Nuclear FUD mongering still rising

William Tucker explains why Japan Does Not Face Another Chernobyl. This is a response to media stories which hype a few folks perhaps exposed to radiation while burying the thousands of bodies washed up on the shore who were caught in the tsunami.

What the Japanese earthquake has proved is that even the oldest containment structures can withstand the impact of one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history. The problem has been with the electrical pumps required to operate the cooling system. It would be tragic if the result of the Japanese accident were to prevent development of Generation III reactors, which eliminate this design flaw.

Nick Allen and Martin Evans also report on this. Japan nuclear plant: ‘no Chernobyl possibility’.

Fukushima is a setback for the nuclear industry, which has been enjoying somewhat of a renaissance since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the US, and Ukraine’s 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The nuclear safety agency rated the Fukushima incident as a 4 on the 1 to 7 International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale. Chernobyl was a 7.

Fukushima Daiichi was one of the oldest supplying the grid, having been commissioned in 1971. Housing six reactors, only three were online at the time of the earthquake as the others were undergoing maintenance.

Prof Walt Patterson, a nuclear energy expert at Chatham House, told Channel Four News that the problems at the plants had been “foreseen for many years”. He said: “The design of the reactor is such that it is inherently susceptible to the kind of problems happening now.”

The difference between these plants and Chernobyl is that that the Japanese reactors have a containment vessel designed to hold the puddle of all materials in the reactor vessel that might melt under worst case scenarios. What is causing the explosions that scares media types is steam from residual heat.

But the real issue is another of these “can’t let a good catastrophe go to waste” type things. The Examiner takes up the Republicans are dumb theme on this and asserts:

In the last couple of days, however, it’s the nuclear component of the “all of the above” strategy that has come into question. What effect should the ongoing disaster in Japan, and the perilous situation at some of that country’s nuclear plants in the wake of the earthquake/tsunami, have on the debate? The answer from Republicans, at least right now, is: It’s too early to say.

Fox’s Chris Wallace asked McConnell whether, in light of the Japanese disaster, Americans will look at nuclear power and say, “Not in my backyard.” McConnell called that “a fairly common reaction to catastrophes,” but in the end, he said, “We ought not to make American and domestic policy based upon an event that happened in Japan.”

What this Japan disaster really shows is just how safe nuclear power really is – even using 1971 technology. It is those who use that disaster to fear monger in support of their irrational views about energy whose intelligence should be questioned.

What can be seen in just how deep an emotional issue anything with the word “nuclear” in it really is. That observation should be a warning if intellectual integrity is desired.

Update: The Register: Fukushima is a triumph for nuke power: Build more reactors now! provides some good sanity on the issue and a reasoned perspective about what is really happening. Or at Volokh: Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors.

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