Yet a nuclear disaster is adisaster like no other. Neither
Chernobyl nor Three mile Islandhave as yet been properly dismantled and the site restored to conventionalusage.
The tsunami is something we canhandle. We grieve and we clean up themess as in Katrina and a decade later we have reports on lessons learned andthe world turns. Nuclear isdifferent. The contained metal itself isitself a storage problem because it is all irradiated and strange isotopes areproduced that are risky. And no, I donot wish to put my body onto the work site to clean up anything.
I would like to see just onedisaster site properly torn down. In theevent we are presently back to the conditions at TMI in which months of carefulwork was required to remove all the uranium from the site before it was simplysealed up and abandoned. The good newsis that it can be done.
nuclear emergency in context Japan
nuclear power plants survived the onslaught well, and we learned a great deal.The lessons learned will be shared with the rest of the world to the bettermentof all. Current designs could withstand even this worst-case scenario. Nuclearpower remains, safe, viable and vital. Fukushima
March 24, 2011
by KELVIN KEMM
The earthquake and tsunami in
Japandelivered a devastating one-two punch to that island nation and to the Daiichi nuclearplant. So what does much of the world do? You guessed it. They blamed thedesigners, builders and operators of the nuclear plant for not doing a goodenough job. They call for all reactors in the world to be closed down. Fukushima
Electricity has been restored to all the nuclear reactors at the
The overall situation is looking much better. They are not out of the woodsyet, but day by day the residual nuclear decay heat, in the reactor fuelelements, is dropping and the prospect for any major release of nuclearmaterial is diminishing.
It seems likely that the main toll from the nuclear emergency will be to asmall number of heroic plant workers and emergency responders who continue tobrave exposure to radiation to restore cooling to the reactors.
The focus for
Serious risks remain, however, it is appropriate to place the harm and riskfrom
1975: Shimantan/Banqiao Dam Failure
Type of power: Hydroelectric
Human lives lost: 171,000
What happened: Shimantan Dam in
1979: Morvi Dam Failure
Type of power: Hydroelectric
Human lives lost: 1500 (estimated)
What happened: Torrential rain and unprecidented flooding caused theMachchu-2 dam, situated on the Machhu river, to burst. This sent a wall ofwater through the town of
1998: Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Jess Oil Pipeline Explosion
Type of power: Oil
Human lives lost: 1,078
What happened:Petroleum pipeline ruptures and explodes, destroying two villagesand hundreds of villagers scavenging gasoline.
1944: East Ohio Gas Company
Type of power: Liquified natural gas (LNG)
Human lives lost: 130
What happened: Explosion at LNG facility destroys one square mile of
1907: Monongah Coal Mine
Type of power: Coal
Human lives lost: 362
What happened: Underground explosion traps workers and destroys railroadbridges leading into the mine.
Compare these to:
Type of power: Nuclear
Human lives lost: 4,056 (Source for this number: UnitedNations Scientific Subcommittee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation)
What happened: Mishandled reactor safety test at
NOTE: Monetary damage is measured in 1996 US dollars, except in accidents sincethat time measured in the dollar values of that year.
From: IO9 What is the worst kind of power plant disaster? Hint: It'snot nuclear. By Annalee Newitz via CreativeCommons
Consider had a passenger jet landed as the devastation struck. Thepilot loses power and makes an emergency landing. The aircraft touches down,runs 300 metres beautifully, then runs into the debris. The wheels dig in andpromptly sheer off. The aircraft spins, a wing breaks off, fuel spills acrossthe sand and catches fire. The automatic escape slides deploy and most peopleget out safely and run from the wreckage.
The international news media hear of the story and splash it across the world.There is immediate concern for the passengers, but the crew does a good jobcalming them all down.
Then TV commentators say that the wheels should never have come off theaircraft. They add that the aircraft was poorly designed and built because awing came off too. Others add that the fuel tanks should never have ruptured.Other commentators want to ban all 747’s from flying, yet others want to banall aircraft from flying until the deficient designs have been corrected. TheGermans ground all their aircraft, even though their pilots say that there isnothing wrong with their fleet.
This whole scenario sounds a bit silly. Nobody would react that way. They wouldall say; “Who on earth would have expected the 747 to have landed safely underthose totally unforeseen circumstances.” They would have said that no aircraftwould ever have been designed to have survived such an attempted landing. Thepilots would have been praised for their skill and dedication.
But that is not what happened at the
Think about the similarity to the Boeing scenario. The largest Japaneseearthquake on record Miyagi-ken Oki strikes the nuclear power plant, closelyfollowed by the largest ever tsunami.
The plant shuts down, as designed. The cooling pumps operate, as designed, butthe earthquake disrupts the electric grid from which the pumps usually drawtheir power in an emergency. So the diesel backup pumps switch on, as designed,but only run for a short time before the tsunami sweeps their fuel supply tanksaway. The plant then goes over to battery power, as designed, but the batteriesonly last eight hours.
The roads have been washed away, the fire brigade and emergency units are notcoming, they cannot get through the obstructions.
Dr. Kelvin Kemm is a CFACT scientific advisor. He holds a PhD innuclear physics, is currently CEO of Stratek and lives in
. Pretoria, South Africa