Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fukushima perspective

Update: correction and contrition.  Friday August 14, 2015. 

I screwed the pooch on this one.



Japanese deference to corporate authority apparently caused the technicians in charge of the Fukushima power plants to withhold the truth of the dire circumstances of the Fukushima reactors from their corporate superiors, and to delay the emergency measures they knew were instantly required to save the reactors from total meltdown. They sat on their hands rather than “offend” their bosses, who in their culture are apparently seen as their god-like betters. No one wanted to be the messenger bringing the bad news. So all of the engineering work that went into making the reactors safe was thrown in the dumper because of a cultural twitch. As always the greatest danger lies in those human factors that lead to operator error.


I did not take that into consideration, and so: my bad.

Nippon's Nuclear Curse

Justin Raimondo -- mucho kudos for the man,... but not this time -- writes the following on the Antiwar.com blog

http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2011/03/12/nippons-nuclear-curse/#IDComment135882114

And I respond:

Just to keep it sane, here. Those reactors are just fine. Their operation to produce electricity has already saved the planet from thousands of tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants (coal for example emits substantial quantities of radioactive thorium and uranium when burned in power plants; there's your radioactive plume, folks; the nukes on the other hand are clean as a whistle).

Yes, Japan has earthquakes. They just had the biggest one in recorded history. And their nuke plants? Damaged? Yes. But what all you technically clueless people fail to realize is that real engineers take their jobs seriously, and design all sorts of multiply redundant safety features into these facilities, so that even in the event of damage, ***CATASTROPHIC FAILURE*** is prevented.

But the anti-nuclear hysterics, the Henny-Penny shriekers are only interested in political/emotional masturbation. In their ignorance and looming feeling of irrelevance, in their need to feel important, their desire to don the tiara of heroism, to be lauded for their crusader passion to save the world, they shriek against technology.  Grow up. The scientific types -- the geeks and nerds you so disdained in school because of their social incompetence, and to whom you felt oh so superior, well, they now own the world and your silly tra-la-la asses right along with it.

In ten or fifteen years when the Chinese have finished off your lunch, and the US economy craters totally, those geeks will be the new middle class, and you anti-nuke flakes with your degrees in French literature and sociology will be commuting to geek homes to clean the pool, mow the lawn, and scrub the floors.

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Okay, a bit snarky, which is my way, but another commenter replied, and I "dialed it down":

"Jeff if the plants were really engineered to handle catastrophes that actually empirically happen in Japan as in the current moment they wouldn't be desperately pumping sea water and boron onto the likely already melted cores of these power plants."

I appreciate the civil and sensible nature of your remarks, and agree with everything except the implication that the plants aren't "really" engineered to handle catastrophes that actually happen.

If one assumes that a plant must survive intact and without significant damage, and thus be able to resume function with only minimal repair, then yes, these plants aren't designed to do that. What they are designed to do is absorb every level of assault except the very worst that nature can dish out, and then, smashed, blasted, and flooded, still not crack open and poison everyone with massive amounts of lethal radiation. I believe that when the dust has settled, we will see that the skilled and responsible engineers have succeeded in achieving that. This is what engineers at their best seek to do.

In the face of a giant earthquake AND a giant tsunami the plant has been reduced to garbage, yes, but the people are safe. That's success. Power plants can be replaced, lives cannot.

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