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How will the Japanese quake influence the future of Nuclear power?

Posted by: barrmar

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In spite of a number of nuclear disasters in various places around the world, the nuclear power industry has continued to insist that it is safe. 

Japan has already suffered terribly as a result of the latest earthquake and tsunami. Over 10,000 people are either dead or missing. Everyone is hoping that this disaster will not result in any additional loss of life, but the situation of the nuclear power stations are more than cause for concern. 

An earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale is certainly not to be laughed off. It is massive by any measure. Japan must be commended for the relatively low impact of the quake itself. 

The after effects of the earthquake have included a number of explosions at nuclear power plants. So far, most of these have been contained. So far, there has been no "melt down". Hopefully, this will not happen. But at this stage there is still a risk of a meltdown happening. 

The problems seen so far are the result of an inability to effectively cool the system that is used to produce electricity. When the cooling system in a nuclear reactor stops working, the risk of meltdown increases. This would happen if the heat generated by the plant allows the nuclear process to break through the containers. 

The largest and most destructive known nuclear power disaster was of course in Chernobyl. The failure of this plant caused a radioactive cloud of dust to travel thousands of kilometres causing health problems in its wake. Towns and villages surrounding Chernobyl - some quite a considerable distance away - were rendered into ghost towns. They remain uninhabitable more than 25 years after the disaster. 

Japan has high safety standards as can be seen from the way it has built buildings to withstand earthquakes. Yet the Japanese nuclear plants have shown themselves to be vulnerable. 

If the Japanese reactors are vulnerable, then reactors everywhere are vulnerable. 

Yesterday we heard a statement by Eskom that Koeberg nuclear reactor is of a completely different type and would be able to withstand anything. 

Oh, really.

Comments (5)Add Comment
written by Doolally, March 16, 2011
Eskom wouldn't even admit they had a problem until there was a major power shortage all over SA. I wouldn't trust what they say about Koelberg, The best thing would be for the UN or a similar organisation to set up a Nuclear safety task team to do continous checks on a Nuclear stations all over the world.
written by barrmar, March 16, 2011
My belief is that we should not be looking at building any new nuclear power facilities. While it may seem that nuclear power is a clean option, there are always risks. These risks seem very remote most of the time but every now and again there is an incident that illustrates that the risks are huge.
written by Doolally, March 16, 2011
Nuclear power stations are always a risk! No matter how "clean" they run. The biggest risk they run on is human error. We might not have earthquakes or Tsuanami's but we sure do have people!smilies/cry.gif
written by Jawellnofine, March 17, 2011
Eskom are actually quite right when they claim that Koeberg is different to the japan plants. The safety measures are different as well.

Go and take a look for yourself.
written by Dissol, March 17, 2011
Of course lessons will be learned from the Japanese quakes. We need more nuclear power stations, and will have to build many new ones on the years to come. Presently, there is no viable alternative to fossil fuels (and they are dirty & running out!!).

Nuclear power is still one of the safest ways of producing energy. Yes, there is the problem with waste...but if we invest more money in research then using fusion reactors and perhaps using particle bombardment, then we could even make the nuclear waste from the fission reactors into inert material.

Presently, there is no viable alternative to assuage human greed for electricity

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