[PLUG-TALK] Risk of earthquake based nuclear problems in USA

Alex Young alexander.young at gmail.com
Sat Mar 19 17:42:50 PDT 2011

On Sat, Mar 19, 2011 at 12:00 PM, Russell Johnson <russ at dimstar.net> wrote:

> For the most part, Nuclear Power is safe. I do not believe we should have
> implemented any power plants without long term storage of spent fuel already
> available, but that's another issue. The Nuclear Power industry has a very
> good record of safety. By the standards people wish to judge this industry,
> commercial airlines should not be in business. The problem with both
> industries is that when something bad happens, it's a large number of people
> that are affected.
Your point about storage is a good one.  Nuclear power is clearly not
financially viable since it relies entirely
on governmental loan guarantees due to that exact storage problem.  When
comercial interests decide that nuclear power isn't financially viable
without someone else taking all the risk there's a really clear message.

I think there is a real difference in risk here too.  When a plane crashes,
it kills up to a few hundred passengers; there is no ancillary impact.  When
a containment system fails and uranium gets into ground water, the risk of
cancer deaths rises for generations.

And this is not just some academic increase of risk.  It actually increases
the death rate in the population and kills actual humans.  Your individual
risk may not appreciably increase, but when you spread this risk over wide
populations it matters quite a lot.

Additionally we need to calculate the economic impact of that kind of
failure requiring depopulation of a region; a region necessarily in close
proximity to the population center that facility is designed to deliver
power to.

This may sound like alarmism, but this is exactly what had to happen
following Chernobyl, and there is at least some potential of this in Japan
if the containment system of one of these facilities has indeed been
breached, and if the plant foundation has failed.   This may not be likely,
but it is a possible risk, one much too great to ignore, especially
considering the fact that we have to have a way to store this stuff for tens
of thousands of years without breach.

What makes a lot more sense is solar systems, both passive and PV.  If we
could capture only a tiny fraction of the solar radiation reaching the
earth's surface we would never want for power.

And after all, that's where all power comes from in one way or another -
hydrocarbons are stored solar, wind comes from gravitational rotation around
the sun, and even nuclear is powered by elements produced by ancient stars.
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