Posted by: barrmar on Mar 16, 2011
Tagged in: Untagged
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.