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Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant
June 16, 2011 4:56 PM   Subscribe


 
Nuclear power is getting to be like an abusive boyfriend.
posted by stavrogin at 5:03 PM on June 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Two miles seems excessive. One has to wonder if keeping planes, helicopters, etc. in a two-mile radius outside the nuclear plant is really just to keep any embarrassing pictures from being taken and published in the news. Out of sight, out of mind.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:03 PM on June 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


Arnold has a point. It can't be good to have sandbags around a nuclear power plant...
posted by estuardo at 5:07 PM on June 16, 2011


We don't need to worry about the dangers of nuclear power as long as we can rely on the diligence, independence, and competence of our federal regulators.

Oh... right.
posted by Trurl at 5:09 PM on June 16, 2011 [12 favorites]


Coal energy keeps abusing the environment to stir up these "natural" disasters just so they can shut down their nuclear energy competition! Next thing you know, coal pollution will block out the sun and clog up wind turbines!
posted by Saydur at 5:09 PM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


The flood is one thing - an earthquake could be another. The "nuclear thing" will - sooner or later - mean serious blowback for humanity. It should also be noted that Obama, as a State Senator, hearted Exelon and the nuclear power industry. Be afraid.
posted by Vibrissae at 5:09 PM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Be afraid

What I fear is the agenda of anyone who tells me this.
posted by rocket88 at 5:19 PM on June 16, 2011 [24 favorites]


Well they kept news from Fukushima locked down for a good while, everyone have a GREAT summer! I don't even remember 3 Mile Island!
posted by Max Power at 5:21 PM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Be afraid

What I fear is the agenda of anyone who tells me this


Even without asking? Do you live your life that way? If so, I'm afraid for you.
posted by Vibrissae at 5:22 PM on June 16, 2011


I would be afraid too, were I powerless in the face of an agenda.
posted by pompomtom at 5:24 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


The only thing to fear is fearing only one thing.
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:25 PM on June 16, 2011 [15 favorites]


FFS, it's alarmist nuclear Thursday and I missed the calendar notice.. didn't I?
The fire occurred on June 7th, and knocked out cooling for approximately 90 minutes. After 88 hours, the cooling pool would boil dry and highly radioactive materials would be exposed.
They had a fire, they put it out, and they lost operational coolant ability for an hour and half because of it.

Couldn't the 2 mile clearance be, you know, to prevent the small probability of something striking or otherwise damaging the infrastructure of the facility due to its hightened risk of not being able to easily get land resources?

Why does the simplest answer always have to be replaced the OH GNOEZ CONSPIRACYZ answer?
posted by cavalier at 5:26 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two miles seems excessive.

Is it? I mean, I don't think that Fort Calhoun has had a container breach, but there's a lot of the radioactive versions of cesium and iodine being found quite a distance from Fukushima... "tens of kilometers" or whatever... and 2 miles is... what? Just over 3 kilometers?

I agree that it could be about keeping the publicity at a minimum, but it could also be a reasonable precaution against contamination by bad shit in the air.
posted by hippybear at 5:27 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't see what the big deal is. Look at all that cooling fluid running through the plant.
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:28 PM on June 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Two miles is nothing for a jet over Nebraska.
posted by Ardiril at 5:30 PM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


It is clear that the area is now contaminated, and all people who live nearby will die from unforeseeable causes within 80 years or so. May God have mercy on their souls.
posted by 3mendo at 5:36 PM on June 16, 2011


May God have mercy on their souls.

His mistake for leaving fissile materials on this planet. Does he not understand humans or something?
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:37 PM on June 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


Why does the simplest answer always have to be replaced the OH GNOEZ CONSPIRACYZ answer?

This is the first thing that comes to mind.
posted by Trurl at 5:38 PM on June 16, 2011


The only thing we have to fear is
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:40 PM on June 16, 2011


Candlejack
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:41 PM on June 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is the first thing that comes to mind.

You.. are.. -- hang on, so one incident of betrayal and now every single government statement is suspect of betrayal? That's pretty.. well, hardline, I guess.
posted by cavalier at 5:48 PM on June 16, 2011


... and 2 miles is... what? Just over 3 kilometers?

Unfortunately, there's no way to know. Thanks, metric system!
posted by The Tensor at 5:50 PM on June 16, 2011 [17 favorites]


"so one incident of betrayal" - aww... how sweet.

Still, I agree there's no problem here at the moment, the only issue is that the water is going to keep rising for a couple of months so there could well be a problem soon.

The wider issue is that all nuclear plants that were thought safe have to reconsider their position given more extreme weather events of late.
posted by estuardo at 6:09 PM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


so one incident of betrayal and now every single government statement is suspect of betrayal?

I said it was the first thing that came to mind. I didn't say it was the only one.

If you retain a fundamental belief in the respect of the American government for the lives of its citizens - even after Katrina, even after Afghanistan - I don't know what to tell you.
posted by Trurl at 6:10 PM on June 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


In all seriousness, the only thing to fear is that final trauma. The trauma that is that terminal recognition that ours is a dark destiny hurtling toward an irreparable demise. A demise that does not merely stop at ourselves as individuals, but as a species as well. We are to die upon the husk of a planet within a universe which cares not. The only thing to fear is precisely this terrifying realization that marches slowly every moment you are alive. The only thing to fear is this final moment, this moment when you see that at the end of days there never was a meaning behind this world that you once saw so vibrant and alive just yesterday, that there never was a guarantee. How could there be, you will ask yourself, when just the night before, you had forgotten your wallet at the bar?
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:11 PM on June 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


The trauma that is that terminal recognition that ours is a dark destiny...

I'd always found that quite liberating. Am I doing it wrong?
posted by pompomtom at 6:15 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


That is because you are a vampire.
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:15 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you retain a fundamental belief in the respect of the American government for the lives of its citizens

I do, actually. I also retain a fundamental belief that the individuals serving in that government at any given time are not to be trusted for a moment. It's a small distinction, but one worth noting, at least to me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:18 PM on June 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


NRC Event Notifications:
High water levels
Fire
posted by ctmf at 6:23 PM on June 16, 2011


http://cryptome.org/eyeball/ne-npp-flood/ne-npp-flood.htm
photos here
posted by Postroad at 6:24 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry. Water level.
posted by ctmf at 6:25 PM on June 16, 2011


If you retain a fundamental belief in the respect of the American government for the lives of its citizens - even after Katrina, even after Afghanistan - I don't know what to tell you.

"From this moment on, let all those who feel that Americans can be as easily led to beauty as to ugliness, to truth as to public relations, to joy as to bitterness, be said to be suffering from Hunter Thompson's disease." --Kurt Vonnegut

Ultimately I am in favor of nuclear power because it pushes forward a lot of important science and technology. One of these technologies is called "governmental regulation". If we can achieve the level of regulation necessary to avert these disasters in the future, we might stand a prayer of bringing other horrifying industries around, starting with the financial sector.

Ideally there is a shining future with mostly renewable power pushed into lithium-ion (and maybe someday lithium-oxide) batteries. I don't think we will get there without a leg up from nuclear power. Coal and Oil will probably destroy us before we can make it.
posted by poe at 6:26 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


His mistake for leaving fissile materials on this planet. Does he not understand humans or something?

Good way to find out if we get voted into the next round.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:26 PM on June 16, 2011


One of these technologies is called "governmental regulation".

Yeah, sure. Next you'll say we'll some day invent cold fusion.
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:27 PM on June 16, 2011


Good way to find out if we get voted into the next round.

I hope it is a lightning round. I have been reading Wikipedia voraciously. Bring on the trivia questions, God.
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:28 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The "nuclear thing" will -sooner or later -mean serious blowback for humanity.

Fortunately we don't need nuclear, because we have plenty of oil, natural gas, and tar sands. And the best thing is, as the demand and prices rise, my BP stock will just keep going up, up, up!
posted by happyroach at 6:28 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


OPPD Flood Rumor Control
posted by alikins at 6:38 PM on June 16, 2011


Metafilter, you're turning into reddit.

Stop it.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:39 PM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's a small distinction, but one worth noting, at least to me.

Nicely put.

However, with regards to how close I'm willing to get to the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant, it's a distinction without a difference.
posted by Trurl at 6:45 PM on June 16, 2011


Agreed.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:50 PM on June 16, 2011


Next you'll say we'll some day invent cold fusion.

Funny you should mention it. I think that I have invented cold fusion. I have a cold. I have the flu. Cold fusion. Or cold flusion, at any rate. Point being, please observe the 2 mile radius. I promise you'll thank me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:56 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm so angry and frustrated right now I'm screaming like Howard Dean in Iowa.
posted by humanfont at 6:57 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


When my mobile phone runs out of battery, it simply turns itself off. It doesn't do anything destructive, like wiping out my stored phone numbers, or exploding in my pocket. Can't you build a nuclear power plant on the same principle, so it just goes to a safe and inactive state if there is a problem?
posted by Triplanetary at 6:57 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


The only thing to fear is this final moment, this moment when you see that at the end of days there never was a meaning behind this world that you once saw so vibrant and alive just yesterday, that there never was a guarantee.

GODDAMN NIETZSCHE!
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 6:58 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


The only thing to fear is this final moment, this moment when you see that at the end of days there never was a meaning behind this world that you once saw so vibrant and alive just yesterday, that there never was a guarantee.

Bullshit. Those are exactly the reasons why the world is so beautiful: Because it has no agenda. You can't get any more real than that.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:01 PM on June 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Asked about the FAA flight ban, Hanson it was due to high power lines and "security reasons that we can't reveal." He said the flight ban remains in effect....Here's a video from last week. The first forty seconds are video that Omaha's Action 3 News shot of the besieged plant, despite OPPD's requests that it not do so...

One of the things that makes it harder to know what's going on at these plants is that information about safety issues has gotten harder to come by after 9/11. I can't help but wonder how often "security reasons that we can't reveal" is used as a cover-up for non-terror related stuff nuke energy companies just don't want to have to talk about.
posted by mediareport at 7:01 PM on June 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


I can't help but wonder how often "security reasons that we can't reveal" is used as a cover-up for non-terror related stuff

That is all "security reasons" has ever meant. Ever.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:07 PM on June 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


related from Al Jazeera: looks like the Fukushima reactor is in much, much worse shape than we thought. TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) announced that the accident probably released more radioactive material into the environment than Chernobyl, making it the worst nuclear accident on record. Read down and see that there's been a 35% spike in infant mortality in West Coast U.S cities since April that is linked to the accident.

In light of this, I'd say extreme caution and overreaction is warranted when it comes to reactor mishaps.
posted by lukievan at 7:22 PM on June 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


For some perspective, it takes 18 seconds to travel 3 miles in a 757 at cruising speed. Less if you've got a tailwind.

It's also worth noting that despite America's godawful record on regulating things, American nuclear facilities appear to be under a lot more scrutiny than those in Japan. As a key point, our plants do not vent slightly-radioactive (and very explosive) hydrogen into their containment buildings in the event of a loss-of-coolant accident.

We fixed that problem as soon as the engineers realized the fundamental flaw in the design. The Japanese did nothing, and the buildings containing 2 of the 3 reactors affected by the tsunami at Fukushima exploded when they predictably filled with hydrogen after the coolant was lost (which is a pretty bad thing in itself). Once the coolant was lost, the buildings literally turned into bombs. I haven't been following things there all that closely, but from what I remember, people were pretty concerned that the third building didn't blow up, because that meant something was leaking somewhere.
posted by schmod at 7:27 PM on June 16, 2011


We fixed that problem as soon as the engineers realized the fundamental flaw in the design.

I'm more concerned about the design flaws they haven't figured out yet.

Because I'm not sure we can afford their learning curve.
posted by Trurl at 7:45 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


TwelveTwo: "In all seriousness, the only thing to fear is that final trauma. ... blah blah blah... How could there be, you will ask yourself, when just the night before, you had forgotten your wallet at the bar?"

There you go again, Sartre. On and on about the bleakness and existential despair, always forgetting your damn wallet. Maybe shit wouldn't be so bleak if you'd remembered your fuckin' wallet! Try to keep that shit straight next time, homes!
posted by symbioid at 7:46 PM on June 16, 2011


Here's the essay that Al Jazeera is basing the 35% figure on. It's pretty damning.
posted by doctor_negative at 7:47 PM on June 16, 2011


Can't you build a nuclear power plant on the same principle, so it just goes to a safe and inactive state if there is a problem?

Sure you got a few hundred billion dollars to spare for the R&D. Don't forget the decommissioning costs and transitioning time to the new technology. Someone has to pay for all that, and in the mean time folks want their air conditioning.

We fixed that problem as soon as the engineers realized the fundamental flaw in the design.

We fixed that one problem, unfortunately by the time the hydrogen was filling up the outer containment the meltdown was already underway. The pumps failed with the loss of power, and the pipes were damaged in the quake. Not to mention the problem of the spent fuel rods outside the reactor that got jostled together during the quake and started going critical. There are hundreds of things that went wrong in Japan, and many of them contributed to the disaster, focusing on one issue that we've fixed while ignoring the larger set of problems that we havn't is simple hubris.
posted by humanfont at 7:47 PM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


related from Al Jazeera:

Yeah, that post already got nuked.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:49 PM on June 16, 2011


lukievan: I have been seeing that infant mortailty rate quoted all over the place, it seems aweful so I googled it. The total number of deaths was under 100. 12 in one state. Sooooo. this is a statistics fail. Reporting this number without including the error bars is simply sensationalist. This statistic represents 1 extra death. ONE. This is not statistically significant.
posted by darkfred at 7:58 PM on June 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Infant Mortality in Philadelphia rose almost 50% following disaster Iodine-131 from Japanese reactor blamed. This is from Fox.
posted by humanfont at 7:59 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


schmod said "American nuclear facilities appear to be under a lot more scrutiny than those in Japan. As a key point, our plants do not vent slightly-radioactive (and very explosive) hydrogen into their containment buildings in the event of a loss-of-coolant accident. We fixed that problem as soon as the engineers realized the fundamental flaw in the design. The Japanese did nothing [...]"

Actually, three GE engineers resigned in 1975 over that issue, and according to this report by GE in wasn't until 14 years later that they did anything about it.
In 1989, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recommended improvements to the emergency venting system in the Mark I containment in Generic Letter 89-16. Specifically, the NRC recommended the addition of what is known as a “hardened vent,” which is a separate vent pipe designed to withstand higher loads during an accident such as a station blackout (a complete loss of power) and routed to an elevated point outside the reactor building.
[...]
In response to this letter, operators of U.S. nuclear power plants with Mark I containment systems followed this recommendation and designed and implemented hardened vent systems. Operators in Japan, including TEPCO, did the same. While general requirements for a vent system were established by a BWR (boiling water reactor) owners group which GE helps facilitate, each individual plant owner designed and installed the hardened vent to meet its specific design criteria.
So, you're wrong about reactors in the US not being designed to vent radioactive hydrogen in a loss-of-coolant accident. And you're wrong about concerns that the hydrogen could explode having been addressed immediately in the US. And you're wrong about Japan having done nothing to address those concerns.
posted by finite at 7:59 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that post already got nuked.

Out of sight, out of mind.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:00 PM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's the essay that Al Jazeera is basing the 35% figure on. It's pretty damning.
posted by doctor_negative at 7:47 PM on June 16 [+] [!]


Did you read this report? It seems to go out of its way not to divulge the most pertinent information.

On preview, already been said, but these claims are so extraordinary I can't believe people would accept them with so little data supporting them.
posted by skewed at 8:02 PM on June 16, 2011


From the Al Jazeera article linked above:

"The fuels are now a molten blob at the bottom of the reactor," Gundersen added. "TEPCO announced they had a melt through. A melt down is when the fuel collapses to the bottom of the reactor, and a melt through means it has melted through some layers. That blob is incredibly radioactive, and now you have water on top of it. The water picks up enormous amounts of radiation, so you add more water and you are generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive water."
posted by thescientificmethhead at 8:03 PM on June 16, 2011


schmod, I apologize; rereading your comment I see that I missed the "into their containment buildings" part. So you were only wrong about two of those things, not three.
posted by finite at 8:05 PM on June 16, 2011


Hurray. Another pro/anti-nuclear debate. This will definitely end well.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:09 PM on June 16, 2011


Those are exactly the reasons why the world is so beautiful: Because it has no agenda. You can't get any more real than that.

Fine, but my wallet is still missing, and Mint is reporting that my credit card was used to buy one dozen packages of Jack Links.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:11 PM on June 16, 2011


I like Jack Links. What can I say.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:14 PM on June 16, 2011


That article about iodine-131 in Philadelphia's drinking water is kind of bizarre. There is a strangely high amount of iodine-131 in the water, but it's been there for years before the earthquake in Japan. For some reason the EPA only recently told the water department about it. Recent article here.
posted by sepviva at 8:21 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's the essay that Al Jazeera is basing the 35% figure on. It's pretty damning.
The recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that eight cities in the northwest U.S. (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, plus the northern California cities of Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley) reported the following data on deaths among those younger than one year of age:
4 weeks ending March 19, 2011 - 37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week)
10 weeks ending May 28, 2011 - 125 deaths (avg.12.50 per week)
This amounts to an increase of 35% (the total for the entire U.S. rose about 2.3%), and is statistically significant.
I note with interest that they've picked different timespans for the "before" and "after" numbers, as well as only using numbers from 8 of the 26 cities in those zones. I'm at work so I don't have time to do a full walk through the data (the "Notifiable Diseases and Mortality Tables" links here) but this has the feel of the same cherry-picked stats shadiness that the "there's no global warming" crew tend to use.
posted by russm at 8:22 PM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fox News also likes to report UFO sightings. But it's interesting how skepticism of the media disappears when it's something that conforms to our biases.

But hey, we're on the glorious post-expert Age of Google. So fire up the intartubes and get your own primary sources. I want to see you find present the statistics on infant mortality, complete with listed causes. OK, go!
posted by happyroach at 8:26 PM on June 16, 2011


Infant Mortality in Philadelphia rose almost 50% following disaster Iodine-131 from Japanese reactor blamed. This is from Fox.

This is crazy-pants. Radioactive iodine levels were elevated in Philly between 2005 and 2010, but not at dangerous levels. The levels have been normal since April. The guy in the article says infant mortality went from 5 a week to 7.5 a week on average, and blames, somehow, Japanese nuclear reactors, without any data on the nature of the deaths. Bad, bad, bad scare science.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:44 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Next you'll say we'll some day invent cold fusion.

Yes, and that day was in the early 1960's. They just seem to have trouble getting to breakeven (but they're trying).

What are you doing to produce electricity without the use of fosile fuels?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:56 PM on June 16, 2011


When my mobile phone runs out of battery, it simply turns itself off. It doesn't do anything destructive, like wiping out my stored phone numbers, or exploding in my pocket. Can't you build a nuclear power plant on the same principle, so it just goes to a safe and inactive state if there is a problem?

Sure. It's called thorium.

If you believe Wired. Seems promising.

These types of threads always make me think of the Bloom County strip where Milo and the Major go hunting for the Vanishing Liberal using the Liberal Call: "No Nukes!"
posted by Existential Dread at 9:12 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The eight cities included in the report are San Jose..., and the time frame of the report included the ten weeks immediately following the disaster.

"There is and should be concern about younger people being exposed, and the Japanese government will be giving out radiation monitors to children," Dr MV Ramana, a physicist with the Programme on Science and Global Security at Princeton University who specialises in issues of nuclear safety, told Al Jazeera.
Way to go! You transition almost imperceptibly from talking about infant mortality in the US, to how "there is and should be concern about young children"... IN JAPAN.
Radioactive air filters from cars in Fukushima prefecture and Tokyo are now common, and Gundersen says his sources are finding radioactive air filters in the greater Seattle area of the US as well.
How radioactive? What isotopes?
"Clearly the upper West Coast of the US has people being affected. That area got hit pretty heavy in April."
Clearly, you say? How many people? Affected in what way? How "heavy"?
Why have alarms not been sounded about radiation exposure in the US?

Nuclear operator Exelon Corporation has been among Barack Obama's biggest campaign donors, and is one of the largest employers in Illinois where Obama was senator. Exelon has donated more than $269,000 to his political campaigns, thus far. Obama also appointed Exelon CEO John Rowe to his Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.
Aha. Of course that's why! The entire US government has shut themselves up on the say-so of a corporation who donated $300k to Obama's election. I'm willing to allow that the US government plays down the risks of nuclear power to keep the nuclear power industry going, but the insinuation of straightforward conspiracy is just silly.
Dr Shoji Sawada is a theoretical particle physicist and Professor Emeritus at Nagoya University in Japan. He is concerned about the types of nuclear plants in his country, and the fact that most of them are of US design.
Theoretical particle physics is not nuclear physics. He could know very little about nuclear power for all we know, and just hold strong opinions on the subject.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:16 PM on June 16, 2011


I am currently about 60 miles west of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear plant and this is the first I've heard about this. I'll have to keep my eye on this because flooding in this area is worse than I can ever remember and the water levels are expected to rise through out the summer. Here is another local piece on the fire.

My feeling is that this is not that severe of an issue, for the moment anyway. Fort Calhoun's plant has had a pretty good operating history. The 2 mile no-fly-zone was probably instated simply to mitigate bad press and worry resulting from photos of the nearly flooded plant.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 9:25 PM on June 16, 2011


Most should welcome the chance to rethink their viewpoints that glorify uranium-based nuclear power, because there was never any basis for its normalization. It's a controlled nuclear explosion that is environmentally and economically crippling even when it experiences the lowest failure rates of any other industrial process. And it is now a potential terrorist target. Some say the hype was just a cold war tactic to make bombs, but maybe it was just human arrogance and desperate foolishness. We still don't even have a safe way to store the nuclear waste we are creating, and there are still sunken nuclear submarines humming away at the bottom of the oceans waiting to fail us.
posted by Brian B. at 9:33 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is worth noting that it is a two mile radius no-fly area below 3,500 feet. So, it really only affects what would be 'disaster sightseeing' and journalism. Even in a slow airplane this sort of buffer is not much more than a minute. Someone intending to actually fly in and do harm pretty much couldn't be stopped. What they can do with this however, is have a rule to use against anyone who flies that low and close.
posted by meinvt at 9:41 PM on June 16, 2011


It's a controlled nuclear explosion

wtf? if it's "a controlled nuclear explosion" then a cigarette is "a controlled wildfire"...

nuclear power has risks that we may not be able to acceptably mitigate, and long-term consequences that we may not be able to manage, but this sort of ridiculous fear-mongering comparison does nothing to advance a rational debate on the issue...
posted by russm at 9:44 PM on June 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


These nuke threads bloom with paranoia like no others I've seen on metafilter.
posted by Kwine at 9:48 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


but this sort of ridiculous fear-mongering comparison does nothing to advance a rational debate on the issue...

My position is that its not rational. If Germany is suddenly giving up on their substantial industry, then it's probably not a debate you can win. We spent years living with nuclear holocaust, so the fear is manageable, everything is not.
posted by Brian B. at 9:53 PM on June 16, 2011


Ultimately I am in favor of nuclear power because it pushes forward a lot of important science and technology. One of these technologies is called "governmental regulation".

What this comment underlines is that nuclear power is fundamentally a technology of a powerful modern state, the kind of technology that, to be used responsibly, requires a significant state - not just for regulation (as the comment indicates) but also for its basic financial underpinnings - for loan guarantees, for liability waivers, for waste issues.

Nuclear power is a large-state technology.

Unfortunately, many of the most vigorous backers of nuclear power in the US at the moment also advocate a small state.
posted by nickmark at 10:08 PM on June 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


When my mobile phone runs out of battery, it simply turns itself off. It doesn't do anything destructive, like wiping out my stored phone numbers, or exploding in my pocket. Can't you build a nuclear power plant on the same principle, so it just goes to a safe and inactive state if there is a problem?

I am not a nuclear engineer. I am not your nuclear engineer. But as a reasonably educated person my best guess is that you probably could. It would probably cost more money to build than say, the design at the Fukushima plant did.

I don't think that there is nearly as much wrong with the science and engineering as it is with the corporate mentality that places cost-cutting above human safety.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:09 PM on June 16, 2011


These nuke threads bloom with paranoia like no others I've seen on metafilter.

Problems that aren't our fault are scary.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:11 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


My position is that its not rational. If Germany is suddenly giving up on their substantial industry, then it's probably not a debate you can win.

just because I said that equating nuclear power generation and "a controlled nuclear explosion" is ridiculous and that the 35% increase in infant mortality stats has the smell of shoddy statistics, you think I'm trying to argue that Nukes-R-Good™?

ffs, all I'm saying is that making shit up to try and advance your position is no better than "well it's a really cold winter so obviously global warming is bullshit"...
posted by russm at 10:13 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


related from Al Jazeera: looks like the Fukushima reactor is in much, much worse shape than we thought.

If only we had known about this earlier
        heh :)
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:14 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think that there is nearly as much wrong with the science and engineering as it is with the corporate mentality that places cost-cutting above human safety.

It is fundamental human nature not to destroy a cash-generating energy plant until it begins to fail on its own. People are capable of believing that twenty years of zero accidents is proof of soundness, when it was only designed to operate for twenty-five. The careful human nature needed to examine the risks don't readily exist in a state of desperate energy policy.
posted by Brian B. at 10:23 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


...and that the 35% increase in infant mortality stats has the smell of shoddy statistics, you think I'm trying to argue that Nukes-R-Good™?

ffs, all I'm saying is that making shit up to try and advance your position is no better than "well it's a really cold winter so obviously global warming is bullshit"...


I have no idea what your are talking about. I made no comment on infant mortality and I haven't made use of statistics.
posted by Brian B. at 10:30 PM on June 16, 2011


the 2 things I've said in this thread are that the claimed 35% increase in infant mortality in the US west coast after the Fukushima earthquake smells shoddy to me and my calling your "it's a controlled nuclear explosion" comment ridiculous fear-mongering...

I read your "it's probably not a debate you can win" comment as thinking I'm arguing for nuclear power - perhaps I misunderstood the point you were trying to make there... were you just saying that it's an emotive issue so there's no point trying to be rational about it?
posted by russm at 12:18 AM on June 17, 2011


Brian B. - actually, sorry, I shouldn't have put those words in your mouth... so rather... when you said "it's probably not a debate you can win", what debate were you talking about?
posted by russm at 12:41 AM on June 17, 2011


Confessions of a Nuclear Power Safety Expert

I soon came to the conclusion that neither international cooperation nor technological advancements would guarantee human societies to build and safely run nuclear reactors in all possible conditions on Earth (earthquakes, floods, droughts, tornadoes, wars, terrorism, climate change, tsunamis, pandemics, etc.). I am sadly reminded of this turning point in my life as I listen to the news about the earthquake, tsunami and extremely worrying nuclear crisis in Japan.
posted by Twang at 1:20 AM on June 17, 2011


Yup. Engineers and scientists don't call the shots in business or government - unless they do, nuclear fission will be inherently unsafe. No credible scientist would have put a nuke plant on a floodplain, or on the coast in a seismically active area. Yet there they are.

What's sometimes lost in the debate is that fission was always supposed to be a bridge technology to fusion or something else clean, safe and efficient.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:55 AM on June 17, 2011


I agree it's not a debate that can be won, in fact it's already been lost. Fundamentally it is a emotional not a logical issue, one that boils down to "hey the risks might be born by the white middle and upper class people, not lower class and colored people". And you just can't win when the wealthy people can't transfer the risks to someone else.

The debate is already lost; the only thing to do now is buy stock in oil companies, and make sure you live inland.
posted by happyroach at 4:44 AM on June 17, 2011


Apologies for posting the 35% statistic if that is flawed. My bad.

On a broader note though, I guess it's hard for me to see a nuclear-based energy future without severe issues arising due to natural disasters, human error, etc. The potential consequences are so severe that it seems unwise to have reactors peppering the land. Not trying to be alarmist here - just stating what seems obvious to me. Please educate me if I'm thinking about it all wrong...

The fact that our current energy policy is unsustainable goes w/out saying.
posted by lukievan at 5:12 AM on June 17, 2011


Or invest in geothermal, tidal, solar, bio and wind power solutions. These are established and growing industries with solved or solvable problems.

Further investment in practical fusion generators needs to be done, and a shakeup of the research teams running it needs to happen - it's been dithering for far too long, and soaking up far too much money without showing solid progress. It's do-able, as we can look up and see a fusion reactor in the sky on any cloudless day.

Another ambitious moon-shot energy program would be to put solar collectors in orbit, and beam down the energy to power stations on the ground. The tech is pretty much in place to do this, we just need a decade or so to refine and build it. It really shouldn't be much more difficult than a satellite phone system.

Nuclear plants are not quick fixes, not are they long term fixes. They're a dangerous waste of time and investment capital better spent on other renewable energy resources.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:34 AM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


by the way, while we're on the subject of totally unsubstantiated nuclear "accidents" that happen just in time for some propaganding check out anshas, egypt
posted by 3mendo at 5:49 AM on June 17, 2011


"It's do-able, as we can look up and see a fusion reactor in the sky on any cloudless day."
There's a number of differences between a practical fusion power station and 2x1030kg of gas. Per kg the Sun is not a very good power generator. You sitting on a bike would put out 15,000 times more power per kilo than that thing up there.
posted by edd at 5:52 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


(in a short burst, admittedly, after rechecking numbers)
posted by edd at 5:55 AM on June 17, 2011


Every time I see the Fort Calhoun plant on the news, a small part of my brain shorts out. I grew up 3 or 4 miles north of it (I also worked there for one summer as a night-shift janitor, and that was the worst fucking experience I will ever have. My "favorite" thing: since I was only there for the summer, I was never given a badge with a radiation dosimeter; instead, they told me to just make sure I was always standing near someone who had one).

But anyway: I was all full of nuclear dread in the 80s, and while about 60% of that was based on always being told that Omaha was the first place that'd get nuked when the shit hit the fan with the Russians, the other 40% was just unreasoning terror that there was a nuclear power plant just down the road. A big part of my growing-up process was tied into accepting that no, it's not really that scary, it's just a power plant, so chill out (...and with this mature acceptance, I was able to take a job that had me swabbing up taco-night engineer shit at 2 in the morning! w00t!).

So the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant has long been firmly and prominently lodged in the "really, it's no big deal" section of my head, and it's very strange to see it suddenly poking up into the "no, maybe it is kind of a big deal" area.

Also, the name of that place has always bugged me; it's much closer to Blair than to Fort Calhoun. The joke in Blair was that they named it after FC as kind of a consolation prize for the fact that FC had to be directly downriver from the thing.
posted by COBRA! at 6:06 AM on June 17, 2011


Another ambitious moon-shot energy program would be to put solar collectors in orbit, and beam down the energy to power stations on the ground.

This sort of nonsensical "solution" illustrates my point perfectly. Daydream of imaginary fixes, and let the marginalized people bear the brunt of the consequences of our energy production. Seriously, have you even tried to calculate cost-to-orbit for this scheme?

And oh yeah, your comment reminded me; buy more oil company stock. It's going to be an excellent couple of decades for that.
posted by happyroach at 7:35 AM on June 17, 2011


The solar power collection thing has always had one whopping political problem: they're death rays.

All you have to do is point them to a new location and bzzt! The power in question makes Real Genius look like a scratched up plastic magnifying glass.

"Hey, we're trying to solve our power problem. No, we promise, for realzies, we will not re-aim them and cook you."
posted by adipocere at 8:20 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


In timely news, Watts Bar 2 received NRC approval to receive fuel, moving the reactor one step closer to going online. Oh great, another God damn nuke facility in East Tennessee.
posted by workerant at 9:07 AM on June 17, 2011


The solar power collection thing has always had one whopping political problem: they're death rays.

The Russians and Chinese have demonstrated satellite kill-capability, so they're not too worried, and they have this because the US is investigating (or already has) orbital weapons a lot more destructive than a high-power laser or microwave beam (a half-ton tungsten rod gets into the places a death ray can't, and more cheaply.)

No-one is going to cause rolling blackouts in Chicago by repositioning the power-sat over the middle east when an unmanned long-range drone bomber is easier to deploy.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:12 AM on June 17, 2011


RODS FROM GOD! (sorry, I love those things) I agree that the Rods from God are great for penetration, no doubt, but they're lousy for hitting at angles.

The power-sat setup would be more like a "collect from the surface of the moon, send a microwave beam here" relay network. No repositioning necessary, just re-point it for a second or two. Plenty of redundancy, too. It's more of "set a city block on fire" deal than the deep targeting of the Rods from God. I'd bet that the political objections would be large — just think of how much we fear other countries getting *gasp* nuclear reactors. All because conventional purification of uranium isotopes for reactor fission is rather easily repurposed into fissile weapons.
posted by adipocere at 10:09 AM on June 17, 2011


The solar power collection thing has always had one whopping political problem: they're death rays.

That's not the real problem with the system. The killer is the ridiculous expense involved in making the power sats, putting them in orbit, assembling them, and maintaining them. This is a project of a scale that makes the Apollo program look like a couple kids playing with Testors model rockets.

But hey, you can try to prove me wrong- but go ahead and do the math yourself.
posted by happyroach at 11:42 AM on June 17, 2011


happyroach:This sort of nonsensical "solution" illustrates my point perfectly. Daydream of imaginary fixes, and let the marginalized people bear the brunt of the consequences of our energy production. Seriously, have you even tried to calculate cost-to-orbit for this scheme?


Allegations of nonsense are highly overstated. In fact such a the solution has been proposed and looked at as a practical solution by leading scientists such as Carl Sagen all of whose opinions on the matter I do trust over yours. Launch costs are merely an engineering problem which can be solved. The fact that you googled SPS power and saw the first hit which is an Ohio State paper citing unreasonable launch costs does not make you an expert on this.

And oh yeah, your comment reminded me; buy more oil company stock. It's going to be an excellent couple of decades for that.

Why do you feel this is important for us to know?
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:57 PM on June 17, 2011


adipocere: The solar power collection thing has always had one whopping political problem: they're death rays.

No. Anyone believing this does not grasp the concept of beamed power from orbit. I point of fact the ground based collecting array of phased antennas would collect the microwave radiation over an area of 1 to 3 square miles. The intensity of the MW radiation inside the collection zone would be little more than the radiation outside of your microwave oven. One could stay in the zone for days or weeks and not experience any harmful effect. Presumably planes would be routed away from the collection zone so as to not interfere with navigation electronics.

There is no "death ray" inherent in a beamed power collection system. Out of personal curiosity where did you get such an idea from? Where did you hear this?
posted by Poet_Lariat at 1:03 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


But when the Microwave station in Sim City loses its calibration it blows out a city block!
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:10 PM on June 17, 2011


The microwave power thing is cool, but even if we poured billions into developing tech today, it is decades before we realized the possible benefits. Meanwhile solar, wind and geothermal could be developed to meet our needs right now.
posted by humanfont at 2:14 PM on June 17, 2011


The point is that new nuke plants also need decades and billions to bring online. If you're investing moonshot money, why not expect a moonshot result?
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:29 PM on June 17, 2011


According to the first linked article in the OP (emphasis mine):

The NRC said the plant recovered cooling ability without activating backup systems and "temperatures in the pool remained at safe levels." The public was not in danger because the plant has been shut down since early April for a refueling outage, the agency said.

That's a very, very bogus statement. Anyone who said that, I wouldn't trust if they told me the time of day. Whatever the operating status of the reactor at the time of the fire, the spent fuel was still sitting there, and it presented the same level of risk whether or not electricity was being generated from the reactor. If anything, the risk would probably be greater with the plant down, because in that status the spent fuel cooling system(s) would be entirely reliant on off-site power. Which can fail.
posted by Corvid at 2:33 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Several square miles seems wildly inefficient. At that point, why wouldn't someone put up plain old solar panels? Come to think of it, yeah, that's terribly inefficient. If you could stay in it for days without harm, that would have to be less irradiation than sunlight, given that sunlight starts cooking you up in a matter of hours.

It was an idea we played around with for shits-and-grins in one of my physics classes. One of us had read a sci-fi book with the premise, did a little research on the actual proposals, and the professor, who was amused by the idea, let us run with it for a while. I haven't looked at the concept in well over a decade and it is probably as outdated as using a physical structure to beanstalk from the Earth's surface versus the more current ideas using dynamic structures.
posted by adipocere at 2:39 PM on June 17, 2011


That's not the real problem with the system.

I never stated that was the real problem. I stated it was a whopping political problem. Those are two different things. The latter suggests that, even if all of the technical and funding issues are worked out, it may still be politically infeasible.
posted by adipocere at 2:43 PM on June 17, 2011


w/r/t Fort Calhoun, it is reportedly in a cold shutdown--something that's been in the news since before the flooding. I still have concerns about cooling pools and flooding, but on the scale of things the Missouri river flood is causing me to worry about, this doesn't register in the top 10. Family and friends are all over the evacuation zone if the levee breaks and just today there was a big scare about the Council Bluffs water treatment plant going under.
posted by Fezboy! at 4:48 PM on June 17, 2011


Allegations of nonsense are highly overstated. In fact such a the solution has been proposed and looked at as a practical solution by leading scientists such as Carl Sagen all of whose opinions on the matter I do trust over yours. Launch costs are merely an engineering problem which can be solved. The fact that you googled SPS power and saw the first hit which is an Ohio State paper citing unreasonable launch costs does not make you an expert on this.

Just...just what the fuck IS this shit? I asked you to do some actual math, and instead I got this "argument from authority" bullshit, and the classic "merely an engineering problem" handwave.

I've been looking at the SPS problem for 20 years; the issues involved are NOT trivial, and I'm willing to bring some figures to bear on this. I wanted to see if you actually knew what you were talking about, but obviously you don't. Anyone who handwaves the expenses involved as "a problem that can be solved" obviously doesn't have the basic fucking clue of what they're talking about.

In other words, show me the math, or GTFO.
posted by happyroach at 5:35 PM on June 17, 2011


If you could stay in it for days without harm, that would have to be less irradiation than sunlight, given that sunlight starts cooking you up in a matter of hours.

The whole science and mathematics thing.....not everyone's strong point I know. If you wish to educate yourself about the matter rather than relying on preconceptions or what seems to you like common sense, you could start here or here if you wished
posted by Poet_Lariat at 5:49 PM on June 17, 2011


I asked you to do some actual math

Do your own homework. Include for reduced launch costs due to new corporate launch vehicles.

While you're at it, compare to nuclear plants, and factor in the cost of a chunk of real-estate the size of Manhattan in a densely populated area, like Japan, lost for a hundred generations. Show your work.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:32 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I asked you to do some actual math, and instead I got this "argument from authority" bullshit,

That's because recognized authorities in their field know more about the field than either you or I do so their opinion on a subject is worth far far more than yours is (or mine for that matter).

The whole "I hate Athrorahtee!" thing is really sweet until you turn 20 and have to deal with real people like lawyers, doctors and scientists.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 8:57 AM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that eight cities in the northwest U.S. (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, plus the northern California cities of Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley) reported the following data on deaths among those younger than one year of age:
4 weeks ending March 19, 2011 - 37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week)
10 weeks ending May 28, 2011 - 125 deaths (avg.12.50 per week)
This amounts to an increase of 35% (the total for the entire U.S. rose about 2.3%), and is statistically significant.


having had a look at the actual numbers now, all I can say is "you dishonest lying fucks. fuck you, and your shoddy lying statistical fuckery. the next time FOX news or some other idiot pundit pulls an anecdote out of their arse to claim global warming isn't real, or vaccinations cause autism, or whatever, you had better not try and call them on it because you're no better."

I thought that 4-week "before" average seemed shady... they picked that number because that period coincided with some particularly low infant mortality in the sampled areas... if your baseline is the first 11 weeks of this year instead of that little 4-week anomaly, the average is 13.182 per week - so there was a drop after the Fukushima reactor started leaking... the numbers are telling us that radiation is actually good for babies! or, you know, perhaps it's all just statistical noise at that level...

here's a little spreadsheet I threw together (Numbers, Excel) of the relevant data, and some graphs as visualisation aids... the only data I've changed is Week 13 from San Francisco which was unreported... Filling it as zero seems to match the numbers that these dishonest lying fucks used...
posted by russm at 1:58 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


River falls short of Nebraska nuke plant shutdown

The headline actually refers to the Cooper nuclear station, not Fort Calhoun.

"The Cooper Nuclear Station is one of two plants along the Missouri River in eastern Nebraska. The Fort Calhoun Station, operated by the Omaha Public Power District, is about 20 miles north of Omaha. It issued a similar alert to the regulatory commission June 6."
posted by thescientificmethhead at 8:29 AM on June 20, 2011












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