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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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  • 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...
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by symbolset (646467) * on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:18AM (#38095224) Journal
    Cancer is not cost-effective.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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 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.

  • 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 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2011 @05:10AM (#38095756)

    Nuclear isn't "proven bad."
    Coal is "proven bad," because it has continued to consistently kill people en masse. Nuclear has not, short of accidents caused by huge natural disasters and ancient primitive soviet technology.

  • by ustolemyname (1301665) on Friday November 18, 2011 @05:23AM (#38095820)
    Here's your citation for what their replacing nuclear with http://www.thelocal.de/national/20110713-36277.html [thelocal.de]

    I find it interesting that you call coal "renewable," though now that I think of it hydrocarbons are much more renewable than isotopes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2011 @05:29AM (#38095868)

    I think the point is that a well-run nuclear plant essentially does not release any radiation into the environment unless there's a serious accident.
    Therefore, coal is *more* radioactive. That doesn't mean that it's *dangerously* radioactive, just that it is more radioactive. You seem to be deliberately misinterpreting the argument.

    Ultimately, coal plants are disgusting compared to nuclear plants.
    Barring massive breakthroughs in geothermal, nuclear is our only viable hope to cleanly power our future. The sooner we implement some safe plant designs on a very large scale, the better. We also need to learn from the french and start reprocessing.

  • 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 MimeticLie (1866406) on Friday November 18, 2011 @07:27AM (#38096382)
    I'd be very wary of pinning all my energy hopes on future technology (that XKCD stip [xkcd.com] makes the point quite well). Nuclear is the best option we have to satisfy our current energy requirements.

    As for the reason that the Nuclear advocates don't mention alternative energy, why should they? What's the point of arguing against something that doesn't exist?
  • by Tomato42 (2416694) on Friday November 18, 2011 @07:45AM (#38096480)
    It is cheaper only if you consider wasting rare-earth metals on systems with 20% load cheap. Don't forget to deduce all the tax cuts and helps wind power gets to see how cheap it really is.

    I also would like to see your 90% efficiency electricity storage system that can store 1MWh, let alone few dozens 1GWh. You've got yourself a Nobel prise in physics right there!

    As for Fukushima, Chernobyl and similar, count the deaths they caused. Then look at Banqiao dam and coal miners deaths during past 25 years (and don't look at respiratory diseases caused by fossil burning). Suddenly it's not so dangerous.
  • 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:4, Insightful)

    by siddesu (698447) on Friday November 18, 2011 @08:50AM (#38096876)
    Do you happen to think that recalls by your car manufacturers are a waste of your time? I mean, you've driven it without issues thus far, and that alarmist recall notice about brakes failing occasionally sounds so much like bullshit.
  • by Tomato42 (2416694) on Friday November 18, 2011 @08:52AM (#38096890)
    Because an estimated 30000 people in USA alone don't die because of fossil fuel fired power plants every year.
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Friday November 18, 2011 @09:51AM (#38097386) Homepage

    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.

  • by h00manist (800926) on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:00AM (#38097478) Journal

    Let's not confuse things. Nuclear, wind, or geothermal... there's no space for fundamentalists, fanatics, and intentionally confusing people.

    Energy expands to fill the waste available. A transportation executive told me of a simplified cost analysis for transportation that is roughly

    1 for water/ship transport,
    10 for rail/train
    100 for road/trucking,
    1000 for plane/air transport.

    That's actually costs, but it does reflect labor, fuel and energy consumption. So to get more free energy (and reduce your national costs), encourage rail and ship transportation.

    Policies are for decisions, technology is for implementation.

    There's no reason to not adopt a policy of reducing waste. There is plenty of work that can be done more intelligently, reduce waste, and increase work output and capacity. That's just policy, and it can be implemented. As any change, it requires changes, and there will be resistance from whatever sectors that will lose business and money. Unavoidable, reducing waste implies someone reducing consumption of something. They will try and cloud the issue, create lots of confusion and barriers.

    Once decided, structure taxes on one energy form to subsidize another, that will modify their market prices, and motivate the industry to seek the lower cost forms. It's simple. Even though some people don't want it to be.

    Without analyzing numbers, facing the opposition, and reducing waste, we're going nowhere. That'll give more time to research more technology, and allow that research to go on without so much policy confusion.

    The way it's looking, Europe is separating these issues better than most areas, and facing up the challenge to change - though they are also still quite slow.

The sooner you fall behind, the more time you have to catch up.

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