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Nuclear Failure in Japan

March 22, 2011

I have said nothing until now about the Fukushima failures, because there were too many unknowns. Making predictions without all the facts is the province of the media, including FOX.

Geraldo Rivera’s mindless and reckless program on FOX was, in my view, an example of the worst kind of irresponsible reporting. It’s obvious that FOX management is also ignorant about energy matters.

People purchasing potassium iodine in California is a testimony to the power of ignorance, coupled with hysterical reporting by the media and reckless assertions made by those who oppose nuclear power, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists.

It appears as though the failures in Japan were due to the tsunami, and not damage from shaking caused by the earthquake. It will require future on-site inspections to confirm this. It’s remarkable the units performed as well as they did, which is testimony to the high design and construction standards at these power plants. Note, for full disclosure, I am a GE retiree and these plants were designed by GE.

In addition to destroying the power lines feeding the plant, the tsunami damaged the diesel generators that were to supply back-up power to operate the cooling pumps. The lack of cooling water is what caused the nuclear power plants to fail – and which caused concerns about the storage of spent fuel rods.

Nuclear power plants in the US are safe. Even the meltdown at Three Mile Island was completely contained. Back-up power supplies, in the form of gas turbine generators and diesel generators, are available and can be brought to any site in the U.S., should power from the grid become unavailable and existing back-up generators be damaged.

Obviously, the nuclear industry will study the events in Japan to see whether there is anything else that can be done to make our existing nuclear plants even safer.

It should be noted that the new Gen III nuclear power plants don’t require pumped cooling, and instead, use passive cooling.

Unfortunately, it is my view that misinformation and fear will cause the US nuclear industry to wither and die.

This was my view last year when I wrote on July 19 that nuclear power in the US was dying.

The reckless critics of nuclear power, in combination with irresponsible reporting by the media, will promote misinformation and fan fear among people, making it impossible to continue building new nuclear power plants in the U.S.

I’m worried that even small, modular nuclear plants will be victims of this panic.

In my July19 article, it was these small units, 30 to 150 MW in size, on which I placed my hope for a revival of nuclear power in the U.S.

That hope could easily evaporate as a result of the hysteria surrounding the tsunami induced failures in Japan.

Meanwhile, I’m confident that China and India will continue building nuclear power plants.

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[To find earlier articles, click on the name of the preceding month below the calendar to display a list of articles published in that month. Continue clicking on the name of the preceding month to display articles published in prior months.]

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