back to article Ofnuke: UK is not Japan

So that's that, then. The UK's nuclear safety watchdog last week published a list of recommendations following the Fukushima accident. It received rather less press than the hysterical reports from Japan. There are plenty of recommendations, but overall the inspectors conclude that Britain has very different kinds of reactors …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Missing the point

    UK designs also have the spent fuel rods cooled under water. All designs except Thorium 233/ molten salt have that. So some of the Fukushima problems can occur here too. The only real recommendation for that is to take the waste inland and deal with there, but no politico will accept that.

    Additionally, UK has a history of flood events of at least several meters. The Severn valley flood in the 18th century (which a lot of people suspect to have been a tsunami from the Irish sea fault), the 1953 floods, etc all have several meters above the highest tide mark. So some of that may happen here too. The probability is not high, but it is still possible.

    1. Desk Jockey

      Point has not been missed

      The reactor buildings do have defences should an extra large wave come from the sea. They also have thick walls in case of airplance strikes and they are probably earthquake proof too, just in case. Admittedly they probably could not take a direct hit from a nuclear weapon, but then preventing release of radioactive material would be rather moot at that point!

      Flooding ponds, containing water and spent fuel rods, while not a brilliant scenario from the perspective of contaminating the water, isn't exactly going to be a major issue as the fuel rods still remain wet! Draining the water is more likely to cause problems, flooding more water on top of water already there less so!

      The probability of the UK's nuclear power plants leaking radiation from a tsunami style event are so ridiculously small, it is not even worth factoring for. Loss of back-up facilities (which can happen from a wider range of events) is what happened to the Japanese and caused them all the problems. In fairness, it was a bloody big wave that took out a large chunk of the country!

      What the report recommends, is that the back-up facilities are made more 'event' proof because they are far less likely to survive any kind of event than the nuclear plant itself, which makes the point of a back-up rather....well... pointless! Should we get hit by a 6m high wave, we are going to have bigger problems that a few nuclear power plants getting rather wet!

    2. There's a bee in my bot net


      I thought the politicos had already accepted that? After all isn't the UK one of the worlds biggest nuke reprocessing countries?

    3. Ian Ferguson


      I'm sure that you, Anonymous Coward, are far better trained in nuclear safety and risk management than the cowboys down at the Office for Nuclear Regulation with their fancy-schmancy PhDs.

      There is no such concept as zero-risk. There is always a tiny probability of extreme conditions; a proper scientific approach is to evaluate this and decide what is acceptable risk.

      1. CABVolunteer

        @Ian Ferguson: "Acceptable risk"

        I was with you until the last phrase "... and decide what is acceptable risk".

        How do you envisage making a decision on acceptable risk? Surely the level of risk that is acceptable is: a) very subjective; b) will vary according to whom you pose the question. Should a decision on what is acceptable be left to a bunch of industry insiders?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I tend to base my risk assessments with a mind to the worst possible outcome.

          10% chance of missing train because I'm finishing off a fried breakfast = OK

          10% chance of walking under a bus by hopping across the road for a laugh = not OK

          1% chance of spilling coffee while sipping it as I walk upstairs = OK

          1% chance of parachute failing to open = not OK

          0.001% of parachute not opening = OK

          0.001% chance of nuclear contamination being spewed all over the UK and irradiating the place for dozens of years = not OK

          When there are extraordinarily bad effects of failure, the chance of failure must be reduced not just to an ordinary level, but a highly extraordinary one. Don't just build for disaster: Build for disaster that far exceeds what's on record.

          Nuclear power is massively expensive. It seems moronic to cut corners in any way and not engineer for worse than the worst possible, given the relatively low cost of doing so in comparison with overall project costs. If the highest wave on record in the UK is -say- 5m high, let's build a wall twice that size!

        2. Msan
          Thumb Down

          @CAB Volunteer ... lighten up man,

          my reading of the article is that Brit nuke reactors are more modern and safer than the admittedly robust Fukishima ones. That is a very , very, very good thing.

          Consulting over 'acceptable risk' is psychotherapy and nothing to with real risk. In the meantime there are homes and businesses to be powered for comfort and commerce.

          Good luck getting anything useful out of your endless subjectivity!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I love the way this has got down-voted... What the heck is going through people's minds?

      Reads: "K designs also have the spent fuel rods cooled under water. All designs except Thorium 233/ molten salt have that. So some of the Fukushima problems can occur here too."

      Thinks: "Bah. Science nonsense. Lewis said it's fine, so this is clearly wrong" *downvotes*

      Reads: "So some of that may happen here too. The probability is not high, but it is still possible"

      Thinks: "Boo. No. Never. We don't get floods here. Don't be silly. I've never heard of the possibility of an unheard of disaster happening before." *tugsbeardanddownvotes*

      1. TakeTheSkyRoad

        Down votes...

        Personally my instant reaction was.... A/C troll posting... *down vote*

        I read, absorbed the A/C opinion and fundamentally disagreed. A more informed post with references, citations and details of the flooding/tidal risk of each of our sites would not get the same reaction.

      2. SkippyBing

        Floods != Tsunami

        Floods are annoying but easily dealt with being mostly static water, tsunamis will fuck you up big time what with it being a large mass of water moving really quite quickly.

        In the UK the likelyhood of a tsunami is so remote as to be irrelevant, if one did happen there'll be more than enough infrastructure failings going on as to render a slight overfilling of a cooling pond irrelevant. Meanwhile the reactors themselves will more than likely be unscathed and have plenty of thermal capacity to deal with a loss of coolant power.

      3. Liam Johnson

        re: Hmmm...Downvotes

        It got downvoted for it's "oh no, end of the world" tone.

        The fact that Thorium reactors are still just experimental.*

        For mentioning Thorium at all – lets jump on the bandwagon.

        And finally the implied suggestion that fuel ponds are the current biggest problem in Fukushima.**

        Your second post will be similarly downvoted for saying that people were not thinking straight by downvoting the first post.

        * That is, not online producing lots of power in real power stations.

        ** Aside from some sources also suggesting that the site needs to be nuked from orbit to stop the old fuel melting a hole in the planet.

    5. Andydaws
      Thumb Down

      Ill informed bollocks....

      The key difference is, those fiel rods currently cooled in ponds aren't clad with zirconium.

      Maybe you can tell us how it's possible to get a hydrogen-producing reaction - the relavent problem - with stainless steel clad rods?

  2. The BigYin

    What worries me... that the UK reactors were built to UK specs and maintained in the UK by a (I guess) mostly UK workforce. That does not fill me with confidence. You only have to look at any major UK contract (aircraft carriers that can't really carry aircraft, anyone?) to know what a total pigs ear our supposed betters make of things like this.

    That being's probably still less bad than coal.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Yea the UK can't build anything decent....

      That Concord and Eurofighter were piles of shite...and as for that Jet Engine and Hovercraft malarky they were just failures that were never heard of again wern't they...fool.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Was that sarcasm?

        I'm not sure, because Concorde and the EuroFighter WERE piles of shite.

      2. The BigYin

        @Micky 1

        Hovercraft was invented here - but not pursued. Taken up by the USA and other nations. Killed by the suits (who I am railing against)

        EuroFighter - an Europe-wide project, over-priced and crap. We are spending billions on something that can't even do ground-attack without significant modifications (many will sit mothballed an unused). We would have been better off with a clutch of F16s and keeping Harrier going.

        Jet Engine - yup, 60 odd years ago. But then that was one team, so a small project not a big contract managed by suits. And when the suits saw it, they wanted to cancel it.

        Concord - glory of the 70s.

        The UK does do some good engineering, but we are run buy morons. Nimrod, the new carriers, our trains, EuroFighter, Snatch Landrovers, various NHS projects. And thus we suck balls at big contracts.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @The BigYin - Your comment was about your concern for the quality of the work done

          Not of the quality of the management of the projects. My point was that we have done and still do manufacture components/products to a world class level, which I think you seem to agree with.

          1. The BigYin

            @Micky 1

   can create as many straw men as you like, but my worry was that we suck at major contracts (which is why I said "any major UK contract"). Almost without exception, every major contract any modern UK government has tried has gone massively over-budget and been a total shambles.

            Individual components are all well and good, but when they are put together by monkeys you get garbage like our two new carriers (one to be moth-balled, one to barely carry and planes, budget through the roof and they're not even nuclear!). Or Failtrack. Or the Metro Line. Or....

            To give you straw-man some actual body; at a consumer level, the last semi-decent UK product I can think of was the Dyson Vacuum cleaner - but that's now made in China.

            1. Badbob

              Do your research....

              The BigYin: " can create as many straw men as you like, but my worry was that we suck at major contracts (which is why I said "any major UK contract"). Almost without exception, every major contract any modern UK government has tried has gone massively over-budget and been a total shambles."

              I present to you High Speed One (or "Channel Tunnel Rail Link" as it was originally known), Delivered on time, and under budget, despite the collapse of it's customer, Railtrack, during construction. Also, the M74 Completion project in Glasgow is being delivered under budget and 9 months ahead of schedule.

              I'm sure there are plenty more, but I have to get back to my own projects. All on time, and under budget.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        'Scuse me...

        Because obviously the UK can claim the jet engine as our invention, and the hovercraft has completely revolutionised the world...

    2. DF118

      @The BigYin

      " that the UK reactors were built to UK specs and maintained in the UK by a (I guess) mostly UK workforce. That does not fill me with confidence."

      I think you're confusing the post-Thatcher consumerist UK with the optimistic, science led UK that designed, commissioned and built the AGRs. Fair enough, the build took forever, but that was more down to design complexity than construction incompetence.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So we're being told there WAS a radation leak, there were explosions & people are being effected by it..

    But didnt I read, as little as two months ago that people pointing out this was happening were crackpots and/or people who were looking for political gains (simply because they werent towing the offical line) - Funny how people can flip-flop as soon as they think people have forgottern what they have already said.

    1. oddie


      there was radiation leaks, they were relatively minor (in terms of it actually being dangerous).

      There was explosions (that as far as I know did not lead to any radiation, just blew the bloody doors off (it was actually the roof, I just like Michael Caine too much)).

      People _were_ affected by it, for 'just to make sure reasons' quite a lot of them were moved away from the area.

      There was no meltdown, fuel rods did not burn their way to the core of the earth, nobody in fukushima walk around glowing in the dark, nobody died of radiation.

      If only the tsunami had been as benign.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        And in other news, all three reactors did in fact melt down.

        I'm pretty confident they'll admit that containment was breached sooner or later. Then Lewis will have been wrong about absolutely everything...

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: "There was no meltdown"

        While I agree with the rest of your post... actually there WAS a meltdown. It was nicely contained by the reactor vessel, as designed. This should be good news for all the people worrying about "China syndrome" cores melting through to the centre of the earth. We now know that the containment systems work, even if there is a meltdown.


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Dead Vulture

          Re: And in other news, all three reactors did in fact melt down.

          "Then Lewis will have been wrong about absolutely everything..."

          But by then he'll be bending spoons again and everyone will be gushing "Ooh! How does he do that?" once more. (Obvious celebrity reference anonymized for super-injunction avoidance purposes.)

          Still, at least nuclear articles can be commented on, whereas articles about "shill gas" are presumably too sacred at the moment.

        2. BoldMan

          Your reference is not reliable

          You can't point at something the BBC wrote about this event and try to claim this is authoritative. The BBC were one of the worst at the hysterical and inaccurate reporting of the event. It really made me downgrade my opinion on the reliability of the BBC as a factual reporter even more than before.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Black Helicopters

            They were only quoting TEPCO's own claims.

            You are being a paranoid conspiracy theorist. TEPCO held a press conference and admitted the meltdown, BBC reported it, in common with every other news outlet in the world. Get your head out of the sand and go do a google news search or something. Here, why not watch a video of the TEPCO spokesman admitting it in person:


            I expect you'll claim they've fraudulently mis-translated him or something. Here, here's previous TEPCO's status report, now several days out of date:


            Note the footnote at the bottom of page 1:

            >"Results of the provisional analysis show that the fuel pellets of unit 1 melted and fell to the bottom of RPV at a relatively early stage after the tsunami reached the plant".

            They have now admitted similar damage at reactors 2 and 3. If you refuse to believe it, you're living in a fantasy of your own making.

        3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: other news

          There's a big difference between what the public understands by meltdown and what seems to have happened here. That difference is "containment".

          As was pointed out at the time, the best evidence that the containment was not violated is the fact that we spent a week or more worrying about the very high pressures within the containment vessel and the consequent explosion risk. To re-iterate something Lewis said at the time: you don't get pressure build-up if there's a dirty great hole on your box.

          1. Anonymous Coward

            When is a meltdown not a meltdown?

            Did you actually read what you just said there? I'm not allowed to call a meltdown a meltdown when I am using the terminology entirely correctly, because of some hypothetical misunderstanding in the imaginary head of some theoretical member of the public? That is quite the most abysmal piece of chopped logic I have seen in some time.

          2. hayseed

            failure of containment vessels?

            Actually, after reactor #2 exploded, the pressure vessel was at atmospheric pressure, and radiation measurements around the area rose by a factor of 10.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Fukushima Containment Vessels May Be Leaking, Tepco Says


            >"Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the containment chambers of damaged reactors at its Fukushima nuclear plant were likely breached"

            Yeah, look, I understand your theoretical problem about how there could be high pressure inside the reactor vessel if it had a hole in it, but what about if it was a small hole and/or maybe obstructed, perhaps even by an air bubble or something? You just can't be so bloody certain by sitting at home in your armchair reasoning from theoretical idealised models to try and infer what will actually happen in a real-world situation with real materials.

            To anyone who wasn't swallowing the kool-aid, it should have been suspicious when they first suggested that the toroid ring could have been breached and yet that somehow wouldn't amount to a breach in the reactor vessel. They are connected after all. It's been obvious all along that TEPCO was spinning their news, putting best-possible interpretations on everything, delaying announcements of conclusions that were obvious from the data they had already released, and generally continuing their historical pattern of prevarication, obfuscation and outright deception.

    2. oddie

      egg on my face :)

      Well I considder myself corrected on the meltdown(s), I don't know how I even managed to miss that one :(

      good on people for posting sources, here's a pretty good one:

      Kind of an anticlimax almost, media has always kind of made me think that a meltdown would somehow be bigger.. and leave thousands dead... not just fuel melting and dropping to the bottom of the pressure vessel :(

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Good on you mate

        AC from "And in other news" post here; good on you for accepting a correction. I wasn't trying to say this was any kind of China-syndrome-end-of-the-world-thousands-dead nonsense, but it certainly means a god-awful and far more expensive mess that needs to be somehow tidied up. Latest I hear is they're planning to turn it into a waste-dump, which is a probably cash-saving but still bloody tasteless way to (maybe) swerve round the problem...

        This is one of my main beefs with the whole ElReg line on the problem: it is terribly short-sighted. Lewis sees a disaster, notes that everything else failed except for the pressure vessel, and calls it a triumph; I can't help but notice the "everything else failed" bit that he ignored and think that it's too important to just hand-wave away. Lewis looks at a nuclear power station, all he sees is a big steel vessel that's a bit like a pressure cooker, but that's the simplest and smallest part of it; I look at a nuclear power station, and I also see forty years'-worth of corporate, financial, political, infrastructural and human support systems that are required to back it up and make it work safely and economically viably, and every single one of /them/ failed. That's why I think Lewis' perspective is almost autistically short-sighted; it's a geek point-of-view, it considers only engineering and is blind to all the larger systems that the actual engineering is merely a part of.

  4. Thomas 4


    We have to do away with nuclear power! Won't somebody please think of the radioactive, glowing mutant children?!

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Died from exhaustion?

    Bloody hell...

    1. Liam Johnson

      re: Died from exhaustion, Bloody hell...

      Just to add a little perspective:-

      If it is the same guy, it was apparently a 60+ year old electrician who died of a suspected heart attack.

      So not very nice for him and his family, but not unusually bad in the greater scheme of things.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        oh yea

        I shocked by how dedicated you must be to work hard enough to die from it.

        I know the Japanese can be a dedicated bunch (Hell, I live here) but I hadn't head the above bit of news.

        Rather humbling

  6. Code Monkey
    Thumb Up

    "doesn't experience Force 9 earthquakes"

    This is a very important point that the more shrill parts of the media (and some that should know better) have chosen to ignore.

  7. Santa from Exeter


    Quote - 'So we're being told there WAS a radation leak, there were explosions & people are being effected by it..

    But didnt I read, as little as two months ago that people pointing out this was happening were crackpots and/or people who were looking for political gains (simply because they werent towing the offical line)'

    No - no you didn't.

    What you read was that the people trying to imply that *all* of Japan's problems, deaths and injuries were linked to the nuclear plants and that people would die en masse from the fallout were such crackpots etc. The *minor* leaks were admitted when they happened, and the *majority* of the explosions only blew the bloody doors off :-)

    There is no 'flipflop'-ing here, just a re-iteration of that point.

    BTW, when you are 'towing' the 'offical' line is this similar to toeing the official line, or are you hauling some imaginary boundary by hand?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I never

      saw _anyone_ "trying to imply that *all* of Japan's problems, deaths and injuries were linked to the nuclear plants and that people would die en masse from the fallout". I wondered at the time who these 'people' were. Looked more like pro-nuclear lobby FUD to me. Still does.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I never

        "saw _anyone_ "trying to imply that *all* of Japan's problems, deaths and injuries were linked to the nuclear plants and that people would die en masse from the fallout". I wondered at the time who these 'people' were. Looked more like pro-nuclear lobby FUD to me."

        Yes, there were a bunch of people squealing about how "everybody keeps staring at those nuke plants" and in their own little minds a bit of projection started to take shape, where they imagined that people watching the BBC - even for a few moments - had started to believe that Satan himself had seized personal control over the elements uranium and plutonium and was now threatening everybody in Asia. What tended to happen next was that these people opened their mouths and started jumping and pointing schoolyard-style at anyone who dared entertain the notion that not all was well with the condition of these nuclear facilities.

        I think everyone but these "stop looking at it" buffoons could manage to hold more than one news story in their head at any given time, but why let everybody else's modest capabilities get in the way of a good "eyes forward" telling-off. And such people have the nerve to complain about the "mainstream media". Jesus Christ!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure ours will be fine.

    The Germans reactors might just all have failed their safety checks and the country might be getting out of the whole nuclear power thing, but what do they know, anyway? It's not like they can engineer anything decent...

    1. Chris Miller

      The German political system

      forces pandering to crackpot single-issue minority parties, such as the Greens.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm sure ours will be fine.

      > It's not like they can engineer anything decent...

      Last I heard, the decisions were being made by politicians, not engineers.

    3. Andydaws
      Thumb Down

      Another load of boollocks....

      "The Germans reactors might just all have failed their safety checks.."

      Oh, really?

      "German minister: reactor safety check shows no need for immediate shutdown"

      The only issue that argues for any shutdown is protection against aircraft crash - and the German politicians seem to have reached different conclusions to most other nuclear authorities. What's happened is that it wasn't part of the original safety case. Most other countries have done the sensible thing, and worked out what would happen. The Germans won't even loook at it.

      Here's the irony - what they'll be buying their power from...

      The Czehs are proposing to build up to 5 1600MW reactors - and guess where the output will be going.....

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        Proving once again the safest place in Germany to site nuclear reactors is...

        The Czech Republic.

  9. Kurt Guntheroth

    Continued fact denial

    Hey Orlowski! Why aren't you covering the emerging evidence that the cores of units 1, 2, and 3 melted down and burned through the pressure vessels? You are very selective about the facts you choose to report. Too selective for a journalist. Exactly selective enough for a fact denier though.

    "But the stricken reactors coped well"

    Recent examination revealed that the cores of units 1, 2, and 3 melted down. Unit 2 definitely melted through the steel pressure vessel, and the investigators believe the same occurred on units 1 and 3, though direct inspection is not yet possible due to high levels of radiation, water, and damage from the hydrogen explosions.

    In what sense can the stricken reactors be considered to have coped well? I guess they didn't actually blow their lids off and spew burning graphite and fuel into the environment like at Chernobyl. That's a pretty low bar for comparison.

    "The UK's gas-cooled reactors ... give longer timescales for remedial action. "

    Although melting has ceased, normal cooling has not been restored to any of the striken units at Fukushima #1 to date. The cooling that has been done amounts to sticking a hose into the building and pouring water over the radioactive slag at the bottom of the pressure vessels. Modern reactor designs would have to be robust indeed if only ambient air cooling was available. I hope this is the case, but I very much doubt it. In a "modern" reactor, if it became necessary to stuff a firehose into the reactor to achieve cooling, I suspect the touted safety features would look a good deal scarier.

    Can't we return to reality? Fukushima was a diasaster of engineering. The reactors were not designed to withstand conditions known to be possible at their site. An obsolete, dangerous design was permitted to continue operating long after the lessons of Three Mile Island should have resulted in its closure. Three uncontrolled raactors destroyed themselves in a nuclear meltdown. Millions of liters of highly contaminated water are leaking into the environment, and no assessment of health risks from this contamination is yet possible. The fact that measured, direct health effects are yet modest does not lessen the severity of what went wrong, or excuse poor design and regulatory decisions.

    Whether or not you think nuclear power is cool, the only supportable path is to acknowledge that Fukushima was a disaster, so we can learn from it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Kurt Guntheroth - Continued fact denial

      'Whether or not you think nuclear power is cool, the only supportable path is to acknowledge that Fukushima was a disaster, so we can learn from it.'

      The Tsunami was a disaster; tens of thosuands killed, and wide spread devastation. In Fukishima no one wa skilled, and there are no long term health effects expected. Is it a disaster?

      In health and safety terms - no.

      In financial terms - yes but still small compared to the Tsunami.

      In the media - Yes because it makes a good story.

      The basic point that the consequences of Fukishima are insignificant compared to the Tsunami itself yet all of the focus has been on nuclear is still true.

    2. Aaron Em

      Evidence -- a good word

      Why don't you show some? Because, dig as I might, I've yet to find anyone who suggested after about March 18 that a pressure vessel even *might* be imperiled. How about you toss out a link or two?

      1. hayseed

        Re: Evidence

        Have you been awake? See ex.

        "In Units 2 and 3 Reactor Pressure Vessel and Drywell pressures remain at atmospheric pressure."

        Coomon knowledge even amongst bloggers

        "Work will start with unit 1, because unlike unit 2 and 3 its containment vessel is assumed to be intact. Unit 2 and 3 are at atmospheric pressure. If they can’t maintain steam pressure they may also not hold water once they’re flooded."

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          "Unit 2 definitely melted through the steel pressure vessel"


          "Coomon knowledge even amongst bloggers"

          Says it all, really. GB2WoW.

          Official statement is:

          Integrity of pressure vessel 1: Damaged or leaking [doesn't say that the core melted through]

          Integrity of pressure vessel 2: Status unknown

          Integrity of pressure vessel 3: Status unknown

          1. hayseed

            Status unknown

            Integrity of pressure vessel 1: Damaged or leaking [doesn't say that the core melted through]

            Integrity of pressure vessel 2: Status unknown

            Integrity of pressure vessel 3: Status unknown

            (Atmospheric pressure is a pretty big clue)

    3. Sean Baggaley 1

      @Kurt Guntheroth:

      "Hey Orlowski! Why aren't you covering the emerging evidence that the cores of units 1, 2, and 3 melted down and burned through the pressure vessels? "

      The El Reg articles covering the problems at the Fukushima plant weren't about the plant, but about the staggering quantities of FUD and scaremongering being sprayed about by what is laughingly described as the "mainstream" media. That some Sh*t Happened® at Fukushima was never denied: the explosions certainly weren't.

      The point was that, when all is said and done, the Fukushima nuclear power plant *itself*, DIDN'T KILL ANYONE. At all. Anywhere. How is this being considered a "disaster"?

      Meanwhile, somewhat less than a million effing miles away, OVER TEN THOUSAND PEOPLE JUST DIED IN A F*CKING EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI. How many people were killed or injured by the damage to coal and gas plants? Did pipelines burst? Are there oil slicks drifting about Japan's coastline? Are toxic chemicals leaching out of damaged storage silos? How much *long-term* pollution has been caused? How many people could die from lack of basic amenities, or tainted water supplies?

      The media needs to get a better sense of perspective.

      Nobody whines about the thousands of people killed every day on the roads; yet a tiny handful of very minor injuries and an equally tiny, statistically insignificant, increase in the *chance* of getting a life-threatening cancer is a "major disaster"?

      The bloody Buncefield explosion was far more potentially devastating—it was sheer chance that it didn't happen during business hours; if it had, the deaths and injuries would probably have been around a week's worth of road deaths—yet nobody's complaining about the continued existence of such storage depots in the UK.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    There is an easy answer

    Principled upon: the polluter pays.

  11. byrresheim

    Where is Lewis Page when we need him most?

    Now that we know that there were core meltdowns in three reactors, I would just love to read how that goes to prove that everything is hunky dory. As other posters pointed out already: that leaves zero facts Mr. Page got right - and once again shows an interesting propensity for highly economical dealing with reality in the nuclear industry - a topic on which I would love to see Mr. Page's comment.

    Anyway, the principal belief of the nuclear cargo cult seems to be: as long as there is no mushroom cloud, there has been no problem. The pesky little fact that scrapping several reactors now is certain to be by several orders of magnitude more expensive and dangerous than planned can by no means be seen as a disaster.

    And never forget children: Chernobyl killed 50 people.

    Oh, and children: it could not happen here.

    1. byrresheim
      Thumb Down

      To the downvoters

      a) three reactor cores utterly destroyed - known since the beginning, admitted only now

      b) breaches of containment admitted for one reactor

      c) spent fuel pools run dry, fuel rods have been burning

      d) patches of high (as in "you definitely don't want _that_ in your back yard" high) radiation found near Tokyo

      e) risks from ingestion of radioactive dust are (mistakenly) ignored and only the level of ambient radioactivity is taken into consideration

      and the list goes on ...

      So downvote all you want, it won't change the facts on the ground one bit and certainly won't save the economics of atomic power.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    was it a disaster? Yes financially

    and if the industry prices really reflected the risks, rather than bankster-style taxpayer pays the costs, the nuclear industry would be blatantly uncompetitive

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And not just financially bad either.

      The power cuts were really unhelpful at a time of crisis like this. Although the ordinary power stations stayed on line, it was of course possible that they could have been wiped out too; but it's a hell of a lot quicker, cheaper and easier to clear debris out of a wrecked conventional power station and install new turbines than it is to even get close to the smouldering rubble of a nuclear wreck.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    On topic. "Probabalistic Risk assesment" anyone?

    This is a technique people like NASA use to estimate how *likely* something is to happen so they can decide what (if *any*) action they need to take about it.

    It's tough to do with rare events (like how common is a connector failure on a Shuttle takeoff) and needs good statistical data.

    However when it comes to weather and geological events in the UK that data *does* exist.

    At least 200 years worth.

    With that in hand you can be pretty sure *exactly* how likely a 9 level earthquake is in the UK (the UK has had earthquakes in living memory, and small tornado's) and how likely *any* part of the UK is to a tidal wave x metres high.

    Depending on what the answer is you can decide *rationally* on how much effort you should invest in handling *that* problem at *that* magnitude. OfNuke seem to have decided there's a cat in hells chance of that happening (in the UK) and it's a waste of money to do so.

    IMHO in the UK people should worry more about *flooding* as quite a few recent floods have disrupted water pumping stations, washed out bridges and shut down sewage works.

    So I guess sticking any new nukes next to a river (without checking how often its flooded its surroundings) would be a *bad* idea. Not exactly rocket science.

    And just a reminder melt down <> China syndrome *unless* containment fails.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Probabilistic risk assessment

    Is a very useful tool.

    "disrupted water pumping stations, washed out bridges and shut down sewage works."

    Not to mention regional electricity switching centres like the one in Gloucester (or was it Cheltenham) which was very nearly put out of action and nearly cut off most of the Midlands just a few years ago; it survived only by calling in the Army (the Army which the Millionaire's Cabinet is shrinking so the MoD can still afford big boys toys like carriers and Trident and other such BAe-beneficial kit).

    See also: Thames barrier in London - before many mortgages are paid off, there will be a horrible increase in risk that the property will be uninsurable and therefore unsaleable and therefore worthless.

    Back to reactors: if the risk is once in a hundred years, it could still happen tomorrow, right? And if the planned reactor lifetime is 40 years, there's a 40% chance of it happening, during the lifetime, right? Which surely makes it well worth considering and probably worth catering for? Of course, the expensive precautions may make the resulting electricity prices uncompetitive and therefore the project won't happen. But that's the way markets are supposed to work, right?

    There is a story that the Fukushima precautions were based on "once in twentyfive year" events. I do not know if it is true. It would be very silly to use once in 25 year numbers for a 40 year lifetime.

  15. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Force 9 quakes.

    Perhaps not, but look at the risk (and predicted heights) of surges in the Severn wash and Irish sea caused by a collapse of one of the canary island volcanos.

    On the bright side there'd be a couple of hours warning if this occured.

    WRT flooding, there are 2 sorts.

    1: the water rises and falls slowly, some silt/sewage damage, but not much else (eg, what's currently happening on the mississippi river)

    2: the water comes through in a wall, knocks lots of stuff over and puts tons of silt across every square metre in the process (flash floods)

    Nobody who's been in a flash flood would argue they're less of a problem than a tsunami. This is why nuclear plants are(should be) sited in areas which aren't vulnerable to this kind of thing.

    At the end of the day the fact remains that Fukushima got hit with a double whammy far larger than it was designed for, things broke and the amount of radiation which has escaped into the environment is still pretty low. Pretty good for a worst case scenario...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Why was it only designed for such a small whammy in the first place?

      There have been numerous >5.7m tsunami every century in that area of the Japanese coast; if something is expected to last for 40 years, it should really have been designed to expect to run into one of them. The fact that it wasn't is part of the corruption of bookkeeping that is the only way these plants can be made to seem viable in the first place.

      Don't forget that in the UK, the only way our nuclear industry is willing to build new plant is if they're guaranteed that the taxpayer will pick up the long-term decommissioning costs. WTF does that say about the honesty of the economic arguments?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @js19 re NASA

    the ones that ignored the warning of high probability of O ring misbehavior at low temperature? The problem was known, the PHBs ignored it. Probability of PHBs fouling up?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      now with a proper kbd

      Previous post typed from not-very-smart phone... for anyone who wants to know more, search for "challenger shuttle disaster" and in particular articles referencing "O ring", and probably articles mentioning Feynman too.

      Basically a dirt cheap O ring, a small but critical part of the solid rocket booster required to keep hot gases in places they should be and out of places they shouldn't be, was known by engineers to be much less reliable at low temperatures because it was much less flexible than the design required, when temperatures were low.

      When cold weather combined with probabilistic risk assessment said the shuttle launch should be postponed, NASA "management" overruled engineers concerns, the launch went ahead, and the crew of seven died, live on TV. There was an enquiry (with physics professor Feynman on the committee). The results were published, and Feynman added some notable comments of his own.

      Go have a read, watch the videos, whatever. Feynman's always worth a look.

      Software folks might want to have a read of

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        "Basically a dirt cheap O ring, a small but critical part of the solid rocket booster required to keep hot gases "

        It's over 14 feet in diameter. That's not quite OTS. The one Feymen demonstrated in a cup of ice water probably was OTS but of the same material, which is what counts.

        "When cold weather combined with probabilistic risk assessment said the shuttle launch should be postponed,"

        Which suggests PRA was correct. In fact the temperature was *off* the bottom of their properties database. All that *could* be said for certain was the trend is not good and it's going *down*.

        "NASA "management" overruled engineers concerns,"

        Strictly in a telephone conference they put pressure on Thiokol management to suggest their engineers re-consider their opinion as they had the first woman teacher astronaut (Sally Ride) on board.

        And like the team players they are Thiokol management duly did so.

        This made the Challenger crew the first Americans NASA got killed *after* they left the pad.

        BTW People think quantum physics is *far* from the real world and not very relevant to this sort of investigation. But in order to be good at it you have to be *very* aware of statistics, probability distributions and the result that *changing* those distributions will have on the outcome. Feyman understood those *very* well. He was also aware that reliability of estimates done by engineers were *very* much lower (x100 IIRC) than those of NASA management.

        In some ways the Challenger management resembled the Hal Holbrooke character in Capricorn One. This is not a good thing.

  17. interested_reader

    Sooo.... where's the latest article from Orlowski & Page pooh-poohing Fukushima?


    TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Radiation released by the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has caused soil contamination matching the levels seen in the Chernobyl disaster in some areas, a researcher told the government's nuclear policy-setting body Tuesday.

    "A massive soil decontamination project will be indispensable before residents in those areas can return," said Tomio Kawata, a research fellow of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, at the meeting of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, which sets policies and strategies for the government's nuclear power development.

    According to Kawata, soil in a 600 square kilometer area mostly to the northwest of the Fukushima plant is likely to have absorbed radioactive cesium of over 1.48 million becquerels per square meter, the yardstick for compulsory migration orders in the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.

    Kawata also said soil in a 700 square km area is likely to have absorbed 555,000-1.48 million becquerels per square meter, which was a criteria for temporary migration during the Chernobyl disaster.


    Of course, Chernobyl itself was NBD, so I guess we will soon be treated to an article pointing out that exposure to radiation in some remote corner of the Himalayas is near-as-makes-no-diff the same as what anyone having lunch next to the melted reactor cores of Fukushima would experience, and people are still climbing Everest every day, so big whoop! And wind power is the new Great Satan. Keep up the valiant quest for truth there fellas.

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