Sunday, March 13, 2011
"TOKYO — Japanese officials struggled on Sunday to contain a widening nuclear crisis in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and tsunami, saying they presumed that partial meltdowns had occurred at two crippled reactors and that they were bracing for a second explosion, even as they faced serious cooling problems at four more reactors." NY Times
I am no expert, and also a large fan of nuclear power for certain purposes. For space exploration, the production of radioactive isotopes, for research, and even power generation under the right conditions, I think nuclear power is very useful. But all the same, I am shocked that we are still not able to scram a civilian reactor sufficiently and put it in a configuration in which it no longer generates even a few percentage points of operational heat. Even if that means having an emergency configuration in which the entire core and vessel is split into a few pieces that can be moved far apart or dropped into a tank of water and reactor poison (neutron poison) like boron. Further, as said in a previous post, it is hard to imagine that there is no emergency method for the cooling of a core by totally passive means such as a reservoir or in this case, by seawater. It should be automatically activated when the generator system fails. In addition, if triple redundancy is to be had for generator systems, three identical generators in the same location cannot be considered suitable. Each generator must be a different type, and located in a different place. One should be on the ground, the other high in the air (to prevent damage from tsunamis which, yes, come from the Ocean sometimes.) The third should be underground or indoors and resistant to attack by humans.
Basically, it seems as if the ability to react to a disaster near a nuclear power plant (earthquake, flood, tsunami, terrorist attack) has not changed much since 9-11, not changed much since April 26th, 1986, not changed much since March 28th, 1979. And all the while, experts proclaim that another accident is simply impossible. Yet all it takes is a temporary loss of power, plus the failure of a few identical generators (all vulnerable to the same fault), for several cores to meltdown (Chernobyl) and hydrogen explosions (Three Mile Island) to damage power plant infrastructure. As usual, these experts either profited from the expansion of the nuclear power industry, or were simply unwilling to imagine scenarios in which humans were unable to anticipate things like earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan. What language is "tsunami" anyway?