The PJ Tatler

Another explosion at Japanese nuclear site

Same complex, different reactor. The Beeb:

A second explosion has hit a Japanese nuclear plant that was damaged in Friday’s earthquake, but officials said the reactor core was still intact.

A huge column of smoke billowed from Fukushima Daiichi’s reactor 3, two days after a blast hit reactor 1.

The latest explosion, said to have been caused by a hydrogen build-up, injured 11 people, one of them seriously.

Soon afterwards, the government said a third reactor at the plant had lost its cooling system.

Water levels were now falling at reactor 2, which is to be doused with sea water, said government spokesman Yukio Edano.

A similar cooling system breakdown preceded the explosions at reactors 1 and 3.

I can understand having a rational debate about nuclear power, but just what does the accidents at these power plants prove?

Radiation release – minimal. Danger to population – according to experts, at the moment it is small:

Experts say a disaster on the scale of Chernobyl in the 1980s is highly unlikely because the reactors are built to a much higher standard and have much more rigorous safety measures.

Recall the Three Mile Island accident that was used as a club by anti-nuclear activists to halt the US nuclear power program in its tracks. But even in that accident – largely due to operator error and poor operator training by the company – the exposure of people around the plant to radiation was minimal according to the American Nuclear Society:

The average radiation dose to people living within ten miles of the plant was eight millirem, and no more than 100 millirem to any single individual. Eight millirem is about equal to a chest X-ray, and 100 millirem is about a third of the average background level of radiation received by US residents in a year.

Instead of being defensive, proponents of nuclear power should be touting the design and construction of the Japanese power plants as proof that nuclear power plants can withstand the absolute worst that nature can throw at them – and still protect the lives of nearby residents. It will be very expensive to clean up (and these words may ring hollow yet if something unforeseen happens), but if the primary goal is to protect the lives of people, the power plants have so far performed more than adequately.

The stakes today are much higher than in 1979. Preventing the anti-nuclear hysterics from winning the debate this time is far more important to our economy.

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