple decades.

    Nuclear energy is the same as oil drilling, techs that for many reasons are necessary but nobody wants in their back yard OR simply spend enough money on to make it safe. And when it fails, it fails so enormously that people lose all sense of proportion. Hey Japan, sure you lost a sizable area of your country BUT you build your economy on cheap electricity. Surely it is worth it because you thought it was worth it back then when you decided to build them? Oh, that is not how voters think? How unexpected.

    Nuclear tech doesn't fit in a capitalist democracy. You can't have reactors build by the lowest bidder at the whim of voters with no accountability.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:04AM (#38095170)

      On the other hand, coal power causes thousands of premature deaths per year under normal operating conditions, not to mention the significant contribution to global warming.

      As for dam failure, it has been far more catastrophic [wikipedia.org] than nuclear power disasters.

      • by tebee (1280900) on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:56AM (#38095388)

        Yes but the deaths are nicely spread out so no one notices them. It's like car accidents vs train or plain crashes. By most statistics more people get killed in the former but what sticks in our minds is the big ones of the latter we see on the news.

        It's just a human failing, if one that our addiction to a constant stimulus of easily digestible news nuggets only re-enforces.

        It's also one many unscrupulous people exploit for their advantage, drumming up public support for something based on some newsworthy incident that everybody knows about, to push through laws or policies to further their own advantage , but thats a failing of our current democratic system.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        On the other hand, coal power causes thousands of premature deaths per year under normal operating conditions, not to mention the significant contribution to global warming.

        Right, but the accidental deaths are mostly in developing countries where health and safety are somewhat lacking. I don't think many people would advocate giving those countries nuclear technology.

        The deaths from pollution are a good reason to stop using coal, but again nuclear is not an option in many countries and not the only (or best) solution either.

        Keep an eye on Libya. Expect to see solar thermal plants springing up (like the one in Spain) - free pollution and fuel free power 24/7 all year round. Exp

    • by Will.Woodhull (1038600) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:51AM (#38095378) Homepage Journal

      I think it appropriate here to point out that the past tense should not be used in describing either the Fukishima or the Chernobyl incidents. Fukishima is a long way from being contained or even put into a "cold shutdown" state. It is known that Chernobyl's sarcophagus will fail, maybe in decades, maybe next year (there are too many unknowns, too much pure guesswork, in the projections to know what to expect).

      At this point, the problems with understanding these situations appears to be as much chemical as nuclear. No one has done any serious hands-on research on the chemistry of corium, that constantly changing compound that forms when fuel rods melt, puddle, and interact chemically with casing material, coolant and coolant contaminates, concrete and whatever was in the stone of the aggregate, ground water, water vapor from slowly cooking the aquifer below the corium, etc. We do know from the naturally occurring nuclear reactors [wikipedia.org] that aqueous chemistry is capable of concentrating nucleotides (and moderating neutrons) sufficiently to reawaken chain reactions in sites that had been dormant for geologic periods of time. Things will probably happen much quicker in these man-made corium deposits.

      Just exactly how one would do serious hands-on research on the chemistry of corium is left as an exercise for the student.

    • by Solandri (704621) on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:53AM (#38095380)

      If a coal power plants fails, it is just a big fire, annoying and hard to put out BUT controllable.

      There are approximately 2300 coal plants worldwide [worldcoal.org]. Pollution from coal plants is estimated to kill 1 million people worldwide each year, or 435 per plant per year. Chernobyl is estimated by the World Health Organization to have caused/will cause 4,000 long-term deaths. So on average, a coal plant operating normally (without any big fires) will kill as many people as Chernobyl every 9 years.

      A hydro dam that breaks will NOT cause the water to shoot up stream.

      The worst power-generation related accident in history was the failure of a series of hydroelectric dams [wikipedia.org]. Nearly a quarter million people killed. Equal to about 50 Chernobyls.

      Chernobyl and Fukishama have now both shown that nuclear incidents are ALWAYS worse then estimated and even worse then admitted to afterwards by the nuclear lobby. You can build again on a flood plain, but radiated soil will be unusable for decades.

      Have you looked at the land requirements for the different technologies? Japan has about 47.3 GW of nuclear power generating capacity. Nuclear has a capacity factor of 0.9, meaning it generates an average 42.6 GW for them throughout the year.

      Solar has a capacity factor of about 0.15. If you're using 15% efficient panels (125 W/m^2), that means you're getting an average 19 W/m^2 throughout the year. To get an average 42.6 GW throughout the year, you'd need to cover 2.27 billion square meters of solar panels, or 2270 km^2. The evacuation zone around Fukushima is pi*(20km)^2 = 1256 km^2. If Japan replaced their nuclear capacity with solar, it would permanently make more land unusable for agriculture than the Fukushima accident.

      Three Gorges Dam in China generates about 80 TWh per year, which works out to an average of 9.1 GW. The reservoir behind it is 1045 km^2. So for every GW of power it generates, that's 115 km^2 of land was flooded and made permanently unusable for agriculture. Dividing Fukushima's evacuation zone by Japan's nuclear power generation comes up with only 29 km^2 of land made unusable per GW of power generated.

      So if your concern is km^2 of soil being made unusable for agriculture, you should be even more critical of solar and hydro than nuclear.

      It is not as nuclear technology can't be made safe but since about the only argument in the past has been that it is cheap, costs are going to have to be cut in the hope that "it" never happens. That is not a very reliable method to prevent accidents.

      The safety of any technology has to be assessed based on the severity of the danger(s), multiplied by the likelihood of accident, normalized by the amount of power generated. This can be simplified to number of people killed per unit of energy generated. The exoticness of the death is not a factor. Whether you're killed by radiation poisoning, a thrown turbine blade, a wall of water, or lung cancer, you're still dead.

      When you analyze safety this way, nuclear turns out to be the safest power source [nextbigfuture.com]. i.e. If you wish to generate X amount of energy generated, the technology which can do so with the fewest casualties is nuclear.

      The notion that nuclear power is dangerous and we can't make it safe is a myth. Its incredible power density and the exotic nature of its dangers mean we are much more careful with it than with other technologies. This has resulted in (based on statistics from decades of operation) the safest form of power generation man has ever invented. If you use a different measure of safety, like number of people inj

      • by scsirob (246572) on Friday November 18, 2011 @05:54AM (#38095984)

        Thank you! Great explanation.

        Perhaps a thought.. Since the area around Fukushima is now unsuitable to grow crops and to (re)build cities, how about re-using that area for something sensible? Like building a new nuclear power plant far enough from the ocean front to withstand the next occurrence of such a tsunami, and with safe techniques like Thorium molten salt systems?

        In the extremely unlikely event that anything catastrophic happens to such a plant, they already have a 20-mile radius where there's no damage done. And the new technology makes it pretty darn likely that such an event will not turn into a larger catastrophe.

      • by data2 (1382587) on Friday November 18, 2011 @06:20AM (#38096090)

        The problem with this is, and I have pointed this out numerous times here on slashdot, that the 4000 deaths for Chernobyl are not very realistic and are the very lowest number and estimation one can find anywhere. While also not very believable, I could just take the numbers of a few million deaths, that others supposedly observed. There are, for example, Russia estimates of nearly a million killed. So that one accident killed as many as your 2300 coal plants. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl:_Consequences_of_the_Catastrophe_for_People_and_the_Environment [wikipedia.org]
        In addition to deaths, radiation also causes lot's of non-terminal cancer, although the same may be said about coal.

        What I really mean to say is: Don't get all your numbers from nuclear fan boys and realize that the picture is not even close to the black-and-white you portrayed here

    • by epine (68316)

      Chernobyl and Fukishama have now both shown that nuclear incidents are ALWAYS worse then estimated ...

      I suppose what you are saying is that people ALWAYS exceed the speed limit unless the speed limit exceeds the reigning land speed record, but that such a speed limit could never be adopted by any social process even though Germany has in fact adopted something not entirely different.

      When the sun finally goes red giant, I'm not entirely sure the damage to the planet from nuclear energy will actually be worse

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2011 @04:28AM (#38095548)

      A hydro dam that breaks will NOT cause the water to shoot up stream. Sure it sucks for the people down stream and there might be a lot of people downstream but the risk is calculable and limited.

      The Banqiao Reservoir Dam killed an estimated 171,000 people [wikipedia.org]
      The Vajont Dam caused around 2,000 deaths [wikipedia.org]
      The St. Francis Dam killed more than 450 people [wikipedia.org]
      The Johnstown Dam killed 2,200 people [go.com]

      This incomplete list lists 23 dam failures between Chernobyl and Fukushima. (Well, one of them was caused by the same tsunami/earthquake and killed more than the nuclear incident.)

      So yes the risk is calculable and limited, it just happens to be that it fails more often and kills more people than nuclear power. I guess we are still gong to build more dams, because you know, it's not nuclear.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      I'm sorry, but this post isn't insightful.

      Fukishima was an accident, but they really should have had a backup backup generator that was protected against flooding. And even in a rather extreme case it managed to survive the earthquake with relatively minor damage and contain the worst of it.

      Chernobyl is a really good example of why I'm not worried about nuclear energy. Chernobyl was taken down by what can only be described as deliberate sabotage by the technicians running the plant. It was known at the time

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bcrowell (177657)

      Chernobyl and Fukishama have now both shown that nuclear incidents are ALWAYS worse then estimated and even worse then admitted to afterwards by the nuclear lobby. You can build again on a flood plain, but radiated soil will be unusable for decades.

      Total deaths from the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami: about 19,000. Total deaths from the Fukushima nuclear disaster: 0.

      Ecologically, the Chernobyl meltdown was a mixed bag. Some species were harmed, but many species benefited from it. The beneficial effects came because humans left the area. Dense human habitation is the worst possible thing that can happen to any ecosystem.

  • Translation: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by identity0 (77976) on Friday November 18, 2011 @02:48AM (#38095122) Journal

    "Give us more money"

    I'm not against the concept of nuclear power per se, but eveything I've read about the industry and its practices makes me think they're rather untrustworthy and greedy.

    Maybe the French industry is different, I don't know.

    • Re:Translation: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Iskender (1040286) on Friday November 18, 2011 @02:58AM (#38095148)

      I'm not against the concept of nuclear power per se, but eveything I've read about the industry and its practices makes me think they're rather untrustworthy and greedy.

      If by "the industry" you mean "the energy industry" then I'm right with you.

      This isn't pro-nuclear or pro-anything either: I'm just saying that any large-scale energy production has looked corrupt to me. They're all subsidized too.

      The way it all appears to suck reminds me of the construction industry.

      • Subsidized? Really? I work for a large scale nuclear generator and we're certainly not subsidized by anyone. The only subsidized "large" scale generators out there are renewable projects, notably wind farms, because they can't generate cheap enough for it to be viable.
        • Re:Translation: (Score:5, Insightful)

          by sunspot42 (455706) on Friday November 18, 2011 @04:01AM (#38095412)

          I work for a large scale nuclear generator and we're certainly not subsidized by anyone.

          Oh, so you're at a U.S. plant that's started buying insurance in the private market then, and are paying whatever the going free market rate is for your liability insurance?

          No?

          So in other words, you're being heavily subsidized by the taxpayers already with sweetheart rates for government-run liability insurance. And when there's a catastrophic accident near a major city, the government fund that nuclear power plants have been paying into - for decades - doesn't have enough money in it to begin to cover the liability. Which means more money will be stolen from the taxpayers to clean up your mess.

          I'll believe nuclear power is safe and practical when the nuclear industry can buy private liability insurance - from an adequately capitalized insurer, one who has the resources to actually pay out in case of a disaster or two - and still turn a profit.

          I'm not holding my breath.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Sweetheart rates? We're insured by a private insurer, but thanks for checking your facts. And when there is a catastrophic accident, the government would support us, just like they'd support you if a catastrophic accident took out your hospital. It's almost as if you don't actually use nuclear power...
            • by Uberbah (647458)

              We're insured by a private insurer, but thanks for checking your facts.

              And you have a low liability cap set by the government. Funny how you left that fact out - as if you were a less-than-honest apologist for nuclear power, or something.

              Huh, interesting.

              I wonder what my car insurance would cost if there was a federal law limiting my liability to $500 for an accident - would probably cost about as much as insurance for a smartphone.

              Remove that cap and mandate that the plant manager live in the shadow of t

          • All correct facts and logical surmises until:

            Which means more money will be stolen from the taxpayers to clean up your mess.

            I'll believe nuclear power is safe and practical when the nuclear industry can buy private liability insurance

            No part of the energy industry runs unsubsidised or is practical. Nuclear has government insurance. Oil seems to have limited liability. Both oil and coal have a large license to pollute. None of the other technologies are mature yet.

            You could of course argue that all f

      • by Luckyo (1726890)

        I'll let you in on a little secret: do you know what's the single best investment in our small nordic country of Finland? It's not Nokia, it's not huge steel industry, it's not huge paper industry.

        It's the first nuclear plant complex we had built. It's followed on that list by second one.

        Do you know why? Because nuclear power plants, while costing a lot to build, are extremely reliable and produce large amounts of needed resource. As a result it's easy to secure financing at terms beneficial to the plant op

  • Wait a minute... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2011 @02:52AM (#38095134)

    How likely is it for there to be an earthquake in France? Why should earthquake protection matter when other bad things are much more likely?

    • One in 1909 measured 6 on the Richter scale. Nothing of note since then. I would expect that mechanical failures and flooding are orders of magnitude more likely, and a deliberate attack is also possible.

  • Stunning (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DennisZeMenace (131127) on Friday November 18, 2011 @02:58AM (#38095150) Homepage
    In related news, all nuclear reactors were deemed unsafe againt a meteorite strike.
    • Re:Stunning (Score:5, Funny)

      by TheInternetGuy (2006682) on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:14AM (#38095202)
      This can easily be mitigated by adding new labor laws that prevent meteorites from ever going on strike.
    • by Jeremi (14640)

      In related news, all nuclear reactors were deemed unsafe againt a meteorite strike.

      Well, yes, as a matter of fact they are. You bring up a good point.

      As an engineering challenge, I'd like to see someone come up with a design for a nuclear plant such that the plant can be completely pulverized and still not cause radiation/contamination to spread to the surrounding area.

      I don't know if such a thing is anywhere near possible, but until someone comes up with something like that, nuclear will be regarded as riskier than many of its competitors.

      • Do pebble bed reactors meet this requirement? From what I understand (and IANA Nuclear Physicist) that you can remove the control rods and shut off the coolant pumps, and all that happens is the reactor vessel gets really, really hot.

        Of course, you said "pulverized", so in reality I don't think any reactor will survive that and not contaminate the surrounding area.

        • Re:Stunning (Score:4, Informative)

          by Gordonjcp (186804) on Friday November 18, 2011 @04:04AM (#38095428) Homepage

          Yes, that's kind of the whole point of pebble-bed reactors. The "pebbles" are designed so that when they get hot, they expand and move the fissionable materials apart from each other, limiting the maximum reaction rate. If you're pulling heat out of the system then the reaction will increase in an attempt to reach this stable state. As soon as you stop blowing dry nitrogen through the reactor it will heat up and idle.

          In theory, you could handle the pebbles with thick gardening gloves and not actually die if it was a real MacGyver-level emergency.

          • Re:Stunning (Score:5, Informative)

            by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday November 18, 2011 @05:30AM (#38095876) Journal

            The "pebbles" are designed so that when they get hot, they expand and move the fissionable materials apart from each other, limiting the maximum reaction rate.

            No. It's way cooler than that. The physical expansion isn't all that great (though may serve if it is very, very close to critical), and not great enough to provide real stability.

            The effect used for stability is actually Doppler boradening. Pebble bed reactors use slow neutrons (like most nuclear reactors except for fast breeders) for fission. The high temperature makes the fissile nuclei move fast, increasing the relative speed of the neutrons and therefore reducing the rate of the reaction. In other words, the hotter it gets, the less fission occurs.

            As for handling pebbles, fresh ones made from Uranium are probably OK. Even pure U235 is not very radioactive.

      • by bryan1945 (301828)

        "I don't know if such a thing is anywhere near possible, but until someone comes up with something like that, nuclear will be regarded as riskier than many of its competitors."
        Seriously? How many zeros are needed behind that 1:x00.... probability chart?
        Chance of meteor hitting earth x chance of it hitting land x chance of it hitting the miniscule % of land where nukes are x chance it is big enough to "pulverize" the plant.

        As opposed to the known side effects on health from pollution from coal & oil.

  • Riddle me this... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:14AM (#38095200) Homepage

    Which is worse:

    Taking the risk of a few nuclear catastrophes during the next couple of centuries, or to keep dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere ignoring the fact that it pretty darn definitely has some effect in the long term...

    Wild prediction: People 200 years from now are going to look upon us like idiots who thought relocating people due to a nuclear accident was harder than getting all that 'effing carbon dioxide back where it belongs and restoring the climactic balance to a reasonable degree.

    • Re:Riddle me this... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:15AM (#38095212) Homepage

      PS. TFA does say that they apparently aren't planning to close, only upgrade the plants, which sounds quite sensible.

    • Taking the risk of a few nuclear catastrophes during the next couple of centuries, or to keep dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere ignoring the fact that it pretty darn definitely has some effect in the long term...

      Based on the projected risks predicted in the IPCC report, CO2 would probably be less risky. It depends on what kind of nuclear catastrophes you're talking about, though. 3 mile island, no problem. Chernobyl, bad bad.

      • Based on the projected risks predicted in the IPCC report, CO2 would probably be less risky. It depends on what kind of nuclear catastrophes you're talking about, though. 3 mile island, no problem. Chernobyl, bad bad.

        If we can develop the technology to repair damage caused by ionizing radiation, and that's a big if, then the CO2 might be a bigger problem. Most wildlife has shortish lifespans, long lived humans have bigger issues of course. But we really have a pretty poor idea how we are changing the planet, so I think trying to use less energy and avoiding oil/coal makes sense until we have better alternatives.

        I don't claim to be informed, just blabbering here. ;)

    • by sunspot42 (455706) on Friday November 18, 2011 @04:08AM (#38095444)

      Which is worse:

      Taking the risk of a few nuclear catastrophes during the next couple of centuries, or to keep dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere ignoring the fact that it pretty darn definitely has some effect in the long term...

      Nuclear power is far more expensive than coal power - especially if the plants were forced to buy private liability insurance. Even if a country the size of the United States replaced all of its coal burning plants with nuclear power plants, all that would accomplish would be to lower the price of coal, providing an incentive for poorer countries to build scores of coal fired plants.

      So the idea that nuclear power is somehow going to save us from the horrors of global warming is an economic fantasy. You'd be better served praying to Zeus - at least that wouldn't waste a ton of energy building useless, dangerous nuclear power plants, ultimately increasing the amount of greenhouse gasses pumped into the atmosphere.

      The best way to prevent global warming is to use less energy by boosting energy efficiency as quickly as possible. The next best way is by continuing research into alternative sources of energy which are carbon neutral. Finally, money that would otherwise be wasted on deploying nuclear power (and dealing with its dangerous waste) could instead be invested in researching and deploying better ways to sequester the CO2 emitted by plants which burn fossil fuels.

      • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday November 18, 2011 @05:38AM (#38095910) Journal

        Nuclear power is far more expensive than coal power

        Rubbish.

        especially if the plants were forced to buy private liability insurance.

        Ah, so you support only subsidising coal, then? After all coal plants don't have to pay for the cost of dumping CO2 into the atmosphere.

        Once all forms of power have to pay for all costs then you can compare them on an equal footing. However, your post reeks of bias. Appratntly you believe that by reducing coal burning by using nuclear will increase greenhouse gas emissions, but reducing coal burning by increasing efficiency won't.

        Economics lesson for you: the price of coal doesn't care why usage is reduced, only that it is.

        And do you really have even the slightest shred of evidence to support your claim that reducing coal usage will increase coal usage, or are you just speculating?

        • by Uberbah (647458)

          Nuclear power is far more expensive than coal power

          Rubbish.

          Tautology.

          Of course nuclear is far more expensive than coal, even if you're only looking at containment costs, which go out many thousands of years.

          Ah, so you support only subsidising coal, then? After all coal plants don't have to pay for the cost of dumping CO2 into the atmosphere.

          So, a false dichotomy with a side order of Chewbacca Defense?

    • Would you call this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_and_radiation_accidents [wikipedia.org] a few? Also, putting the carbon dioxide back where it belongs is actually really easy. Just don't cut the trees and put trees back where we cut them. The rest comes naturally.
    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      Or the plot to 'Fallen Angels.'
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallen_Angels_(science_fiction_novel) [wikipedia.org]

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:15AM (#38095210) Journal
    The chronic problem is that, no matter how good your technology gets, you can always find a way to produce "almost as good and a lot cheaper". If nobody is looking too closely, you can probably go with "not actually almost as good; but cheaper still".

    There are engineering problems that are simply at the outer bounds of present technology and inherently risky. For most everything else, though, the heart of the problem has more to do with some combination of lousy risk assessment, active dishonesty, or the fact that it isn't hard to take risks so that the rewards accrue to you and the consequences to somebody else.

    This is why I'm somewhat pessimistic about our ability to innovate our way into safety: team science, and their applied brethren in engineering, have enormously expanded the scope of what we can do; but have had relatively little effect on the fact that we basically want it fast and cheap and the 'we' doing the choosing frequently aren't the 'we' doing the living next to it...
    • by dbIII (701233) on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:38AM (#38095312)

      The chronic problem is that, no matter how good your technology gets, you can always find a way to produce "almost as good and a lot cheaper". If nobody is looking too closely, you can probably go with "not actually almost as good; but cheaper still".

      That's not a very fair comment to make about a very immature technology.
      Even taking a look at the more mature technology of later designs we've got decisions such as planning construction of a whole lot of AP1000 reactors when the first prototype has not been activated yet. Even that is still a 1980s design.
      It's not really a nuclear problem but a management one. The current unbuilt designs that the fanboys pretend are the status quo should be built as a prototype and tested, and then we can move on from there to something viable and worth producing in large numbers. Instead there's been the rush to deploy worse than the state of the art yet still unproven.
      One problem is the economic model for civilian nuclear power mostly grew out of being the peaceful side of the bomb but inherited some of the worst problems of defence procurement. When something doesn't actually have to work very well for the players to get their money and competition is almost non-existant you get the stagnation that dominated the US nuclear industry until Westinghouse adopted the current state of the art from Japan (Toshiba). Whether nuclear power is a good idea or not becomes irrelevant when far more is spent on lobbying and advertising than on R&D - you'd end up with a crap product in any emerging technology with that sort of mismanagement.

  • You shouldn't build large numbers of an experimental design until you've actually had time to run the experiment.
  • by DaveAtWorkAnnoyingly (655625) on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:40AM (#38095320)
    OK, I'm a reactor operator for a nuclear reactor and this report is talking about "beyond design basis" faults. Faults which were not taken account for within the safety case for the plant. Now, bear in mind that this area of the world is not susceptible to the kinds of earthquakes Japan is, and also the fact that tsunamis just cannot happen to most of France's plants because they're inland, would make the event that happened in Japan certainly beyond design basis. Now, that's not to say that more safety cannot be added. Many of France's plants are relatively old and new ideas have been integrated into newer plants. All this report is talking about is that more things can be done to address big bang type stuff, stuff that's practicable and useful, like adding more generators and installing them onto roofs. Not prohibitively costly, and can be useful in most faults. There's always more things that can be done to all plants, it's a judge of whether it's practicable, economical and in all probabilities, worth it. If statistically, an event is not likely to happen for 10,000,000 years, are you really going to design it out?

    This report isn't saying that France's plants are unsafe. The editor should be shot. In my opinion, Fukushima was a success. These plants were due to be taken out of service within a year, they were very very old, old design and old in age. Yet, even with a massive earth quake, and a beyond design basis fault that wasn't understood during their design phase, no-one died due to radiation and contamination is well controlled and understood. It's also worth noting that all the modern PWRs in Japan surrounding Fukushima all shut down properly with no issues.
    • by sunspot42 (455706)

      Now, bear in mind that this area of the world is not susceptible to the kinds of earthquakes Japan

      We don't know how susceptible that area of the world is to enormous earthquakes. We know they don't happen frequently, but we also know large quakes do happen hundreds - and in some cases thousands - of miles from plate boundaries, and at infrequent intervals. The New Madrid quakes that hit the middle of the United States in the 1800's are a prime example. Such events are infrequent, but because of the natur

      • by wvmarle (1070040) on Friday November 18, 2011 @04:43AM (#38095630)

        There is a limit to what you should plan for.

        These nuclear reactors are not built to withstand a magnitude 10+ quake, for example. Nor can they withstand the impact of a major asteroid, or an attack with a nuclear bomb or super heavy conventional ordnance. These events are simply too rare, and also the destruction caused by the event likely dwarfs the destruction caused by the nuclear reactor's problems. The latter argument can also easily be applied to the Fukushima plant.

    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      Don't bring your logic and knowledge to /.
      It's frowned upon.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      no-one died due to radiation

      It's a bit too early to say that. Cancer can take decades to develop.

    • OK, I'm a reactor operator for a nuclear reactor [...]
      In my opinion, Fukushima was a success. [...]

      Ok, unfair quotation. But still, I am afraid...

    • by hweimer (709734)

      In my opinion, Fukushima was a success.

      I know that in some circles, it is now a sign of success if you can dump hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money down the drain and require government bailout, but I still prefer different measures of success ...

  • by optimism (2183618) on Friday November 18, 2011 @04:01AM (#38095414)

    From the summary:

    France gets about 80% of its power from nuclear energy and is a major exporter of nuclear technology.

    No. France generates almost 80% of its electricity from nuclear energy. Not its overall power.

    I'm sick of this consistently sloppy reporting about energy usage in the mass media. And sick of the idiots who think that electricity consumption is the big issue (oh noes! we need solar to make teh watts, and CFLs to save teh watts!). Dumbshits.

    France's planes, ships, trucks, cars, and more still run on OIL. Not nuclear. Do the math. Electricity is relatively small component of power usage.

  • by kombipom (1274672) on Friday November 18, 2011 @05:05AM (#38095728) Journal

    Of course the plants can be made safer. Everything can be made safer. We could all wear crash helmets 24/7. All cars could be made crash proof (take the wheels off). "All the dams in France bursting at once and flooding the plants", if that happens the least of your problems is the nuclear reactor. Just like the problems at Fukushima were the least of the worries of the 20,000 killed by the earthquake and tsunami. No industry in the world spends money on preventing staggeringly unlikely events causing harm like the nuclear industry has to. Do you want to double your electricity bill so that the chances of a disaster move from 1 in 10 million years to 1 in 20 million according to the design calcs? Humans are staggering bad at risk assessment and the nuclear (and terrorism) panic proves it conclusively. You would think that a bunch of geeks could figure some basic stats.

Cobol programmers are down in the dumps.

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